April 17, 2012

Recipe: Ginger Molasses Cookies

My brother made some of these ginger molasses cookies over the winter break and I rather enjoyed them. They have a crisp exterior but a chewy interior and they sort of resemble a cross between gingerbread and spice cookies.

Later I asked my brother for the recipe and he happily passed it along, mentioning that he originally got the recipe from his friend Kristin. (They’re yummy, Kristin!)

Ingredients:

  • 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 tsp ground ginger (ground ginger from the spice aisle is fine)
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened or at room temperature
  • 6 Tbsp non-fat plain yogurt (or, if you don’t have plain yogurt, you can add an additional 3/4 cup butter instead)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 3/4 cup coarse or granulated sugar with 1 tsp kosher salt mixed in with a fork

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.

  2. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, ground ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, ground cloves and salt—set aide.

  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 sec to soften. Add 2 cups sugar, beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in yogurt, eggs, and molasses until combined. Beat in as much of the flour mixture as you can with the mixer. If need be, use a wooden spoon to stir in any remaining flour mixture.

  4. Shape dough into 1 1/2 to 2-inch balls. Roll balls in the 3/4 cup sugar (that you had mixed with the kosher salt). Place dough about 2 1/2 inches apart on cookie sheets.

  5. Bake at 350° for 12–14 minutes. If baking multiple cookie sheets at a time, swap sheets halfway through. Bake until cookies are light brown and puffed. Do not overbake! Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes then transfer to wire rack to cool.

Jan. 2, 2012

Recipe: Tomato and Basil Bruschetta

I had been looking for a good recipe for some time and I finally found a bruschetta recipe that I liked on Allrecipes.

There’re not a lot of fancy ingredients here, but what I especially like about this recipe is that it calls for a thin layer of herb-cheese spread on the bread before one adds the tomato mixture. That rather effectively keeps the bread from becoming soggy, which is great if you may be setting out the bruschetta as hors d’oeuvres that need to last through a cocktail party or the like.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar [Among supermarket brands, I quite like Lucini Gran Riserva Balsamico.]
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced [Apparently a Microplane can work well for this, if you have one.]
  • 7 roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 sourdough baguette, cut into ½" thick slices [I like to cut the bread on a bias to create a larger surface area for each slice. Plus it looks nice too.]
  • 1 (4 oz) package semi-soft cheese with garlic and herbs (such as Alouette)
  • (optional) Shredded deli Parmesan, to taste [This is often sold in a small circular tub of about 2" high and around 4" across.]

Directions:

  1. Mince the garlic, chop the basil, and then whisk those together with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a bowl.

  2. Chop the tomatoes and stir those into the mixture with the whisk. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (You’ll need to add salt and pepper, stir, and repeat the process a couple times—it may take three sets to get the mixture properly seasoned.)

  3. Cover with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 20 minutes. (The plastic wrap should be right on top of the tomato mixture to prevent it from drying out.)

  4. Preheat oven to 350° F (175° C). Spread the bread slices in a single layer on a large baking pan.

  5. Bake in the oven until golden, about 10 minutes. Remove to cool on a wire rack.

  6. When the bread is cool, spread the semi-soft cheese evenly over each slice. Using a slotted spoon, spoon some of the tomato mixture over each slice. (You may as well leave the bread on the baking trays for this step; that way, if any of the tomato mixture topples over the sides, it’s not a big deal.)

  7. Optional: If desired, sprinkle some shredded deli Parmesan over each slice and, on the broiler setting, slide the bread trays back into the oven, taking them out once the cheese becomes melty.

  8. Depending how hot they are, you may need a spatula to transfer the bruschetta to a serving tray. (Sometimes a wooden cutting board can work nicely for this.) They’re ready to eat immediately.

If desired, the tomato mixture can be made a day ahead of time. In fact, a little extra marinating of the ingredients can make the final product all the more scrumptious. Just be sure to cover the bowl with plastic wrap before placing it in the fridge.

Feb. 27, 2011

Oscar Party Foods 2011

I love movies, but I’ve never been all that excited about the Oscars. I suppose that I don’t have that much interest in the pomp and circumstance of the awards and I generally prefer just to read the results the next day.

On the other hand, I do enjoy language and puns, and if you’re holding an Oscar party this evening, you’re welcome to use any of these. (I’ve grouped them by nomination category, although not every category is represented.)

