Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Oaty Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies

In marriage, we often have to make sacrifices. We give a little, our spouse gives a little, we both compromise. One thing I’m not compromising on is my oatmeal cookies. Not only does my wife not like oatmeal cookies, she doesn’t like raisins, either. Too bad for her. These are great cookies. All the more for me, I guess. If it weren’t for the children, anyway.

Most oatmeal cookie recipes just don’t have as much oaty flavor as I’d like. This recipe is different. It actually has more oats than flour. The raisins balance the heartiness of the oats with fruity sweetness. Too bad they get eaten so fast. Oh, well. Munch all you want. I’ll make more.

Equipment needed
Measuring cups and spoons
Parchment paper (optional)
2 Rimmed baking sheets
Mixing bowls
Rubber spatula
Hand-held mixer
Ice cream scoop (optional)
Cooling racks

2 sticks butter (16 tablespoons), softened
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups raisins

Adjust oven racks to the upper and lower middle positions. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Farenheit.

Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper (or use cooking spray).

Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg together in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar using a hand mixer on medium speed, until blended and fluffy. While the mixer is running, add the eggs, one at a time, until well combined. Scrape down the beaters and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture, mixing until combined. Add the oats and raising and mix until just incorporated.

Using and ice-cream scoop, scoop up about 1/4 cup of dough per cookie, placing them on the two lined baking sheets about 2 1/2-inches apart. You should get about 10 cookies per baking sheet. Gently flatten the cookies with the palm of your hand.

If you don’t have a good ice cream scoop, you can roll the dough into balls with your hands.

Bake in the oven until the tops are lightly golden, but the centers are still soft and puffy, about 25 minutes. Swap and rotate the baking sheets halfway through baking.

Remove the cookies and let them cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes. Transfer them to a wire cooling rack to finish cooling, or serve warm. With milk.

Makes 20 cookies.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Greek Salad, Hold the Lettuce

When my wife thinks of a green salad, she thinks of iceberg lettuce with ranch dressing on it. That is not a green salad. Who said green salad had to have lettuce? Not me. Certainly not the Greeks. Fortunately, they have a very nice green salad that focuses on fresh cucumbers and raw onions. Don’t get me wrong, you can add lettuce if you want. Romaine hearts would work really well with this recipe, but you don’t need them.

This recipe uses feta cheese, but you could use any mild cheese such as Romano or even cottage cheese. Just make sure to chill the salad well and don’t dress it until just before serving.

Equipment Needed
Measuring cups and spoons
Cutting board
Chef’s knife
Vegetable peeler
Garlic press (optional)
Mixing bowls

2 medium tomatoes
1/2 cucumber
1 small onion
1 small green pepper

for the dressing
12 kalamata olives, pitted and finely chopped
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsps lemon juice
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Chopped parsley for garnish

Peel the cucumber, cut in half and remove the seeds with a spoon. Cut into 1/2-inch slices.

Peel and half the onion. Cut each half into thin slices.

Remove the stem and seeds from the green pepper. Slice into thin, horizontal strips.

Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the seeds. Chop into 3/4-inch pieces.

In a bowl, toss together to cucumber, onion, tomato and green pepper. Chill until ready to serve.

When it’s time to serve, prepare the dressing. Place the minced garlic into a small mixing bowl. Add the salt, pepper and lemon juice. Whisk together. Add the chopped olives and mix in. Keep whisking while slowly adding the olive oil. Add the feta cheese and mix it in, as well.

Add the chilled vegetables to the dressing and toss to coat. Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve in individual bowls.

Makes 4 servings.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Vegetable Soup

Classic vegetable soup is an odd form of comfort food for me. My mother used to served canned vegetable soup from time to time and, to be honest, I didn’t like it. Little did I know that making it myself would change my feelings. This recipe, stolen from America’s Test Kitchen, is delicious. It’s comfort food, improved on.

To improve the flavor, cook the vegetables over low heat using some of the same techniques as quick soups. This draws out the natural sweetness of the vegetables and improves the flavor of store-bought vegetable broth. You could make this with chicken broth, but I don’t recommend it. This soup is much better when the vegetables take center stage. If you’d like, replace the potatoes with a can of white beans. Just drain and rinse them before adding to the pot.

