K guys so I have two big things to announce! First, I got a camera. AHHH!! Second, I found a recipe for Nutella-filled cookies. OMG. Saw these babies re-posted by Bridget at Bake at 350 and had to try them. Nutella? And sea salt? All melty and gooey inside a warm sugar cookie?! You have to try these. Now.
I know Bridget insists the recipe is perfect as written, but I ran into problems with the dough…it’s probably just me. My dough turned out extremely wet and gooey, so working with it was no fun. By the time I finished shaping the last cookie, I was grumpy and irritable (having gooey hands for that long makes me grumpy). What’s worse is they spread like pancakes the minute they got into the hot oven. *big sigh* I ended up dumping the first batch and starting all over, with a few tweaks this time.
First, to avoid making a mess with the Nutella (it wants to stick to the spoon and your fingers), I simply piped little dollops of Nutella directly onto the tray before freezing them. Much easier! I may have gotten carried away and “accidentally” piped more dollops than I needed. Then I accidentally ate some of the extras. Semi-frozen Nutella dollop = deliciousness. Try it, I won’t tell anyone.
Next, to make the dough easier to work with, I divided it into half, wrapped each half in plastic wrap, and chilled the dough for 30 minutes. Since each batch bakes separately, I could assemble one half and leave the other half chilling in the fridge to prevent it from softening. When they went into the oven, they stayed nice and puffy. Success!
I broke into one of these bad boys while it was still hot and was rewarded with a warm, gooey Nutella center. What are you waiting for? Go grab a cookie, a glass of cold milk, and come look at the pictures I took with my new camera 🙂
Nutella & Sea Salt Stuffed Cookies
Makes approximately 24 cookies
- 1/2 cup Nutella (chocolate-hazelnut spread)
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 1/2 cups plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
- 14 Tbsp. (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 Tbsp. sea salt
- Scoop out Nutella into a small ziploc bag, snip off one corner, and pipe Nutella into small mounds, about 1 teaspoon each, on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill in freezer for at least 15 minutes.
- Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, with electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, and vanilla, mixing after each until well incorporated. Reduce speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until just combined. Divide dough in half and wrap each half tightly in plastic wrap. Chill in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the remaining 1/3 cup granulated sugar in a small bowl. Using 2 tablespoons of dough for each cookie, split the piece of dough in half and slightly flatten the bottom half. Sprinkle 5 or 6 grains of sea salt on the flattened dough and place one mound of Nutella on top of the salt. If the Nutella starts to soften, place back in the freezer for a few minutes. Cover Nutella with the other piece of cookie dough and seal the edges with your fingers. Roll the ball in sugar to coat and place balls 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet.
- Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, about 10 to 13 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking. Cookies are done when edges are set and beginning to brown. The center of the cookies should still be soft and puffy. Cool 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely or serve warm if you’d like. Repeat with remaining dough.
Source: Recipe adapted from Cooking Canuck, as seen on Bake at 350
Earlier this week, Houston and the surrounding areas experienced a torrent of wind, heavy rains, and flooding. Thankfully, from where I live it was mostly just lots of rain and a few big thunder claps. After the rain, the temperature has dropped significantly and it’s freezing outside (freezing to this Texas girl is 60 degrees or colder). As I’m still getting over a cold I picked up over New Year’s, I decided it was the perfect time to make a piping hot bowl of soup.
As an added bonus, while I was making this recipe I achieved two cooking milestones – I made homemade chicken broth for the first time and also worked with an entire chicken for the first time! I never thought I’d be so excited to get my hands on a dead bird (raw meat still makes me cringe sometimes). To split up the work, I made the chicken broth the night before, refrigerated it overnight, and made the soup this morning. You could totally use low-sodium boxed chicken broth instead, nothing wrong with that.
What I love about this recipe is that it’s hearty enough to be a real meal. It’s got it all – pasta for carb lovers (that’s me), pancetta for meat lovers, and peas so you get your greens in. It’s also a really quick and easy recipe, perfect for those cold rainy days. Stay warm and enjoy!
It’s a shame I can’t turn this into a scratch-and-sniff picture, because the smell of butter + onions + pancetta = heavenly. Yes, I stood over the pot and inhaled in this bliss as it cooked. That’s not weird, right?
Minestra di Pasta e Piselli (Soup with Pasta and Peas)
- 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 medium white onion, finely chopped
- 2 oz. pancetta, diced
- 1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 6 to 7 cups chicken broth
- 1 small piece of the rind from wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional), plus 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups of your favorite small pasta (e.g., tubetti, ditalini, conchigliette, etc.)
- 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas
- Kosher or fine sea salt
- Warm the butter and olive oil in a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the onions and pancetta and saute for 5 minutes. Add the thyme and a few grinds of black pepper, then saute another 5 minutes, or until the onions are transluscent and the pancetta has just begun to crisp but is still mostly tender.
