Tuesday, February 23, 2010

TWD: Honey Wheat Cookies

I've talked on here before how in the early 1980s, my mom was a bit of a health food nut. I was young enough to not really be bothered by it, (although, I do recall during that time that we stopped hitting up Krystal's or Hardee's on our way home from the gym). But to this day I still hear about the experiments in the kitchen that my family didn't care for... particularly the Buckwheat Biscuits (apparently they turned out like hockey pucks).

It's funny though... I understand. I mean, you hit your late 20s and you start thinking about how you feel. When you were 18 you could eat fast food for every meal and still be able to party hard all night, get up the next morning and feel totally fine. But, as you get older, it seems like your body gets more sensitive to what you're putting in it and at some point, it just begs for healthy, whole foods. Luckily, I've gotten to the point where a couple of weeks ago, I had a burger and french fries for lunch and I literally felt like shit the rest of the day. And now... when I go to a restaurant, instead of thinking.. yum.. a burger and fries sounds good, I'm thinking... god, I don't want to feel like that again. No burgers and no fries. It's taken me a long time to get to this point, but thankfully, I'm finally there. (This is not to say that I wont ever eat a burger and fries again... because obviously, I will. It's always my post marathon meal and even some other times, you just want it, despite how it's going to make you feel).

When you read the ingredient list for these cookies, you think... hmmm.. wheat germ and honey. It must be healthy! And while, sure... wheat germ is healthier than chocolate chips and yes, honey might be slightly less toxic on your body than an equal amount of sugar (the recipe does contain sugar, as well, though). But, it still has white flour, butter, and sugar. Not entirely health food. Not even close.

That fact didn't keep me from putting away about 6 of these cookies when I got home Saturday night after going out with my friends. In my drunken stupor, I stood in my kitchen and seriously chowed down on these cookies. All the while telling myself.. it's okay. There's wheat germ in it. Out loud, even.

But that's the dangerous thing. These cookies are delicious. I dont know what it is, they are different than any other cookie you'll ever have. They are sweet from the honey and tangy from the citrus and so addictive that they should come with a warning label. And since there is wheat germ in it, you TRY to convince yourself that they're healthy. But, that's dangerous. That's just like those commercials out there for Chef Boyardee, that proclaims there's a full serving of vegetables in every can. WTF? Seriously? We are telling our kids (and ourselves) that it's okay to count one of our daily servings of veggies in the form of canned beef lasagna. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

I mean, if you want to eat Chef Boyardee. Fine, eat it! But, don't eat it and think that it's healthy. Don't think that just because it's got tomato sauce, that you don't need to eat some broccoli or spinach or something. That really pisses me off.

So, yes... make these. Enjoy them as a different kind of cookie, that probably is slightly healthier than your average other cookie, but be sure to hide them somewhere where your drunk self can't find them. That drunk self can talk you into anything... the least of which you should be worried about is food.

Honey Wheat Cookies
Recipe by Dorie Greenspan
Chosen for TWD by Michelle of Flourchild

This recipe is so good. Really. They are light and delicate in flavor. You can taste the subtle honey sweetness and the citrus zest really brightens the cookie up. The crumb is tender and kind of cake-like, which usually I don't like, but there's something about the flavor that pairs so well with the texture. Any other cookie texture wouldn't do it justice, I dont think.

I subbed orange zest for the lemon zest (what I had on hand) and think it worked out perfect, I can imagine the lemon zest would be good, too.

I might actually try to make this recipe legitimately healthy. Subbing some whole wheat flour for the white flour, some applesauce for the butter and possibly swapping the white sugar for half that amount of brown sugar. I'll let you know how they turn out.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

TWD: Dorie's Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have given lots of second chances in my life. Second chances to friends, boys, restaurants, television shows, books, even rock bands. To me... second chances come natural. I'm not one to hold grudges and always try to remember that shit happens. And it happens to everyone once in awhile. People make mistakes, we're all human and if you can reconcile things from your past without too much effort or heartbreak... it's almost always worth the effort. Even when the second chance doesn't work out... I rarely find myself kicking myself for giving it another go. Hell, sometimes I've even given 3rd chances!

So, yeah... I'm one of those... I like to refer to it as an open-mindness, a feeling that things and people can change, but other people refer to it as a sort of naivete or stupidity. Sure, I get burned sometimes. But what's a little burn every once in awhile, right? If it's not one thing, it's something else.

One thing I just realized this week, though, is that I NEVER give recipes a second chance if they wrong me the first time. I guess it's because with the number of recipes readily available out there through cookbooks and the internet, why would you ever try the same recipe twice, if it didn't work out the first time (and if you had a multitude of other similiar recipes to try)?

