Sunday, February 17, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Nothing beats a batch of freshly baked cookies, especially if you're needing something to help you feel better. Ally is sick with pneumonia & I knew some chocolate chip cookies would put a smile on her face. I love the original Nestle Toll House recipe (remember the Friends episode with Pheobe's grandmother's recipe?). These cookies are a snap to throw together & always bring a smile. Is anything better than that?

Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks, 1/2 pound) 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 oven for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

*I added 1/2 cup of nuts to the remaining cookie dough after baking 2 dozen cookies. Neither Ally nor Mike like nuts in their cookies, so this was an easy solution.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Chef Boyardee Pizza

Oh, another of my childhood comfort foods. There were no local pizza shops when my sister & I were kids, so a Chef Boyardee Pizza was a real treat. Maybe that's why I like it so much now, for sentimental reasons - memories of Saturday nights stretched out on the floor in front of the TV watching BJ and the Bear while eating. Luckily, it's my 8 year old niece's favorite pizza too, so we still enjoy it every now & then. Ally's actually gotten pretty good at fixing it herself.

I decided to fix one tonight while Mike & I catch up on last night's episodes of Monk & Psych. I always get the regular cheese kit & add my own pepperoni as I find the sauce in the pepperoni kit is a little too salty for me. You could add extra toppings if you prefer, but I like to keep it pretty simple.

If you want to enjoy a little Chef Boyardee nostalgia, check out this commercial.

Chicken Salad Contessa

I decided to fix chicken salad yesterday & tried the recipe that Ina Garten made on her show last week, Chicken Salad Contessa. Just like her other recipes I've tried, this one did not disappoint. Roasting the chicken rather than poaching really does make a difference; the chicken stays so moist & flavorful. I also liked the combination of mayonnaise and sour cream - it made the salad creamy without an overwhelming mayonnaise flavor. It was delicious on endive leaves & made a pretty tasty sandwich too. This salad would also be good with craisins, pecans & celery.

Chicken Salad Contessa
2 split (1 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on (1 1/2 pounds)
Good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup walnuts halves
1/2 cup good mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves, divided
1 cup green grapes, cut in 1/2

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Cherry Cheese Pie

I was planning to fix Cherry Cheese Pie for our Valentine's Day dessert, but when Mike saw all the ingredients, he wanted me to fix it yesterday. I love this dessert & remember the 1st time my aunt made it; my sister & I were pretty young & would eat only the cherries, leaving the filling behind. How times have changed!!

I did make the mistake of using only 1/4 cup of lemon juice, which caused my filling to be a little less firm than it should have been. I didn't get picture-perfect slices, but the taste was still the same. pic to come tonight

Cherry Cheesepie
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk (NOT evaporated milk)
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Graham Cracker Pie Crust
1 (21-ounce) can cherry pie filling, chilled

In large bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in Eagle Brand milk until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and vanilla. Pour into crust; chill 4 hours or until set. Top with desired amount of cherry pie filling before serving.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Coq Au Vin

Sometimes a recipe can seem too intimidating to even try. That's how I felt about all the recipes I'd come across for Coq Au Vin until I saw Ina Garten preparing it yesterday. It looked so earthy for a cold winter day & it gave me another chance to use my new Rachael Ray dutch oven. Plus the recipe seemed to follow the same technique of her Beef Bourguignon which I've made quite a few times. It was easy to put together; after a little prep work I just put it in the oven & let it simmer. It smelled absolutely wonderful & the chicken just fell off the bone. Mike really enjoyed it & said the chicken was "so moist & flavorful". Served with Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, it was the perfect Sunday meal.

Coq Au Vin
2 tablespoons good olive oil
4 ounces good bacon or pancetta, diced
1 (3 to 4-pound) chicken, cut in 8ths
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound carrots, cut diagonally in 1-inch pieces*
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup Cognac or good brandy
1/2 bottle (375 ml) good dry red wine such as Burgundy**
1 cup good chicken stock, preferably homemade
10 fresh thyme sprigs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 pound frozen small whole onions
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, stems removed and thickly sliced

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove the bacon to a plate with a slotted spoon.

Meanwhile, lay the chicken out on paper towels and pat dry. Liberally sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. When the bacon is removed, brown the chicken pieces in batches in a single layer for about 5 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Remove the chicken to the plate with the bacon and continue to brown until all the chicken is done. Set aside.
Add the carrots, onions, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper to the pan and cook over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac and put the bacon, chicken, and any juices that collected on the plate into the pot. Add the wine, chicken stock, and thyme and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just not pink. Remove from the oven and place on top of the stove.

Mash 1 tablespoon of butter and the flour together and stir into the stew. Add the frozen onions. In a medium saute pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and cook the mushrooms over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until browned. Add to the stew. Bring the stew to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes. Season to taste. Serve hot.

*I used 3/4 to 1 pound of carrots & Pinot Noir**

Coming tomorrow...Sweet & Sour Meatballs

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Carrot Cake Cream Cheese Muffins

My mom's carrot cake recipe is both simple & delicious. I love to enjoy a slice along with a cup of hot tea. I decided to use the recipe today to make some muffins for next week's breakfast. I didn't want to ice them, but decided instead to sneak a surprise right in the middle - a tablespoon of sweetened cream cheese! They turned out wonderfully moist with just the right amount of sweetness. Perfect for a quick breakfast or mid-morning snack.

Carrot Cake Cream Cheese Muffins
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups self-rising flour
3 cups grated carrots
4 ounces black walnuts*

For the filling...
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tsp vanilla
3 Tbs brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 24 muffin cups or use paper liners.

Filling: in a medium bowl beat cream cheese until smooth. Add egg, vanilla and
brown sugar. Beat until combined, then set aside.

Mix together sugar, eggs, oil & vanilla. Add cinnamon & flour. Mix in carrots & nuts.

Place carrot cake batter in muffin cups about 1/2 full. Then add one tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture right in the middle of the batter. Try to keep the cream cheese from touching the paper cup. Cover with about 1 tablespoon of cake batter.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

*If you do not have black walnuts on hand, use regular walnuts & add 1 teaspoon of black walnut flavoring.