Sunday, November 25, 2012

Better Than Average Chocolate Chip Cookies [homemade]


When I first moved to NYC eight years ago, my mom sent me with a few inexpensive pots and pans and a few cookbooks.  I really had NO idea how to cook or even what I would want to cook.  One of the cookbooks that I was gifted was The Clueless Baker (can you tell I had no clue about cooking).  This book has become my bible for baked goods, everything I have made from this book has been easy and delicious.  Hands down the best item is the Better-Than-Average-Chocolate-Chip-Cookies.  

I have made these cookies many times and have always heard from friends that these are the best chocolate chip cookies they have ever had.  Because of the rave reviews and the consistency I get when baking them, I changed nothing about this recipe (gasp)!  There is no need to mess with perfection here!

These cookies make a great gift for friends and family during the holidays.  Just use an airtight canister like this or this and attach the recipe with some twine (tip - you can buy similar jars at Ikea in the kitchen section for around $5 each...they just don't have them online)!  If you know me personally, you can definitely expect a sweet treat as a holiday gift!       


Ingredients: 
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups of light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 1/2 cups (or one bag) semisweet chocolate chips 
Directions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees 
  2. Line (or butter) one to two cookies sheets with parchment paper 
  3. In a large electric mixer (or mixing bowl) cream together butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla (mix until smooth and fluffy).  
  4. In the same mixer add flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda and mix well (until everything is incorporated). 
  5. Once everything is mixed well add in chocolate chips (either add by hand or mixer).  
  6. Spoon teaspoon dough balls onto baking sheet and bake for 9 to 10 minutes (just until the sides start to get golden brown.  Its better to under bake than over bake!  
  7. Enjoy 
Tip: Store your cookies in an airtight container with a piece of bread (or a few pieces).  This will keep your cookies soft as the stale air will be taken up by the bread!  


Note: these are not healthy.  As I said previously, there is no need to mess with perfection and if you are craving chocolate chip cookies, I recommend you have a "cheat" day!  The recipe makes between 25 and 40 cookies, depending on the size of your cookies.  I usually spoon a heaping teaspoon onto parchment paper and make between 35 and 38 cookies.  The nutrition info below is for 38 cookies.  





Herbed Wheat Thins [Homemade]



I covet a lot of recipes I find on some of my favorite food blogs.  Some of them I think I can make better, different, healthier etc.  Some of them I know I shouldn't mess with, because they are perfect as is.  The Wheat Thins recipe on the Smitten Kitchen was pretty much perfection from the beginning.  They are simple, healthy and delicious.

This weekend for thanksgiving I was in charge of the salad and a few appetizers (thank goodness, because I don't love cooking meat with bones).  I decided that these wheat thins would be the perfect accompaniment to a cheese plate, so I set out to make my first batch.  After a successful first attempt I knew I had to make another batch (I didn't want to come with too few to enjoy)!  Upon opening my fridge to pull out more butter, I smelled the delicious aroma of fresh dill.  I had a revelation ..what if I could make herbed wheat thins!

This revelation turned out to be a good instinct as these are SCRUMPTIOUS.  Not only do these look gorgeous with the little specs of fresh dill, but they taste of cracked wheat, dill a light spritz of olive oil and salt.  You can really choose a variety of fresh herbs (can you say rosemary will be my next project) or your favorite dried versions.  I think making a bunch of different flavors and mixing them in a bowl would be a great treat for your guests.  

Yield: Aprox 3 to 4 dozen (depending on how thin you roll them out...I like mine thin).

