Thursday, October 25, 2012

Brown Butter + Sea Salt + Rolo + Toffee Chunk Chocolate Chip Cookies

Brown Butter + Sea Salt + Rolo + Toffee Chunk Chocolate Chip Cookies

Hellooooo, longest recipe name ever.

I made these cookies for three reasons:

1) I was bored and couldn't find anymore cat videos to watch on the YouTubes.*

2) I had leftover candy and mini-chips left from making these that I wanted to use up in an actual recipe, rather than just eating them by the handful.

3) I decided that I wasn't that hungry for dinner and would rather just let a massive 437 calorie cookie take its place. Balanced, right?

I knew I wanted to stuff the leftover candy into a chocolate chip cookie, and decided to try out a new base recipe. I turned to Monique's Brown Butter & Sea Salt cookies. Pardon my French, but holy crap. I think I yelled worse expletives (out of delight, not anger!) than that when I first bit into one of these. These are truly the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever had. Alton Brown's "The Chewy" has been my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe for years, but the next time I make traditional chocolate chip cookies I'll be using this recipe at my base. If you like your chocolate chip cookies with chewy edges and soft middles, you'll love these.

While I made these cookies in an effort to use up random ingredients, don't let that deter you from actually purchasing these ingredients specifically for this recipe. I've stuffed candy into chocolate chip cookies more times than I can count, but this has probably been my favorite combo yet. You get the delicious sweet and salty flavor from the Heath chunks and the sea salt sprinkle, and chewy chocolatey-caramel chunks in each cookie.


Here's what you'll need for 13 large cookies:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
1 cup unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt (I used 2% because I had it on hand, but any fat level should work)
15 Rolos, frozen for at least 1 hour and chopped into quarters
1/2 cup chocolate covered Heath bar chunks (these are sold in a bag in the baking aisle, but if you can't find them, feel free just to chop up a few candy bars)
1/2 cup mini-chocolate chips

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

Next, brown your butter. If you've never browned butter before, allow me to direct you to this post, since Jessica took photos of the process and explains it more eloquently than I probably would.

Set your browned butter aside to cool for 5-10 minutes.

In a large bowl, beat together the browned butter and sugars until well combined. Beat in the egg, egg yolk, vanilla, and Greek yogurt. Gradually add in the flour mixture, beating on low speed until just combined. Fold in the Rolos, toffee chunks, and chocolate chips.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge for 2 hours.

When you're ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a large cookie scoop (mine held about 1/4 cup,) drop balls of dough on the cookie sheet, leaving 2 inches between each. Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt. Bake for 10-11 minutes, until the edges are golden and the tops are still moist. They will continue to bake on the baking sheet, so don't be afraid to take them out when they look under-baked. Let cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Source: Adapted from Ambitious Kitchen

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Granola

I wake up ravenous every single morning. My growling stomach at 6 am is way more reliable than any alarm clock my money can buy. The second I'm out of the shower in the morning, I'm in the kitchen scavenging for food. I'm definitely a creature of habit when it comes to my weekday breakfasts. 90% of the time I eat oatmeal, an egg and cheese sandwich, or Greek yogurt with granola. This is usually my granola of choice, but as you may have gathered given that I write a blog about cooking, I prefer to make things homemade whenever possible.

Pumpkin Spice Granola

When I came across this pumpkin granola on Kristin's gorgeous blog earlier this fall, I immediately knew it would make it onto my fall cooking list. It was so simple to make that I think it's going to replace my normal store-bought brand of granola, unless a bout of extreme laziness hits. This makes an enormous batch - a little over 6 cups. I tend to use granola as more of a garnish - a small scoop on top of yogurt for some crunch, rather than eating it mixed with milk like cereal, so this should last me quite awhile!

Pumpkin Spice Granola

This granola is totally customizable. Prefer walnuts to pecans? Throw 'em in. Dried apricots instead of raisins? Chop some up and toss them in too. This granola has a light pumpkin flavor, and a lot of fall spice. Make sure to let it cool completely before storing it, so that it doesn't get soggy! Added bonus? Your house will smell like you have about 50 pumpkin candles burning at once since this is so deliciously fragrant!

Here's what you'll need:

3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup pecan halves
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, stir together pumpkin puree, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt. Stir in brown sugar, maple syrup, and vanilla until thoroughly combined.

Add the oats, cranberries, raisins, pecans, coconut, and pumpkin seeds to the bowl. Stir to evenly coat with the pumpkin mixture.

