Brown Butter Molasses Cookies

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No matter where I am in NYC, I can most likely name the neighborhood’s best cookie. Dumbo? Jacques Torres. Upper West Side? Levain, no doubt. Union Square? Try the chocolate chip at Paradis. Oh, and City Bakery. A solid cup of coffee alongside is a non-negotiable.

 
Call it old fashioned, but I love a classic molasses cookie. You don’t see them very often at bake shops. I’ve heard Pushcart Coffee has a good one.. I grew up eating my grandmother’s soft, chewy version, rolled in sugar. They were stored in a cookie tin with a piece of bread to keep them fresh (p.s. that trick works).

 
Using her recipe as inspiration, along with an updated mix of spices from December’s Bon Appetit, I’ve created a cookie fit for the holidays. Browning the butter is an extra step that gives these cookies some nuttiness. The combination of dark molasses and brown sugar lends some drama. A sprinkle of ginger, cinnamon and cardamom are a bit spicy, in a good way. Don’t forget to roll them in sugar, preferably the raw stuff (grab a couple more packets when you get your coffee). Which you’ll definitely want to be drinking while you eat one of these.

Brown Butter Molasses Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen

Adapted from Bon Appetit

  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup dark molasses
  • ¼ cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • Raw sugar, for rolling
  1. Heat oven to 375°. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until foaming subsides and butter turns a nutty dark brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  2. Whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and salt in a small bowl. Whisk egg, brown butter butter, granulated sugar, molasses, and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Mix in dry ingredients just to combine. Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour or up to 24 hours.
  3. Place raw sugar in a shallow bowl. Scoop out dough by the tablespoonful and roll into balls. Roll in sugar and place on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 2” apart. Using the heel of your hand, press down on cookies to flatten slightly. Sprinkle with a bit more raw sugar on top.
  4. Bake cookies, rotating baking sheets halfway through, until cookies are puffed, cracked, and just set around edges (over-baked cookies won’t be chewy), 8–10 minutes. You may have to bake the cookies in batches. Transfer to wire racks and let cool. Store in an airtight container with a piece of bread to keep them fresh for days.

Pan-Roasted Pork with Date-Cilantro Relish

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Full disclosure: this is not a turkey. There is no cranberry sauce alongside. I wouldn’t suggest serving it with gravy. Truth be told, I’m a little turkey-d out, and Thanksgiving is still days away. Between Friendsgivings and T-day cooking classes, I’m approaching poultry burnout.

#chefproblems

If you’ve never cooked pork tenderloin, or you’re a bit rusty, try this method. By searing the meat first in a hot pan, then transferring the pan into a heated oven (aka pan roasting) you ensure the meat is cooked evenly (aka not dried out). You also free up some space on your stove if you’ve got a side dish working. The tenderloin is very lean, so watch it carefully and test with a meat thermometer so it doesn’t overcook.

I am smitten with this date-cilantro relish. Medjool dates, orange and cilantro go surprisingly well with roasted pork. OK, it also goes surprisingly well with chicken, too. And yes, turkey.

Pan-Roasted Pork with Date-Cilantro Relish

I served this with crispy roasted cauliflower with lemon and parsley. Sauteed greens, roasted root vegetables or brussels sprouts would be nice, too.

Serves 3-4

Adapted slightly from Bon Appetit

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pork tenderloin (about 1½ lb.)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ⅔ cup Medjool dates (about 4 oz.), pitted and cut into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro plus leaves for serving

Heat oven to 425F. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large ovenproof skillet (like cast iron) over medium-high heat.

Pat dry pork and season well on all sides with salt and pepper. Sear pork in hot pan, turning to brown on all sides, about 8 minutes.

Transfer skillet to heated oven and continue to roast pork until temperature reaches 140F, about 10-15 minutes. Allow pork to rest before slicing, setting aside the pan drippings.

Combine dates, orange zest, orange juice, 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro, pork pan drippings and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Slice pork against the grain (into medallions) and spoon relish over pork. Garnish with cilantro leaves.

