Monday, August 26, 2013

Chocolate Lava Cake And a Birthday

 Chocolate Lava Cake is a family favorite. Make them in 15 minutes, and set aside until ready to bake. Place in oven for a long 8 minutes and serve! Rich and full of chocolate, they will be begging for more!

Chocolate Lava Cake

 A long, long time ago or once upon a time, (but it really doesn't matter as this fact is not essential to the story), two people met at college and fell in love. After 4 years of dating, 3 college degrees and a move to Florida, they got married. They traveled and worked and had dogs. They ate and cooked and made lots of friends. They moved back to Colorado and were very happy but something was missing.  Several years of trying to add to their happy lives was taking longer than usual, but they persisted.

And so it was, one February day, with perfect ski conditions, Person A bent down to buckle her ski boots and just couldn't do it. Luckily, Person B was able to secure the buckles. And later, not long after lunch, on a particularly beautiful day of skiing, Person A decided she was totally exhausted and called it quits for the day, much to Person B's chagrin.

chocolate lava cake

Soon after Person A called the doctor to complain about how miserable she felt where upon said doctor asked if she was pregnant. Person A said she hadn't thought about that, where upon said doctor said to try a pregnancy test. Said pregnancy test turned immediately blue. She reported these results to Person B who asked, could it be? Whereupon Person A said she'd schedule an appointment with the doctor. Person A went by herself to the doctor, where the doctor immediately confirmed the strip's results and said they are rarely ever wrong. Immediately an ultrasound was done, where it was discovered that Person A was quite pregnant, at least 10 weeks pregnant, and one baby was two. Yes, there was a reason Person A could not buckle her ski boots.

Person A immediately called Person B who was working  and in a meeting. She said she needed to talk to him now and he walked out of his meeting where he was given the doctor's results. According to the coworkers in the room at the time, Person B's face turned as white as a sheet and as he turned to go out of the room he walked straight into the wall.

After dutifully reporting the news to said world, Person A and Person B endured a long, hot, happy summer until Person A reported to the hospital on August, 24, 1990, walked up three flights of stairs because the elevators were out, and delivered two healthy babies. One boy and one girl, much to the relief of Person A. They had 10 fingers and 10 toes weighed 4lbs, 2oz and 5lbs,11oz and were 17 and 18 inches long. They were also the most beautiful humans that Person's A and B had ever laid eyes on.

Said news was reported to the world by expensive long distance calls as cell phones were still used sparingly and facebook had yet to have faces. Google was not googling and instagram was not instant, as it had not been born yet. But two babies had, and though they were not greeted by throngs of photographers and news journalists at their birth, many people flew in a week later to participate in a bris and baby naming, where upon two glorious babies came to be called Alex and Zoe.

After many birthday parties that ranged from clowns and magicians to pioneer parks; scavenger hunts, bike parades and back yard camping; laser tag, chocolate and the ubiquitous pool parties; the day is now just quietly celebrated with life and love and memories. And though the little ones have flown the coop,  Person A still remembers the glories of her children's childhood and all the love that abounded each and every day, birthday or not. She is happy to report that Zoe just made her first chocolate heirloom cake for herself and friends in Philadelphia and that her brother celebrated his at a beer festival in San Francisco.

Person A quietly celebrated their birthday while recreating their 7th birthday meal. This was attended by their teachers way back when, where everyone ate calamari, linguini with clam sauce, Caesar salad, garlic bread and the before mentioned heirloom chocolate cake. Both teachers were pleasantly surprised when they were not served pizza, hot dogs or mac and cheese, which apparently were customary meals for a 7 year old birthday. No, Alex and Zoe, developed good eating habits at an early age and now are good cooks themselves.

Though Person A did not bake the heirloom chocolate cake she did make a spectacular molten lava cake that burst with the flavors of chocolate and joy. She sat quietly as she savored each bite while remembering the joyful noise of each birthday and hoping for more to come. Each bite was taken without the slightest bit of guilt and each bite was spent gulping back tears and memories. Each bite was full of love and pride that she had raised two totally perfect children in a totally imperfect world. And though no photographers were present, and no words were spoken, she remembered the day her children were born and she rejoiced.