Ingredients:


  • 1 1/4 Cups Whole Wheat Flour 
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar 
  • 1/2 tsp salt 
  • 1/2 tsp paprika 
  • 4 tbsp cold butter 
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 to 2 handfuls of your favorite herbs...I choose Dill for this batch



Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees
  2. In a food processor pulse your favorite fresh herbs so they slightly break apart but still have large chunks (you don't want to over process into a puree)
  3. In the same processor add whole wheat flour, sugar, salt, paprika and cold butter.  The mixture will resemble small crumbs 
  4. Slowly drizzle the cold water into the food processor (you may need a little bit more or less).  You will know the dough is done when the dough is a ball 
  5. Pre-flour your work surface (so your dough doesn't stick)
  6. Take 1/2 of your dough and roll it out on the counter with a rolling pin until its thin.  
  7. Using a straight edge (I used a thin cutting board) and a pizza cutter, slice your dough into 1 to 1.5 inch squares.  
  8. Transfer squares to baking sheet 
  9. Coat squares with a light dusting of olive oil (I use a misto - if you don't have one I would suggest running out to buy it) and salt.  
  10. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes (stay close to your oven, these treats can burn easily) 

If you are playing with your dog instead of watching the oven, this can happen!  



Saturday, November 24, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

My husband and I have been married for three and a half years and we have never had a Christmas Tree.  We are never in our apartment for actual christmas, so we have always skipped getting the tree.  This year we decided we would get a little tree to sit atop our dining room table.

In true photographer fashion, before the tree was decorated we had to do a mini photo-shoot with the puppies!  I want to do this again with more props (think santa hat and maybe a star to top the tree), but I LOVE how the lights look!




Monday, November 12, 2012

Cranberry Almond Granola


Granola is one of those foods that is typically labeled as a "health food".  Rolled oats with nuts and berries, what could be so bad about granola?  Granola packs a big punch in a small serving size.  American's also typically "over-pour" in the morning, and a "healthy" breakfast can total 600+ calories and still leave you hungry. I am always shocked to see how many calories (and how much sugar) can be packed packed into the store bought granola.

I am also continually shocked at the price you pay for "organic" granola, especially given how easy it is to make.  So, I decided to try my hand at making a healthier and super delicious version (5 ingredients).  This recipe is SOOOO good and one that must be a staple in your pantry weekly (it has become a pantry staple in our home).

My favorite way to enjoy this healthy treat is with Fage 0% Greek Yoghurt (and fresh berries when they are in season).


RUN (don't walk) to the store to get all these ingredients to make this dish, you will NOT be disappointed!  This is also a great treat to bring as a hostess gift or even a christmas treat to a friends, family or co-workers!    

Ingredients: 
  • 2 cups whole oats 
  • 1/2 cup almonds (chopped - I used dry roasted salted, but you can use whatever your favorite almonds are) 
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries 
  • 2 tsp olive oil 
  • 2 tbsp raw organic honey
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees 
  • Combine oats, chopped almonds, cranberries, olive oil and 2 tbsp of honey
  • After everything is combined, pour onto a sheet pan and spread out (its fine to have 1 layer, but you want to make sure everything is the same thickness)
  • Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown (if you have a thick layer of granola, I recommend stirring everything aprox 10 minutes into the cooking).  
  • Let cool completely and enjoy!  



Serving Size: 1/2 Cup
Calories: 238 calories
Fat: 9.4g (most of the fat is coming from the almonds, if you want to cut the fat...use less almonds)
Carbs: 35.6g

P.S: do you like the new photo size?  I am working on my styling and photography (I am much more comfortable with people...who knew) and will share more on that as I go!  

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Meal Planning

­­My husband and I spent the month of October tracking all of our expenses (using mint.com) and were SHOCKED by the amount of money we had spent on food and alcohol.  It didn't help that we did a mini vacation to Sonoma/Napa California, but none the less we spent way too much!


As a way to save unnecessary calories and necessary dollars, we are attempting our hand at meal planning.  I am actually super excited about this because it will give me a chance to cook (which you know I love) and actually plan ahead to make sure we have everything we need and that I can spend time early in the week prepping so day of I can come home from work and get going! 

For the meal plan I set-up the theme and listed the ingredients I needed to order.  For all of the below (plus breakfast, drinks, herbs, snacks and more) I spent $133 and am hoping (other than the small trip to the store for the things Fresh Direct didn't have in stock and our Sunday meal) this should get us through the week.

I am also going to make 1 meal ahead to be eaten as leftovers/lunch/whenever.  I don't know if I will do this every week, but wanted to test it out!   