Brown Butter Brownies

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I first made these simple chocolate brownies last Valentine’s Day. They were topped with dulce de leche ice cream and washed down with lots of champagne (gal pal holidays at their finest). They were so good, I found myself turning to the recipe about once a month. Dressed up with Maldon sea salt, they were perfect for dinner parties. Spiked with espresso and more dark chocolate, they made the trip to Long Beach Island.

If you’re looking for a cake-like, vaguely chocolate, somewhat sandy brownies, don’t make these. These are intensely chocolatey, rich, dense. They rely on a combination of brown butter and cocoa powder and very little flour. What I like most (besides their taste) is their versatility. For holiday appeal, I added a dash of peppermint extract to the batter and covered them warm with crushed candy canes. Wrapped in parchment and cellophane, they’d make a great gift.

Brown Butter Brownies 

From Bon Appetit

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, chilled
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all purpose flour

  1. Preheat oven to 325F. Line an 8×8 baking pan with foil; coat with cooking spray.
  2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until butter stops foaming and brown bits form at the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat.
  3. To the saucepan, add sugar, cocoa, 2 tsp. water, vanilla and a large pinch of salt. Stir to blend then allow to cool slightly.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, whisking throughly after each addition. When mixture looks shiny, add flour and stir until thoroughly blended (may take about a minute). Stir in mix-ins (optional).
  5. Bake brownies until toothpick inserted comes out almost clean, about 25 minutes. Do not overbake!! Cool slightly then transfer to the freezer for a bit – this will make them easier to slice into clean squares.

Luck of the Irish Soda Bread

Another holiday, another festive carb. St. Patrick’s Day is fast approaching and what better way to celebrate than to bake up a big ol’ loaf of Irish soda bread?

If you’re new to quick breads, this is a good place to start and yields some fairly impressive results (just LOOK at that thing!) Soda bread is a cinch to make – it’s basically a glorified biscuit.

According to the ever-so-accurate Wikipedia the traditional cross placed on the bread was thought to ward off the devil or fairies. Now if that’s not a reason to make this bread, I don’t know what it.

Another bit of Emerald Isle food trivia – did you know that ‘champ’ is an Irish term for mashed potatoes with scallions? Who knew? Thank you to Kitty Hoynes in Syracuse for the clarification.

Irish Soda Bread

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flour plus more for the counter

1 cup cake flour

2 T. sugar

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar OR lemon juice

1 1/2 tsp. salt

3 T. unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1 cup raisins or currants

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment or spray with vegetable oil spray.

Whisk the flours, sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar or lemon juice and salt together. Work 2 T. of the butter into the dry ingredients with a fork until the texture resembles course crumbs. Stir in the buttermilk and raisins with a fork until the dough begins to come together. Turn out onto a lightly floured counter. Knead just until the dough becomes cohesive and bumpy, about 30 seconds (do NOT knead until smooth).

Pat the dough into a 6-inch round about 2 inches thick. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Cut an X into the top of the loaf using a serrated knife. Bake until the oaf is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 40 to 45 minutes.

REmove the loaf from the oven and transfer to a wire rack. Melt the remaining 1 T. butter and brush over the top. Sprinkle with a little sugar, if desired. Let the loaf cool for 1 hour.

-Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

Will you be my Valentine? Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies

Red velvet cheesecake brownies. Who wouldn’t  like to receive these on February 14th? I’ve taken my favorite red-hued cake and morphed it into a brownie. A swirl of cheesecake on top is a nod to the customary cream cheese frosting. I cut these babies into teeny squares and placed them in mini muffin liners. How’s that for a box of chocolates?

Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2-oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp red food coloring
  • 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 8-oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 8 inch metal baking pan. Put a long piece of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan, letting the parchment extend up two sides of the pan and overhang slightly on both ends. (This will make it easy to remove the bars from the pan after they have baked.) Butter the parchment.

In a small, heatproof bowl, melt butter and chocolate together. Stir until combined and very smooth. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and red food coloring. Add chocolate mixture and stir until smooth. Add flour and salt and stir until just combined and no streaks of dry ingredients remain.