Chocolate Lava Cake 

Serves: 2 but easily doubled
Time to Prepare: 10 minutes preparation, 8-10 minutes baking
Ingredients: 1/2 c bittersweet chocolate chips
4 T butter
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/4 t vanilla
pinch of salt
1/4 c powdered sugar
3 T flour
Directions: Butter two 8 oz ramekins.

Melt chocolate and butter in microwave for 45 seconds. Stir until chips are melted. Whisk in egg and egg yolk. Add vanilla, salt, powdered sugar and flour.

Bake for 8-10 minutes. You may eat these from the ramekins or you may unmold them and serve them directly on the plate. Top with ice cream or whipped cream.

These  can be held on the counter until you are ready to bake them. In our case, this means do the dishes, put in the cakes and then cakes are ready to devour. You can bake these up to about 14 minutes, but the centers will not be as runny or molten. This cake is extraordinary and perfect for any occasion. 

chocolate molten lava cake

More chocolate:
Hot Fudge Cake
Chocolate Fudge Cake
Quick Chocolate Cake
World Peace Cookies

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 Chocolate Lava Cake is a family favorite. Make them in 15 minutes, and set aside until ready to bake. Place in oven for a long 8 minutes and serve! Rich and full of chocolate, they will be begging for more! #moltenlavacake #chocolate desserts #cake

Friday, August 23, 2013

Donburi Bowl or Fast Friday

This simple Japanese stir fry with ground meat and tofu and a scrambled egg is pure comfort food. Quickly made, it can be served over rice or noodles and tastes way better that going out for Japanese fast food!

This simple Japanese stir fry Donburi bowl with ground meat and tofu and a scrambled egg is pure comfort food. Quickly made, it can be served over rice or noodles and tastes way better that going out for Japanese fast food! #JapaneseFood #AsianFood #donburi #RiceBowl #NoodleBowl

My in-laws came this week. Does that explain why today's post is short? They usually come up from Texas this time of year; so they can go to a  Colorado campground for Labor Day and stay there until October. Our home is their parking ground until they move on. Luckily, our neighbors never seem to mind this giant RV and pick up truck parked in front of our home, decorating our lawn with  colorful electrical cords and water hoses. For that I am grateful and also for the fact that they can still do this at the age of 82. It seems like A LOT of work to me. So I do what only I can do. I feed them.

Today I am giving you a recipe for donburi, basically a Japanese rice bowl. Yes, I know there is no rice in the picture. Keep reading... No, this is not what I served the in laws. This is what I made for my husband and myself the night before they came. It is a filling, quick dish with simple but good flavors. Healthy and savory, it has been a stand by for those nights I don't feel like cooking much. In this case, it is quicker than going out and it fills the belly well. Plus the rabbit catcher likes that it has a lot of protein and not many carbs. Well, he tries to not eat the noodles. Generally, this dish is served over rice, but I had some organic ramen noodles in the pantry that had a decent amount of protein in them, so I made noodles instead of rice.

This simple Japanese stir fry Donburi bowl with ground meat and tofu and a scrambled egg is pure comfort food. Quickly made, it can be served over rice or noodles and tastes way better that going out for Japanese fast food! #JapaneseFood #AsianFood #donburi #RiceBowl #NoodleBowl

I know you will like this recipe. It satisfies and it does it fast. You could serve it with fruit or a salad or eat it all by its lonesome. Feel free to jazz up the veggies and use whatever protein you prefer, be it ground pork, beef, chicken or turkey. It is filling but doesn't leave you stuffed. And that is a good feeling, because now that the in laws are here, I am stuffed. And tired. And it has only been three days. Let me just say that next week on the blog, you will see a lot of comfort food. Sweet and not. But good. Very, very good.

Stay tuned...