- Pour in 6 cups of the broth and raise the heat to medium-high. Toss in the Parmigiano rind (if using). Bring the broth to a boil. Stir in the pasta, adding 1 1/2 cups if you want soupier soup or 1 3/4 cups if you want thicker soup. Stir in the peas. Cook the pasta until al dente (use the cooking time per the package instructions). Add additional broth if the soup seems too thick.
- Remove the soup from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup of the grated Parmigiano. Taste the soup and add additional salt or pepper if needed. Ladle into bowls and serve with the remaining Parmigiano sprinkled over the top.
Source: Adapted from The Glorious Pasta of Italy
Now that I’ve moved to the diverse metropolis that is Houston, I have access to a bounty of international restaurants and grocery stores, including of course Houston’s amazing Chinatown. Perhaps this is what inspired me to (finally) get a wok and try making some Chinese dishes. When I mentioned my dinner plans to one of my best friends, her first response was “Wow, you never make Asian dishes!” Yah, that about sums it up. I just wasn’t one of those kids that stood in the kitchen and watched my mom cook. It doesn’t help that my mom is a “pinch of this” and “dash of that” kind of cook, so figuring out her recipes is tricky. This is why I grabbed this recipe from somewhere else (sorry Mom). This recipe hits it right on the money – crisp-tender broccoli, delicious tofu, all coated in a garlic sesame brown sauce. Yum.
Most of the ingredients in this recipe should be available at local grocery stores (check out the Asian/International food aisle), but I did have to make a special trip out to Chinatown to pick up the dried, seasoned bean curd cakes. I know this tofu isn’t going to win a beauty award anytime soon, but don’t be afraid of the bean curd cakes, they’re legit. Delicious, dense, chewy, they absorb all the flavors from the sauce – you won’t even notice there’s no meat in this dish! Except for the fact that I just told you. Oops.
This recipe calls for an additional step of blanching the broccoli. At first I was wary of the extra work (I can be lazy in the kitchen), but the broccoli florets turn this beautiful bright green color the moment you put them in boiling water (see pictures for proof). It also starts cooking the broccoli so you don’t need to stir-fry it as long. Just be sure to really drain the florets because you’ll be putting them into extremely hot oil – water and hot oil are not friends!
As with true chinese stir-frying, all cooking was done at high heat, so it was really important to get all my ingredients measured and ready (set up my mise en place) before I fired up the wok. Once the ingredients hit the oil, I had to keep them moving constantly to prevent burning. The good news is, the dish comes together in a flash! If you don’t have a wok, don’t fret. I also tried making this in my Le Creuset dutch oven, and it came out perfectly. Woks just make me feel more Asian. And I found an inexpensive wok at Williams-Sonoma here.
Even after being subjected to extremely high heat, the broccoli still retained most of its bright green color – blanching works! I’m the kind of girl that likes plenty of sauce to drizzle over my rice, so I think next time I’ll try doubling the sauce portion. Serve this up over a fluffy bed of white rice and enjoy (man man chi!)!
Stir-Fried Tofu with Broccoli
For the sauce:
- 2 Tbsp. oyster sauce
- 2 tsp. dark soy sauce
- 2 tsp. Shaoxing wine
- 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
- 1 1/4 tsp. sugar
- 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
- Pinch of ground white pepper
- 1/2 cup vegetable stock
- 3 heads broccoli, 1 pound each
- 2 quarts water
- 1/2-inch-thick slice ginger, peeled and slightly smashed
- 1 Tbsp. salt
- 1 tsp. baking soda (optional)
- 3 Tbsp. peanut oil
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 6 seasoned bean curd cakes (8 oz.), cut into thin slices about 1/8-inch thick
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- To make the sauce, in a small bowl, mix together all of the ingredients and reserve.
- To water-blanch the broccoli, first trim the broccoli heads into florets. In a pot, bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the ginger, salt, and baking soda (if using). When the water returns to a boil, add the broccoli and blanch for 10 seconds, then turn off the heat. Drain and rinse immediately with cold water to stop the cooking process and keep that bright green color on the veggies. Discard the ginger.
- Heat a wok over high heat for 30 seconds. Add 1/2 Tbsp. of the peanut oil and coat the wok with the oil. When the oil begins to smoke, add the garlic and saute briefly until the garlic starts to brown. Add the bean curd slices and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat, transfer the bean curd to a small dish, and reserve.
- Heat the wok again on high heat. Add the remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp. peanut oil and the salt and stir for 45 seconds, or until very hot. Carefully add the reserved broccoli and stir-fry for 2 minutes, making sure the broccoli is well coated with the oil. Add the reserved bean curd and stir-fry for 1 1/2 minutes, or until all the ingredients are well mixed and hot. Make a well in the center of the mixture, stir the sauce, and pour it into the well. Stir and mix for 2 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and bubbled. Take off the heat and enjoy!
Soure: Adapted from Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking
Yeehaw! Chicken-fried steak is a big deal to us Texans and, although I’ve eaten it in restaurants more times than I can count, I’ve only tried to make this at home twice. The first time was years ago, and it was a disaster. The moment that poor steak hit the oil, its breading started falling off until it was as naked as the day it was born. That was a sad day.