Pour into prepared pan and spread into an even layer.

To prepare cheesecake mixture, beat cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla extract in a medium bowl until smooth. Distribute the cheesecake mixture in 8 dollops over batter in the pan. Swirl in with a knife or spatula.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until brownies and cheesecake are set. A knife inserted into the cheesecake mixture should come out clean and the edges will be lightly browned.

Let cool completely in pan on a cooling rack before lifting out the parchment paper to remove the brownies.

Source: Sweet Pea’s Kitchen via Baking Bites

Iced Eggnog Cookies & White Chocolate Covered Peppermint Oreos

To celebrate Mo and Ramsey’s cookie carnival, I broke out the big guns. Everyone loves drinking eggnog, so I devised a way to chew it. These iced cookies are  a nog-infused nod to a Mrs. Fields classic. I used this recipe.

White chocolate covered Oreos are a 3-ingredient, no-bake crowd pleaser. I tried to buy Trader Joe Joe’s Candy Cane cookies, but they were sold out (along with white chocolate, what gives TJ’s?) Newman’s Own Hint O’Mint sandwich cookies were a good sub, but if you can find those green minty Oreos, even better.

White Chocolate Covered Peppermint Oreos

Ingredients

1 package mint-flavored sandwich cookies (see reccs above)

2 packages white chocolate chips

Crushed peppermint candies (about 1/2 cup)

Directions

In a large microwaveable bowl, melt white chocolate chips until smooth. Be sure to stir frequently to prevent overheating.

Dunk cookies in white chocolate using 2 spoons. Place on wax paper and sprinkle with crushed candies. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

The way to a women’s heart…

   

To celebrate Valentine’s Day, I hosted a little gathering for a few of my girlfriends. No long stemmed roses or chocolate covered strawberries here, the evening’s menu was a single gal’s treat. My tried-and-true Sangria made another holiday appearance, this time with a little extra sumthin’ sumthin’ in honor of the holiday. Who says cupid has to have all the fun?

On the menu…

  • Phyllo crisps with toasted walnuts, Parmesan and honey
  • Green salad with sweet baby peppers, cherry tomatoes and homemade herb croutons
  • Rotini with roasted sweet potatoes, leeks and feta cheese
  • Winter Sangria
  • Red velvet cupcakes from Billy’s Bakery

 

Homemade Croutons

2 cups day-old bread (I used ciabatta) cut into cubes

olive oil

garlic powder

Italian seasoning

salt and pepper

Toss bread with a few tablespoons olive oil, garlic powder, seasoning, salt and pepper. Toast in a 400 degree oven until lightly browned. Let cool before tossing with salad.

 

Pasta with Roast Sweet Potato and Feta
Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (peeled and diced) (only I didn’t peel)
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt
3 leeks, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
14 oz pasta
2 tablespoons butter
6 oz marinated feta, chopped (I just used regular)
cracked black pepper
grated parmesan

Toss the sweet potatoes with one tablespoon of the oil, salt and pepper, and spread on a baking sheet. Roast at 400 for 30 minutes or until soft and browned.

Place 1 tablespoon oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and the rosemary and cook for about 7 minutes, or until soft and golden.

Cook pasta in boiling, salted water per directions. Drain and place in a large bowl. Add the sweet potatoes, leeks, butter and feta. Toss to combine.

-Recipe adapted from New Veg

Cookies and Cocktails

Scenes and recipes from our little holiday gathering…

Our IKEA Christmas Tree – a real sparkler!

 

Bailey’s Irish Cream Cookies, Frosted Cut Outs and Glazed Spritz

 Almond Joy Cookies

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies (with festive drizzle!)

My “Shortcut” Sangria – punch bowl from Crate & Barrel

Mint Chocolate Cookies 

Peanut Butter Balls (Buckeyes)

Paula Deen’s Caramel Corn

 

Shortcut Sangria

3 Liters red wine (the cheaper, the better – I used a large jug of Carlo Rossi – $16!)

1 can apple juice concentrate

4 apples, cut into 1-inch cubes

4 oranges, 2 sliced and 2 juiced

6 limes, 3 sliced and 3 juiced

4 lemons, 2 sliced and 2 juiced

2 T. sugar

Mix apple juice with 2 cups cold water. In a large pitcher or punch bowl, combine wine, fruit, juices and sugar. Stir and chill until ready to serve, or overnight. You can also add flavored or plain vodka, a splash of triple sec or apricot brandy for a REALLY festive punch bowl.

