Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mint Chocolate Chocolate Cookies

Peanut butter and jelly. Bread and butter. Chips and dips. Steak and potatoes. The list goes on and on. So many great food duos out there to make and enjoy. Here's another one of my favorites: chocolate and mint.

By the way, don't you just love the combo of pink and chocolate brown? So pretty!

However, these cookies could almost be called a trio: chocolate, chocolate and mint. If you like chocolate, you'll love these cookies. Thanks to
crispy waffle for posting this recipe for "gooey double chocolate chip cookies," these are great. Although, in her recipe the trio is more along the lines of chocolate, chocolate, and chocolate (not such a bad thing, really). I replaced the chocolate chunks in her recipe with Andes baking chips.


4 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1/2 c. butter
2 large eggs
1 1/4 c. white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. dutch-process cocoa
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 c. Andes mint baking chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Add bittersweet chocolate and whisk to melt and combine. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a mixer bowl, combine eggs and sugar. Beat at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Decrease speed to low and add melted chocolate mixture until well combined. Add flour mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in Andes mint baking chips.

Drop 1 1/2 Tbs. portions of batter about 2-inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake for about 12 minutes (no longer than 13 minutes), rotating pans half way through to ensure even baking. Cookies should be slightly underbaked so center stays soft and chewy.

Remove whole sheet of parchment to cooling rack to cool.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Strawberry Waffles

Just wanted to say that you know the day is going to turn out great with a breakfast like this, no matter what happens. Snow or no snow.

Sunday morning breakfast consisted of strawberry waffles. While plain waffles are great as is, it's also fun to add in some flavorings to the batter. We've had peanut butter waffles, chocolate chip waffles, and cinnamon raisin waffles in the past just to name a few.

It's hard for me to give a specific recipe for these strawberry waffles - it was made on the fly. I pureed together some strawberries and vanilla yogurt and added it to the waffle dry ingredients. My advice would be to replace some, but not all, of the water or milk the waffle recipe calls for with fruit puree. Blueberries or raspberries would be divine as well, bananas too. The world is your oyster, experiment! I like to sprinkle some slices of fruit on top as well, to let Gabe know what waffle flavor to expect.

We received our sturdy, dependable waffle maker from Gabe's dad for our wedding. One of the best gifts we got, and we use it a ton.

Back to the snow. I mentioned that it snowed today, right? I'm surprised at many of my friends today. Alot of them are expressing surprise that it snowed this afternoon. A few things to remember, people.

1. It's Michigan

2. It's March

'Nuff said. I don't think any explanation beyond this is needed.

On another note, here's a little nugget from a field trip we took today to the Belle Isle Conservatory. If you're looking for a great place to take pictures of flowers and fauna in Southeast Michigan, this is your place. Every month of the year. Even in March when it's snowing.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Nachos... Fully Loaded

I find that Mexican food, at least for me, is really versatile. I've found a couple of good "filling mixture" recipes that can be easily used in tacos, nachos, enchiladas, quesadillas and more. I'm sure that this means it isn't truly authenticate "Mexican" food, but it works well for us.

Of course, good old ground beef and a 50 cent package of taco seasoning works great during the week when I'm extra tired after work, but I like to experiment a little with other fillings... fillings that use chicken, pork, and even lentils (a meatless one that carnivore-Gabe will even eat. I'll post that one some day). Plus, I'm a major lover of all things vegetable. So you can bet there will always be a healthy dose of onions, peppers, chilies, and more in my Mexican food.

Today's filling, which we ended up using for nachos this time around, used chicken. It's based somewhat on a Rachael Ray recipe (Do you love her? Do you hate her? I don't think there's any in between with Rachael) and somewhat on my own personal preferences. Feel free to experiment with the amounts and types of vegetables and spices, so you get the exact taste that you like.

I can tell you, there wasn't any better than kicking back tonight after work with our big plate of nachos, fresh guacamole, and our girly foo-foo drinks (Bacardi Mojitos anyone?). A great start to the weekend!

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1 tsp. dried cilantro
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
tortilla chips
tomatoes, diced
fresh spinach, torn
shredded cheese
black olives, sliced
black beans, drained and rinsed

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

In a small bowl, mix together all of the salt, pepper, and spices until fully incorporated. Rub all over chicken breasts.