Well, up until this weekend... I hadn't. Ever. You see, the first recipe I made out of Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home To Yours cookbook was this recipe, Dorie's Best Chocolate Chip Cookies. And while it certainly wasn't awful, it wasn't my favorite either. The cookies came out flat and greasy. Not my Chocolate Chip Cookie ideal (I prefer crispy edges, chewy center). So what, right? There are literally a zillion Chocolate Chip Cookie recipes out there to try. And eventually I found the perfect ones for me (I have a couple of favorites... David Lebovitz's if I'm looking to whip up a batch today and eat it and The Jacques Torres New York Times Cookie if I have bread flour on hand and time to prepare and wait on the chilled dough).

No need to revisit Dorie's Chocolate Chip Recipe again, right?

Until Kait from Kait's Plate chose the recipe for her Tuesdays with Dorie selection. I debated for awhile... Like I said, I'd never tried a recipe that I didn't like twice. But I read through the recipe again and decided that I'd go for one of the "playing around" options this time.

I added toasted pecans and toasted coconut to the recipe. I hoped that this would bulk up the recipe a bit, since I found them a bit too thin the first time around. And HOT DAMN. If these weren't delicious! They were bulky and chewy and the toasted pecans added such a depth of toasty, nutty flavor to the cookies! Success!

So, while I didn't follow the exact same recipe this time... it was still basically the same recipe and the second time around was awesome! I now have the perfect coconut pecan chocolate chip cookie recipe for my arsenal.

Just goes to show... maybe I should give more recipes a second chance...

Dorie's Best Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe from Dorie Greenspan

So, yeah, I added 1 1/2 cups of toasted coconut and followed the regular recipe per the pecans (I didn't add any nuts the first time around). A word about the coconut... you can't really detect it in the cookie, I mean... maybe you can get a hint of toasted coconut flavor, but my oldest brother who won't go near anything that has coconut in it with a 12 ft pole happily ate these and declared them very tasty. (Haha. Of course I didn't tell him there was coconut in it). I definitely suggest you toast both the coconut and the pecans though, it brings out such an intense flavor in the ingredients.

These are delicious cookies and super easy and straightforward to make. I couldn't keep from eating the dough or the cookies!

Recipe can be found here, on Kait's Blog.

Friday, February 12, 2010

New Orleans King Cake (The easy way)

I understand. Everyone's all wrapped up in thoughts of Valentines Day. But... don't get so wrapped up in Valentines Day that you forget what happens 2 days later. (After President's Day, that is. Jeez. Mardi Gras just can't catch a break this year. It's gotta compete with Valentines Day AND President's Day). Anyway, Fat Tuesday.

Awwww hells yes. Fat Tuesday is on Feb 16th this year. And since you'll be looking for something sweet and delicious to load up on before Lent starts the next day (I wonder how many people give up sugar/sweets/chocolate, etc for Lent?), I present you with the easiest King Cake Recipe ever. And delicious!

I actually made this King Cake for the Super Bowl. And it was declared very authentic despite the lazy woman method I employed to make it. Before we get into the recipe, let's talk a little about King Cakes.

For me, the single best thing about a King Cake is the plastic baby inside. I stopped at a cake decorating store here in town and found a package of 8 little naked plastic babies for $1.89. Awesome, right? When I got home and started to prepare the King Cake, I started thinking about whether or not these little naked plastic babies were 1. heatproof and 2. non-toxic. Now, to me... as much as I love the idea of biting into a piece of cake that is studded with a little naked plastic baby, the idea of that little naked baby melting and creating a pool of toxic chemicals that will eventually give me cancer one day was not something I was excited about.

In the end, I opted to prop the little naked plastic baby up on the top of the cake. Which, honestly... looked a little funny. But, also made me happy to look over and see the little baby hovering over the edge of the cake. Plus, this way.. the baby stayed nice and clean and fresh.

Top the cake off with some icing, some green, purple, and yellow colored sugars and some mini mardi gras beads and you've got yourself the perfect (and easy!) King Cake.

Laissez le Bon temp rouler!!
Easy Mini King Cake (for kids)
Found on Anna's Blog, Cookie Madness

So, basically you take a tube of canned biscuits, roll them out and together and then douse it with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon, and sugar. Roll into a tube and shape into a circle. Easy, right?