I’ve listed only the names of each dish (with links to recipes), but if you hover your mouse over an item, you’ll see a tooltip revealing the nominee from which the dish was inspired.

(Some of them are more obvious than others, but if you need a hint, here’s the official list of this year’s nominees.)

Best Picture

Art Direction

Foreign Language Film

Makeup

Music (Original Song)

Short Film (Animated)

Sound Mixing

Visual Effects

Aug. 16, 2010

Recipe: Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

Back at my old job, my friend (and coworker at the time) Matt brought in some chocolate chip peanut butter cookies into the office a few months back. They were pretty yummy—the cookies were soft and full of peanut flavor. I recently asked Matt for the recipe and he was gracious enough to mention that I could share it as well:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup sugar (set aside in a small bowl for in which to roll the cookies later)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup creamy (or chunky) peanut butter [I used Skippy Natural creamy peanut butter when I made a batch recently and that seemed to work out pretty well. —Alex]
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter (softened)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 c. flour
  • 12 oz bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°

  2. Combine sugar (just the first cup), brown sugar, butter, peanut butter, baking soda, vanilla extract, and eggs in a large mixing bowl.

  3. Add the flour about ½ cup at a time. This makes it easier to mix by hand, but it also helps you achieve the right dough consistency. You want the dough to be as moist as possible, while still peeling cleanly off your finger. Much dryer than that and the cookies will be cakey. Not dry enough, and they'll be too doughy.

  4. Mix in the chocolate chips.

  5. Using a small spoon, scoop out little clumps of dough and roll them in the small bowl of sugar you set aside. Place the dough balls on a cookie sheet (no need to grease it).

  6. Bake each batch for 8–10 minutes. You want to take them out just before they look done and let them continue to bake outside of the oven on the hot cookie sheet for a few minutes.

These are probably my favorite chocolate chip peanut butter cookies and I’ll definitely be making these again. Om nom nom.

Oh, and on a side note, while I normally go for just-peanuts peanut butter (the kind with “Peanuts, salt” as its only ingredients), I’ve learned that most recipes that call for peanut butter usually do so under the assumption that you’ll use pre-sweetened peanut butter. So, if you’re buying peanut butter that you plan to use in a baked good (such as cookies), I’d recommend buying one that includes sugar among its ingredients. (And though its name may imply otherwise, Skippy’s Natural line does include sugar.)

June 17, 2009

Eating a Klondike Bar Without Having It Melt

Preface: This tip might not be practical for picnics. Then again, you never know. [*]

So, you enjoy a succulent Klondike bar more than life itself? Or, it’s at least one of your favorite frozen confections? Either way, one of the common hazards of such treats is that, even if you wrap the keep the bar's wrapper snuggled around it as you eat it, the bars tend to melt toward glopitude by the time you get around to your last bite.

The solution? Oven mitts. Indeed, I came across this one by accident, but after grabbing a Klondike bar from the freezer and dreading its inevitable demise toward meltification, it struck me that an oven mitt—much in the same way that it insulates one’s hands when taking hot items from an oven—might also serve to insulate the Klondike bar from my own five-fingered 98.6° heat source.

I gave it a shot, and sure enough, it worked like a charm. Better than I could have imagined, even. Oven mitt on-hand and with only just enough wrapper present so as to shield the mitt from the bar’s chocolaty coating, I took a leisurely pace as I savored a (dark chocolate) Klondike bar after dinner this evening. I had an episode of Top Chef Masters rolling on the screen and it probably took me 20-25 minutes to make it all the way through. Sure enough, the ice cream was barely more melted upon the last bite as it was during the first.

Splendid. I may have just conquered the heat-borne menace that happens to attached (and inherent to) each of my opposable thumb-bearing appendages.

[*] Okay, okay—if you happen to enough oven mitts for everyone at your picnic, I suppose this could theoretically be put to use there. But, if you’re anything like me, I'm guessing you don’t exactly have a closet full of oven mitts.

Dec. 26, 2008

Recipe: Harry and Janie’s Raspberry Pecan Feta Salad

The Dallas Camera Club occasionally has one or two potluck meetings each year and one of the dishes that I’ve always enjoyed over the years was Harry and Janie Rumberger’s Raspberry and Feta Salad which they would often bring.