Heat a large skillet with olive oil over medium heat. Add chicken and cook about 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Remove from heat and cut into long strips (it's okay if chicken isn't quite done yet). Return chicken to skillet over medium heat. Add in diced onion and peppers. Continue to saute until chicken is done.

Arrange tortilla chips on a large platter. Top with chicken mixture, then some of the cheese. Sprinkle on the olives and black beans, then add some more cheese. Place in oven for about 5 minutes, or until cheese is yummy and melty. Remove from oven and top with tomatoes and spinach (based loosely on recipe in Rachael Ray's Classic 30-Minute Meals cookbook).

Chow time! Open mouth. Insert chip. Repeat.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cowboy Oatmeal Cookies

I might as well get this out of the way right from the get-go. My fabulous other half, Gabe, has the biggest sweet tooth on the planet. He is a firm believer in eating dessert every day of the week. All the better if that dessert incorporates chocolate in some way.

And why shouldn't we all embrace Gabe's mantra and indulge ourselves a little? I mean, life is tough. The economy sucks. Bob Barker's been replaced. The world is getting hotter, according to Al Gore anyway. So many things to worry about. Eating dessert is one way to forget about all that, for a few minutes anyway, and just enjoy the simple sweetness of an after-dinner treat.

At any rate, you'll be pleased to know that I can predict, with reasonable certainty, that this blog will have its fair share of sweet treats in its future. So let's start today. Right now. It's as good a day as any, right?

I like to set challenges for myself. Gabe loves chocolate. So do I... but I like to branch out a little sometimes. So my challenge is to find treats without chocolate that we both like. And these cookies fit the bill. The cookie flavor centers on butterscotch instead of chocolate and the result is super sweet, super buttery and super oh-so-good.

But I will admit, Gabe wasn't too excited about these at first. I made them in two batches, and I didn't get the greatest response with the first batch. His response: "Well, they're okay... but... maybe you could add some chocolate chips next time?" Chocolate. Of course.

But on accident, I figured something out with the second batch. These cookies taste better if you let the dough rest for a while. So whip up some dough, throw it in the refrigerator (or if you're like me, throw the dough in the freezer and forget about it for four months). Then when you're feeling daring (or are cleaning out the freezer), pull the dough out and make up a dozen or four.

You won't regret it. I promise. Just ask Gabe, who obliterated any trace of these suckers within a few short days. Okay... just ask him OR me, because maybe I had some too.

2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. margarine
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. quick cooking oats
1 c. butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In another medium bowl, cream margarine, oil, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time, then add vanilla extract. Gradually stir in the sifted ingredients until well blended. Fold in oats and butterscotch chips.

Refrigerate dough at least overnight for best flavor. Drop onto greased cookie sheets and bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and let sit 5 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely (adapted from allrecipes.com). Enjoy with a tall glass of ice cold milk, if you so desire.

Feel free to substitute some of the butterscotch chips with chocolate chips if you want. I might just try that next.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Zucchini Bread

I love making breads and muffins to eat for breakfast. This is mainly because I usually eat cold cereal for breakfast, and only eating that means my tummy starts growling about two hours after I eat. Seriously. Thus arises the need to incorporate a little breakfast 'side dish', if you will.

To make me feel better about bread recipes that start with a couple sticks of butter, a cup or two of oil, and/or shovelfuls of sugar (hello, Paula Dean!), I typically gravitate towards breads with fruits or vegetables. Hence, today's recipe: zucchini bread.

Surprisingly, I never ate zucchini as a kid... even growing up out in the country where the gardeners were giving it away by the bushelfuls by the end of summer. At any rate, I was definitely missing out, and I am glad to have picked some up on a whim a few months back.

My first blog post is dedicated to my friend Sarah (who just recently asked me for this recipe, origins unknown) and my sisters, who make up the other two-thirds pookie. Please visit again soon!

3 eggs
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. applesauce
2 c. white sugar
3 c. grated zucchini, packed
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 c. all-purpose flour
3 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. chopped walnuts (optional)
1 c. raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 325° F. Grease and flour two loaf pans.

In a large bowl, beat eggs until light and frothy. Add oil, applesauce, and sugar. Stir in zucchini and vanilla extract. Combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, salt, raisins, and nuts together. Stir into egg mixture. Divide batter into prepared pans.

Bake 60 to 70 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of loaf comes out clean.