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Awesomest Cookie Ever?!

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I love cookies. For health reasons, I generally avoid buying any cookies that I like, to eliminate the temptation. Unfortunately, my wife brought home some chocolate chunk cookies recently and I reaquainted myself with love! They came from Chik-Fil-A and I don’t really know anything else about them…I don’t even know how much they cost. I just know that they were GOOD! (If Chick-Fil-A would like to send me free chicken sandwiches, I’ll be glad to stop by my local location to pick them up!)

So, now I’m at home, following a minor surgery, and can’t drive while on pain meds…and I’m craving cookies! My first choice would be white chocolate/macadamia  cookies, but I don’t have those ingredients on hand. After some research, I found a chocolate chunk cookie recipe by reknowned New York chocolatier, Jacques Torres. Now, Mr. Torres would probably be horrified, but; despite my “foodie” status, I’m not a big fan of most dark chocolates. I like the sweet/creamy flavor of milk chocolate. And, since I have some other ingredients that I want to use before they go stale, I’m also thowing in some butterscotch chips and pecan pieces. One other change: I’m substituting whole wheat flour for the pastry flour, because I don’t keep pastry flour on hand. The texture probably won’t be as light, but I like the nuttiness of whole wheat flour. So, with all due repect to Jacques Torres, could this be the awesomest cookie ever?!  Well, they are darn good!!! (I still love me some macadamias, though!) I got 2 dozen BIG cookies and 10 smaller ones. Here’s the original recipe* with my changes…so you could try it either way! Or do your own thing! Enjoy!

Jacques Torres’ Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Makes twenty-six 5-inch cookies or 8 1/2 dozen 1 1/4-inch cookies

Ingredients

Ingredients

Ingredients

1 pound unsalted butter

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

2 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar

4 large eggs

3 cups plus 2 tablespoons pastry flour (substituting whole wheat flour)

3 cups bread flour

1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

2 pounds bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (substituting 11.5oz milk choc. Chips, 11oz butterscotch chips, and 6oz pecan pieces)

Directions

– Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats; set aside.

– In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars.

Creaming butter and sugars.

Creaming butter and sugars.

– Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Always break the eggs into a bowl...so you can make sure no shells go into the cookies.

Always break the eggs into a bowl…so you can make sure no shells go into the cookies.

– Reduce speed to low and add both flours, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, and chocolate; mix until well combined. (I was able to add the pecan to the mixer, but I had to add the by hand. This is a pretty large recipe!)

Mixing in the chips.

Mixing in the chips.

– Using a 4-ounce scoop for larger cookies or a 1-ounce scoop for smaller cookies, scoop cookie dough onto prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. (I used a #12 disher/ice cream scoop, which is 2-2/3 ozand I only got 6 per 1/2 sheet pan)

Big balls ofcookie dough!

Big balls of cookie dough!

– Bake until lightly browned, but still soft, about 20 minutes for larger cookies and about 15 minutes for smaller cookies.

Out of the oven.

Out of the oven.

– Cool slightly on baking sheets before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

*I found the original recipe on someone else’s Pinterest site and do not know if it has ever been published elswhere or has copyrights established, so I am making every effort to give Jacques Torres credit.

https://www.mrchocolate.com/

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Left: Pickled Pineapple w/Basil; Right: Pickled Muscadine Grape Leaves and Yellow Squash with Dill and Lime Wedges
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Pineapple Pickles

I recently was playing around with trying to pickle some muscadine grape leaves. I think it was successful, but the muscadine leaves are so small, and they are difficult to handle after blanching. I wound up adding some yellow squash slices to fill the jar, plus some lime wedges and fresh dill. I doubt I’ll ever do it again and I have no idea what I’ll do with the leaves. Maybe the squash slices will be good? Anyway, I had some leftover brine; so I decided to use it with some fresh pineapple that I had in the refrigerator.