This simple Japanese stir fry Donburi bowl with ground meat and tofu and a scrambled egg is pure comfort food. Quickly made, it can be served over rice or noodles and tastes way better that going out for Japanese fast food! #JapaneseFood #AsianFood #donburi #RiceBowl #NoodleBowl

Donburi (serves 4 in about 30 minutes - start to finish)

Ingredients: 2 chopped green onions
2 chopped carrots
2 chopped garlic cloves
2 T canola or peanut oil
6 oz ground beef, chicken, pork or turkey
1 14 oz package tofu firm, cut into 1/2" cubes
1/4 lb fresh spinach stemmed or a couple of big handfuls
2 T sugar
4 T soy sauce
Pepper to taste
4 eggs, lightly beaten

Noodles or rice for four

Directions: Heat oil in skillet. Add onions, carrots and garlic. Saute about 3 minutes over medium heat. Cover and cook over low heat about 5 minutes longer. Add your choice of meat to the skillet, stirring occasionally, over medium high heat until brown. Add tofu, sugar, soy sauce, and pepper. Reduce heat and cook on medium low, covered, until spinach begins to wilt. Stir carefully so that the tofu doesn't break. Add eggs to mixture and cook, stirring, about 3-4 minutes. 

Spoon over rice or noodles. I also sprinkle with togarashi, a Japanese 7 ingredient, spicy pepper/sesame seed condiment. (You could also top each serving with a fried egg if you don't want to scramble the eggs into the mixture.)

More Quick Meals:

Don't Lose This Recipe!
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This simple Japanese stir fry Donburi bowl with ground meat and tofu and a scrambled egg is pure comfort food. Quickly made, it can be served over rice or noodles and tastes way better that going out for Japanese fast food! #JapaneseFood #AsianFood #donburi #RiceBowl #NoodleBowl

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Crispy Chipotle Shrimp and Corn

This chipotle shrimp is as easy as mixing a little mayo with chipotle and corn and then topping with shrimp. It is so good and perfect with fresh or canned corn! #corn #shrimp #chipotles

 Summer's end is quickly approaching and I still have so much more to do. Yes, we are still fighting rabbits but their numbers have decreased considerably thanks to rabbit catcher. Our yard is looking fairly good thanks to his hard work and my suggestions?. Though we didn't have a garden this year, hopefully next year will bring better things into our life and our mouths!

Yesterday I went to the local botanic garden and it was looking good. Summer colors were still abounding and I love taking pictures of flowers. They are so much easier to take than food. It is hard to make a flower look bad. I secretly think the flower knows this, too!


But quickly, before summer's over and the corn season has escaped us I need to share this with you. I discovered this recipe a few years back and since it contains like, really all of my favorite ingredients, it quickly became a favorite of mine.  I can't wait to try some new versions of it, but somehow it is hard to get past this one. It is simple and quick  and those two words are a really good team, aren't they?

It is a dish full of flavor, perfect for company or family and rich with the flavors of corn and chipotle. Shrimp thrives on these two flavors so combine them together and you have a great taste of summer. Add a salad and some homemade cornbread and you have a perfect meal. I say get it while you can!

Crispy Chipotle Shrimp and Corn (Serves 4, Gourmet, 2007)
20 Minutes Prep

1/3 c mayonnaise

2 t finely chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
3/4 t salt
4 ears of fresh corn cut from cob
1/3 c water
4 scallions, finely chopped
1 lb peeled and deveined large shrimp (21-25/lb)
1-1 1/2 c panko bread crumbs

Put rack in oven in middle position and preheat to 475.

Stir together mayonnaise, chipotle and salt in a bowl.

Pulse 1 1/2 c corn in food processor with water and 2T of the chipotle mayonnaise until coarsely pureed. Transfer mixture to a shallow 2 quart gratin dish. Stir in scallions and remaining corn.

Toss shrimp with remaining mayonnaise in bowl to coat.

Put 1 cup of panko on a plate and coat each shrimp in panko crumbs. Arrange shrimp in one layer on top of corn. Roast until crumbs are golden and shrimp are just cooked through, about 18 minutes.

This chipotle shrimp is as easy as mixing a little mayo with chipotle and corn and then topping with shrimp. It is so good and perfect with fresh or canned corn! #corn #shrimp #chipotles

A Few More Great Dishes:
Avocado Corn Soup
New Mexican Garlic Lime Shrimp
Teriyaki Shrimp
Green Onion Garlic Chive Corn Bread

This chipotle shrimp is as easy as mixing a little mayo with chipotle and corn and then topping with shrimp. It is so good and perfect with fresh or canned corn! #corn #shrimp #chipotles

Friday, August 16, 2013

Cream Cheese Pound Cake - Or If I Were A Cake...