A Girl’s Gotta…Drink?!

The holidays are filled with lots of delicious bevs (egg nog, anyone?) but even Santa needs a break from the schnapps. Here are some of my  favorites for the season – they also make great stocking stuffers!

Trader Joe’s Sipping Chocolate, $3.99 and Stash Christmas Morning Black Tea $3.40

I have been hooked to Italian ciocolata calda sense my semester in Florence.  Thick and rich like a melted chocolate bar, an espresso-sized portion is all you need to satisfy even the biggest sweet tooth. When mixed with hot milk, Trader Joe’s Sipping Chocolate becomes Wonka-worthy. Add as little or as much milk as you like to reach your desired level of richness. Marshmallows are untraditional, but nevertheless encouraged.

Printed Stainless Steel Bottles, Old Navy, $2.50 (purchased on sale, regularly $7.50)

Time to make friends with the water cooler. After I left my beloved Sigg water bottle in Bryant Park, I have  been searching for its replacement. This stainless steel bottle from Old Navy caught my eye and cost less than a few bottles of Poland Spring. You get double the eco benefit –  reusable bottles are both economical and eco-friendly. Now get chuggin’.

Emergen-C Vitamin C Fizzy Drink Mix, box of 36 packets $14.50

I started drinking Emergen-C a few years ago while training for a winter marathon. I like to think of it as a liquified multi-vitamin, multiplied by 100. While the effectiveness of these types of supplements are up for debate, I believe a little extra immunity insurance never hurt anyone. Make sure you mix the powder with very cold water – it makes it much easier to drink!

Thanksgiving Recipe Round Up

Wondering what to bring to Thanksgiving dinner? While a can of cranberry sauce is nice thought, with a bit more effort, it’s easy to make something your whole family will enjoy. These recipes can be made a day ahead or that morning, either way, they are delicious.

 

Crunchy Chickpea Snack Mix

Warning: these are addictive! When roasted, chickpeas become crispy on the outside and remain soft on the inside. Try switching it up with different herbs and spices. Cinnamon and cayenne, cumin and coriander and black pepper and rosemary are all wonderful substitutes.

Ingredients

1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained, rinsed and patted dry

1 T. olive oil

1/3 cup almonds (sliced, slivered or whole)

1/2 T. thyme

salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400° Place chickpeas on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and thyme. Roast for approximately 15-20 minutes, until lightly golden brown and toasted (you may hear them “pop” – this is fine.)  Add almonds and bake for an additional 5 minutes . Nuts should be lightly toasted (you will smell them!) Cool in pan and serve warm or at room temperature. Store extra in an airtight container.

 

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Flaky, buttery and slightly sweet, sweet potato biscuits are the perfect complement to a Thanksgiving spread or the next day, using leftover mashed sweet potatoes. Another variation? Try using 1 cup pumpkin puree.

Ingredients

2  cups  all-purpose flour (about 9 ounces)

1  tablespoon  sugar

2  teaspoons  baking powder

1/2  teaspoon  salt

5  tablespoons  chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1  cup  pureed cooked sweet potatoes, cooled

1/3  cup  fat-free milk

Cooking spray

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Combine sweet potato and milk in a small bowl; add potato mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead lightly 5 times. Roll dough to a 3/4-inch thickness; cut with a 2-inch biscuit cutter into 10 biscuits. Place biscuits on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Gather remaining dough. Roll to a 3/4-inch thickness. Cut with a 2-inch biscuit cutter into 6 biscuits. Place the biscuits on prepared baking sheet. Discard any remaining scraps.

Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pan; cool 5 minutes on wire racks. Serve warm or at room temperature.

-Recipe courtesy of Cooking Light