The brine was a one to one ratio of apple cider vinegar and water, plus kosher salt. I used a cup each of the liquids and 1/8 c. salt. The pineapple was in large wedges, so I removed the core and cut into “spears”. I put the pineapple into a jar, added a few leaves of fresh basil, and then covered with hot brine. I sealed the jar and processed in boiling water bath for 15 minutes. If these turn out to be good, I’ll probably experiment more and do some larger batches.

Update 5/22/15: Tasted the pickled pineapple and it was pretty good! Definitely has a sweet/sour thing going on. I’m not sure if I get the basil. I put the rest in the refrigerator  and will try it again chilled. I bought another pineapple and removed the peel and core to make tepache, a fermented Mexican pineapple drink. I only use the peel and core for the tepache, so I decided to pickle the fruit. I went with 1-1/2 cups each water and apple cider vinegar with 1/4 cup kosher salt and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Added a stick of cinnamon and boiled. Removed from heat andtossed in a couple sprigs of rosemary. I packed the pineapple into 3 pint jars, divided the cinnamon stick androsemary between the jar, added brine to a headspace of about 1/4″ and sealed. I processed the jars for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. I went back and tasted the brine and it was EXTREMELY salty. It may be okay for pickling…but maybe not. We’ll see. Hey, it’s just a pineapple!

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Sauerkraut, Batch #2

Ready to fill jars with kraut.

Ready to fill jars with kraut.

Sauerkraut, batch #2 is ready to eat! First, I’m providing a link to my original sauerkraut post, in case you are interested in the recipe/process:

https://mmmfoodies.wordpress.com/2014/09/18/oh-come-on-make-and-eat-sauerkraut/

The end of the post in this link also includes the beginning of the current batch of sauerkraut. There’s also a link for the end of the first batch and how I prepared a dish utilizing it:

https://mmmfoodies.wordpress.com/2014/11/02/sauerkraut-is-ready-lets-cook-some-brats/

As I noted in the previous post, when I began the current batch, this batch was sliced thinner. It looks really good and is just a few days short of processing for 2 months. I try to make sure that I have enough jars ready ahead of time. I washed and sanitized four 1 qt jars and only needed 3. I also sanitized clean tongs, funnel, lids and rings.

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I packed the jars a little less than full and topped off with remaining juices. Lids were put in place and screwed down finger-tight. Jars went into the back of the refrigerator and will last almost indefinitely. Ready for some keilbasa!!!

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Pesto Bechamel Lasagna with Artichokes and Pine Nuts

Pesto Bechamel Lasagna with Artichokes and Pine Nuts

Pesto Bechamel Lasagna with Artichokes and Pine Nuts

I decided to create this lasagna after having seen similar ingredients used in a different dish. I thought,”Ooh, that would make a great lasagna!”. So, I picked up a few ingredients at the grocery store that I didn’t already have on hand and I sat down and wrote the recipe.

Most of the ingredients for the lasagna.

Most of the ingredients for the lasagna.

As I worked my way through the recipe, I tweaked it to follow what I actually found while making the dish. A couple of observations: I had three layers and no problems. I used an 11″x13″ baking dish and I had to break a few noodles to fill in some space where whole noodles would not fit…no problem. You could use a smaller dish and make more layers, but make sure you leave some room at the top, so that the sauce won’t bubble out while cooking. Also, I started with 8oz of mozzarella and upped it to 12oz, because I ran out and opened another bag. On the other hand, I didn’t quite use all of the parmesan cheese. Cheese should be to your liking. Additionally, I used cottage cheese, instead of ricotta, because I don’t care for ricotta. To me, it’s just to dense and pastey. The cottage cheese is lighter and creamy. I bought a one pound container and used a little over half. The toasted pine nuts were a terrific addition. You could skip them…I know that they are expensive, but a few tablespoons really make a big difference!

So good!!!

So good!!!

Toasting pine nuts...carefully!

Toasting pine nuts…carefully!

I also made some fettucine alfredo for my kids and had a little extra alfredo sauce, so I drizzled a little on the top of my serving. It wasn’t really necessary, but it looked nice. I didn’t have any leftover pesto bechamel, but if I had, I would have used it for a little drizzle. Finally, I chopped whole artichoke bottoms into a medium dice.

