Wednesday, March 31, 2010

German Brownie Torte

Whoa... March is over! 2010 really is flying by! I can't believe how fast the months are passing. Before I know it, it will be 2011!

I have mentioned before that Nathan's favorite cake is German Chocolate with Coconut Pecan Frosting. Every year for his birthday he requests the same cake. I like making him things that remind him of his favorite cake so that he gets that same taste but his birthday cake remains special.

This brownie torte fits the bill. An added bonus comes from the fact that it is ridiculously easy. It starts with a boxed brownie mix, but you could use your favorite homemade brownie, too. The brownie batter is topped with coconut and pecans before baking.

Once baked and cooled, the brownie is cut in thirds and layered with homemade whipped cream. After a little refrigeration to firm up, you are left with a delicious, chocolately dessert. YUM!

German Brownie Torte

1 1/2 cups coconut
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 TBSP butter, melted
1 box (21 oz) chewy brownie mix
2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.

Mix coconut, pecans, brown sugar, and butter; set aside.

Prepare brownie mix according to package directions for cake-like brownies. Pour batter into pan and top with coconut mixture. Bake 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Cool and cut into thirds. Beat cream and sugar until stiff peaks form. Layer brownie with cream. Frost sides.

Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

TWD: Coconut Tea Cake

I heart coconut and I heart this cake! I am disappointed that I quartered the recipe and made teeny-tiny cakes with my miniature tart pans. Why? Because after tasting this delicious cake, I really wanted more of it. A big bundt pan full of it, to be exact!

Dorie describes this cake as a plain cake- no frills, no fuss. The cake is made with coconut milk and coconut. One of the "Playing Around" options for this cake was to add lemon zest and I have to say that it was a great addition. You could also use lime zest, orange zest, or even play around with the spices. This is one delicious and versatile cake!

Thanks to Carmen of Carmen Cooks for hosting this week. The recipe can be found at her blog.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Guest Blogger: Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

I actually received this recipe from my friend, Erica, right before CCC week. Talk about good timing! My apologies to her for not getting them posted until now. I can't wait to try these cookies!

This recipe comes from a cookbook called "Family Dinners" by Janet Peterson. We have loved nearly everything we've made from the book, but these cookies became an instant favorite. This is now our go-to cookie recipe, and since our two year old asks to "make cookies" with Daddy an awful lot, we are frequently whipping up a batch. As another bonus, the dough has no eggs, so we can eat the cookie dough guilt free. (Or at least we don't have to worry about salmonella -- these are not low calorie cookies!)

Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup flaked coconut
1 package (12 oz) semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 package (6 oz) milk chocolate chunks
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

In a small bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs, flour, and baking powder.

In a large bowl, beat condensed milk and butter until smooth. Add graham cracker mixture and beat well. Stir in coconut, chocolate chips and chunks, and nuts.

Drop by spoonfuls on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 9 to 10 minutes, until edges are lightly browned. Do not overbake. The cookies will be very soft when they come out of the oven, but will harden as they cool.

Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Daring Bakers: Orange Tian

The 2010 March Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School in Paris.

I had never heard of Orange Tian before this challenge, but I was intrigued by it. I can't recall making a dessert before where oranges were the star, but I was ready to give it a try.

This recipe has 4 different components- Pate Sablee, Orange Marmalade, Whipped Cream, and Orange Caramel Sauce.

The pate sablee (French Pastry Crust) was very simple to make and tasted very good. The ingredients are thrown together in the food processor and then refrigerated. Easy peasy.

The marmalade was also easy, but it was time consuming. The oranges need to be blanched 3 times (10 minutes each time) to remove the bitterness from the pith. After being blanched, the oranges are finely chopped, mixed with sugar, and cooked until it turns into jelly. The recipe calls for the use of pectin, but I omitted that and just cooked it a little longer. My marmalade turned out wonderfully, if I do say so myself!

The caramel is where I had problems. Don't ask me why, but caramel is my kitchen nemesis. Caramel is probably one of my favorite flavors but I loathe making it. For some reason, I fail at it. I can make croissants without blinking. A complex dinner? No problem. But sugar on the stove? I suck at it. I have tried a lot of different methods and still fail. I made this caramel twice and failed. The third time I was able to get it to not harden up on me, but it was a lighter than it should have been. Oh well. I tried three times. That has to count for something!

Once the caramel is made, it is poured over orange segments and left to sit overnight. Caramel oranges... YUM!

The dessert is assembled upside down and then flipped over for presentation. The pate sablee is on the bottom, topped by a layer of orange marmalade. The whipped cream has orange marmalade mixed in and the whole dessert is topped off by the caramel oranges.

We really enjoyed this dessert. It was a nice, fresh dessert. Perfect for welcoming spring!

Orange Tian

For the Pate Sablee:

Ingredients U.S. Imperial Metric Instructions for Ingredients
2 medium-sized egg yolks at room temperature
granulated sugar 6 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon; 2.8 oz; 80 grams
vanilla extract ½ teaspoon
Unsalted butter ¼ cup + 3 tablespoons; 3.5 oz; 100 grams ice cold, cubed
Salt 1/3 teaspoon; 2 grams
All-purpose flour 1.5 cup + 2 tablespoons; 7 oz; 200 grams
baking powder 1 teaspoon ; 4 grams

Put the flour, baking powder, ice cold cubed butter and salt in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.

In a separate bowl, add the eggs yolks, vanilla extract and sugar and beat with a whisk until the mixture is pale. Pour the egg mixture in the food processor.

Process until the dough just comes together. If you find that the dough is still a little too crumbly to come together, add a couple drops of water and process again to form a homogenous ball of dough. Form into a disc, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit.

Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface until you obtain a ¼ inch thick circle.

Using your cookie cutter, cut out circles of dough and place on a parchment (or silicone) lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until the circles of dough are just golden.

For the Marmalade:

Ingredients U.S. Imperial Metric Instructions for Ingredients
Freshly pressed orange juice ¼ cup + 3 tablespoons; 3.5 oz; 100 grams
1 large orange used to make orange slices
cold water to cook the orange slices
pectin 5 grams
granulated sugar: use the same weight as the weight of orange slices once they are cooked

Finely slice the orange. Place the orange slices in a medium-sized pot filled with cold water. Simmer for about 10 minutes, discard the water, re-fill with cold water and blanch the oranges for another 10 minutes.

