Milk-Chocolate Cookies with Malted Cream

Milk-Chocolate Cookies with Malted Cream from Food & Wine magazine
Holy cow! These were perfection. Delicious, with wonderful consistency. I have had problems in the past with making sandwich cookies and having the filling be too soft for cookies that were too hard, so that filling squished out in the middle when you bite into them, but there were spot-on. The filling had the EXACT consistency of Oreo cookie filling and stayed put exactly as it was supposed to. Definitely have a glass of milk handy. Be really careful with the way that you roll the dough out – I should have rolled mine a little thinner to have thinner completed cookies, but these were still pretty fabulous.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken (two versions) Gallo Pinto (Congri)

Jamaican Jerk Chicken, from Food & Wine magazine
click here for recipe
I recently bought Food & Wine’s new “Quick from Scratch Chicken” magazine/cookbook (there are lots of versions of this cookbook available from different years, some are hardback and some are magazine-style, but this is BRAND NEW and can be found at a magazine stand – it has an olive green cover with chicken and corn-on-the-cob on the front….I can’t find an online photo) and have been making all sorts of yummy things from it (Chicken with Avgolemono, Pad Thai and I’m planning to make Fusilli with Chicken Sausage and Rustic Garlic Chicken soon).
Well, last night was my brother and sister-in-law’s anniversary and since, due to 2.5 week old Baby Jack Henry, they’re still not back into full-fledged “going out” mode, I offered to make them a nice dinner over here (with the stipulation that they MUST bring the baby, of course!) It wasn’t really 100% intentional (Boy had already seen the recipe in the book and had requested that I make it, so it was already in my “make soon” folder,) but I decided to make this, because Little Brother and his wife went on a cruise to Jamaica (and other destinations) for their honeymoon, so I thought this was fitting for their anniversary.
Boy, was that ever a great idea. This stuff was lip-tinglingly DELICIOUS. It was saucy and moist and flavorful without being butt-kicking spicy. I didn’t do the leg quarters, but instead did some whole, boneless, skinless breasts and some boneless, skinless thighs. I wasn’t sure what the baking time should be, so I just used a thermometer and pulled them out when the temperature registered 175 degrees. Man, oh, man… I sliced the breasts up so that we could all taste a little bit of everything. The thighs absorbed more of the sauce and were a little spicier than the breasts. The allspice flavor was very strong, but not overpowering. If it’s not a spice that you really love, you might want to dial that down just a tiny bit. Boy, this was easy, too. Just blend it all up and then pour it over the chicken and bake. Simple and definitely do-ahead. Perfect if you’re having adventuresome dinner guests. I marinated for 24 hours for maximum flavor and I doubled the sauce, because I was cooking extra chicken pieces. If you don’t want it to be extra saucy and spicy, then I would pour off any excess marinade before baking, or simply remove the chicken pieces to another pan, and then I think the sauce would be more like a glaze, as is in the Food & Wine photo.
For the Congri/Gallo Pinto, I basically followed this recipe, but cooked the beans myself, and added a little epazote and, if you ask Little Brother (although he was polite about it), a bit too much cilantro (to me, there is no such thing as too much cilantro…)
All in all, a delicious and fairly simple dinner. Will definitely be a repeat, although I’ll need to tone down the cayenne for the little people that live with me…
For another kid-friendly Jerk Chicken variation, try this.IMG_7081.JPG

Fresh Orange Sorbet

This recipe from Cooking Light magazine is a HUGE winner. Big hit with all four of us and pretty simple to make. I had a hard time getting the sorbet to freeze very firmly in my ice cream freezer, but I got it to be at least slushy and then just put it in a Tupperware in the freezer and gave it a thorough stir about every 15 minutes for the next hour or so, until it was at the right consistency. Another hint: use a vegetable peeler to get the orange rind strips off the orange.

Lemon Cream Spritz Cookies

It seems that I’ve been having some trouble with recipes lately. I hadn’t thought of it that way until I actually started typing up the last few things that I’ve made and I realized that I’ve done a lot of “Plan B” cooking lately (as in, “Oh, that didn’t work so well…let’s go with Plan B.”) These cookies are not an exception. When I first saw them on the amazingly beautiful website Cannelle et Vanille (that’s Cinnamon and Vanilla for you francophobes,) I knew that I had to try them. Citrus desserts (orange, lemon, lime…I’m not picky) are my absolute favorite. I can pass up any kind of chocolate VERY easily, but offer me Key Lime pie and I’ll NEVER say no.
Well, it didn’t seem that this cookie recipe would make very many cookies, so I tried to double it, but when I did and tried to load the (VERY STIFF) dough into a pastry bag, it was too hard to squeeze out into the spritz shapes. It’s also possible that my metric-to-standard conversion attempts were incorrect and I added too much flour, but, what did I do? You guessed it. Plan B. I rolled the dough into logs about 2 inches in diameter and then wrapped them in wax paper and refrigerated them until they were firm enough to slice, and then I baked them as little “coins” instead of spritzes. They were easy and they tasted delicious. The only problem was that the cookies were pretty firm (kind of a shortbread texture?), so the filling had a tendency to squirt out the sides when you eat the cookies. I will definitely try to make these again, but will need to play around with them a little.
The very best thing about this recipe is that it gave me an excuse to buy some lemon oil. This substance is the best thing on the planet. Now that I have some in the house (refrigerate after opening,) I will be finding all kinds of new reasons to use it.
Conversions, for anyone that might be interested in trying this recipe, as-is (I’ll post an updated version if I figure out how to make these work a little better):
For cookies:
110 grams of butter = 1 stick
90 grams of sugar = 1/2 cup minus 1 Tbsp
180 grams of flour = 1 1/2 cup minus 1 Tbsp
2 grams of salt = 1/2 tsp’
For buttercream:
75 grams egg whites = about 2 large egg whites
150 grams sugar = scant (not quite full) 3/4 cup