Chopping canned artichoke bottoms.

Chopping canned artichoke bottoms.

You could use hearts, if you like, but sometimes you get a fibrous leaf or two…no big deal, but maybe not the best idea for guests. And I don’t think you would want to use “marinated” artichokes…just plain, canned. My wife thanked me for leaving out mushrooms…she has lost her taste for them recently, for some reason. But, in my head, I was thinking how good some sautéed mushrooms would have been! I hope you’ll try this recipe! If you do, leave me a comment on what you think of the recipe…and enjoy!

Pesto & Artichoke Béchamel Lasagna

(Using “No Boil” Noodles)

Ingredients:

1 box “No Boil” Lasagna Noodles

1 small jar prepared Pesto

1 12oz bag shredded Mozzarella (or more, if you like)

1 8oz bag shredded Parmesan

1 container small curd Cottage Cheese (or Ricotta)

1 can Artichoke Bottoms, drained and chopped medium

2 T. Pine Nuts, toasted (for garnish)

For the Béchamel:

2 c. Half’n’Half

1 c. 1% Milk

1 small Shallot, chopped fine (or sub. sweet onion and a garlic clove)

3 T. Butter

3 T. all-purpose Flour

2 c. Vegetable Stock

Pinch of Salt

 

Directions:

Make the béchamel. Melt butter over medium-low heat in a sauce pan. Sauté shallot for 2 minutes, whisk in Flour, whisk until the Flour and Butter are well combined. Add Half’n’Half and Milk. Increase heat and bring to a simmer and allow to thicken/reduce for a few minutes. Add vegetable stock and continue to simmer for a couple more minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in jar of Pesto.

Roux

Roux

Bechamel

Bechamel

Pesto Bechamel

Pesto Bechamel

Assemble the Lasagna: Cover the bottom of an 11”x13” baking dish with Béchamel. Cover the béchamel with Lasagna Noodles and cover with Béchamel.

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Start with pesto bechamel.

Dot the surface with small spoonsful of Cottage Cheese (or ricotta). Next, spread a layer of Mozzarella Cheese and follow with a light layer of Parmesan. Evenly sprinkle chopped Artichokes. Repeat with another layer and then finish with Béchamel and Cheeses.

Lasagna noodles and toppings.

Lasagna noodles and toppings.

Ready to bake.

Ready to bake.

Cover tightly with foil and bake at 375F for 50 minutes.

Baked for 50 minutes, covered.

Baked for 50 minutes, covered.

After another 10 minutes, uncovered.

After another 10 minutes, uncovered. Garnished with pine nuts.

Remove foil and put under a broiler for a couple of minutes to brown a bit and bubble the cheese on top (or bake additional 10 minutes). Allow to set up for a couple of minutes while toasting the Pine Nuts in a small frying pan over medium heat for a couple of minutes…move frequently and do not burn! Sprinkle Pine Nuts evenly over the lasagna, cut into squares and serve.

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Caribbean Crock Pot Pork with Mango

Crock Pot ready to go!

Crock Pot ready to go!

Inspired by my sister, who is married to a native of Trinidad, I came up with this Crock Pot dish.  The main ingredients  are Country Style Ribs, Badia brand Sazon Tropical seasoning, Matouk’s West Indian Hot Sauce, Chief Green Seasoning and a mango. The seasoning and sauces can be found in some grocery stores in the Latino section or at Mexican or Caribbean specialty stores.

I started by adding some of the Green Seasoning and West Indian Hot Sauce to the bottom of the Crock pot and set the pot on “low” to begin heating. The hot sauce is potent…use sparing! And adjust to your preference.

Sauces in the bottom of the Crock Pot.

Sauces in the bottom of the Crock Pot.

The Sazon seasoning is sprinkled liberally on all sides of the meat. The tumeric in the seasoning will color your hands, if you touch it…you could use tongs or wear food handling gloves, if you like.

Seasoning the meat.

Seasoning the meat.