Blanch the orange slices 3 times. This process removes the bitterness from the orange peel, so it is essential to use a new batch of cold water every time when you blanch the slices.

Once blanched 3 times, drain the slices and let them cool.

Once they are cool enough to handle, finely mince them (using a knife or a food processor).

Weigh the slices and use the same amount of granulated sugar . If you don’t have a scale, you can place the slices in a cup measurer and use the same amount of sugar.

In a pot over medium heat, add the minced orange slices, the sugar you just weighed, the orange juice and the pectin. Cook until the mixture reaches a jam consistency (10-15 minutes).

Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge.

For the Orange Segments:

For this step you will need 8 oranges.

Cut the oranges into segments over a shallow bowl and make sure to keep the juice. Add the segments to the bowl with the juice.

[See YouTube video in the References section below for additional information on segmenting oranges.]

For the Caramel:

Ingredients U.S. Metric Imperial Instructions for Ingredients
granulated sugar 1 cup; 7 oz; 200 grams
orange juice 1.5 cups + 2 tablespoons; 14 oz; 400 grams

Place the sugar in a pan on medium heat and begin heating it.

Once the sugar starts to bubble and foam, slowly add the orange juice. As soon as the mixture starts boiling, remove from the heat and pour half of the mixture over the orange segments.

Reserve the other half of the caramel mixture in a small bowl — you will use this later to spoon over the finished dessert. When the dessert is assembled and setting in the freezer, heat the kept caramel sauce in a small saucepan over low heat until it thickens and just coats the back of a spoon (about 10 minutes). You can then spoon it over the orange tians.

[Tip: Be very careful when making the caramel — if you have never made caramel before, I would suggest making this step while you don’t have to worry about anything else. Bubbling sugar is extremely, extremely hot, so make sure you have a bowl of ice cold water in the kitchen in case anyone gets burnt!]

For the Whipped Cream:

Ingredients U.S. Metric Imperial Instructions for Ingredients
heavy whipping cream 1 cup; 7 oz; 200 grams
3 tablespoons of hot water
1 tsp Gelatine
1 tablespoon of confectioner's sugar
orange marmalade (see recipe above) 1 tablespoon

In a small bowl, add the gelatine and hot water, stirring well until the gelatine dissolves. Let the gelatine cool to room temperature while you make the whipped cream. Combine the cream in a chilled mixing bowl. Whip the cream using a hand mixer on low speed until the cream starts to thicken for about one minute. Add the confectioner sugar. Increase the speed to medium-high. Whip the cream until the beaters leave visible (but not lasting) trails in the cream, then add the cooled gelatine slowly while beating continuously. Continue whipping until the cream is light and fluffy and forms soft peaks. Transfer the whipped cream to a bowl and fold in the orange marmalade.
[Tip: Use an ice cold bowl to make the whipped cream in. You can do this by putting your mixing bowl, cream and beater in the fridge for 20 minutes prior to whipping the cream.]

Assembling the Dessert:

Make sure you have some room in your freezer. Ideally, you should be able to fit a small baking sheet or tray of desserts to set in the freezer.

Line a small tray or baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone sheet. Lay out 6 cookie cutters onto the parchment paper/silicone.

Drain the orange segments on a kitchen towel.

Have the marmalade, whipped cream and baked circles of dough ready to use.

Arrange the orange segments at the bottom of each cookie cutter. Make sure the segments all touch either and that there are no gaps. Make sure they fit snuggly and look pretty as they will end up being the top of the dessert. Arrange them as you would sliced apples when making an apple tart.

Once you have neatly arranged one layer of orange segments at the bottom of each cookie cutter, add a couple spoonfuls of whipped cream and gently spread it so that it fills the cookie cutter in an even layer. Leave about 1/4 inch at the top so there is room for dough circle.

Using a butter knife or small spoon, spread a small even layer of orange marmalade on each circle of dough.

Carefully place a circle of dough over each ring (the side of dough covered in marmalade should be the side touching the whipping cream). Gently press on the circle of dough to make sure the dessert is compact.

Place the desserts to set in the freezer to set for 10 minutes.

Using a small knife, gently go around the edges of the cookie cutter to make sure the dessert will be easy to unmold. Gently place your serving plate on top of a dessert (on top of the circle of dough) and turn the plate over. Gently remove the cookie cutter, add a spoonful of caramel sauce and serve immediately.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Cinnamon Sugar Tasties

I am pretty sure that these muffins were originally called French Breakfast Muffins or Donut Muffins but Nathan renamed these years ago. These are definately a favorite in our house. You can't really beat a delicious nutmeg flavored mini muffin that has been rolled in cinnamon sugar!


Cinnamon Sugar Tasties

1 1/2 cups + 2 TBSP flour

3/4 cup sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/2 cup milk

1 egg, beaten

1/3 cup butter, melted


1/3 cup butter, melted

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla

Combine first 5 ingredients. Add milk, egg, and butter. Mix well. Fill mini-muffin tins halfway. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pan immediately.

Dip in butter and dip in cinnamon-sugar-vanilla mixture.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Guest Blogger: Chicken Penne

Here is another wonderful recipe from Monica. I have made this recipe a few times before and LOVE it. I was actually planning on making this soon to post it and then I got an email from Monica with the recipe for Guest Blogger. Guess she beat me to it! :)

My mom is a GREAT cook! I grew up with my mom trying lots of new recipes and we all had our favorites. This is one of mine from my teenage years and I have passed on the love for it to my family. We don't eat it too often but when we do it's GONE before the end of the night (mostly because my husband goes back for seconds and thirds after the kids are in bed!) I believe this recipe came from my mom having something similar at Olive Garden and then trying to duplicate it. I don't think they serve it anymore but lucky for me I have a recipe that is probably better! :) Enjoy!

This time I didn't serve with pesto bread (trying to lower the calories a little...) but usually we have it with fabulous pesto bread where we just get a baguette, broil it, spread pesto, add tomatoes and provolone cheese on top and broil a little longer. So good!