 I think, if I were a cake, I would be this cake. Don't get me wrong, I love my chocolate, but I would want to be something basic, something reliable, something strong. Something you could dress up and take anywhere or be perfectly happy with having all to yourself. At home, on the couch, or in bed, and especially at a picnic. Yes, I would be this cake. It has withstood the test of time. It has weathered long bouts in the freezer and still makes everyone happy. Its strong, golden crust sometimes crumbles if cut but then you can eat the crumbs. Ohh, they are good. It holds up to chocolate sauce, raspberry sauce, ice cream and fruit and never loses itself in the process. It is a happy cake and makes the house smell so good as it bakes. Plus it is a quick, easy cake to make. And making friends the easy way is this cake's style. It doesn't judge or speak out of turn, it is just happy being in its place on the  cold tile counter and doesn't need a fancy cake plate to make it feel gorgeous. It lasts awhile like good friends should and can even be crumbled and tossed around without its feelings being overly hurt.  It is a good cake and is  proud of that fact. It is moist and rich and fragrant with vanilla. It is complex while at the same time being simple which makes anything more interesting. It is a cake that has had many opportunities to shine on its own and in the shadow of something else without losing its own identity.

This cake was attributed to  Marsha Hill from an old Junior League cookbook, Posh Pantry, from Kankakee, Illinois. My mom sent me this cookbook in 1981 when I was just married, and I've enjoyed it ever since. I've been making this cake at least thirty years now and am never disappointed. My daughter even baked it in 8th grade for a class which has long escaped my memory, though I do have the video! You can bake it in a bundt pan or do as I do. I bake it in 2 loaf pans and then freeze one.

Moist is its middle name and rich, its last. But not too rich as it shines in many ways. I served this cake last week with fresh sliced, yummy peaches and a scoop of sweet cream ice cream. It seemed like peach cobbler but it wasn't. Just this glorious cake in all its glory. I've served it with chocolate sauce and whiskey sauce and raspberries, but not all at the same time. It does tend to fall a bit in the middle but that only exposes its interior beauty for all to see!

This cake should be in your repertoire. You will find many excuses to serve it. Perfect for a school function or perfect for a book club. Perfect for making your family feel special. And it takes like 10 minutes to mix up. Well, make that 15. Most of the time is in the oven while you are inhaling the aroma of sugar and vanilla and butter. And really what can be better than that - except maybe chicken on the grill?

Marsha Hill's Cream Cheese Pound Cake
(serves at least 12)

3 sticks butter at room temperature
1 8oz package cream cheese at room temperature
3 c sugar
pinch of salt
2 t vanilla
6 large eggs at room temperature
3 c all purpose flour

Grease and flour 2 8x4 loaf pans or one 10" tube pan. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Cream butter, cheese and sugar until light and fluffy. Add salt and vanilla, beating well. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Gradually beat in flour on low speed, so you don't make a floury mess of your kitchen. Or drape a towel over your mixer while adding. Spoon into pan or pans.

Bake about 1 1/2 hours or until a skewer comes out clean. Do not overfill your pans or some could end up on your oven floor.

Marsha says to serve with red raspberries which I totally concur. Or any berry, or any peach, bananas or ice cream or whipped cream or hot fudge or caramel or a splash of bourbon... I could go on, but I won't!

More Things To Eat:
Martha Mervis's Cake
Sugar Cake
Brown sugar Spice Cake

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Please forgive me. What I am about to share with you must be kept in strict confidence. There are many things I need to tell you and I really should update my bio page, which I promise I will do soon. Back to  sharing. I LOVE bacon. I do not know when this began because I hated bacon as a child. I remember my dad cooking it and the smell alone gagged me. I remember looking in the pan and all that grease was, like, so unattractive. Back then he would slide a few slices onto my brothers plate and they looked like slimy gobs of fat. No, bacon was not for me. So I really don't know what happened. I don't know when it began that I began to like love bacon. I kind of wish I had never found bacon, but alas, bacon has found me.

I have made bacon jam which is quite good and I really should do it again, so that I can show you a picture, But it is totally dangerous stuff to have around. I mean it just has so many uses all of which contribute to the curve in my hips. So you get the picture. And one day, long before bacon jam, I discovered BLT's. When my husband traveled a lot, I used to make them for my dinner. It was comforting. At least to me. But I know food is not a good thing to use for comfort, so I could use some new suggestions. Perhaps a cat?