A month or two back, I got around to asking them for the recipe since I had wanted to make the recipe for Thanksgiving. As it turns out, the recipe isn’t too complicated, but it comes out great every time.

Harry and Janie’s Raspberry Pecan Feta Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 5-oz box of mixed greens of your choice [I found these in one of the refrigerated cases next to the produce]
  • 1 6-oz box of fresh raspberries
  • 1 4-oz package of plain feta cheese
  • About 1/4 pound of candied pecan halves, coarsely chopped [I found these with the other bagged nuts in the baking aisle]
  • 2–4 Tbsp Ken’s Non-fat Raspberry Pecan Dressing (or Ken’s Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette), to taste

Directions:

  1. Toss dressing and greens.
  2. Add cheese and toss very briefly.
  3. Add raspberries and nuts last and stir just to mix, being careful not to crush the berries or get too much dressing on the nuts.

Jan. 3, 2008

Squagels – Don’t Be Oppressed By The Tyranny of Round, Man!

Squagels - The Square Bagel

David Cross is a pretty funny guy. If you can't picture him right away, you might recall him as Dr. Tobias Fünke from Arrested Development or from a variety of characters on the HBO series Mr. Show.

My friend Bryan introduced me to Cross’ comedy by way of some of his albums including, I think, Shut Up You Fucking Baby!. And, whether this next bit was from that album or his anothers, I can’t quite remember — either way, though, I think it’s my favorite of Cross’ by far.

The clip above below covers more than one bit — the relevant part, in this case, starts around 2:55. Oh, and it’s safe for work as long as you have headphones on (if you know what I mean).

David Cross - Heaven & Squagels - Live in Atlanta (from DVD)

As it turns out, I went to Super Target after work for some groceries and what did I find? That’s right — Squagels! I don’t even eat bagels that often, but I just couldn’t resist buying these. (Don’t get me wrong, bagels can be rather tasty — especially with smoked salmon and capers — but I don’t often buy them since they’re pretty much all carbs.)

I just can’t bring myself to call these products by their given name, “Thomas’ Mini Squares Bagelbread” (how lame is that?). Having said that, if anyone wants one of these needlessly square breakfast items, just let me know — I’d be happy to bring in a couple Squagels for you.

Dec. 17, 2007

Blondies Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen

America's Test Kitchen - Blondies

The Dallas Camera Club has a potluck holiday party each year and, after thinking about it for a bit, I decided to make some blondies for this year’s party. (Blondies, in case you’re not familiar with them, are like brownies but without the chocolate; they’re a bar cookie which generally have a butterscotch-type flavor.) Well, to be sure, that I kinda had in mind was something like the Sheila’s Dream Bars from Potbelly Sandwiches. To be honest, I’m not even sure if Sheila's Dream Bars qualify and blondies, but that was my best guess — they're moist and dense bar cookies (in the way that a good brownie would be) with oats and chocolate chunks.

As a side note, I’m apparently not the only one looking for something analogous to Sheila's Dream Bars. One guy even wrote to Potbelly to ask for the recipe (but was politely declined). I also came across an attempt at a clone recipe at AllRecipes. Interestingly enough, one reviewer “was trying to duplicate the very addictive Sheila's Dream Bars from Potbelly” and went on to say that “these are EXACTLY what I was looking for” while another reviewer said that they’re “not even close to Sheila’s Dream Bars at Potbelly Sandwich Shoppe”. Great. How’s that for indecisiveness?

Since I didn't really want to take a chance on a recipe which was a toss-up between being “exactly” or “not even close” to what I was looking for, I turned to America’s Test Kitchen to get their take. (America’s Test Kitchen is a half-hour cooking show on PBS. Made by the same group that publishes Cook’s Illustrated magazine, the two groups are known for testing dozens of variants on a recipe before selecting their favorite which they then publish.)

I had recently picked up a couple DVD box sets of past seasons from the show and so I flipped through those to see if there was a blondie recipe. As it turns out, there was (it was from the 2005 season, for those curious). And, pleasantly enough, the recipe wasn’t too complicated either; with the exception of the chocolate chips or pecans, you might even have most of the other ingredients in your cupboard already (flour, eggs, sugar, and so on). The recipe also called for melted butter, so there wasn’t even a need for a mixer — only a spatula to fold some ingredients together.

