Friday, December 29, 2017

My new favorite cookie--Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

When it comes to baking cookies, I usually go for simple rather than complicated.  Bar or drop cookies rather than rolled or shaped, and if the dough uses melted butter, all the easier.  You can see some of my favorites here:  toffee bars, ginger snaps with white chocolate, chocolate chip oatmeal coconut, and meringue with nuts and chocolate chips.  But I was recently tempted by a recipe for chocolate gingerbread cookies--a little more trouble, but definitely worth it! A sophisticated taste, but I'm guessing kids would like them also.

CHOCOLATE GINGERBREAD COOKIES
adapted from http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/chocolate_gingerbread_cookies/
yield: 3 dozen cookies

Note:  The dough for these cookies needs to be refrigerated overnight (or for at least several hours).

1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1-1/2 t. ground ginger
3/4 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. black pepper
1/4 t. ground cloves
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. baking soda

1/2 cup dark, full, or robust molasses (NOT "blackstrap")
1 T. fresh grated ginger
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 T. Dutch-processed cocoa
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
about 1/4 c. white granulated sugar, for rolling the cookies

Cream the butter, then add in brown sugar, spices, salt, and baking soda. Cream all together until they form a uniform colored paste.

Add the molasses and fresh grated ginger and beat to incorporate.  Add the flour and cocoa, beating until there are no streaks of flour.  Stir in the chocolate chips and mix until they are evenly distributed through the dough. The dough will be soft and sticky.

Scrape the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap.  Flatten the dough into a rough rectangle, about 1-inch thick, then tightly wrap with the plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough overnight (or at least several hours).

Preheat the oven to 325.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Put the granulated sugar into a small bowl (for rolling balls of dough). Cut the flattened slab of dough into 1-inch cubes. Roll each cube into a ball between your palms, then roll the ball in the sugar to coat.  Transfer to the baking sheets, placing no more than 20 cookies on a large sheet, as the cookies will spread. I bake one sheet at a time. While one sheet is baking, I form the other cookies, putting them on a parchment-lined plate in the refrigerator to keep chilled while the first batch is baking.

Bake the cookies for about 14 minutes, or until the top of the cookies have started to crack slightly.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Friday, December 22, 2017

A new kitchen gadget

Yesterday I tried out the new digital probe thermometer ordered after a close-call cooking the Thanksgiving turkey.  Our digital instant-read meat thermometer was somehow set on Centigrade rather than Fahrenheit, so we left the turkey in the oven longer than it should have been, waiting for the thermometer to get up to the right temperature.  Luckily, we pulled it out well before that, and it happened that the meat was perfectly cooked.  The mishap motivated me to look for another thermometer, not because of C/F readings, but because the one I have takes quite a while to get up to temperature after you stick it in the fish/meat, and I wanted something quicker.  I found a type I didn't know existed, where the temperature probe is connected to the home unit by a long, thin wire, so you put the probe in the food at the outset, set the unit for the temperature you want the food to reach, and then wait for the unit to beep.  I used it last night on a piece of salmon I was pan-frying, and it worked very well. I set it for 125F, let the fish cook, and then turned off the burner when the unit beeped. When I stuck a knife in to look, the flesh was still rare in the interior, but by the time I got the salmon to the table, it was done to perfection. You can also put the probe in a piece of meat or poultry that's going into the oven, as the wire is long and thin enough that you can close the oven door on it, with the home device sitting on a nearby counter. The device has 2 probes, so if you're doing a turkey and want to track light meat with one and dark meat with the other, you can. It was less than $20, and I'm happy with it!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Cranberry-Pecan Scones

Several years ago, I put up a recipe for banana, walnut, and white chocolate scones, which I still recommend for a treat.  But I now have a go-to recipe for scones that is much healthier while still delicious. Spurred by the enthusiasm of some guests today, I'm posting the recipe. It's simple enough to put together the recipe while the oven is pre-heating, and there's no handling of the dough needed--you just plop it in a round baking pan and press it down.  Enjoy!

            Cranberry-Pecan Scones
adapted from Liz Vaccariello, Flat Belly Diet Cookbook
8 servings, 308 calories/serving

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup pecans, chopped
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/4 c. plain no-fat or low-fat yogurt (if using Greek yogurt, may need a dollop more to get the dough to stick together)
1/2 t. vanilla <*see note below for possible substitution for the 3 ingredients in italics>
2 T. canola oil
1/2 t. dried lemon peel (or 1 t. freshly grated lemon or orange peel)
2/3 cup dried cranberries or cherries (or dried apricots, diced)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly coat a 9" round baking pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, pecans, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar.

In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, oil, vanilla, and lemon peel.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the yogurt mixture and dried fruit.  Stir just until blended.