As I develop new recipes I will be sure to share them with you, what do you think about our first week's meal plan? 

Meal Plan | week of 11.12.12

Monday: Breakfast for Dinner
  •   Eggs
  •  Turkey Bacon
  •  Pancakes (Bisquick)·   
Tuesday: Work event 

Wednesday: Chicken Tacos
  • Salsa Chicken in the crockpot
  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Jack Cheese 
  •  Beans
  • Rice
  • Tortillas (homemade)
Thursday: Work Event 

Friday: Whole Wheat Pasta with Chicken Sausage, broccoli
  •  Whole Wheat Pasa
  • Broccoli
  • Chicken Sausage 
  • Grated Parmesan   

Saturday: Dinner with Jessica/Danny

Sunday: Salmon with Lemon/Dill, brown rice and asparagus (I am buying these ingredients day of)
  • Salmon
  • Lemons
  • Dill
  • Asparagus

Make Ahead: Spaghetti Pie
  • Crushed Tomatoes 
  • Onion
  • Carrot
  • Ground Chicken 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Nutrition Information | NEW FEATURE

Have you ever been scouring around the web for a new recipe with the words "healthy" or "low calorie" (or anything of the sorts) and when you find the perfect recipe you really have no idea if the blogger is 1) telling the truth 2) knows anything about nutrition (even with the claims) 3) has the same version of the word "healthy" as you do? 

I generally (except when I forget) track all of my food and activity levels (and have been for a long time), but what I realized recently was that while I think what I am eating is healthy, I could very well be cheating myself out of precious nutritional needs (or even words extra unknown calories)!

Over the past few years my philosophy on food has changed (I will post on this soon).  Basically I went from eating really low calories (and lots of no calorie chemicals ala Splenda), to eating wholesome foods that not only taste good but also give my body the MUCH needed nutrition it was craving.

With my nutrition philosophy changing, so did my cooking habits.  I went from purchasing breads (and english muffins - my favorite) to making them weekly for my family.  I went from eating boxed pasta to exclusively making it from scratch.  I went from eating canned soup (yuck) to making big vats of soup and freezing it in Mason Jars (my favorite and must have kitchen essential).

So with all that said, I am now going to be featuring nutritional information for each recipe I post!  That way if you are like me and want to know exactly what you are putting into your body, the info will be right there!

I did a post about Honey Wheat Pizza Crust a while back and wanted to show you what you can now expect!



Honey Whole Wheat Pizza Crust -

  • 1 tsp honey 
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (turn the water on your sink to hot and let it run for about 1 min, just until its just about too hot to touch with your finger)
  • 1 packet of active dry yeast 
  • 1tsp olive oil 
  • Pinch of salt 
  • 2 cups of whole wheat flour 
  • 1 cup of white bread flour, plus more for keading  (you can use all purpose if you don't have bread flour handy)
Directions for Honey Whole Wheat Crust -
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees (and if you have a pizza stone place in oven and let heat up for 45 minutes to an hour) 
  2. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water.  Lets stand for 10 minutes (make sure the yeast has activated, you will know when you see it bubbling and popping on the top of the water...if you do not see it bubbling on the top it has not been activated and you need to dump it and start over).  
  3. Stir in the honey, olive oil and salt.  
  4. Mix in the flour until mostly combined (it will look like small flour chunks) and dump it out onto a floured surface 
  5. Knead for 10 minutes.  If the dough is sticky, keep adding in flour until it is not sticky to the touch anymore.  
  6. Once its into a ball, put it into a buttered bowl and let rise for 1 hour 
  7. After its risen (aprox doubled in size) punch it down and divide into 2 to 4 balls (depending if you want large/thicker crusts or thin individual crusts (nutrition info below is for 4 balls).    
  8. Let small balls rise for 30 min or so
  9. Roll out and spread your favorite toppings.  
  10. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes (until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is golden) 

 
*You may see me play with the format of the nutrition information...but you get the picture and I am so excited to be adding this feature! 