Next up: the recipe; after that, I’ve included some comments on how they turned out.

Ingredients:

  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2) ounces unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped (These can be toasted by putting them on a pan and placing them in a 350° oven for 5-7 mins.)

Directions:

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13- by 9-inch baking pan with 2 pieces of foil. Coat the foil-lined pan with vegetable cooking spray.

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together. Set aside.

  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the melted butter and brown sugar together until combined. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture until just combined. Do not overmix.

  4. Fold in the semisweet and white chocolate chips and the nuts, and turn the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula.

  5. Bake until the top is shiny and cracked and feels firm to the touch, for 22 to 25 minutes. Place the pan on a rack and let cool completely (about an hour). Cut into 1 1/2- by 2-inch bars.

Makes 36 bars.

I’m generally pleased with how these blondies turned out — they’re tasty and I have few worries about having any left over at the end of the holiday party. Still, I’m not sure they exactly matched how I thought they’d turn out (more on that in a bit). In preparation for writing this post, I took a notebook with me to the kitchen and jotted down a few thoughts as I ate one of the blondies:

  • Aroma: Right out of the oven (or out of the RubberMaid cookie container), these have a pleasant butterscotch aroma.

  • Texture: Their texture, for the post part, is quite good. They tend to break apart easily in your mouth without being fragile enough to crumble apart in your hands.

  • Density: This is one of the few gripes that I had — these have a density quite similar to a cake-style brownie. Now, if that's your bag, you're all set. For me, though, I tend to prefer more of a gooey brownie and I think that type of texture would have been my preference here.

  • Other notes: The flavor white chocolate chips came through quite well. That’s all well and good, but I think I would have preferred if the semisweet chocolate chips could have taken a more prominent role. In fairness, some rejiggering of the ratio between white chocolate and semisweet chocolate chips could probably take care of this. (Or, if you really like white chocolate, the recipe could probably remain unchanged.)

In all, I think I’d give these blondies about a 7/10. They’re quite good and, for all I know, they might represent the Canonical Blondie Taste™. I think it just happened to work out that I was making a recipe for something which the recipe might not have been aiming for.

Nov. 28, 2006

Turn Cheese Into AA Frequent Flier Miles

Kottke is reporting on a promotion by Swiss Knight cheese where they're offering 500 American Airlines frequent flier miles with the purchase of each cheese wheel.

Now the big thing is cheese. This weekend I was handed an opened wheel of processed cheeses by a friend. He said that his brother-in-law had caught wind of a frequent flyer promotion whereby you get 500 miles for each purchase of this cheese wheel and had purchased 75,000 miles for ~$300, which also means he’s got more opened cheese wheels than he knows what to do with. […]

I may just have to stop by the supermarket on the way home from work this evening ;). (And, it certainly doesn’t hurt that DFW Airport is one of American Airlines’ hubs.) [Via: BoingBoing]

Update 2006-11-29: I checked the Albertson's just off Arapaho & Hillcrest on my way home from work last night, but I couldn’t find any Swiss Knight products :-/. I wouldn’t necessarily say that Albertson’s as a chain doesn’t carry them, but I didn’t see any at that store.

Oct. 23, 2006

US Bans Vegemite (Is Marmite Safe?)

File this one under I-didn’t-ever-think-that-would-happen, but the US has banned imports of Vegemite, a savory spread which is made from yeast:

An Australian has revealed that US border security police questioned him recently on suspicion of carrying Vegemite into the country.

The yeasty spread is banned because it contains folate, which in the US can be added only to bread and other grain products such as cereal.

Daniel Fogarty told the Geelong Advertiser that he was amazed when he and his partner Sarah Egan, who live in Canada, were asked if they had any Vegemite at a border crossing between the two countries. […]

As it turns out, I haven’t actually tried Vegemite — but I do rather enjoy Marmite. As I understand it, they’re similar in taste in some ways; however, proponents of each product typically declare that the other is a mere impostor and therefore vastly inferior ;).

That aside, I’m not sure if or whether Marmite is affected by this ban. It’s not that easy to find on store shelves to begin with — it’s typically relegated to a grocery store’s import or specialty sub-aisle, if anything — so it could be tough merely figuring out if a given store is no longer stocking Marmite or if it never stocked any in the first place :-/.