Brown the meat on all sides in a preheated frying pan with a little hot vegetable oil. Remove the meat and deglaze the pan with water or a little apple cider.

Browning the meat.

Browning the meat.

Begin layering the meat into the Crock Pot and add fresh mango pieces, more hot sauce and green seasoning. It doesn’t require a lot…maybe a teaspoon of hot sauce and a couple of tablespoons of the green seasoning (I just did it freehand).

Layering in the Crock Pot.

Layering in the Crock Pot.

Put the top on the Crock Pot and cook on low setting for about 6-ish hours, until very tender. (see top photo). About halfway through, I moved the meat around to ensure even cooking. When done, take out the meat and strain the juices.

Separating the fat/liquid/sediment.

Separating the fat/liquid/sediment.

Straining the juices.

Straining the juices.

I actually refrigerated mine overnight and let the fat harden, the juices gelatinize, and the sediment drop to the bottom. The next day, I removed and discarded the fat. I took out the gelatinized juices and discarded the sediment. I put the meat into an oven-safe dish, distributed the jellied juices over the top, and covered with a disk of parchment paper (optional) and sealed with foil. I reheated the meat in a 350F oven for about 45 minutes.

When the meat came out of the oven, I separated it from the juices again, broke it up to serve and moistened with the juices, as desired.

Out of the oven.

Out of the oven.

And plated:

Serving suggestions.

Serving suggestions.

Left: with simple rice and corn; Right: with quinoa and a lentil, tofu, tomato curry. This dish is really very adaptable and easy. I have also made it with the meat marinated in sour oranges juice and the hot sauce and green sauce,  and no mango. You could serve right from the crock pot, but I would still remove the meat, strain the juices and skim the fat. Enjoy!

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Sauerkraut is Ready! Let’s Cook Some Brats!

Rinsing and draining homemade sauerkraut.

Rinsing and draining homemade sauerkraut.

I started my batch of homemade sauerkraut on September 18th and today is November 2nd. That’s makes right at about 6 weeks. I opened the fermentation bucket and, with a sanitized spoon, I removed the plate that was keeping everything weighted down and removed a sample. Yes! It tastes like sauerkraut! Here’s the September 18th entry:

https://mmmfoodies.wordpress.com/2014/09/18/oh-come-on-make-and-eat-sauerkraut/

I removed a few cups of the kraut to a colander.  I stirred the sauerkraut around and pushed it below the surface of the liquid again. I sanitized the plate and put it back in place and resealed the bucket. I’ll divide it into quart jars and refrigerate it later. I rinsed the kraut in the colander and placed it in an oven-safe souffle dish.

Sauerkraut, rinsed and drained.

Sauerkraut, rinsed and drained.

I topped the kraut with some fresh brats

Brats on top of t he kraut and home brewed beer sample.

Brats on top of t he kraut and home brewed beer sample.

and I added some uncarbonated beer that I removed as a test sample from a batch I am brewing. Covered it with foil and placed it in a 425F oven.

Covered and in a 425F oven for 30 minutes.

Covered and in a 425F oven for 30 minutes.

Cooked for 30 minutes and uncovered and returned to the oven for another 15 minutes. Lowered the oven to 350F. Baking some potatoes as well and they’re done (And my son just HAD to have a kid’s TV dinner…uck. But he picked it.)

Brats, cooked on top of homemade sauerkraut...and some spuds and my son's TV dinner.

Brats, cooked on top of homemade sauerkraut…and some spuds and my son’s TV dinner.

With a few minutes to go, I turned the sausage, just to brown them a little more. The sausage and kraut were delicious! A little brown mustard on the side and served with peas and baked potato. Awesome!

Great meal. with homemade sauerkraut!

Great meal. with homemade sauerkraut!

Update: 11/3/14

Packaging the sauerkraut.

Packaging the sauerkraut.

Packaging the sauerkraut…I sanitized some quart size canning jars and filled them with sauerkraut, then added the brine to cover and put the lids on.

Ready to package the sauerkraut for the refrigerator.

Ready to package the sauerkraut for the refrigerator.

