Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Nirvana

God I love these much so that I've had to ban myself from baking any more for awhile, because I can't stop eating them when they're around, and yet I love them too much to give the majority of them away - how selfish of me! How fattening! You'll just have to make your own, and then, you'll see what I mean!

I did a bit of searching for the perfect recipe, and stumbled across this one by searching the web. I found this web site which claims the recipe is a direct re-print of the Cooks Illustrated recipe. I adapted it slightly because I don't like my cookies to be any sweeter than they need to be, so I reduced the amount of sugar. I also added vanilla extract because strangely, their recipe doesn't seem to include it. And, I added walnuts. A few other tips I recommend that weren't included in the original recipe: first, start with your dough very cold before baking - this makes nice chunky cookies, which I happen to love. Second, rotate the cookie sheet halfway through the baking process. This ensures more even baking.

Oatmeal Chocolate-Chip Cookies
(printable recipe)

1 1/2 cups FLOUR
1/2 teaspoon SALT
1/2 teaspoon BAKING POWDER
8 ounces (2 sticks) UNSALTED BUTTER, softened
3/4 cup LIGHT BROWN SUGAR, packed
2 large EGGS
3 cups OATS
1/2 cup coarsely chopped WALNUTS

1. Preaheat oven to 350 degrees, and line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. Whisk flour, salt and baking powder together in a medium bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, by hand or by mixer, beat butter until creamy. Add sugars and beat the mixture until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time.

4. Stir dry ingredients into butter-sugar mixture with a wooden spoon or a large rubber spatula. Stir in oats and chocolate chips.

5. Place dough onto parchment-lined cookie sheets by large spoonfuls (about 1 heaping teaspoon each), leaving at least 2 inches between.

6. Bake until cookie edges turn golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes (in my oven, it took 21 minutes exactly, so I rotated the cookies after 10 minutes and then baked for another 11 minutes). Slide cookies (on parchment) onto cooling rack. Let cool, and store in airtight container.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Potato and Chic Pea Stew with Chipotle

I must be feeling good again. Today, for the first time in what feels like months, I spent the whole day in the kitchen, and boy did I cook and bake up a storm. Later I'll post my recipe for the BEST OATMEAL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES EVER. But for now, I wanted to post my entry for this month's No Croutons Required Challenge. Each month, bloggers from around the world are invited to create a vegetarian soup or a salad recipe using the featured ingredient, which happens to be potatoes this month. So today, among other things, I made this delicious stew. It's simple, flavorful, hearty and a little bit spicy - perfectly wonderful and warming for a rainy day like today. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as we did!

Potato and Chic Pea Stew with Chipotle

1 - 2 T. olive oil
1/2 cup thinly sliced leeks
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup carrots - 3/4 cup of them sliced, 1/4 cup of them finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
2 1/2 cups yellow finn or creamer potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 T. tomato paste
2 cups chic peas
4 cups chic pea stock, water or vegetable stock
1 t. Mexican oregano
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, finely diced

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium-sized soup pot, and add the leeks. Saute' for five minutes or so, and add the 1/4 cup finely diced carrots, the celery and the garlic, along with a generous pinch of salt, to create the soup base. Cook over medium heat for about ten minutes or so, stirring frequently, until everything starts to become nicely golden. At this point, if you wish, you can deglaze the pan with a little splash of sherry or white wine or stock.

Next, stir in the two tablespoons of tomato paste, and then add the two cups of chic peas, and the four cups of liquid. Since I had just cooked my chic peas from scratch, I used a combination of chic pea stock and water. If you're using straight water, you may need to add a little more salt, so adjust accordingly.

Add the potatoes and the carrot slices, plus the oregano and chipotle pepper. You could surely add more chipotle pepper if you'd like, but I think it's a good idea to start sparingly and work your way up. Bring it all to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, cover partially, and cook for another fifteen to twenty minutes, or until the potatoes and carrots are nicely tender. Taste it, and add a little more salt if you feel so inclined.

Since I like this dish to have a more stew-like consistency, I used my immersion blender to puree half the soup, but you could enjoy it as-is if you don't feel like taking that extra step.

If you're feeling extra inspired, you could garnish this stew w/ a squeeze of lime, a few cilantro slivers, and a crumbling of cotija cheese. I'll probably serve it that way the next time, but today I just served it straight up, and it got rave reviews. We had to save room for those cookies! Stay tuned for the recipe, my friends. And until then, be well!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Beat That Winter Cold...

... well, I didn't exactly beat mine.  In fact, it was quite the opposite.   I got my ass kicked HARD.  I was sick in bed for 6 days, getting worse each day instead of better, until finally I developed a fever, went to the doctor and discovered I had a sinus infection, which I am still getting over. I can't wait till I feel like myself again, because let me tell you, I have not one iota of inspiration, culinary or otherwise.

Maybe if I'd been following some of these tips sooner, my terrible cold wouldn't have turned into a terrible sinus infection.  May you remain healthy and not need these tips! But for what it's worth, here they are:

1.  Feeling a little (or a lot) congested?  Breathe steam.  It's a very simple and effective home remedy for helping to open your breathing passages and keeping your sinuses well lubricated.  When your sinuses dry out, bacteria can get trapped, and that's what helps to bring on those nasty infections.  Just boil some water and pour it into a bowl.  Hold your head over the bowl and cover it with a towel, and breathe deep.  An added bonus - it's great for your skin!

Another tip I learned from my friend Ari:  add a drop or two of essential oil of thyme to the water in the bowl - it has strong antibacterial properties and will provide added strength in fighting infections.  But use it sparingly for it's very potent - a little goes a long way!

2.  Got a sore throat, body aches, or inflammation?  Try a bromelain & turmeric supplement.  It's a natural way to reduce inflammation, and it's good for both your digestion and your liver.  Bromelain, which occurs naturally in pineapple, is also very good for both sore throats and sinuses.  If you don't feel like buying a supplement, just eat some fresh pineapple or drink some fresh pineapple juice.

3.  Be kind to your nose!  If you're sneezing crazily and blowing your nose endlessly like I was, trust me on this.  Rub the area around your nose with some nice soft lotion, or better yet, coconut oil, which in addition to being soothing and providing moisture, contains antibacterial properties.  If I had done this right from the start, I wouldn't have ended up with a red, swollen, blistered, scabby nose!

4.  In addition to the usual infection fighters such as vitamin C and zinc, try Andrographis.  Again, my friend Ari turned me on to this Ayurvedic herbal supplement which helps to strengthen the immune system, and like turmeric and bromelain, it is good for your liver and digestion.

5. Lastly, I wish that I had been using a neti pot right from the start.  If you can get past the weird initial feeling of using it, you'll be really glad you did.  And if you ever find yourself paralyzed with debilitating sinus pain, you might, like me, be willing to try just about anything to find relief.  Remember what I said earlier about keeping the sinuses from drying out, so as not to promote bacteria growth?  Well, here is a very effective way to do that, and it helps tremendously to relieve sinus pressure.  It helps move all that congestion out of your head so you can breathe and rest.  I can't recommend it highly enough!

I'm feeling a little bit better with each passing day, and really looking forward to the day when I feel inspired to create something good in the kitchen again. It's gotta happen soon!  Until then, may you stay healthy, my friends.