Spread evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, stirring well at the 20 minute mark. It will not be crisp when you remove it from the oven, but it will crisp up as it cools. Allow granola to cool for several hours before storing.

Source: Adapted from Pastry Affair

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pasta Fagioli Soup

Pasta Fagioli Soup

Soup isn't usually one of those foods where I lack self control. That unfortunate characteristic is usually reserved for foods like brownies, risotto, and macaroni and cheese. Ya know, health food. With soup I can usually have a small bowlful for dinner with a salad or some crusty bread, feel satisfied, and call it a night. However, with this soup I really just want to sit on the floor with the pot in my lap, and eat it straight from the ladle like a weirdo. It is SO good. With ingredients like bacon, garlic, pasta shells, and Parmesan cheese would you expect any less?

Little by little it's getting cooler here in Virginia, and this was a perfectly delicious, perfectly cozy fall dinner for the past couple nights. This was my first time making this soup, and I can already tell that it is going to become a fall and winter staple for me!

The original recipe called for either bacon or pancetta. I really wanted to use pancetta but my grocery store was regrettably out. Thanks a lot Whole Foods. I recommend using the pancetta over the bacon if you can find it, because it is extremely difficult to mince bacon. I never noticed how slippery it was until I attempted to cut it into tiny little pieces. There was a lot of cursing, and I almost threw a handful of bacon at the wall in a fit of rage, which really would have only been hurting myself.

This soup is very thick when it's leftover - it becomes more stew like. Feel free to add up to 2 cups more broth if you want it soupier.

Here's what you'll need: 

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 slices of bacon, minced
2 yellow onions, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
Large pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, kosher salt, and black pepper
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 (15 ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 1/4 cups uncooked whole wheat pasta shells
Parmesan cheese and finely chopped Italian parsley, for garnish

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the bacon and onions, and saute for 8 minutes. Add the garlic, and saute for an additional 2 minutes. Lower the heat to medium-low, and pour in the tomatoes (with their juices), sage, and spices. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour in the broth and beans, and simmer for an additional 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the pasta to the soup, and simmer, stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes, until the pasta is al dente. Garnish with cheese and parsley, and serve immediately.

Makes about 10 cups of soup.

Source: Adapted from Shutterbean, originally from the Williams Sonoma Beans & Rice Cookbook

Monday, October 15, 2012

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

For those of you who are regular readers, you may remember that I made these delicious Pecan Turtle Black Cocoa Brownies to bring to my mom and sister up in NJ last month when I visited. Well, my mom informed me on that trip that she now prefers lemon desserts to chocolate ones. Since I'm such an awesome daughter, I made her these lemon ricotta cookies when I went up to visit this weekend. I don't bake with lemon very often during the fall or winter, but these actually really hit the spot among all of the heavy fall and pumpkin related baking I've been doing.

While the main reason for my visit to NJ was my sister Annie's 25th birthday, the weekend happened to coincide with a really fun event in my sister's town called Boozin' for Boobs. As the name suggests, it's a bar crawl that raises money for breast cancer charities. I'm not sure how healthy daytime drinking of hot pink-dyed Bud Light is for my own personal cancer risk, but it was a ton of fun, and raised money for an excellent cause. 

Annie and me at the bar crawl. Happy birthday darling seester! 

Boozin' For Boobs

Before making these, I'd never made cookies that contained ricotta cheese, so I wasn't sure what to expect. These don't taste like ricotta, so I think it's probably there for the moisture and richness. The cookie portion of this recipe reminds me of one of those big black and white cookies you can get at an Italian deli or bakery. They are moist and soft, and almost like miniature cakes. The glaze has the perfect amount of lemon flavor and tartness, and turns these cookies from something ordinary into something delicious. 

As you can see, I couldn't wait until my cookie photo shoot was over to sample the goods. 

Here's what you'll need for about 4 dozen cookies:

For the cookies:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 15-ounce container whole milk ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of 2 lemons

For the glaze:

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted (Do not use organic or natural powdered sugar as it will turn the glaze gray)
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of 2 lemons

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt with a fork. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar for 3 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add in ricotta, lemon juice, and lemon zest, and beat until combined.

Stir in dry ingredients with a spoon until just combined. Using a 1 tablespoon cookie scoop, scoop cookies onto the baking sheet, leaving a couple inches between each. Store the leftover dough in the refrigerator between batches.