Well, onward. This post began when I saw this post for candied tomatoes and candied bacon. Now you must know that I never liked tomatoes as a child either. Detested them, except in the form of ketchup or spaghetti sauce. So maybe I discovered bacon somewhere next to the tomatoes. Whenever. Wherever. But now I like tomatoes. But only if they are good ones. Which brings me to the farmers market, I went to on Saturday. They had a lot of good looking tomatoes. And I bought a lot of them. I can't ever remember buying so many tomatoes. But it was because I knew I wanted to make these- those candied tomatoes.

 And then I saw this bread. Well, I can't show you because I didn't have my camera which I should have. It was a giant, I kid you not, at least a 14" round of bread. If I'd said 20" you might not believe me, but I think it might have been that. I convinced my friend to split it with me. 

Well, this entire time I kept thinking I'm making BLT's for dinner, because one thing I always do with bacon is make candied bacon. With pepper. Everyone always ask what makes it so good. Well, besides the bacon it must be the sugar and pepper. So I knew when I saw this recipe for tomatoes that it would go so well with my bacon. And when my friend Mr. KR posted candied bacon on his blog on Monday, I debated on giving you this today. But I just couldn't help myself because this was so damn good. Just be sure to visit him and Kim for the candied tomatoes because their pictures are like way better than mine!

Next time I think I would revert back to white bread. I think bacon goes better with white bread. Or corn bread. Or just by itself. But really this bread was so good, one of those artisan Italian wholewheat, spelt breads and it was awesome; but it was just a wee bit much of bread. However even with all that bread, this sandwich shined. I mean glowed. I mean shimmered in the sun. Oh, this is a good one. Sweet and salty and peppery and I want one right now. And then yesterday I made a tomato sandwich. I took fresh tomatoes and those cute candied tomatoes and some basil and mayo and put them on bread. I might do it allover again; it was so good.

Oh yeah. Did you think that was mayo in the photo? Nope. I used jalapeno cream cheese. Forget the calories in mayo and use this. Simple deliciousness that makes this sandwich go down easy. I'll leave it up to you about how much to schmear on.

Anyway, it you think my bacon looks a tad overdone-well-it is. I love my bacon totally crisp. Which is maybe why I never like my father's.  My kids like there's just a bit softer than me and so does hubby. Sorry, I'm the cook! So this bacon is crisp and crunchy and well caramelized because of all the sugar. And the tomatoes are well caramelized, too. I probably didn't need to leave them in the oven so long but I was on the phone with my brother so I paid full attention to him and not the tomatoes. Whoops. Didn't matter they still turned out great. 

OK! Get on with it.  You will not be sorry. Hurry up already. Get cooking!

Candy Pepper Bacon

(I use thick so it takes longer than using thin. Cooking time varies but you must watch your bacon as it will burn in an instant. About 5 minutes prep and 30 minutes cooking)

I cooked 10 slices and used about 5 for two sandwiches. I weaved the bacon together because it doesn't slide as easily off the sandwich. You don't have to do this but for some things it works pretty well, especially on top of a burger!

Place parchment paper in pan. Place wire rack on top. Cook bacon for two minutes in microwave to render fat. (I do this by placing slices on a paper plate that is set upon a regular dinner plate and then cover with another paper plate. You can skip this step and just cook it in the oven but add about 10-15 minutes more cooking time.) Then place on rack. Spread with brown sugar. Sprinkle liberally with black pepper. Bake at 350 for about 25-30 minutes.

Jalapeno Cream Cheese (About 10 minutes prep)

1 8 oz block cream cheese
1/4  of an onion
1 seeded jalapeno
1 T chili sauce
1/2 t garlic powder

Throw it all in a food processor and pulse away. Add some milk if you need to thin it. Or more chili sauce. (I used the Heinz variety, but you can use a spicier kind if you want.)

To Assemble:

Slice bread and toast. Schmear with cream cheese on each slice of bread. Layer each slice with several or a lot of candied tomatoes. Then top with bacon. Then lettuce. Then you could put a slice of fresh tomato or not. Then top with your other schmeared slice of bread. Eat and drool.