And it is easy, but my biscuits were not attaching to each other to make a complete piece of dough and once it started cooking, they kind of broke apart and formed huge gashes and crevices in the ring. At first, I freaked out, but I let it keep baking and in the end, it turned out just fine. Sure, it kinda ended up being 4 pieces shaped into a squareish circle, but once you slapped some icing and sugar on it, it looked fine. So, don't despair if your biscuits go a little rogue on you in the baking process. It'll all turn out.

Next year, I might make this in a Monkey Bread type of way, using a bundt pan. I think that would work great!

To see Anna's exact recipe, click on her blog link above. I'm giving the recipe the way I made it (just a few minor adjustments).

1 (16 oz) can of biscuits

1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch of salt
Yellow, Purple, Green Sugars
1 plastic baby

1/2 cup confectioners sugar
Milk or Heavy Cream

Preheat your oven to 325.

Lay the biscuits out 4x2 on a piece of parchment paper and press and roll them out to form one piece of dough. (I didnt use water, but I think some water might have helped the dough stick together better). With a pastry brush or a big spoon, spread the melted butter over the dough.

In a small bowl, mix your white and brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Then spread this mixture evenly over the buttered dough.

Roll the dough into a log and shape the log into a circle, careful to make sure the ends are pinched together well on a sheet pan that has been lined with a silpat or a piece of parchment paper.

Bake in the oven till the biscuits are puffed up and done (about 30 minutes or so).

Once cooled a little bit, mix your confectioners sugar with just enough milk to make an icing consistency. And spread over the top of the cake. Then add your decorative sugars.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

TWD: Rick Katz's Brownies for Julia

How do you fancy your brownie? Generally, I'm a chewy girl. I'll a cut a bitch if anyone gets near the corner pieces. So, I have a trick up my sleeve. You see, when I make a batch of brownies, I cut all along the perimeter of the brownies, about 1/2 in from the edges. And then I cut my slices from the remaining inside. I tell people it's so that all the brownies have that pretty "just cut" edges, instead of some edge or corner pieces thrown in. But in reality, it's so that I can then proceed to eat all those edges and corners myself.

Sneaky, eh? It works though. I have good looking brownies and I have an excuse to eat my favorite pieces. It's a win-win.

Tanya of Chocolate Chic chose this week's Tuesdays with Dorie Recipe and after being an avid reader of her blog for awhile now (I almost feel like I know her, Superman, and the Chips because of all the cool photos and witty captions that she posts regularly), I knew that this recipe would be right up my alley: just pure blissful chocolate... no crazy Dorie add-ins. And boy, was I right.

So, this week is Valentine's Day week, right? What better week to bake up a batch of these fudgy, decadent brownies to share with the ones you love? Ummm... none. Sure, the recipe is a little weird in method and sure you have to pop these bad boys in the fridge for awhile before you can even think about cutting them, and sure they leave a sticky, thick chocolate residue all over your fingers. But they are sinful. Sinful, messy, sweet and delicious... and isn't that how all love should be?

Rick Katz's Brownies for Julia (Julia Child, that is).

Be warned, these are not dainty, tea-time brownies. These are heavy, sturdy, dense, chocolate-y squares of goodness. These are not the brownies that you take to a party. These are the brownies that you make with the intention of taking a fork to the entire pan and just going after it. They are messy. But, damn are they good. Rich and almost creamy. They're similiar to a truffle in consistency.

The preparation method is a little different than your standard brownie making, so be sure to read through the directions carefully before you start and then as you're working. There some weirdness going on with the eggs and some whipping, etc.

When they come out of the oven, let them cool (or, I suppose these would be heavenly scooped out messy and warm with a bowl of ice cream) and then pop them in the fridge or freezer to firm up for cutting. They even taste good cool and frozen!


Friday, February 5, 2010


I spent last weekend celebrating my 30th birthday in one of America's greatest cities: New Orleans. (Here's a hint... if you want to entice your friends from all over the country to come in for your birthday celebration... pick a kick-ass party city like New Orleans. You'll have no problem, no problem at all). Now, sure... New Orleans isn't the most glamorous and it isn't really all that tourist-friendly (can we just talk for a minute how weird it is that they don't get on the "accepting credit cards" bandwagon? I mean, credit cards have been around for about 30+ years now... I think they're here to stay. Also.. splitting checks. I mean, I understand not splitting checks for like 4+ people. But, 2? or 3? WEIRD. And slightly annoying when we're living in a very non-cash society) but you forget these things when you're surrounded by all the greatness that New Orleans represents.