Bake cookies for 9-11 minutes, until no longer wet on top and not yet golden around the edges. Mine took exactly 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, and let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

To make the glaze, stir together all ingredients until thoroughly combined. Pour a scant teaspoon of glaze on top of each cookie, and let the glaze harden for at least 2 hours before storing. Cake-like cookies like these have a tendency to get soggy if stored in an airtight container. I kept mine in a tupperware container with layers of waxed paper between each stack of cookies. I just rested the lid on top, and didn't press it shut it completely, which worked great. I recommend enjoying these within a day or two of baking them. 

Source: Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

Monday, October 8, 2012

Tacos de Barbacoa

Tacos de Barbacoa

I'm am a HUGE fan of Chipotle's Barbacoa. In fact, I just spent 20 minutes of my life making a crude homage to the Dos Equis "Most Interesting Man in the World" ad to illustrate just how much I love Chipotle's Barbacoa:

Dos Equis
 Stay hungry, my friends.

I've wanted to make my own barbacoa at home for a long time, because as delicious as Chipotle is, it's not somewhere that I should be frequenting. I once made the mistake of calculating the calories for one of my beloved burrito bowls. Ouch. Fortunately, the results of my at home barbacoa were delicious, and I've had enough tacos to keep me happy for the rest of 2012, and then some. Actually, scratch that. Who am I kidding? I love tacos, and will probably make yet another version in a matter of weeks. 

Depending on how stuffed you like your tacos, and how big your tortillas are, you can probably get about 5 tacos per pound of meat. If you're not responsible for feeding children, spouses, or roommates, I highly recommend that you invite people over to eat, so you don't end up eating tacos for 8 meals straight. 

Don't let the long cooking time for this scare you away. The prep work for this recipe only took about 20 minutes. This needs to cook low and slow for about 5 hours in the oven, but most of that time is hands off.

What you'll need:

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons lime juice
4 canned chipotle chiles
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano (use Mexican oregano if you can find it)
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
3 teaspoons kosher salt (if using table salt, reduce to 1 1/2 teaspoons)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3-4 pounds boneless chuck roast, excess fat removed
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth, plus more if needed
3 bay leaves
Small tortillas, warmed (I used flour, but I think corn is probably more traditional)
Toppings (Cilantro, onions, lime wedges, tomatillo salsa, chopped tomato, and sour cream are all delicious!)

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Combine the vinegar, lime juice, chipotle chiles, garlic, and spices in the bowl of a food processor. Process the mixture for about 1 minute, until completely smooth. Set aside.

Rinse and completely dry the chuck roast, and cut into one pound pieces. Heat the vegetable oil over medium heat in a large dutch oven until it is shimmering. Sear the pieces of meat on all sides until very browned, about 10 minutes total. You may need to work in batches for this if your pot is on the smaller side. (Note: If you're not using an enameled cast iron dutch oven like a Le Creuset, you will probably want to sear the meat on high, not medium.)

Turn the heat down to low, and add the chipotle puree to the pot. Stir to coat the meat thoroughly. Pour in enough chicken broth to come one-third of the way up the sides of the meat. I have a very large dutch oven, and needed a little less than a quart of broth. Add in the bay leaves.

Turn the heat back up to medium, and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cover the pot with tin foil, and then add the lid to create a tight seal. Place in the preheated oven, and braise for 5-6 hours, checking halfway through the cooking time to baste the meat with the cooking liquid, and ensure that there is enough liquid remaining in the pot. During the last hour of cooking, remove the foil and the lid to allow the liquid to slightly reduce.

When the meat is done, allow it to cool for a few minutes, and spoon off any easily removable fat from the cooking liquid. Shred the meat with two forks, and serve on warmed tortillas with desired toppings.

Source: Adapted from Food People Want

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

A Bitchin' Kitchen: Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

Is anyone else bored of logging on to Facebook and being bombarded by a million people spewing their political opinions? Ever since the debates last night, I've been avoiding Facebook like the plague. As some of you know, I live in Northern Virginia, right outside of Washington, DC. I don't know if people argue about politics this much in other areas of the country, but here it's constant personal attacks, "fact" regurgitating, and mudslinging.

Obviously, I have opinions. I'm not going to talk about them here because a) no one cares, and b) I don't want the 50% of you who disagree with me to hate me, or think that voting the way I do is equivalent to some kind of character flaw. I sometimes wonder if the people who post inflammatory statuses honestly think that they will change the mind of the opposing side. Facebook has been around for 8 of my 10 legal voting years, and so far I haven't been swayed to change my political affiliation by what some wannabe pundit posts as their status. I respect people's right to share whatever they want on Facebook, but that doesn't mean I won't be annoyed by it. I think certain topics are just best kept private.