Chicken Penne

Penne (cooked and drained)
2 Chicken breasts (cut into bite-size pieces)
4-6 oz Sliced mushrooms (I use one package)
Olive Oil
1 can Artichokes
1/2 can Olives (we use a whole can b/c we LOVE olives!)
2 c. Cream
8 oz Fontina Cheese (I use swiss)

Saute chicken and mushrooms in olive oil and garlic. Put all ingredients in cooked pasta except for creamand cheese. Put cream into pan you sauteed mushrooms and chicken. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes till reduced. Slowly add cheese and stir until melted. Salt and pepper the sauce and pour over pasta. Mix well.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

CIA Homeschool: Coffee Cake (Twisted)

One of my favorite things about living in Germany was the amount of bakeries. I didn't go every day or even every week, but when I did go, it was always a wonderful thing. The pastries and breads were always delicious. There was one particular bread that was so delicious that an entire loaf could easily be eaten in a matter of hours. And, no, I am not talking about it being eaten by multiple people.... :)

Usually I would always get a loaf of that bread, but I liked to mix it up with a delicious almond cake. This cake was amazing and oh how I loved it. It was a sad day when I purchased my last one. Let me tell you... that almond cake is on my top 5 list of foods to get right away next time I am in Germany (and there WILL be a next time!).

With all of that said, you are probably wondering what that has to do with this coffee cake. Well, this coffee cake tasted almost EXACTLY like the almond pastry I love so much! JACKPOT!

By the looks of the pictures, it may seem like this is a difficult recipe. It actually was quite simple. It is a basic yeast dough filled with a frangipane (almond paste, sugar, eggs) filling. The dough is rolled out into a rectangle, the frangipane is spread on top, and then rolled up. The roll is then cut in half lengthwise and twisted together.

After baking, the coffee cake is brushed with an apricot glaze. Oh... my... yum! If you couldn't tell, I LOVED this cake!

Ah.... CIA homeschool is paying off! :)

List of recipes to be made from the CIA book:

Yeast Raised Breads and Rolls

Boule (White Wheat Lean Dough)
Split Loaf (Lean Dough with Pate Fermente)
Batard (Whole Wheat Lean Dough)
Baguette (Lean Dough with Poolish)
Soft Roll Dough (Knot Rolls & Parker House Rolls)
Brioche a Tete
Challah (6 Braid)
Coffee Cake (Twisted)
Pita Bread
Apple Fritters
Berliners (Jelly Doughnuts)
Yeast Raised Doughnuts

Yeast Doughs (Not listed above)

Prosciutto and Provolone Dough
Tomato Dough
Roasted Potato Dough
Apple and Walnut Sourdough

Quick Breads and Cakes

Ginger Cake
Buttermilk Biscuits
Bran Muffins
Lemon Buttermilk Cake
Polenta Cake
Devil’s Food Cake
Chocolate XS
Carrot Cake
Chocolate Souffle Cake
Patterned Jaconde Sponge
Walnut Cheesecake


Mudslide Cookies
Sand Cookies
Orange Coconut Macaroons
Fudge Brownies
Pecan Diamonds (Short Dough)
Mirror Cookies (1-2-3 Cookie Dough)
Citrus Crisps
Zedern Brot
Vanilla Kipferl
Checkerboard Cookies
Vanilla Pretzels
Langues-de-Chat Sandwiches
Frangipane Cake (Made into Petit Fours)

Custards, Creams, Mousses, and Souffles

Crème Brulee
Pots de Crème
Vanilla Pudding
Lemon Curd
Chocolate Mousse
Bavarian Cream
Raspberry Souffle

Frozen Desserts

Chocolate Swirl Ice Cream
Lemon Frozen Yogurt
Orange Sorbet
Vanilla Bean Sherbet
Fresh Ginger Granita
Praline Parfait
Frozen Lemon Savarin

Pies, Tarts, and Fruit Desserts

Blueberry Pie
Warm Apple Charlottes
Lemon Fantasy Tart
Zesty Lime Tart
Cheese Tart
Cranberry Pecan Tart
Apple Strudel

Filled and Assembled Cakes and Tortes

Bavarian Cream Torte
Charlotte Russe
Black Forest Cake
Opera Torte
Orange Mousseline Torte

Individual Pastries

Lemon Curd Tartlets
Pecan Cranberry Tartlets
Strip Tartlets
Pecan Passions
Classic Napoleons
Chocolate Peanut Butter Bombes
White and Dark Chocolate Mousse in Glasses
Chocolate Eclairs
Bear Claws

Plated Desserts

Blueberry and Cream Cheese Crepes
Brown Sugar Roasted Pear
Funnel Cake with Maple Syrup and Summer Fruit Sauces

Chocolates and Confections

Milk Chocolate Truffles
Candied Orange Peel
Soft Caramels
Hard Candies
Nuss Bonbon


TBD (Trying to pick a cake with gumpaste, modeling chocolate, and possibly pulled sugar)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

TWD: Dulce de Leche Duos

Dulce de Leche, I could eat you with a spoon. Who needs to put you on or in anything? You are delicious all on your own!

Oh, but Dorie Greenspan suggests sandwiching you between two delicious cookies. I took it one step further and chose to dip you in chocolate. I'm sorry to tell you, Dulce de Leche... You just got better!Thank you to Jodie of Beansy Loves Cake for hosting this week. The recipe can be found at her blog.

Also, if you can't find Dulce de Leche in your grocery store or if you would prefer to make it on your own (as I did), I followed this method:

Dulce de Leche or Confiture de Lait
Adapted from The Perfect Scoop

Preheat the oven to 425° F (220° C).

Pour one can (400 gr/14 ounces) of sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk) into a glass pie plate or shallow baking dish. Stir in a few flecks of sea salt.

Set the pie plate within a larger pan, such as a roasting pan, and add hot water until it reaches halfway up the side of the pie plate.

Cover the pie plate snugly with aluminum foil and bake for 1 to 1¼ hours. (Check a few times during baking and add more water to the roasting pan as necessary).

Once the Dulce de Leche is nicely browned and caramelized, remove from the oven and let cool. Once cool, whisk until smooth.

Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Warm gently in a warm water bath or microwave oven before using.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sausage and Fettuccine

Years ago I put together a family cookbook as a Christmas gift. Months in advance I sent out an email requesting favorite recipes and then had them all bound together in one book. I think everyone really enjoyed it (and still do! I see family using it all the time!) and I know I really enjoyed it. Anytime I get new recipes is a good thing.