Necessary Ingredients

Jalapeno Cream Cheese
Candy Peppered Bacon
Candy Tomatoes (I roasted about two pounds of tomatoes which was 2 cookie sheets worth. I put pepper on one sheet and those were outstanding, too.) And my leftovers are in the fridge waiting to be savored.

Oh yeah. Watch the bacon when the dogs are around. They kept careful eyes on it the entire time.

A Few More To Try:

Hot Brown Sandwich
Banh Mi
Dan Dan Sliders or Chinese Sloppy Joe
Chicken Artichoke Baguettes and Artichoke Dip

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Friday, August 9, 2013

Old Fashion BBQ Chicken or What Summer Smells Like

"This old fashioned BBQ chicken with an easy BBQ rub and a no cook BBQ sauce will have the neighbors swooning when they smell it on your grill. A family classic recipe-I know you will love it!"

Growing up across the street from a popular park meant that our neighborhood always smelled good. Really. We were always able to catch the drift of what was cooking somewhere in our vicinity. Was it hot dogs or hamburgers, possibly steak or most likely, BBQ chicken. It was always fun scouting the park, looking for friends, while also checking out everyone's picnic table. The red checked tablecloths were topped with bags of chips and potato salad, cole slaw, watermelon, sodas and baked beans. It looked like fun, as our family was not big into picnics. I think we tried it once, but my dad preferred his meals at home.

Every now and then, my mom would BBQ chicken. We weren't like my husband's family from Texas, who did briskets and such. We did chicken and that was our BBQ. If my mom wasn't opening a blue and red jar (I can't remember the name) of BBQ sauce, she sometimes made her own. That was a special treat. I don't have the recipe, but I believe it was something like the one that we are doing today. I kept it simple but perused a few of my old cookbooks that soon might be labeled vintage. In any case, most old fashioned sauces contained butter, lemon juice and ketchup. Pretty consistent, they were.

I enjoyed this sauce and I enjoyed cooking on the grill. My dad probably would have used charcoal, at least until he got gas. And he probably would have been yelled at for burning the chicken. But really, that is what makes the chicken send out that great caramel smell through the neighborhood. This sauce contains sugar and sugar burns if cooked on too high of a heat, but burnt sugar has that certain taste - as long as it isn't too overdone. 

Buy a whole chicken and cut it into pieces. Chicken has more flavor if cooked still on the bone. And it is easier to pick up because there is more to grab! Cook it low and slow. Don't brush on the sauce until the end. Don't worry if it gets a little black. It is still good that way. And always serve with an ear of corn on the side and some watermelon. Potato salad, coleslaw, some garlic bread. Baked beans. Boy, you could almost skip the chicken, but then you don't get that great smell. That intoxicating aroma of grilling. Yes. You could do a potluck. I love summer food. Perhaps a beer would be good, too. Make that two.

And be prepared for your neighbors to be guessing what you are cooking. They will want to fire up their grill, too! Shoot-be a neighbor and invite them over. They will be very happy.

BBQ Chicken (serves 4)
1 cut up chicken (I usually cut each breast into two pieces)

Chicken Rub (Use this all)
1 T brown sugar
1 1/2 T paprika
1 t smoked paprika
1 T garlic powder
1 T black pepper
1 t salt

Mix together and rub into chicken. Get it all over. Inside and out. Upside and downside. Let it sit all day if you can-or at least an hour.

Old Fashion BBQ Sauce
6 T ketchup
2 T apple cider vinegar
2 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
4 T Worcestershire
6 T brown sugar
1 t salt
1 t garlic powder
1 t fresh ground black pepper
1 t dry mustard
1 t smoked paprika
1 t paprika
1/2 t celery seed (the secret ingredient)
4 T melted butter

Mix together and let sit to let flavors meld. (I have seen many recipes that first suggest sauteing onions and celery in the butter. This is good, but not necessary unless you really love onions.) Or love extra work!

Cooking the chicken:

Preheat grill to medium. Place chicken on grill. Cook low and slow. Total cooking time is about one hour. Drink your beer now. You can have the second with dinner. Turn as needed. Do not brush with sauce until chicken is almost cooked through. Brush with sauce, shut grill lid, and let it kind of melt in. This can take about 5 minutes. Then turn over and do the other side. Serve leftover sauce on the side. White meat usually cooks the fastest. If this happens, place it on the grill side that is turned off, to keep it warm. 

