Chewy White Chocolate Cherry Cookies

posted in: Recipes, Sweets | 0

white cholocolate cookies

Did you know that white chocolate isn’t technically chocolate at all (at least according to part of the Internet)? But if it were, it would be my least favorite kind of chocolate. That said, there is one exception to my apathy for this culinary imposter: white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. The salty macadamia nuts temper the cloying sweetness of the “chocolate.” Add dried cherries and the result is a chewy, sweet-and-slightly-salty cookie with pops of tart fruit.

White Chocolate and Dried Cherry Cookies

active: 10 min
total time: 25 min
servings: 24 cookies

1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup white chocolate chips
½ cup chopped macadamia nuts
¾ cup dried cherries

1. Preheat the oven to 375º. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, beat the butter, sugars, and vanilla until smooth, about three minutes. Beat in the egg, then slowly stir in the flour mixture until well combined. Stir in the white chocolate, nuts, and cherries.

3. Drop heaping spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, or until they just begin to turn golden around the edges. Allow the cookies to cool for two minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve immediately or store in an air-tight container for up to three days.

Make Ahead: The cookie dough can be tightly rolled with plastic wrap into a log and stored in the freezer for up to two months. To bake, remove the dough from the freezer and slice into ½-inch pieces. Place on cookie sheet, allow to defrost for 10 minutes, then bake for 10 minutes.

World’s Second Best Chocolate Chip Cookie

posted in: Recipes, Sweets | 2

chocolate chip cookies

When I was growing up, my mom baked chocolate chip cookies at least once a week. I was mesmerized by the speed with which she prepared them from scratch (from the fridge to the plate in 20 minutes), as well as her ability to execute the recipe from memory. I remember them as the best chocolate chip cookies in the world — soft and just a bit chewy — even if they were only slightly tweaked from the recipe on the back of the Toll House package.

I still think of them as the best cookies in the world (partly because they’re my mom’s, partly because they’re just really, really delicious), though I’ve since developed my own recipe (which I still don’t know by memory). My version is gooey and chewy in the middle, crisp and golden on the edges. They’re crammed with chocolate and walnuts, and just slightly salty. They’re everything I want in a cookie, except that they’re not made by mom. And that’s why they’re only the second best chocolate chip cookies in the world.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

active: 10 min
total time: 25 min
servings: 36 cookies

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup melted butter
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 375º. In small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, beat the melted butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in the flour mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts. Drop the dough by a rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on the baking sheets for 2 minutes, then remove the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Make Ahead: The cookie dough can be tightly rolled with plastic wrap into a log and stored in the freezer for up to two months. To bake, remove the dough from the freezer and slice into ½-inch pieces. Place on cookie sheet, allow to defrost for 10 minutes, then bake for 10 minutes.

Juiced: Blood Orange and Ginger

posted in: Juice, Recipes | 0

juicedmainbloodorangeandginger

I have food issues. All of them. While I generally try to eat healthful foods, my eating habits are not so healthy. For example, I buy only organic peanut butter (the kind made with just peanuts and salt), but then I eat the entire jar in a matter of days. I often feel bad about myself for doing that, so I decide I’m going to do a crazy crash diet. But I’m way better at finishing off nut butters than diets, and usually fail about 12 hours in. My sticktoitiveness is exhausted on learning new website coding or getting a campaign just right, my willpower is low when faced with the temptations of taste and texture, and my palate is as excitable as a 12-year-old boy — all of which are exacerbated by the fact that I do food things for a living and nary a week goes by when my wonderful husband isn’t curing some giant hunk of meat or baking some ridiculous cake. Yes, I know I should just eat like a regular person and eat when I’m hungry and all of that, but for me, that’s much easier said than done.

Among the many schemes and contraptions I’ve tried to help me eat less (and in turn lose my forever 15) is a middle-of-the-line juicer. I drunk-ordered it a few months ago while watching “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead,” a somewhat annoying (but clearly also somewhat inspiring) documentary about a guy who juiced for six months, lost 90 pounds and reversed all of his health problems. I knew I wasn’t going to juice exclusively for six months, six weeks, or even six days. But I figured it wouldn’t hurt to add more nutrients to my daily routine — especially because I am creeped out by most fruits in their whole form — and, hey, maybe I would drop a few pounds along the way. Oh, whiskey-fueled optimism!

When it arrived, I was in more of a sober realist mood, and let the box sit unopened for a few days until my sister (who was staying with us at the time and is also blessed with my food issues, all of them) was dying to unleash this potentially muffin top-minimizing beast. She opened it, read the manual so I didn’t have to, and made the first batch of juice. It was really good. Of course, I thought I could make an ever better flavor combination, so I did. And thus began my juicing habit. It makes me feel great (in my head, anyway, as well as other places I won’t mention on a food blog) and gets me to consume at least some part of some fruits. Plus, I like the challenge of making the juices taste great. The juicer itself is a real pain in the ass to clean, and I hate all of the waste it creates, so I don’t use it every day, but I now juice fairly regularly. I haven’t lost any weight or any noticed any drastic changes in my health or wellbeing, but I know it’s doing at least some good because I’m consuming more nutrients than I was before. (And, yes, I’m about to set up a compost area so we can eventually use the pulp to feed our garden this summer.)