This recipe was one that was submitted by Nathan's cousin and his wife (thanks Adam and Alicia!). I have never tried it because there was no way I was going to find chicken apple sausage at the commissary in Germany. Now that I am stateside, I knew that it would be on our menu.

I loved this meal! It was super easy and super delicious. The peppers and sausage cook for a while in the oven, but hands on time is minimal. I hope you'll give it a try!


Sausage and Fettuccine

1 package chicken apple sausage
1 red pepper, sliced
1 yellow pepper, sliced
2 orange peppers, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
Olive Oil
Fettuccine, cooked

Preheat oven to 375.

Line a baking dish with olive oil (enough to cover bottom). Place peppers and onion in pan. Cut sausage and layer on top of peppers. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

Serve sausage and peppers over noodles and sprinkle with parmesan.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

SMS: Double Crusted Caramel Apple Pie

Sorry in advance that this post is going to be short. I don't think I mentioned that I was in Phoenix visiting family for the last 4 days or that I am headed back to El Paso this morning. It has been a fun visit but also a very busy one! I had thought I would have more time to get this post written but instead I have been spending my time with family and friends (which is a wise choice, no?). :)

Caramel. Apples. Flaky Pie Crust. What else do you want in a pie? It was delicious and I loved making a miniature pie in order to get it eaten before I left. Although now that I am looking at the pictures, I am wishing I had some sitting in the fridge waiting for me at home!

Thanks to Susan of Baking with Susan for hosting this week. The recipe can be found at her blog.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Cornmeal Crusted Tilapia with Avocado Cream

Fish is a very rare find here. I really do try to make fish for my family because they all LOVE it. I am the problem. I don't like fish. I put on a good face for the kids, but I usually end up pushing it around on my plate after taking only one bite. The kids will then beg for more fish and they end up eating mine. Of course, they enjoy that and don't really notice that I haven't eaten anything. The problem is that Anya is almost 5 and will eventually notice what is left on my plate. I encourage them to try at least one bite of everything and they are amazing eaters. I am lucky that they aren't picky. I am probably the pickiest eater in the house.

I got a little sidetracked there for a minute. :) According to Nathan and the kids, this fish was really good. There wasn't a single piece of fish left, so that is a good sign. I took my signature one bite. I didn't think it was bad. The flavors were good. I think I just need to keep making fish and force myself to eat it. Eventually I'll have to like it, right?


Cornmeal Crusted Tilapia with Avocado Cream
Recipe from Dani Spies

1lb of tilapia (4-6 filets)
2 eggwhites
1 cup of ground cornmeal
1 tbsp of paprika
½ tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

Avocado Cream
1 avocado
2 tbsp plain Greek style yogurt
Juice of half a lime
Pinch of salt
Do your self a favor and make the Avocado cream first. This way once the fish is done you’re ready to serve and eat!

Avocado Cream
Peel and pit the avocado before chopping into chunky pieces. Place the avocado in a mini food processor along with the yogurt, limejuice, and salt.

Blend everything together until you have a nice creamy sauce. Feel free to play with the texture by adding more or less yogurt and/or a bit of milk or water. Set aside until ready to serve.

Cornmeal Crusted Tilapia
Combine the cornmeal, paprika, and cayenne pepper in a wide shallow dish or bowl. Place your egg whites in another bowl with similar characteristics.

Season each tilapia fillet with salt and pepper. Dip seasoned fillet into the egg whites and then dredge it in the cornmeal mixture. Place on a rimmed baking sheet until ready to cook.

Once you have all of your tilapia seasoned and coated heat one teaspoon of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over a medium high heat.

Right before placing the tilapia into the hot pan, lightly mist each one with a bit of cooking spray (this will ensure even browning without having to add too much oil into the pan) and place in pan “sprayed-side” down.

Mist the opposite side of the fillets while they are cooking and after a bout two minutes flip the fish and cook for another two minutes or so. You are looking for the fish to just cook through while having a nice crispy, browned exterior.

Hit each one with a pinch of salt when they are done and top with a tablespoon of Avocado Cream. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

SpinningLeaf Giveaway Winners

Thank you to all who entered. The winners are:

#14- Eliana
#1- Monica
#20- Valerie
#13- Maria
#26- Jennifer

I will email send all of you an email to get your shipping information and mold choice. Congratulations!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Foreign Food Focus: Irish Soda Bread

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Before I get to today's post, just a reminder that the SpinningLeaf giveaway ends tonight at 10pm EST. Make sure you get in your entries!

March is just getting away from me! I think Chocolate Chip Cookie week had something to do with it, but now I feel like I am playing catch-up. I am definately not complaining because I am thrilled that my posting level is back up to where I want it. I am, however, wishing I had a little more time to get this FFF up this month. But, I wanted to get it posted today so here it is!

Last month Nathan and I decided that Irish food would be a good choice for FFF because of St. Patrick's Day. Irish Soda Bread is something I have always wanted to try but have never actually made. Traditional Irish Soda Bread is very basic. No add ins (such as seeds or raisins) and no butter or eggs. Just flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk.

This is a great quick bread to make if you need something to serve with your dinner. We ate it with a roast and potatoes and it was fantastic. Basically just a big buttermilk biscuit. YUM!

Irish Soda Bread

4 cups (16 oz) of all purpose flour.
1 Teaspoon baking soda
1 Teaspoon salt
14 oz of buttermilk


Preheat the oven to 425 F. degrees. Lightly crease and flour a cake pan.

In a large bowl sieve and combine all the dry ingredients.

Add the buttermilk to form a sticky dough. Place on floured surface and lightly knead (too much allows the gas to escape)

Shape into a round flat shape in a round cake pan and cut a cross in the top of the dough.

Cover the pan with another pan and bake for 30 minutes (this simulates the bastible pot). Remove cover and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

The bottom of the bread will have a hollow sound when tapped so show it is done.

Cover the bread in a tea towel and lightly sprinkle water on the cloth to keep the bread moist.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

TWD: Soft Chocolate and Raspberry Tart

I am at a loss for words this week. When I think of this dessert, only one word comes to mind - DELICIOUS. I guess I could pull out the thesaurus and come up with a few other words for you. How about mouthwatering? Or maybe even scrumptious? Ooooh, tempting! Yes, this tart is all those things and more.