Equipment Needed
Cutting board
Chef’s knife
Garlic press
Fine-mesh strainer
Measuring cups and spoons
Dutch oven or large pot (6 quart)
Vegetable peeler
Large spoon
Mixing bowls

1 onion, minced
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium russet potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt as needed
5 cups vegetable broth
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
Ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or 6 quart pot over medium-low heat until shimmering. Stir in the onion, celery, carrots, garlic, and 3/4 tsp salt. Cover and cook until soft, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.

Stir in the broth, potatoes, and tomatoes. Bring to simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the peas and remove from the heat. Let the soup stand for 2 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 6 servings.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Weeknight Tacos

For quick and tasty tacos on a weeknight, don’t resort a store-bought kit. Stale spice packets laden with chemicals and excess sodium are aren’t welcome. A simple combination of herbs and spices, along with chopped onion and tomato, will give your family the taste they crave. And you’ll only spend about 30 minutes making dinner.

To save time and get everyone involved, have your kids prepare your family’s favorite taco toppings while you cook the meat. For us that means shredded cheese, lettuce and chopped tomatoes, salsa and sour cream. Feel free to add avocados, onions and minced peppers. Whatever you like!

Equipment Needed
Cutting board
Chef’s knife
Measuring cups and spoons
Garlic press (optional)
12-inch skillet
Large spoon

1 medium yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp canola oil
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt as needed
1 pound ground beef (the leaner the better)
1/2 cup canned tomato sauce
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp brown sugar
8 taco shells (homemade are best)

Peel and mince the onion into 1/8-inch pieces. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet until shimmering. Add the onion, along with a pinch of salt, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the ground beef cook until no-longer pink, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Drain the excess fat.

Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, 1 tsp salt and cayenne pepper. Stir in and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more.

Add the tomato sauce, chicken broth, vinegar and sugar. Stir and simmer until very thick, about 10 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Divide the filling evenly among the taco shells and serve with desired toppings. Serve with a simple green salad for a complete meal.

Makes 4 servings.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Emergency (Wartime) Chocolate Cake

In 1918, the Royal Baking Powder Company of New York created a book of recipes, called Real War Recipes, designed to save on eggs, butter, milk and wheat flour.  The book was written in response to a call by the Conservation Division of the United States Food Administration, who was shipping such ingredients to Europe in support of our allies in the war effort and feeding a starving populace. While this modern recipe for Emergency Chocolate Cake didn’t appear in their book, it is inspired by typical recipes of the time.

Many people are under the impression that the name, Emergency Chocolate Cake, is in reference to the fact that it can be cooked to quickly, and with little effort, to quickly appease their chocolate cravings. While I can sympathize with that sentiment, it’s simply not the case. It refers to to the wartime situation and takes into account rationing during wartime efforts. Because of that, it's also a great cake for using food storage staples.

This cake is very easy to make. It’s moist and super rich, jam packed with chocolate flavor. It’s so rich, in fact, that you may want to make sure you’ve got a glass of milk on hand. It can be served straight from the pan or turned out and dusted with powdered sugar or a bit of whipped cream.

Equipment Needed
Measuring cups and spoons
8-inch square baking pan
Mixing bowls
Rubber spatula
Cooling rack

Cooking spray
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup cocoa powder (Dutch-processed is best)
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
Confectioners sugar (optional)

Place an oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Coat an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and baking soda.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and water together until smooth. Add the mayonnaise and vanilla. Whisk until well blended and smooth. Add the mayonnaise mixture to the flour mixture and mix until well combined into a smooth batter.

Using a rubber spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan, smoothing the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with only a few crumbs, about 40 minutes. Remove the cake  and place the pan on a wire cooling rack. Let cool in the pan 1 to 2 hours.

Cut into squares and serve straight from the pan or turn the cake out onto a serving plate. Dust with powdered sugar if desired, or serve with whipped cream.

Makes 9 servings.