I go on Facebook for the following reasons:

1) Cat videos
2) Pictures of babies
3) Stories about drunken shenanigans
4) To find out where happy hour is taking place
5) To stalk people from high school and judge their choices in life

I do not go on Facebook:

1) To be told that I'm immoral or stupid for supporting a particular candidate.

I'm probably just as bad as the people I'm complaining about for even posting this rant. Can we talk about pancakes now? That's something we can all agree on, right? I hope so, because these are freakin' delicious. When I took my first bite of these, it was like biting into the warmest, moistest, slice of pumpkin bread ever. With most pumpkin-flavored foods, you tend to taste the fall spices more than the actual pumpkin. With these, you have a bold pumpkin flavor, plus an additional kick of flavor from the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. I served these with just maple syrup, but I think they'd also be delicious with a cinnamon spiked whipped cream!

What you'll need:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons salted butter, melted
Additional butter or canola oil for greasing the skillet

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees, and place a foil-lined pie plate inside. As you cook the pancakes, place them in the pie plate to keep warm.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices. In a large liquid measuring cup, stir together the milk, pumpkin, egg, and butter. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and whisk together until just combined. Some lumps should remain - don't over-mix or your pancakes will be tough!

In a large greased skillet over medium heat, drop batter in 1/3 cup portions. Cook the first side, and when bubbles start to form on the top surface, flip them over and cook for about a minute more. Transfer to the oven and repeat with remaining batter.

Source: Adapted from Martha Stewart

Monday, October 1, 2012

Cheddar, Chive, & Jalapeno Biscuits {AND Blast from the Past Black Bean Soup!}

Cheddar, Chive, & Jalapeno Biscuits

Want to know how to make a delicious and cozy fall meal? Of course you do.

First, make a pot of my incredibly easy black bean soup, and while it's simmering away on the stove, whip up a batch of from-scratch biscuits. These biscuits are beyond delicious. The dough is full of good stuff - chives, spicy jalapenos, and sharp cheddar. I'm thinking these would also be a great base for a breakfast sandwich - just add a fried egg and some sausage or bacon.

This black bean soup is a recipe I posted way back in the early days of my blog (excuse the horrendous accompanying photo...clearly my photography skills are a work in progress.) I've probably made this soup more times than any other recipe on A Bitchin' Kitchen. It's easy, flavorful, healthy, cheap, and filling. It's one of the first things I make each fall when the weather starts to cool down. The linked recipe is great as is, but feel free to make it your own by sauteing some jalapenos or bell peppers and throwing them in, adding corn, or throwing on fun garnishes like cheese, chopped avocado, or sour cream.

As you probably know, soup only gets better when it's leftover, but these biscuits actually reheat surprisingly well too. As much as I wanted to, I did not eat all 9 biscuits when I made these, but was pleased to discover that if you wrap one in foil and heat in a 300 degree oven for about 10 minutes they're almost as good as a fresh biscuit. When you cut these biscuits, make sure not to twist the cutter when cutting the dough. This "seals" the sides of the biscuit, and it won't achieve its maximum height. It helps to have a nice sharp biscuit cutter - this is the set I use, and I love them. 

One more thing: this is completely unrelated to anything I've said in the preceding paragraphs, but I found this video a few days ago and can't stop watching it. Dear fellow Insta-grammers, please enjoy:

Here's what you'll need:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold buttermilk, plus more for topping
1 egg
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes
1 jalapeno, diced (I left the seeds in; remove the seeds if you're not a fan of spicy food)
3 tablespoons minced chives
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
Coarse sea salt, for topping

Arrange oven racks to the middle position and upper third position. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cream of tartar, and salt.

In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk and egg.

Stir together the cheddar cubes, diced jalapenos, and chives. Set aside.

Add the cold butter to the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender, cut the mixture together until it resembles coarse meal and the butter is well incorporated.

Add the cheese mixture to the flour mixture, and thoroughly toss. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, and pour in the buttermilk mixture. Use a fork to combine, until a shaggy dough forms.

On a lightly floured service, knead the dough for 6-10 minutes. Form a 1 1/2 inch thick disc, and cut biscuits using a 2 1/2 inch circle cutter. Re-form the dough scraps and cut additional biscuits until all the dough has been used. I got 9 biscuits.

Place the biscuits on prepared baking sheets. Brush tops with buttermilk, and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Bake for 13-17 minutes, until light golden on top and cooked through.

Source: Biscuits adapted from Joy the Baker Cookbook: 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes by Joy the Baker

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