Fast forward to the present – I decided to give this dish one more try. This time, I used a different recipe and the breading actually stayed put! The recipe includes an interesting method of scoring the meat, dredging it in flour, and then pounding the flour into the meat to help the final coating stick better. It may seem like a lot of extra work at first, but I promise once you get past the pounding part, it’s really not that bad. And you can leave the dredged steaks in the fridge for up to 4 hours before you fry them, so this gives you time to make the gravy and any side dishes.
The final result was better than any chicken-fried steak I’ve ever ordered at a restaurant. The breading was perfectly crunchy and flavorful, and when I cut into it – surprise! The steak inside was juicy, tender, and medium rare. Uhm, I just made a medium rare chicken-fried steak. Life doesn’t get much better than this. Oh wait, there was gravy too. Ok, life just got even better. You’ve got to try this one and experience it for yourself. God bless Texas (and chicken-fried steak)!
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1 Tbsp. garlic powder
- 1 Tbsp. onion powder
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- Salt and pepper
- 4 large eggs
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1 pound beef flap meat (aka steak tips, sirloin tips, or flap sirloin), cut into four 4-ounce pieces
- 1 1/2 cups peanut or vegetable oil
- Whisk flour, cornstarch, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, baking powder, 1 tsp. salt, and 2 tsp. pepper in large bowl. Transfer 1 cup of this seasoned flour mixture to shallow dish. Beat eggs in a second shallow dish. Add milk to bowl with remaining flour mixture and rub with fingers until mixture resembles coarse meal.
- Pat steaks dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Lightly score the steaks with a sharp knife at 1/4-inch intervals in a cross-hatch pattern. Repeat on the other side. Dredge meat in seasoned flour and, using a meat pounder, pound steaks to between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. One at a time, coat steaks lightly with seasoned flour again, dip in egg mixture, and then transfer to bowl with milk and flour mixture, pressing to adhere. Arrange steaks on wire rack set inside rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate 15 minutes (or up to 4 hours); do not discard the milk and flour mixture.
- Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Return 2 steaks to bowl with milk and flour mixture and turn to coat. Fry 2 steaks until deep golden brown and crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining steaks. Serve.
- 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Stir in flour and garlic powder and cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in milk, salt, and pepper. Slowly whisk in small amounts of the chicken broth until the gravy is desired consistency (you may not need all of the broth). Simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Serve. Gravy can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.
Source: Adapted from Cook’s Country Skillet Suppers 2011 Special Issue
As promised, here are pictures of holiday treats I made to bring home to my family. This year, I only wanted to make recipes I hadn’t tried before, so there was
a bit a lot of trial and error. Probably not the smartest thing to do when you only have one night to get it right – no pressure! I ended up making four different recipes (it was a busy night), but these bars were the best recipe by far.
These bars are essentially just a holiday twist on old-school rice krispie treats and, just like the original, there’s no baking involved! This makes it a great recipe to work on if your oven is otherwise occupied. The recipe calls for dried cherries, but I think you could also use dried cranberries to make it more festive! The dried fruit gives it this great zing that balances out the sweet gooey-ness of the treats (and I’m obsessed with the color).
The original recipe tells you to melt the white chocolate chips and the marshmallows together, but I think it’s kind of sad to melt away the chocolate. If you melt it away, it just disappears into the bars and you might not notice it at all. Instead, I add the white chocolate chips in off the heat, while you’re adding the cereal and the cherries. That way, you’ll actually be able to see (and bite into!) white chocolate chips.
The cooled treats get a quick drizzle of melted chocolate, and this is what makes them a showstopper. The recipe calls for milk chocolate, but I’m sure you could use dark chocolate if you wanted. My melted chocolate was a bit too thick to “drizzle” so I quickly scooped it into a small ziploc bag, snipped off the corner, and piped the chocolate over the tops instead. The treats were crispy, chewy, chocolatey, and tart from the dried cherries. It was so easy to make and the final product was pretty enough to show off at parties – definitely a keeper. Enjoy!
White Chocolate and Cherry Crispy Treats
- 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 (10 1/2-ounce) bag marshmallows
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
- 5 cups Rice Krispies cereal
- 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
- 1 cup dried cherries, chopped
- 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted
- Line 8-inch square baking pan with foil, allowing excess foil to hang over pan edges. Grease foil. Melt butter in large saucepan over low heat. Add marshmallows and salt and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is melted and smooth, about 8 minutes; stir in vanilla.
- Off heat, add cereal, white chocolate chips, and cherries and mix until incorporated. Scrape mixture into prepared pan and press into bottom and corners with greased spatula. Let cool completely, about 1 hour.
- Drizzle melted chocolate over cooled treats. You can also transfer melted chocolate to small piping bag and pipe the chocolate over cooled treats. Allow chocolate to cool, about 15 minutes. Using foil overhang, lift treats from pan and transfer to cutting board. Grease knife and cut into squares.
Source: Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Holiday Cookies Special Issue 2010