Sunday, January 31, 2010

Oatmeal Chocolate Cookies with Pecans

I am still working on cleaning out the pantry after the holidays, I found myself with 1/2 bag pecans, some dark chocolate chunks and a canister of oatmeal. I initially was going to make some bar cookies, but per the request of my youngest child we determined cookies were were the better choice. Since I mentioned bar cookies, I thought I'd add a little commentary regarding them. I've always been under the impression bar cookies were for the lazy baker who didn't want to take time to rotate their dough every 8-10 minutes, I now am older and wiser and realize bar cookies often take longer to make and can be every bit as delicious. I make a wonderful chocolate raspberry crumb bar and it was my intent to make them today, but I was missing 2 ingredients. I'll share that recipe at a later date. Anyhow....back to the treat of the day. (Quantity of pecans and chocolate were based on leftovers, modify to suit your taste)

2 Cups flour
1/2 t salt
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 t Cinnamon
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1 T, yes a T of vanilla
3 T water
3 cups oatmeal
8 oz dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup chopped pecans

  1. Mix Flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and set aside

  2. Combine butter and sugars and then add vanilla, water and eggs (1 at a time)

  3. Add ingredients from step #1

  4. By hand mix in oats, chocolate and pecans

  5. refrigerate for 2+ hours

  6. Shape into 11.5 inch balls

  7. Bake on parchment paper for 12-14 minutes

This recipe makes a lot of dough so I am going to freeze and bake more at a later date

Friday, January 29, 2010

Matzo Balls and Meatballs - Is the debate the same?

In the Jewish community there is great debate over matzo balls.

Perspective #1 - small, dense and golf ball like - my dad, aunt, brother and cousin B are in this camp.
Perspective #2 - Light, fluffy and baseball size - my mom, G and I camp here.

While making spaghetti and meatballs last week, per request of my daughter's friend, I started to wonder if Italian families had the same conversations/debates over meatballs. Does the same amount of sarcasm and venom rear its head on holidays in Italian homes? I am an American of Lithuanian decent and and my husband of German so we weren't able to answer the question in-house. I plan pursue this - are soft meatballs superior to hard??

Anyhow, I usually make meatballs with basil and sun dried tomatoes but felt like trying something new, something simple, something light and fluffy. Not knowing where to go I turned to Ina, after all, she cooks, clean, simple food. Sure enough.... I found a recipe that seemed too simple but what the hell, I decided to give it a try. I loved them and the funniest part of all is they were light and fluffy, not hard like my usual ones. Go figure! Everyone really enjoyed the meatballs with my red sauce, I will definitely make these again! And....there was plenty left to freeze, so a few weeks from now we can enjoy them again without the hassle of making them.
Ina's Meatballs

(I used all beef because no matter how many times I try ground pork I can't stand it!)
1/2 LB Ground Pork
1/2 LB Ground Beef
1 Cup fresh white bread crumbs
1/4 Cup dry bread crumbs
2 T chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 Cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 t kosher salt (I thought this was a little much)
1/2 t pepper
1/4 t nutmeg
1 egg
Vegetable Oil
Olive Oil
Add all ingredients in a bowl with 3/4 Cup warm water. GENTLY mix with fork and shape into 2" balls. Add equal parts vegetable oil and olive oil and brown on all sides. Don't over crowd.
Once browned, I add to the sauce and finish cooking in the sauce.

I usually make marinara sauce but per the request of our guest I made meat sauce, yes, even though I was having meatballs they wanted meat sauce, Gotta love carnivores! I simply added 1/2 LB ground beef and 1/2 LB hot Italian sausage.

In the fall I buy a few bushels of Roma tomatoes. I bring them home, wash them and then slow roast them with onions, garlic, olive oil and kosher salt until they collapse. I freeze quart size bags of them, some whole, some pureed, and use all winter when I make sauce, chili etc....