The tart starts with Dorie's wonderful sweet tart crust. You could just give me the crust and I would be a happy lady. But, instead of an empty crust, this is filled with juicy raspberries and a wonderful chocolate ganache. Then, as if that isn't good enough, it is topped with a dollop of fresh whipped cream. Are you drooling yet?

We ate this warm out of the oven because, honestly, we couldn't wait. It is SOOOOO good! We also had a little bit cold from the fridge and it was good that way, too. I don't think there is a bad way to eat a chocolate raspberry tart!

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Rachelle of Mommy, I'm Hungry! for hosting this week. The recipe, which you know you want, can be found at her blog!

*Don't forget to stop by HERE to enter my giveaway! *

Monday, March 15, 2010

SpinningLeaf Giveaway

It's time again for another wonderful giveaway courtesy of SpinningLeaf! My love for SpinningLeaf and their cookie molds is no secret. I was so thrilled when they offered to provide molds for my giveaway last month and am even more thrilled that they have offered to do it again!

SpinningLeaf has the cutest selection of molds to make chocolate covered Oreos and chocolate covered Nutter Butters. They seem to have a mold for every occasion. I made a test batch of Easter Egg Oreos (pictured above) and am so excited to make more for Easter. Or what about the adorable green shamrocks for St. Patrick's Day? Perfection!

This giveaway is for one mold of your choice from SpinningLeaf. The best part is that there will be 5 winners! Five lucky winners will be able to pick their own mold and make super cute, delicious chocolate covered confections!

You can enter the giveaway up to 4 times (please leave a seperate comment for each entry). Here's how:

#1- Visit SpinningLeaf and leave a comment letting me know which mold is your favorite.
#2- Become a fan of Cooking with Cristine (link on sidebar).
#3- Become a fan of SpinningLeaf on Facebook.
#4-Tell others about the giveaway. You can blog it, facebook it, tweet it... Whichever you prefer!

Please make sure to leave a seperate comment for each entry. That is the only way it will be counted! :) Also, if you are already a fan of my blog or SpinningLeaf, thank you and please leave a comment stating so.

This giveaway will run until 10PM EST on Wednesday, March 17. The winners will be announced Thursday, March 18.

Thanks for entering and good luck!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

SMS: Carrot Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

Yay! I'm back with Sweet Melissa Sundays this week! I love carrot cake, so I knew that I would be making this one.

I don't know if I am in love with this particular carrot cake or not. It wasn't bad but there wasn't anything special about it. It was just a good carrot cake. Does that make sense?

On the other hand, the cream cheese frosting was so yummy! Let's be honest... I haven't met a cream cheese frosting that I didn't like but the addition of orange zest to this one was fantastic. While the cake was just okay, the frosting put it over the top and actually made this one heck of a carrot cupcake.

Thanks to Julie of A Little Bit of Everything for hosting this week. The recipe can be found at her blog.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Thomas Keller Chocolate Chip Cookies

Is it really the last day of Chocolate Chip Cookie Week already? I have had a lot of fun sharing these recipes and sharing my thoughts on the cookies. I had even more fun making and eating them! :) I appreciate all the comments through the week and if you have a favorite CCC recipe that wasn't included this week, please send it my way. I am an obsessed woman!

These cookies are amazing. I really can't hide my love for them which is the main reason why I am posting them last. Even after making nine different chocolate chip cookies, I made these a second time. Yep, that's right. Nathan made a special request that I make more of the Thomas Keller cookies, so yesterday I whipped up another batch. These are SO good!

I think what I love most about this cookie is that it uses 2 different chocolates; a 55% and a 70-72% chocolate, both of which are easy to find in bar form at the grocery store. Plus, when you buy a bar, you get to cut it into chunks. I LOVE using a bar in cookies. The two different chocolates give this cookie a unique, more "grown-up" taste. Although both of my kids loved them, so I guess they aren't too grown up!

One thing that is a bit shocking, though, is that this cookie has no vanilla. I can't recall meeting a cookie that didn't have vanilla, but it isn't a typo. No vanilla needed here.

I'm sure you have figured it out already, but the Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie did not hold its #1 spot. Thomas Keller is my new favorite. But, don't feel too bad for the BFC. I will make it again because it is definately a great cookie!

Here are the final standings:

1- Thomas Keller Chocolate Chip Cookies- 2 chocolates, chewy, DELICIOUS!

2- Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies- Big, fat, chewy... you can't ask for more!

3- TIE between Cooks Illustrated CCC and Alton Brown's The Chewy - I love the Alton Brown cookie but the brown butter in the CI cookie pulls me back. Between the two, I can't decide which I like better.

4- NYT Chocolate Chip Cookie- The only reason this isn't ranked higher is because of the special, hard to find ingredients. Definately a great cookie, though!

5- Nestle Tollhouse- I feel bad ranking the original so low, but the ones above this are just amazing! Although I was told they shipped amazingly well, so that is an added bonus!

6- Neiman Marcus FAKE- While not a traditional chocolate chip cookie, it is good.

7- Candied Bacon CCC- I probably wouldn't make these again unless it was to requested, but I am glad I gave them a try!

8- Neiman Marcus REAL- I just didn't care for the espresso in the cookies.

I will say that there wasn't a BAD cookie in the bunch. They were all enjoyed for different reasons and I hope that you will all enjoy them as well!

Thomas Keller Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/3 cups plus 1 tablespoon flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
5 ounces 55% chocolate, cut into chip-sized pieces (about 1 1/4 cups)
5 ounces 70% to 72% chocolate, cut into chip-sized pieces (about 1 1/4 cups)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup packed dark brown sugar, preferably molasses sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs

1. Position the oven racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper.

2. Sift the flour and baking soda into a medium bowl. Stir in the salt.

3. Put the chips in a fine-mesh basket strainer and shake to remove any chocolate "dust" (small fragments).

4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat half the butter on medium speed until fairly smooth. Add both sugars and the remaining butter, and beat until well combined, then beat for a few minutes, until the mixture is light and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until the first one is incorporated before adding the next and scraping the bowl as necessary. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed to combine. Mix in the chocolate.

5. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold the dough with a spatula to be sure that the chocolate is evenly incorporated. The dough or shaped cookies can be refrigerated, well wrapped, for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 weeks. Freeze shaped cookies on the baking sheets until firm, then transfer to freezer containers. (Defrost frozen cookies overnight in the refrigerator before baking.)