Other things to try:

Monday, August 5, 2013

Chocolate Cherry Chocolate Crumb Cookies

 One good thing about gray, chilly days, besides not being hot, is that they offer themselves up as cookie days. They kind of scream at you, "Perfect day to bake cookies!", don't they? Well, they do me. It is a damn good thing I don't live in Seattle because I'd probably weigh 500 pounds!  Last week we had a gray, chilly day so I decided it was high time to bake cookies. I love baking cookies. They make me happy. And generally everyone that eats them becomes happy, too. I mean who doesn't love being greeted with a cookie? There's a reason hotels leave them on your pillow at night.

Since I'd been to the library I was looking for an opportunity to bake something from the Milk, Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tosi cookbook. I love this book, not only for its recipes but for its stories. I love reading about chefs and how they ended up where they're at. I love knowing what inspired them and how in the world they ever came up with that. And that's the Milk Bar way. Read it and see how it got that name. Everything is so creative, so thoughtful, so well tested. And that being said, so homey. Not that I baked like this or did my mother, but it draws from the home experience. It takes those flavors and makes them not necessarily better, but different. More sophisticated, as my husband said. And he's right. This cookie is a sophisticated cookie, but not too sophisticated or it wouldn't be any fun to eat. This is still a cookie that deserves a giant glass of milk and then when it's empty you find yourself reaching for just one more. It's the kind of cookie that you want to share with a friend, but well, not really...because it is hard to part with something so good.

There are a lot of sites that write about this book. They cook from it on a regular basis. I will tell you that I am not that organized and I am not that skinny. But if you so desire check out Shannon at Periodic Table. She writes well and bakes well and takes pictures well and she seems very organized. She even made the birthday cake from Milk Bar, one that my daughter has requested for her birthday. No more chocolate cake or Ilse's nut cake for this girl. She's become sophisticated. She wants a cake with sprinkles. And, I bet she gets it...

But back to cookies. Many folks have baked the blueberry cream cookie from  Milk Bar. I'm not good with sticking to a book and besides I didn't have all the ingredients on hand. Remember, I'm not that organized. (Read that as she doesn't plan ahead.) I'm kind of an in the moment kind of girl. As as I've gotten older, I've found that to be even more true, which is sometimes good and sometimes not. But in the cookie world it meant I combined two recipes and then I added cherries. And no, I did not use glucose or Valhrona chocolate. I didn't even use mini chips. I used what I had and these were good, GOOD, cookies. Good, not to chocolatey, not too sweet, just a bit salty, yummy with an interesting bite here and there, from sinking your teeth into a cherry. And given the ingredients these cookies got better with age. They would travel well. Maybe even to someone on their birthday...

These are not my vision of a  picture perfect cookie. Not having ever had them from Milk Bar I'm not sure what they are supposed to look like. But Mrs. Fields they are not. And I adore Mrs. Fields. To me she makes the most perfect looking cookie. Thick and chewy, loaded with chips and nuts. They aren't  flat and thin. Well, this cookie has altered my perception. Milk Bar cookies are thin. But they are chewy and they are big. Wide, that is. So you get to eat a big cookie. An they tear apart. They don't really break because they aren't at all crisp. They kind of bend and then break. 

When you make them it looks like you are mixing a big bowl of frosting. The consistency is like frosting. And you must chill them. When you make them, you will see what I mean. Now I don't know if Denver's altitude had anything to do with how flat this cookie was, but it doesn't really matter because these cookies were so damn good. Loaded with butter and just enough salt and those chocolate crumbs. And the cherries. Ahh. This was one good cookie.


Chocolate Crumbs
2/3 c flour
1 t cornstarch
1/2 c sugar
2/3 c  unsweetened cocoa (I used Hershey's)
1 t kosher salt
6 T melted butter

Preheat oven to 300.

Combine flour, cornstarch, sugar, cocoa and salt in mixer bowl. Paddle on low speed until mixed.

Slowly add the melted butter on low speed until the mixture starts to come together in small clusters.

Spread the clusters without breaking on a parchment lined sheet pan. Bake for 20 minutes. The crumbs should still be slightly moist to the touch. They will dry and harden as they cool.