Spaghetti Sauce
1 good size sweet onion
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 t hot pepper flakes
1 qt. tomatoes (You can use a combination of crushed and sauce)
1 t sugar
1/2 Cup Parmesan cheese
handful basil

Saute onion in olive oil adding garlic and pepper flakes after a few minutes. Add tomato, sugar and Parmesan cooking 15 minutes on low. Add basil at the last minute and serve. Tastes like summer all winter long!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Basic Risotto

Creamy, warm, and delicious as either a side dish or as a main course. I prefer to add mushrooms and other delicious ingredients but tonight both kids are here and we are having a very flavorful protein so this more simple version is perfect. Quality ingredients are key to a good risotto so don't skimp on the cheese, stock or wine! I love to add left over shrimp or chicken to the remaining risotto, it carries to goodness through to another day.

4 cups chicken stock
2 T butter
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 T parsley, chopped

  1. Warm stock in pot, cover and keep on low.
  2. Melt 1.5 T butter and saute onion adding garlic after a few minutes. Cook until tender.
  3. Add rice, stir to coat.
  4. Add wine until evaporated.
  5. Add 1/2 cup stock and stir until absorbed.
  6. Continuously stirring add 1/2 cup broth at a time until absorbed then another 1/2 cup etc.. until all stock is used.
  7. Remove from heat.
  8. Stir in peas, parsley, remaining butter, salt, pepper and 1/2 cup cheese.
  9. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of remaining cheese on top

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Spicy Shrimp

This is one of my all time favorites. G and I have been making it for well over a decade, not sure how it evolved but I do know this is the single most requested recipe I have. It is saved in email and on multiple scraps of paper, I am put into panic mode more than once a year when I can't find it believing our email purge process has got the better of me. The paper I am copying from has been well loved, covered with stains, scribbles and a phone number in the 513 area code. Goodbye my friend - off you go into Cyber space.

1 Pound Shrimp -I like 16-24 ct.
2 scallions
2 T Peanut Oil
1 T Ketchup
1 T Tabasco
1 T Soy
2 t fresh ginger, minced
1 t sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 t salt
1/2 t ground cayenne

  1. Chop the white part of the scallion and mix with all ingredients.
  2. Add shrimp and marinade 2-3 hours
  3. Skewer
  4. GRILL, not an indoor grill, not broil or bake. Charcoal preferred!
  5. Sprinkle remaining scallion (Chopped) over de-skewered shrimp

Leftovers are great in salad but there are seldom any left. Great for parties!

Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips

I made a resolution to waste less food. My strategy was to plan before I shopped and to get creative before perishables expired.

Week 1 of the year and I found myself with 4 bananas needing a home. I have no idea what to do with over-ripe bananas except bake banana bread. I'm not a baker but I know this isn't complicated. After looking through at least 4 or 5 cookbooks and 15-20 recipes on the Internet I decided to try the pieces I liked from a few different recipes, after all there was a common denominator in all of them; flour, sugar etc.....
While perusing the recipes I liked the idea of adding butter milk, cinnamon and a few miniature chocolate chips (Which I had left over from holiday baking). I really liked this recipe, it was moist and banana-ee and will make it again; even G liked it and he is hard to please. The bread did fall a little more than previous attempts, I may try to bake is at a lower temperature for a longer period of time, any bakers out there have a better idea, please share if you do!

Here is what I used.

1 1/2 Cups flour
3/4 t baking soda
1/4 t baking powder
1 t vanilla
4 ripe bananas
1/3 Cup butter milk
1 stick butter
1 Cup white sugar
2 T Vegetable Oil
1 egg
1/2 Cup miniature chocolate chips

Preheat to 350 and butter/spray 9" loaf pan
  1. Mix dry ingredients
  2. Beat butter (room temp) and sugar until fluffy, add oil and egg mixing thoroughly
  3. Mix buttermilk, vanilla and 2 mashed bananas
  4. Slowly add flour mixture alternating with the butter mixture until incorporated
  5. Small dice remaining bananas and add to mixture
  6. Fold in chocolate chips
  7. Bake approx 50 minutes
  8. Cool on rack before unmolding