First of all... the booze. I mean, hands down the coolest thing New Orleans has going for it, is that you can carry your booze around with you wherever you go. You may not think that this is a big deal... but just picture this for a moment... we all have that friend who nurses their drink like it's being rationed. Everyone else is finished, someone in your party attempts to stand up to leave and this "drink nurser" says... "WAIT! Let me finish my drink, first." And the rest of your party groans, because if that had been any of the rest of you, you'd stood up and pounded the drink and walked out. But not drink nurser, drink nurser can't pound. (incidentally, this is the same person who "sips" shots. Yes, Mom, I'm talking about you) This way.... everyone can be happy! Drink nurser can take their drink with them!

Secondly, the food. Holy shit. Every morsel of food I had there (with the exception of the pizza by the slice, which honestly wasn't terrible, but let's be honest... it's drunk food) was delicious! From the amazing Muffaletta sandwich at Cafe Maspero's to the Turtle Soup at Palace Cafe to the Cochon De Lait (which, I think is french for... "the most amazing freaking sandwich you will ever have in your entire life.") at Pierre Maspero's Restaurant to the Burger and Baked Potato at Port of Call everywhere you turn is an authentic, non-chain, delicious restaurant. And... did I mention the drinks? The bloody marys? And the triple crown of NOLA? The Monsoon, the hurricane, and the hand grenade? Mmmmm. Oh, right... I'm talking about food now, don't forget bananas foster and pralines! YUM.

Thirdly, it's just a cool ass city. I guarantee you, it's the one place in America where I can walk around hungover as shit with a green and white feather boa wrapped around my neck holding a bloody mary and yelling out 'Who Dat?" at 10 am on a Sunday morning and no one even casts a second glance your way. Why? Because everyone else is doing the exact same thing.

I came home from NOLA with the flu, pralines I bought at the airport (that were GROSS and that I threw away as soon as I got home), about 10 extra pounds, and new found appreciation for the New Orleans Saints. (It doesn't hurt that I spent about 4 hours on Sunday crammed in a crowd of crazy ass Saints fans during a parade of dudes wearing dresses (don't ask, just read about it)).

I mean, here in Nashville we LOVE our Titans. We do. We talk about them, we root for them, it's our small-talk banter... "did you see the game yesterday? etc..." we love our team. We really do. I mean football is king here. But... it's not the same. And I just realized it this past weekend being submersed in Saints Country. I used to always think... ohhhh all fans are passionate about their team. And they are. But, it's almost like the Saints ARE New Orleans. It's so easy to get wrapped up in the excitement that's all over the city. My friends and I even spent a good bit of time on Sunday morning looking for Saints Merchandise to wear. I became a Saints fan last weekend (well... The Titans are of course still my team... but as far as the NFC goes... Saints all the way, baby!) and even though I wouldnt' have rooted for the Colts anyway (Booooo division rivals! boooo!), I will be rooting my ass off for the Saints. 'Who dat??' (god, I love that phrase and song.... Titans... take note.. we need a phrase and song! STAT!).

I'd like to take something NOLA-esque to watch the big game with and these pralines would be awesome. They are actually better than the pralines I bought at praline connection (yes, at the airport, I know). A little gritty, very nutty, and definitely sweet (exactly like New Orleans, itself, eh?).

If you're a new Saints fan like me and headed to a party this weekend... do yourself a favor... whip up a batch of these, they'll be no denying who you're rooting for.

Go Saints! Who Dat!!!!


So, here's what I did. I cheated. Instead of dipping out the pralines one by one, I poured them into a 13x9 inch pan that I had put a big piece of parchment paper in. That way, after they cooled, I lifted them out of the pan, by the parchment paper and cut/broke them into bite-size pieces. You'll get thicker pralines, but it's so much easier this way.

I am not a candy-maker, by any means, so as long as you have a candy thermometer you should be able to make this recipe.

Buttery and firm but with a soft give these pralines are delicious.

flavorless vegetable oil for oiling the baking sheets
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups pecan halves

Have ready 4 oiled large baking sheets. In a heavy 2-quart saucepan combine the sugars, the cream, the salt, and the cream of tartar, cook the mixture over moderate heat, stirring and washing down any sugar crystals clinging to the side with a brush dipped in cold water, until the sugar is dissolved, and boil it over moderately high heat, undisturbed, until a candy thermometer registers 238°F. Remove the pan from the heat, let the mixture cool until the candy thermometer registers 220°F., and stir in the butter and the vanilla. Beat the mixture until it is creamy and stir in the pecan halves. Working quickly, drop the mixture by tablespoon onto the baking sheets and let the pralines cool. Remove the pralines carefully and store them, wrapped individually in wax paper, in airtight container in a cool place. The pralines keep for 2 weeks.

yield: Makes about 36 pralines, weighing approximately 2 pounds.