I understand that this kraut will continue to ferment very slowly under refrigeration and will last a very long time, so I’m not going to bother to process the jars for shelf-stable storage (although, I could), I would rather keep it fresh and maintain the macrobiotic properties. If I cook it, that benefit will be compromised, but that decision can be made depending on the recipe.

I was able to pack four 1-quart jars, plus a single pint jar of sauerkraut.

Ready to refrigerate.

Ready to refrigerate.

Additionally, I brined the cabbage cores along with the kraut. Some people evidently like to eat them like pickles…so, I stuffed those into a pint jar and put everything into the refrigerator.

Saurkraut core pickles.

Saurkraut core pickles.

Oh, one more little side treat: I have a few ounces of the brine left over. I’m going to chill that and add an ounce of vodka to it for a little probiotic nightcap later. (No, seriously! There are those who say that drinking sauerkraut juice is really good for you! The vodka…not so much. But I have to make it worth the try!).

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Is That Carton of Eggs Almost Out of Date?

 

Pickled eggs. Cue the banjoes.

Pickled eggs. Seriously.

Do you have a carton of eggs in your refrigerator? What’s the expiration date on them? If you’re within a few days and have no immediate plans to use them, what should you do? Pickle them! That’s right. Pickle them. I know, you’ve been in that little country store…dueling banjos playing in the background…and there’s a big  jar of pickled eggs on the counter. Right next to the jar of pickled pig’s feet. Have you ever seen anybody purchase either? Somebody has to be eating them, right?!  Well, I don’t know about the trotters, but let’s talk  eggs.

Eggs that are closer to their expiration are actually better candidates for boiling than fresh eggs. It’s a food science and chemistry thing. But if you boil a dozen eggs, are you going to use them before they go bad anyway? I don’t know…if you love boiled eggs or have a big party and plan on making deviled eggs, then maybe. If not, consider pickling them. Here’s the deal: a pickled egg practically lasts forever. The amazing thing is that the yolk stays practically pristine. The white eventually gets a different texture…less tender, more springy…and they pick up a little of the flavor from the pickling brine.

If you have several eggs, you can leave a few in the shell and refrigerated for eating or using in recipes in the next week. Whatever you anticipate will not be used that quickly can be shelled and pickled. Yes, you can eat a pickled egg, as is; however, you can use them in just about any recipe calling for hardboiled eggs. My favorites are tuna and chicken salads.

First, boil the eggs. My preferred method is to place the eggs in a single layer in a pan and cover them with cold water. Bring the water just to a boil, remove the pan from the heat, cover, and set a timer for 13 minutes. When the time is up, remove the eggs from the hot water with a slotted spoon or strainer amd submerge them in a bowl of ice water. When thoroughly chilled, refrigerate;  or peel and pickle.

For the pickling, have a clean quart sized canning jar ready with a lid and screw ring. In a pot on the stove, add 1-1/2 cups water, 1/2 cup white vinegar, a couple of garlic cloves, a pinch of red pepper flakes, dry dillweed, and dill seeds. You could use a fresh frond or two of dill, instead of the dry dillweed, if you like.bring everything to a boil and remove from heat and allow to cool.  Pour the brine and herbs/spices into the canning jar.  Drop the hardboiled eggs into the brine…you can fit up to about 10 large eggs in a quart jar. Put the lid in place and screw the threaded ring down to seal. Place jar in the refrigerator and store pretty much indefinitely. If you haven’t used them in, like, a year, you could toss them, if you’re concerned. I doubt that will happen, though. They’re so convenient!

To use in a tuna or chicken salad, I cut an egg in half and remove the yolk. I crumble the yolk with the tuna or chicken. I then chop the white and throw it in. Add a tablespoon each of dill pickle relish or salad cubes and finely diced celery. Add a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise (I like Duke’s!) and a pinch of salt and pepper. From there, you can be creative and add a little curry powder, some halved, seedless grapes, some toasted or candied pecans…whatever. Or, you could just cut an egg in half..salt, pepper, and eat! Enjoy!

 

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