6. Using about 2 level tablespoons per cookie, shape the dough into balls. Arrange 8 cookies on each pan, leaving about 2 inches between them, because the dough will spread. Bake for 12 minutes, or until the tops are no longer shiny, switching the position and rotating the pans halfway through the baking.

7. Cool the cookies on the pans on cooling racks for about 2 minutes to firm up a bit, then transfer to the racks to cool completely. Repeat to bake the remaining cookies. (The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Cooks Illustrated Chocolate Chip Cookies

Don't these look like the quintessential chocolate chip cookie? I would have to say that these might be the prettiest cookies that I made this week. I just like the way they look. I see them and I want to eat them. They say you eat with your eyes first, right?

So, what sets this cookie apart from the others? The butter. In all the other cookies, the butter is either softened and creamed with the sugars or it is melted first. In these cookies, the butter is melted but it goes one step further. These cookies use brown butter. Y-U-M!

I am definately a brown butter fan. For those who haven't had or made brown butter before, it is when butter is melted to over low heat until it browns (not burns). What is left behind is a very delicious butter with a nutty flavor.

These cookies are slightly high maintenance, but not quite to the extent of the NYT cookies. After the butter is browned, it is whisked into the sugar for 30 seconds, left alone for 3 minutes, and then the process is repeated 2 more times.

The verdict? An incredibly delicious cookie. I loved the subtle nutty flavor from the brown butter and the smell was amazing. This cookie definately ranks up there in my book.

Cooks Illustrated Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces) (see note)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks (see note)
3/4 cup chopped pecan or walnuts, toasted (optional)

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.

3. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.

4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.)

5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookies - Rumored and Real

Quick note before I get to the cookies today. When I was making the cookies for this week, I decided to surprise my Germany gals with boxes of cookies. (Two of my Germany girls are stateside now, so the package didn't have far to go!) My friend, Erica, who is still in Germany, has decided to rate the cookies on "travelbility" and is posting her findings in the comment section of each cookie (minus NYT and Real Neiman Marcus). If you are interested in shipping ccc's, her info will be useful considering the cookies were in a box for a week! :) Now, onto the cookies.....

Today I have two chocolate chip cookies for you, both with associations to Neiman Marcus.

The rumored Neiman Marcus cookie is an urban legend that has a classic "small guy takes out big guy" story. The rumor is that while at Neiman Marcus, a lady asked for the recipe for their chocolate chip cookies. She was told it would cost her two fifty. She assumed this meant $2.50 but was shocked when her credit card was charged $250.00. In an effort to get back at Neiman Marcus, she decided to share the recipe with the world for free.

This, of course, is not true according Neiman Marcus (and snopes!). On their website, Neiman Marcus discounts the claim and provides their chocolate chip cookie recipe free of charge. The funniest thing about this is that the two recipes have NOTHING in common! But, you gotta love that chocolate chip cookies are so popular that there are urban legends about them! :)

The rumored Neiman Marcus cookie is not your classic chocolate chip cookie. It has ground oatmeal, nuts, chocolate chips, and a grated Hershey bar. It is a good cookie and I do like it. However, if you are wanting a classic chocolate chip cookie, this isn't the cookie you are looking for. But, if you are looking for something different, something that is outside of the ccc box, then give it a try!

The real Neiman Marcus cookie has espresso powder in it to enhance the chocolate flavor. Nathan enjoyed this cookie and thought the coffee taste made the cookie better. I, however, don't like coffee in my desserts, so this one wasn't a favorite. But, I know there are coffee loving dessert people out there, so this may be the cookie for you!


Rumored Neiman Marcus Cookie

2 cups butter
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups sugar
5 cups blended oatmeal
24 ounces chocolate chips
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 (8 ounce) Hershey Bars (grated)
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups chopped nuts

Measure oatmeal and blend in a blender to a fine powder. Cream the butter and both sugars.
Add eggs and vanilla.

Mix together with flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder and soda. Add chocolate chips, grated Hershey Bar and nuts.

Roll into balls and place 2-inches apart on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 375° or until golden.

Real Neiman Marcus Cookie

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons instant espresso coffee powder
1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Cream the butter with the sugars using an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy (approximately 30 seconds)

Beat in the egg and the vanilla extract for another 30 seconds.

In a mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients and beat into the butter mixture at low speed for about 15 seconds. Stir in the espresso coffee powder and chocolate chips.

Using a 1 ounce scoop or a 2 tablespoon measure, drop cookie dough onto a greased cookie sheet about 3 inches apart. Gently press down on the dough with the back of a spoon to spread out into a 2 inch circle. Bake for about 20 minutes or until nicely browned around the edges. Bake a little longer for a crispier cookie.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Alton Brown's The Chewy

Alton Brown's The Chewy is another very popular chocolate chip cookie among foodie bloggers. I have heard a lot about it and have been interested in trying it for a while now. As you already know, I am a chewy cookie girl, so I knew this would be right up my alley.

One thing that is different about this recipe is that it calls for bread flour instead of all purpose. Not really a challenge considering I always have bread flour on hand and, if you don't, at least the supermarket carries it and you don't have to special order anything. :)

I loved this cookie. It was delicious and just a really good chocolate chip cookie. I understand why it is a favorite to so many people. I can't tell you if it is my new favorite or not, but I will say that they are yummy!


Alton Brown's The Chewy

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

Pour the melted butter in the mixer's work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Chill the dough, then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake for 14 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Candied Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies

You read that correctly... Candied Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies. In addition to classic cookies, I wanted to go outside of the box this week and see what else was out there.

I found this recipe on Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy a few weeks ago and was instantly intrigued. Bacon in a cookie? I knew it would be interesting to say the least. Nathan loves bacon in anything, so I knew even if I didn't care for them that he would eat them!

This recipe begins with the bacon. The process of making candied bacon is very easy and smells amazing. The bacon is sprinkled with brown sugar and baked until caramelized. The candied bacon tasted great by itself and I had to stop myself from eating it before I mixed up the cookie dough.

These cookies were really good. You could tell there was something different about them, but the bacon wasn't overwhelming. It all blended well together. My only complaint about these cookies is that they were crispy. I am a chewy cookie girl, but the taste was there and that is a very important thing!