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Teriyaki Vegatable "fried" brown rice

My husband and I LOVE fried rice from our local chinese restaurant.  There is something so comfortable and flavorful about fried rice and its so sad that takeout restaurants make it so bad for you.  I have taken this comfortable treat and lightened it up and added oh so much flavor!

The dish starts with this oh-so-easy Teriyaki sauce, which packs so much punch with so little sauce.  It easily coats the rice and complements the vegetables so very well.    

If you want to add even more diminution you can add protein, feel free to mix in some teriyaki chicken or spicy shrimp.

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups of uncooked Brown Rice
  • 2 1/2 to 3 Cups of your favorite Vegetables (Fresh is always best but if you don't have access to fresh you can substitute 1 bag of steam fresh mixed vegatables from the freezer section).  I used the below...
    • 1 cup peas 
    • 1/2 cup corn 
    • 1/2 cup green beans 
    • 1/2 cup carrots 
  • 1 whole egg 
  • 2 egg whites 
  • 3 tbsp teriyaki sauce (enough to coat the rice or as much or little as you want)  
  • Scallions chopped (for garnish) 
Directions:
  1. Cook rice according to package directions.  Once cooked, set aside 
  2. In a wok or large pan combine the eggs and the egg whites.  Once scrambled, set aside 
  3. In the same pan add vegetables and cook intil firm but hot.  Add the rice and sauce and cook for 3 to 5 minutes stirring constantly to make sure everything is mixed well and coated with sauce.  
  4. Add in cooked eggs 
  5. Top with Scallions and Serve 

Teriyaki Sauce (homemade)



This delicious concoction came out of the need to add protein dinner (and only having plain chicken in the fridge).  I have been experimenting with different cuisine's and decided I would try to tackle Asian next (or should I say inspired by Asian flavors).  For various reasons (we live in NYC and there is amazing Asian cuisine) I have never tried to make anything Asian.  And because of that I thoguht I would start simple with an oh-so-easy-and-versatile Teriyaki Sauce.

I had originally intended to make this sauce as a marinade for plain chicken, but then realized this is maybe the most versatile sauce ever.  You can use it as a maranaide, dipping sauce, in fried rice, as a glaze for fish, as a garnish on sushi, etc...

And...are you ready for the best part???  It took all of 10 minutes to make (maybe less).  You must give this one a try!

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup low sodium soy sauce (if you don't have low sodium you can also use regular) 
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar 
  • 1 tsp ground ginger 
  • 1 tsp garlic powder  
 Directions:
  1. In a small sauce pan add all ingredients on low heat until the sugar, ginger and garlic powder are dissolved into the soy sauce.  
  2. Marinade or dip or mix and enjoy! 

Nutrition Facts:
Servings: 32 (aprox 1 tbsp per serving)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Coconut Chicken Curry (crockpot)



I am currently (still) displaced due to Hurricane Sandy (thank goodness my mom in Chicago is taking us in for the week).  Lately have had a deep desire to cook, I have always loved cooking but the more I cook the better I get and the more I WANT to cook.

This recipe (which is currently in the crockpot and smells amazing) is a bit of a mash-up of this recipe and this recipe from Martha Stewart.  I am also making coconut brown rice to eat with it (and will share this recipe soon).  I hope you enjoy this dish, its healthy and OH SO GOOD!    

Ingredients (step 1):
  • 1lb chicken breast
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 heaping tbsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tbsp Cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp of pepper
  • 3 scallions (chopped)
  • 2 sprigs of cilantro
Ingredients (step 2):
  • 1/2 cup Light Coconut Water
  • 1/2 cup water Water  
  • 1 cup of green peas (frozen or fresh)

Directions:
  1. Create the dry rub by mixing the curry powder, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper 
  2. Put raw chicken in a plastic bag and mix in dry rub in.
  3. Once the chicken is coated in the dry rub, dump chicken and spices into into your crockpot.
  4. Add Scallions, cilantro and water to the crockpot and cook on low for 8 hours (until chicken is cooked)
  5. Aprox 30 minutes before serving add in ingredients from step 2 
  6. Serve over rice or with potatoes (and a glass of wine)