Orange Cinnamon Rolls

Mmmm…we were recently introduced to canned orange rolls. I had never bought them before, but recently succumbed (if you hadn’t noticed, I am an absolutely sucker for anything orange…) and tried some. They were tooth-achingly sweet and delicious and filled with tender, creamy saturated fat goodness. They were pretty amazing, but not something that I am likely to EVER buy again; they were just a jumping-off point, an inspiration; I knew that I could do better, so I went searching for recipes and came across this one that looked promising.
Mmmm…pretty darned good. I think that it would be impossible to get the canned-roll texture (sort of a combination of white bread and marshmallow fluff?), but the flavor of these was fantastic. I will DEFINITELY be making these again. They were, of course, more trouble to make than the canned version, but not too bad. I made them a day ahead, because of all of the rising time, etc, and then reheated them in the morning. I think that they would be better fresh out of the oven, but I’m not willing to wake up early enough to have them that way.

Panuchos Yucatecos, sort of…

We love making tostadas around here. We always seem to have some extra lettuce, tomato, onion, cilantro and maybe a bit of leftover grilled chicken or taco-seasoned meat and some refried beans and cheese. All you have to do is fry some corn tortillas until they’re crisp and then augment them with your choice of the above toppings (the kids love any opportunity to “build” their own dinner, buffet-style). If you have a little sliced avocado or sour cream, you’re golden. So, when I saw this recipe for Panuchos Yucatecos on Serious Eats, it looked so good, I knew we needed to try it. I mean, really, the beans INSIDE the tortilla? how cool is that? Then you’d have the top completely free to add all kinds of things.
The problem is, though, that when I fried the tortillas, they didn’t puff up and create a “cavity” like the ones in the panuchos recipe, so we ended up pretty much just having our standard tostadas (or chalupas, or whatever you call them in your neck of the woods…) Still tasty, but not exactly the original plan. Contributing further to the failure of this experiment, I made up the pickled onions in advance, but forgot to get them out to serve with the dinner…they were very tasty, but we got about as far away from this original recipe as possible (even though what we did make was quite good), so will definitely have to try again. I’m wondering if the tortillas that I had weren’t fresh enough and if maybe some fresher ones might puff better? I’ll keep you all posted…

Baked Blueberry French Toast

This is a recipe that I came up with when I had some leftover French bread on hand and wanted to use it up. It turned out pretty well as it was, but I will probably adapt it the next time that I make it to make it a little more flavorful. I also wasn’t super crazy about the texture, so I will probably lightly toast the bread cubes before mixing them with the custard next time. All in all, though, a pretty good recipe and definitely something that I will try again.
Baked Blueberry French Toast
1/2 pound French bread, cut into into bite-sized cubes
(I buy the “French Sticks” from HEB frequently and each “stick” is about 1/2 pound)
4 oz cream cheese (half of a “brick”), cut into small dice (about 20 pieces)
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup half and half (or an additional 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream)
1/4 tsp Cinnamon Spice Blend
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp sugar
Cinnamon Sugar (Cinnamon Spice Blend mixed with sugar)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a medium-sized (7″ by 11″ inches?) baking pan with cooking spray. Layer half of the bread cubes into the pan, then sprinkle with half of the cream cheese and half of the blueberries. Repeat layers: bread, cream cheese, blueberries. Whisk together the remaining ingredients (except the cinnamon sugar) and pour over the bread, cheese and fruit. Sprinkle the top generously with the cinnamon sugar. Bake until a knife inserted into the casserole comes out clean (eggs are cooked through) and the top is lightly golden browned (start with 20 minutes and then just watch it; I don’t remember exactly how long it took to cook). If the top starts to burn, cover it lightly with foil.

Enchilada Casserole

IMG_6990 (2).JPG
Enchilada Casserole from Cooking Light magazine, recipe here.
Meh. This was OK. Just OK. Hubby actually liked it, but it was a little “cafeteria” for my taste. Probably won’t make again, but I might try to adapt it into something else and try again. It is as easy do-ahead and can be made in the Crock-Pot, which I suppose can be helpful and it’s meatless (so it’s healthy and environmentally friendly), but I think there are other recipes that are probably faster and better. There are some other Crock Pot ideas in this article that might be better options.

The Greatest Waffle Recipe Ever?

Click here for recipe.
When I saw this recipe billed on Serious Eats as the “Greatest Waffle Recipe Ever,” I knew that I had to give it a try. There are quite a few steps to preparing the batter, and I wasn’t crazy about having to dirty three mixing bowls to make it (one for the wet ingredients, one for the dry and one for the egg whites,) but you really can’t argue with results; they were delicious. They were rich, but light, crisp and tasty, the perfect foil for your choice of syrup and/or topping (powdered sugar for Girl, birch syrup for Boy, boysenberry syrup for me and maple syrup for Hubby.)
I added a bit (1/4 to 1/2 tsp?) of McCormick’s Vanilla, Butter & Nut extract and a shake or two of Cinnamon Spice Blend to the batter, just to punch up the flavor a little. If that’s not your style, then a tiny bit of plain vanilla would still be nice, I think. The batter is VERY thick and must be evenly spooned onto the waffle iron; it will NOT pour. At all. In fact, you almost have to spread it a little to get it on over the whole thing. Worth the effort, though.