Candied Bacon-Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Recipe from Sticky, Gooey, Messy, Chewy


1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup semisweet chocolate chunks (Chips are fine.)
1 cup Candied Bacon Bits (recipe follows)


1. Preheat oven to 325F. Line three baking sheets with a Silpat liner or parchment paper.

2. Beat the sugars and butter together until smooth. Mix in the egg, vanilla, and baking soda. Whisk together the flour and salt, then sift them into the batter. Stir in the chocolate chunks and bacon bits.

3. Using a small cookie scoop or a teaspoon, scoop the cookie dough into small balls, about 1-inch in diameter, and place them 2 inches apart on each of the baking sheets.

4. Bake for 14-16 minutes, or until pale golden brown. Rotate sheets halfway through baking for even browning. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

The cookies can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for 3-4 days, if they last that long!

Makes about 3 dozen 2-inch cookies.

Candied Bacon Bits


8 strips bacon
1/2 cup light brown sugar


1. Preheat oven to 400F.

2. Lay the strips of bacon on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or aluminum foil, shiny side down.

3. Sprinkle half of the brown sugar evenly over each strip of bacon.

4. Bake for about 15 minutes. Midway during baking, flip the bacon strips over and drag them through the dark, syrupy liquid that’s collected on the baking sheet. Add the rest of the brown sugar and continue to bake until a deep mahogany color. Remove from oven and cool the strips on a wire rack.

5. Once crisp and cooled, chop into little pieces, about the size of grains of rice.

Candied bacon bits can be stored in an airtight container and chilled for a day or so, or stored in the freezer a few weeks ahead.

Monday, March 8, 2010

New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookie

This recipe may be the biggest thing to hit the blogosphere ever. Okay, so that is a purely speculative comment, but I swear a million bloggers have posted this recipe or raved about it since it was published over 18 months ago. I knew without a doubt that this cookie would be part of CCC week. I think I would be chastised immensely if it wasn't included!

The first thing you should know about this cookie is that it is VERY high maintenance. First of all, it calls for chocolate discs, not chips or chunks. Albertsons didn't carry the discs and we don't have any Trader Joes or Whole Foods around here. (Yes, I am very sad about this!). I had to order the discs from King Arthur Flour. Plus, the recipe uses cake flour and bread flour. I have both of those on hand at all times, but a lot of people don't. When you have to go out of your way to find ingredients, that, to me, is a little much for a cookie.

Once the special discs were ordered, this dough has to be refrigerated for 24-36 hours. See what I mean? High maintenance. Most people aren't going to wait that long for a chocolate chip cookie. But, I set out to make these and promised that I would follow the recipes as written. That was about to become even more difficult.

Once the cookie dough is adequately chilled, the dough is formed and sprinkled with sea salt. Yep, you read that right. Salt. On my cookie. I wasn't too sure about this. I don't really know where I stand on the sweet/salty combination. Sometimes I like it (for example, chocolate covered pretzels. YUM!), but I haven't really ventured out into the 'salt on my sweets' universe.

Even though the recipe says to eat these warm, I don't think these cookies aren't meant to be eaten right out of the oven. They are so full of chocolate that they really will fall apart if you try to eat them right away. Just in case you were wondering that did not stop us from trying. :)

Our first impression? Not the best. Too much chocolate. The salt, however, was a nice addition. It really wasn't salty, just something to give it a little kick. But then a day passed. These cookies firmed up nicely and still maintained their chewiness. Holy moly, a really good cookie!

So, if you have 3 days to wait for a cookie, this is the cookie for you. Really good and definately not your every day cookie. I now understand what the hoopla was all about!

NYT Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons

(8 1/2 ounces) cake flour

1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract

1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note)

Sea salt.

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

It's National Chocolate Chip Cookie Week....

So pull up a chair, grab a glass of milk, and prepare to feast your eyes on NINE different chocolate chip cookies over the course of the week!

You may be wondering what possessed me to make so many chocolate chip cookies. It started with the TWD post a few weeks ago. The recipe was Dorie Greenspan's CCC's and while reading all the posts I realized how many people had their favorite recipe and that it wouldn't be changed. I don't know why that shocked me. I have a favorite CCC recipe and was not interested in finding a new one.

The thought crossed my mind to try out a few of the popular favorites and then, while researching, I found out that National Chocolate Chip Cookie Week was coming up. A little too perfect, don't you think?

One thing I want to mention is that I did my best to follow each recipe EXACTLY as written. If the dough needed to be chilled, I chilled it. If it didn't specify, I baked them straight from the mixer. Also, even though I occasionally like to chop my own chocolate bars for my cookies, if the recipe stated chips, I used chips. I figure this is the fairest way to judge the cookies. No tweaking allowed. Although nuts aren't in any of the cookies (except one) because we just aren't "nuts in our cookies" kind of people!

This post has two chocolate chip cookie recipes. My old standby and current family favorite - The Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie and the original chocolate chip cookie-The Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookie.

I have been making the big, fat, chewy chocolate chip cookies for as long as I can remember. They are exactly what I want in a CCC. Big, soft, chewy, and full of chocolatey goodness! No other cookie has compared to this one in the past and it will be tough to beat. (And, no, I won't tell you if a new champion has been crowned. You'll have to wait until the end of the week for that!)

The Nestle Toll House cookie came to be in 1930 when Ruth Wakefield, owner of The Toll House Inn, cut up a Nestle chocolate bar and added it to her butter cookie dough. She expected the chocolate to melt and was surprised to see that it had held its shape. The cookies became very popular at the Toll House Inn and, shortly after, the recipe was printed on the back of the Nestle chocolate bars. In 1939, Nestle made it convenient for everyone and started making chocolate chips.

There really isn't anything bad to say about the Nestle Toll House cookie. It is a delicious cookie, crunchy on the edges and soft in the middle. Definately a chocolate chip cookie staple recipe and probably the recipe that is made the most. I mean, they do have an advantage since the recipe is on the back of the chocolate chips!

I do hope you will stick around all week and read about my chocolate chip cookie journey!

Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Cream butter and sugars; beat in vanilla and eggs. Mix in dry ingredients. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by 1/4 cups on greased cookie sheet at least 3" apart. Bake 15-17 minutes or until edges are lightly toasted.

Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups (12-ounce package) NESTLE TOLL HOUSE Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
1 cup chopped nuts

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in large mixer bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE in preheated 375-degree [Fahrenheit] oven for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Guest Blogger: Quinoa Salad

Today's guest blogger post comes from my good friend, Erica. I met Erica in Germany 2 weeks before my due date with Eric. Her daughter was a tiny newborn (a little over a month old) and we really hit it off. She is such a sweetheart and I miss her like crazy. She recently (Feb 8) gave birth to beautiful twin girls and that just made me wish I was in Germany even more!

In true super mom fashion, with 3 little ones to take care of, she still sent me 2 guest blogger posts. You rock, Erica! Here is the first one. Thanks so much, Erica! Miss you!!!

Quinoa is a grain-like seed that originated in the Andes mountains and it has been an important food source there for 6,000 years. It is a complete protein, it is high in dietary fiber, and it contains magnesium and iron. Basically, it is a super food. It has a texture like couscous or rice, but has a nuttier flavor. You can find it in most grocery stores with the rice and other grains. Because it is so low in calories and high in fiber and protein, I have been trying to find more ways to use it. This recipe is quick and easy and has therefore become a favorite in our house. With the quinoa and pistachios, we think it is filling enough for a main course. However, if you want something even more hearty, you can add grilled chicken.

Quinoa Salad

2 lemons, juiced
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1/4 C olive oil

2 C cooked quinoa (cook according to package directions -- sometimes the quinoa needs to be rinsed)
2 green onions, chopped
1 C spinach
1/2 C pistachios
1 C cherry tomatoes-halved
1/2 C craisins

You can add chicken, almonds, or feta cheese as well

Friday, March 5, 2010

Stuffed Peppers

I don't have much to say other than this is delicious and you should try it! Enjoy!

Stuffed Peppers

4 large bell peppers

1 cup warm water

2 TBSP unsalted butter

2/3 cup corn kernels

1 small onion, chopped

1 lb hot or mild Italian sausage links, casings removed

1 box (6 oz) cornbread stuffing mix (like Stove Top)

3/4 cup pepper jack or monterey jack cheese

Heat oven to 350. Slice peppers in half from top to bottom. Remove seeds and membranes.

Melt butter in pan; add onion and cook until soft. Add sausage and cook until no longer pink. Add water and corn and bring to simmer. Add stuffing mix and stir just until combined. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes.

Divide filling among peppers and sprinkle with cheese. Bake 25-30 minutes or until peppers are tender.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Banana Montana After School Cake

I don't know about you, but I always have brown bananas sitting around just begging to get used. We like bananas, but somehow there are always 2 or 3 sitting in the fruit bowl turning brown. On rare occasions, there will only be one lonely banana so I will throw it in the freezer until it gets some company. Bottom line, I am always making banana bread, banana muffins, banana cake, banana smoothies... You get the point.

I found this recipe in a cookbook Anya received at Christmas. This cake is perfectly moist and full of yummy banana flavor. I really enjoyed this and so did the rest of the family. I hope you enjoy it, too!

Banana Montana After School Cake
Sticky, Gooey, Messy, Chewy Treats for Kids

1 3/4 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temp
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs, at room temp
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup mashed very ripe banana
1/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup diced pecans, toasted and cooled (optional)
Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350. Spray 8 or 9 inch square pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour through salt.

In a seperate bowl, cream buter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla, bananas, and buttermilk just until combined.

With mixer at low speed, beat flour mixture into the banana mixture in two additions. Beat just until combined. Using a rubber spatula, mix in pecans if using.

Spread the batter in prepared pan. Bake until firm and golden brown and a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean, about 50 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and cut into 9 squares. Serve warm.

*Note- We also enjoyed this cake at room temp!*

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Three Cheese Chicken Penne

I love pasta. Pasta of any kind. White sauce, red sauce, no sauce. It really doesn't matter. Give me a noodle and I am a happy girl. :)

This pasta is quick and full of one of my favorite veggies... Spinach! Plus, you can't really go wrong with three cheeses; cream cheese, parmesan, and mozzarella. Delicious!

Three Cheese Chicken Penne
Kraft Recipes

1-1/2 cups multi-grain penne pasta, uncooked
1 pkg. (9 oz.) fresh spinach leaves
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 tsp. dried basil leaves
1 jar (14-1/2 oz.) spaghetti sauce
1 can (14-1/2 oz.) diced tomatoes, drained
2 oz. (1/4 of 8-oz. pkg.) PHILADELPHIA Neufchatel Cheese, cubed
1 cup KRAFT 2% Milk Shredded Mozzarella Cheese, divided
2 Tbsp. KRAFT Grated Parmesan Cheese

HEAT oven to 375ºF.

COOK pasta as directed on package, adding spinach to the boiling water the last minute.

COOK and stir chicken and basil in large nonstick skillet sprayed with cooking spray on medium-high heat 3 min. Stir in spaghetti sauce and tomatoes; bring to boil. Simmer on low heat 3 min. or until chicken is done. Stir in Neufchatel.

DRAIN pasta mixture; return to pan. Stir in chicken mixture and 1/2 cup mozzarella. Spoon into 2-qt. casserole or 8-inch square baking dish.

BAKE 20 min.; top with remaining cheeses. Bake 3 min. or until mozzarella is melted.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Veggie Jack Burritos

Looking for a delicious way to get all your veggies? Look no further! These burritos are packed full of yummy and good for you vegetables. Plus, I promise you, you won't miss the meat. Or at least we don't. If you (or someone you are cooking for) MUST have meat with their meal, you could easily saute some chicken with the vegetables.


Veggie Jack Burritos

1 TBSP vegetable oil
2 cups broccoli, chopped
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
1 red onion, sliced
1 medium carrot, shredded
1 medium zucchini, shredded
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup green salsa
3 cups monterey jack, shredded
Flour tortillas
Red Salsa
Heat oil in skillet. Add veggies and garlic; cook 5-7 minutes or until veggies are tender. Stir in green salsa. Distribute veggies and 2 cups of cheese on tortillas; wrap up. Place in baking dish. Cover and bake for 15 minutes at 400. Top with red salsa and remaining cheese. Return to oven until cheese is melted.

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