Scoop out the dough into the prepared pan, and press it so it's evenly spread across the pan.  Score the dough with a knife to form 8 triangles.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned and a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

*The original recipe called for 1-1/4 cups low-fat vanilla yogurt.  I usually have plain yogurt on hand, so I've substituted plain yogurt plus 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 t. vanilla.  If you'd rather use vanilla yogurt, take out the sugar and vanilla from the recipe as given above.



Monday, October 2, 2017

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Delicious and distinctive roast chicken with carrots

Last week, in the middle of the Jewish holidays, my eye was caught by this recipe for chicken and carrots, marinated with honey, citrus, and mustard.  The commenters on the New York Times site were extremely enthusiastic about the recipe, so I gave it a try, incorporating a number of their suggestions (like doubling the marinade, using skinned thighs instead of a cut-up chicken, and adding potatoes). The recipe definitely lived up to their claims!  Although I made this just for David and me, it would be a great dish for guests, because the whole thing can be set up to marinate 24 hours in advance, and then all that's left to do is to put it in the oven. When I made it, I forgot to add the garnishes. I'm eager to make it again and include them the next time, even though it was delicious without. This is not your ordinary chicken-with-roasted-vegetables!

SWEET AND SPICY ROAST CHICKEN
adapted from https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016808-sweet-and-spicy-roast-chicken (using several changes suggested by NYTimes readers)
makes 6 servings
In the video at the above link, Melissa Clark explains how she came up with this recipe.

Marinade (Note: A number of New York Times commenters suggested doubling the amount of marinade, so that's what I did, and that's how the amounts below were set. This made more than enough marinade, so if you wanted to use less than this—say 2/3 of amounts given—that would also work.)
2 lemons for blanched slices (step 1)
6 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 T. kosher salt
6 T. freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 c. olive oil
3 T. whole grain mustard
6 T. honey (I used 3 T.  honey + 3 T. pomegranate molasses, as suggested by one commenter; see below for how to make pomegranate molasses—very simple. I had some on hand leftover from something I made a month ago.)
1 bay leaf
1 t. crushed red pepper
lots of freshly ground black pepper

chicken and vegetables
2-1/4 lbs. chicken thighs, bone in (I skinned before cooking) (or 1 4-lb chicken cut into 8 pieces)
3 cups sliced carrots, sliced 1/4" thick (about 7 carrots)
1 onion, halved horizontally and thinly sliced
2/3 cup sliced dates (can substitute raisins)
1 t. dried thyme (or 1 T. fresh)
12 baby potatoes, cut into eighths (or eliminate potatoes and serve on top of rice or couscous)

garnish
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, parsley, or mint
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cups chopped toasted pistachio nuts

1.     Quarter the lemon lengthwise, removing any seeds.  Slice crosswise, quite thinly, into small wedges and add to small pot of boiling, salted water. Blanch for 2 minutes and drain.  Set aside.
2.     In a saucepan, whisk together all the marinade ingredients. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Let cool. (I put it in the refrigerator while I prepped the chicken and vegetables).
3.     Put the chicken in a bowl (or into a jumbo ziploc bag, which is what I did) and add the cooled marinade. Add carrots, onion, dates, potatoes, thyme, and blanched lemon slices. Turn mixture until all is coated.  Marinate in the refrigerator overnight.  (Or, if you're making the same day, you can marinate for as little as 30 minutes at room temperature.)
4.     Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
5.     Prepare a sheet pan with a rim:  Spray it with oil, even though you'll be covering it with foil, for easier clean-up.  Cover the sheet pan with foil. (I "seamed" together two lengths of foil to be sure the foil went up and over all sides of the pan; several Times readers commented on how hard the pan was to clean if juices baked onto it.)
6.     Transfer all ingredients to the pan, including the marinade. Put the chicken as the top layer; if using chicken with skin on, put skin side up.  Roast until chicken is browned and cooked through, about 20-30 minutes for breasts and 30-40 for legs and wings.  Remove pieces as they are done cooking; cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.  Give the carrot mixture a stir and continue roasting until the carrots are tender, about 7-12 minutes longer.
7.     Spoon the vegetables over the chicken and top with the garnishes.

Pomegranate molasses
adapted from http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/pomegranate_molasses/

4 cups pomegranate juice
1/2 cup sugar
2 T. lemon juice


In a large, wide, uncovered saucepan and medium high heat, heat all the ingredients until the sugar dissolves and the juice simmers.  Reduce heat to maintain a simmer.  Simmer for about an hour, until the juice has a syrupy consistency and has reduced to about 1 or 1-1/4 cups.  Pour into a jar; let cool. Store in the refrigerator, where it will keep for about 6 months.