Store in an airtight container. I sprinkled some in my yogurt this morning. They are good!

Chocolate Cherry Chocolate Crumb Cookies (using blueberry and cream cookie recipe)

Makes 24 using 1/4 c measure

2 sticks butter
3/4 c sugar
2/3 c tightly packed light brown sugar
1/4 c glucose or 2T corn syrup
2 eggs
2 c flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1 1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 recipe of the above chocolate crumbs
1/2 c bittersweet chocolate chips 
1/4 c dried cherries cut into small pieces, if they are big

Combine butter, sugars, and glucose or corn syrup in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium high for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add eggs and beat for 7-8 minutes. Really!

Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, baking powder and soda and salt. I always aerate the flour with a fork before measuring. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

On low speed, add the milk crumbs and mix until they are incorporated, no more than 30 seconds. Now add the chips and cherries, mixing them in for 30 seconds.

Using a 1/4 c measure (They say a third), portion out the dough onto a parchment lined sheet pan. ( I made about 24 cookies using the 1/4 c measure.) You will not bake on this so it doesn't matter how close they are. I sprinkled some of the leftover crumbs on top and just gently patted them into the cookie. Pat the tops of the cookie domes flat. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate. (OK-I didn't wrap.) I chilled half of them for about 2 1/2 hours and the others over night. Bake the cookies chilled.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350. Arrange chilled dough about 4 inches apart on parchment lined sheet pans. I baked 6 cookies per sheet. Bake for about 14 minutes. (They say 18.) The cookies will puff, crackle and spread, a bit like meringues. They should be faintly browned, but on a chocolate cookie, it is hard to tell.

Cool the cookies on the sheet pans. When cool transfer to an air tight container for storage. At room temperature they will keep 5 days. We are on 7 right now with two left!

 A Few More to Try:
Magic Cookie Bars
Alton's Chocolate Chip Cookies
Gazebo Chocolate Icebox Cookies

Friday, August 2, 2013

Blueberry Chicken Pesto Salad or Fast Friday

 I, like really, did not plan on making this. I really planned on going out for dinner but our budget had different ideas. And so it is that I found myself scrounging in the fridge at 7PM trying to make something that would satisfy me. Truthfully, I think a potato would make me happy but rabbit catcher wants to avoid those white things. In any case, I found myself with leftover grilled chicken breasts, leftover pesto and lots of blueberries. I was going to post a recipe on Chocolate Cherry Crumb cookies- a take off from the Milk Bar cookbook - but that will have to wait. I have to clean the house and finish up some orders and it's Friday and a friend's birthday but that doesn't have anything to do with anything. I'm just tired!

After making this chicken salad, I thought it quite pretty and though it was almost dark-the days are getting shorter already-I decided to take a few quick pictures. I didn't know I'd be in a war zone, a battle zone of hummingbirds, fighting to get to my feeder. Yes, I was being dive bombed by hummers. Finally, after so many years of having hummingbirds in the mountains, they  have finally found my feeder here in the city. Now if anyone can give me pointers on how to photograph hummers I would appreciate it.

 We have one bright orange one who appears to be the bad boy of the bunch.

 He fluffs out his tail feathers and chases the others away. They hang tight sitting in the trees and then turn their electric engines on and buzz in the minute he leaves. Literally they flew right past my face and hovered right in front of me while I was trying to take pictures of this chicken salad. And so I got diverted and ended up with this.

 And this.

But then we ate. And I have to tell you it is all gone. It filled the bill, so they say. You may not have hummers but you can make this. It is good and quick and perfect for a fast Friday. I don't know what's for dinner tonight but you can bet I'll be waiting for my hummers during happy hour. Maybe I'll be a little quicker this time or maybe I'll even read the book on how to adjust my settings. 

Blueberry Chicken Pesto Salad 
(Serves 2)

2 leftover grilled chicken breasts chopped
1/4 c leftover pesto (you can use this or basil pesto would work, too)
1/4 c mayonnaise
1 large celery stalk, chopped
1/3 c diced onion
1/2 c fresh blueberries
Salt and Pepper

Mix all together and serve with crackers or roll up in lettuce leaves.

A Few More to Try:
Summer Corn Pasta with Burrata
Kale Salad with Cherries, Almonds and Feta
Egg Salad