Of course, in my usual form, I tried to commit to a few juice cleanses over the last couple of months, but like all of my crash diets before, the smell of my husband’s dinner was usually enough to make me cave — if I even made it that long. But with him out of town and me glued to my desk for three days, I figured this was the perfect time to give it a real try. And (drumroll, please….) I am proud to report that yesterday I survived and succeeded at Day One (though I did allow myself coffee and I’m not gonna feel bad about that). I’m now well into Day Two and, surprisingly, I don’t want to punch anyone or hold up a Five Guys. Yet. But I know I’m only ever a sniff away from craving pizza and getting HANGRY, so I thought I would keep up my momentum by kicking off a column called “Juiced,” in which I somewhat regularly share my favorite juice recipes.

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For this beautiful inaugural batch, I used blood oranges, which are easy to find in most grocery stores in the winter. They look sweet, but they’re not, so I mixed them with green apples, and my favorite flavor/juice ingredient of all time: ginger.

Juicing experts, along with the entire Internet, advise consuming fresh juices within 24 hours to get all of the nutritional benefits, so I made about four cups of this stuff and had it for breakfast for two days. It’s really easy (if you have a juicer, of course).

Blood-Orange and Ginger Juice

5 blood oranges, peeled
3 small to medium apples, quartered
1 1-inch piece of ginger root, peeled

Yield: About 4 cups

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The Best Ever Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookies

posted in: Recipes, Sweets | 0

peanutbuttercookies-5

I have a peanut butter problem. I mean, if you can call it a problem that I love peanut butter, and it’s readily available, and I can eat a whole jar in a day (though I usually try to take at least two), and I would probably weigh 20 pounds less if I did’t eat it.

I also sometimes have a gluten problem. It’s not a huge deal — I don’t have celiac disease; I’ve been tested — but if I eat too much it messes with me in unpleasant ways, so I generally try to avoid it. At least when my willpower allows.

Oh, and I don’t really bake. I can’t deal with being precise in the kitchen unless I have to be, and the last time I baked a cake, I ate the whole thing in two days. No joke.

One last thing: I’m not really a sweets person. But since I don’t often bake, I rarely have control over the sugar content of my occasional desserts.

Knowing what you do, it should come as no surprise that these three-ingredient, gluten-free peanut butter cookies are one of my favorite treats to eat and to make. They’re foolproof — unless you leave them in the oven too long. All you need is 10 minutes, a jar of creamy or chunky natural peanut butter (peanuts and salt should be the only ingredients and the chunk factor is totally up to you), two eggs, and one to two cups of sugar.

I’ve made these with one cup of sugar and with two. Since I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, I prefer less, but feel free to use as much as you want. I should warn you: I tried making them with half sugar, half stevia once and I was pretty disappointed; they tasted really artificial to me.

An optional fourth ingredient, which I usually always add, is vanilla extract. It just gives the cookies a little extra sumpin’ sumpin’ — especially since I use good quality Madagascar bourbon vanilla. You could also add chocolate chips, M&Ms, etc. Whatever you’re using, add it all to a large bowl, mix it well (with your hands or a wooden spoon), roll it into balls, drop them on a baking sheet, give them a little push with a fork, and stick ‘em in a 350º oven for about 10 minutes. Of course, all ovens are different, and if you like a chewier cookie, you’ll want a little less time in the oven, and a little more for crispy cookies. Just start checking on them around 8 minutes.

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You can make big cookies or small cookies; both take roughly the same time to cook. My husband is a high school teacher, and my most recent batch was for his students so they’re small. But I can now tell you with some authority that a jar of peanut butter, plus two eggs, and one cup of sugar yields about 50 bite-size cookies. I’ve also done about 16 monster cookies (they do require a bit more time in the oven).

You don’t really need a recipe, but in just in case you want one…

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

1 16-ounce jar natural peanut butter (I use Smucker’s)
1 cup white sugar
2 large brown eggs

Preheat the oven to 350º F. Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl and roll into balls. Space evenly on a baking sheet. Bake for 8-12 minutes until the tops have rounded and lightened in color. Remove the sheet to a rack to cool.

Celebrating Mardi Gras with a Sazerac

posted in: Cocktails | 0

sazeracfeedme

I don’t have to be in New Orleans to get into the Mardi Gras spirit. All I need is a Sazerac — the sweet, spicy rye whiskey-based drink that’s the official cocktail of The Big Easy. And whenever I need a New Orleans recipe, I look first to John Besh, the chef, restaurateur, TV personality and author of numerous cookbooks, including My New Orleans.

While his flavors are spot on — he calls for Herbsaint, an affordable absinthe-flavored liqueur I already had in the cabinet — Besh’s recipe is a little too “a little of this, a little of that” for me. So, I converted his “shots” and “shy shots” to ounces, but

The Sazerac

Herbsaint
Twist of lemon peel
2 ounces rye whiskey
½ ounce simple syrup
4 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters

Glassware: Rocks glass or stemless cocktail glass.

Method: Swirl a little Herbsaint around in the glass until the inside is coated. Twist the lemon peel to releases oils, then drop it into the glass. Add the rye, simple syrup, and bitters to a cocktail shaker, top it off with ice, and shake vigorously. Strain the sazerac into the prepared glass.

To make simple syrup: combine equal parts sugar and water on the stove until it reaches a boil. Stir well, then from the heat and allow to cool before using. You can make a big batch of this stuff and it will keep for a really long time in a jar in the fridge.

Recipe adapted from “My New Orleans: The Cookbook” by John Besh (Andrews McMeel, 2009)

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