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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Gooey Chocolate Cookies

These are among my favorite cookies. They are fantastic when warm from the oven (have cold milk handy), but also really good once they've cooled. They also freeze well. You can always nuke 'em for a few seconds if you want them warm, which is the only time they're actually gooey.

The recipe is from Food Network Kitchens; it was a featured Christmas cookie a few years back.  I use the double boiler method to melt the chocolate and butter. I usually leave out the dried cherries for a pure chocolate experience. Enjoy!

Super Gooey Chocolate Drops

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate*, chopped
4 oz.semisweet chocolate*, chopped
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp.pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp. buttermilk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup natural cocoa powder, such as Hershey's or Scharffen Berger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
11 oz. (1 bag) semisweet chocolate chunks or large chips
1 cup dried cherries (optional)

Position racks in the lower and upper third of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. (If you don't have 3 pans, simply cool the pan between batches.)
Put the butter and the unsweetened and semisweet chocolates in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Heat at 75 percent power in the microwave until soft, about 2 minutes. Stir and heat again until melted, up to 2 minutes more. (Alternatively, put the chocolates and butter in a heatproof bowl or the top of a double boiler. Bring a saucepan filled with an inch or so of water to a very slow simmer; set the bowl over, but not touching, the water. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth.)
Stir the light brown and granulated sugars and vanilla into the chocolate mixture with a wooden spoon. This should cool the mixture enough to be able to add the eggs in the next step.

Add the eggs and buttermilk and beat vigorously until thick and glossy.
In another bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa, cinnamon and salt together. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until just mixed. Stir in chocolate chunks and dried cherries, if using.
Drop the batter in heaping tablespoons onto baking sheets; a small ice cream or cookie dough scoop is ideal. Space the cookies about 2 inches apart. Bake until the cookies are set but soft and fudgy on the inside, 12 to 15 minutes. I always check early, at 8 or 9 minutes, because I hate overbaked cookies.

Cool cookies on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Store cookies in a tightly sealed container at room temperature for up to a week. They freeze well.

*Note: You can also use all or part bittersweet chocolate with great results.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Orange-Glazed Pecans








These pecans are packed with flavor and are great for snacks or tossing into a salad (perhaps with dried cranberries, bacon, goat cheese and cornbread croutons). The recipe is from Southern Living magazine. They're quicker and easier to make than many flavored nuts, which in my book just adds to their appeal.

Orange-Glazed Pecans

5  cups  pecan halves
1/2  cup  frozen orange juice concentrate, undiluted
1 1/2  cups  sugar
1/4  tsp. cinnamon
Bake pecans on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees, stirring occasionally, 10 to 15 minutes or until toasted. Watch 'em; nuts burn easily. 

Bring juice concentrate, sugar and cinnamon to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Boil, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in toasted pecans.

Spread pecans onto an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Let sit until dry. Break apart if necessary and store in airtight container. You won't have to worry about how long they keep (which is a while). They'll disappear quickly.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Split Pea Soup and Spinach Feta Bread

 This bread and soup make a wonderful combination, and not just visually. I've been making the split pea soup for years, based on the recipe in The New Basics by Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso. I was saddened last year when Lukins died; she was a big influence on me and many other cooks, and I was hoping for more cookbooks from her. The bread recipe is from Whole Grain Breads by Machine or Hand by Beatrice Ojakangas. It's a nice cookbook because it gives instructions for making the breads by hand, with a mixer or food processor or bread machine. I like to use the bread machine to mix it, then shape it myself and bake it in the oven. Those are the instructions I've provided.

Split Pea and Ham Soup

1 lb. dried green split peas
5 c. canned or homemade chicken broth
5 c. water
1 meaty ham bone or two smoked ham hocks
2 ribs celery, leaves included, diced
3 tbsp. chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, divided use
1/2 tsp. crumbled dried tarragon leaves
4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) butter or margarine (or use butter-flavored spray)
1 c. diced carrots
1 c. diced onion
1 large potato, diced
1 leek, white part only, rinsed and sliced
1 c. slivered fresh spinach leaves
2 tbsp. dry sherry
1/2 tsp. black or white pepper

Rinse peas in strainer and combine them with broth and water in large soup pot. Bring to a boil.

Add ham bone/hocks, celery, 1 tbsp. of the parsley and tarragon. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add carrots, onion and leek. Cook till vegetables are wilted, 10 minutes. Add them to the soup pot along with the spinach. Simmer, partially covered, 30 minutes.

Remove soup from heat. Remove ham bone and shred the meat from the bone, discarding bone and excess fat. Return meat to soup.

Add sherry, pepper and rest of parsley. Heat through and serve immediately.

Note: I sometimes top the soup with good croutons and shaved Asiago cheese.

Spinach-Feta Whole Wheat Bread

1 c. water
2 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c. bread flour
1 1/2 tsp. yeast
2 tsp. whole wheat flour
6 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1 c. coarsely chopped fresh spinach
1 egg, beaten (optional glaze)

Pour the room temperature water into the bread machine pan. Add remaining ingredients except the 2 tsp. of whole wheat flour, feta and spinach, in the order listed. Make an indentation in the center of the dry ingredients and add yeast.

Select Dough setting and press start. If the dough is wet and sticky, add a little more flour, 1 tbsp. at a time, until dough is smooth yet soft to the touch. If the dough is not soft but very firm, add 1 tsp. of water at a time until dough is smooth yet soft to the touch.

At the end of the Dough cycle, toss the 2 tsp. remaining flour with the feta. Remove dough to floured board and knead in the cheese and spinach by hand.

Lightly grease a baking sheet or cover it with parchment paper. Shape dough into fat, round loaf. Place loaf, smooth side up, onto baking sheet. Cover and let rise till almost doubled, 45 to 60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. To glaze, brush loaf with beaten egg. Bake 35 to 45 minutes (start checking at 30 minutes), until loaf sounds hollow when tapped and a wooden skewer inserted into the loaf comes out clean and dry. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Crab Chowder

 This chowder is tasty and creamy without being too guilt-inducing. I  made a few changes to a recipe from Fresh and Simple Quick-Simmering Soups from Better Homes and Gardens. (I like the whole Fresh and Simple series, which includes Pasta Pronto, 5 O'Clock Grill and Super Suppers).

I added the potato, extra crab(I like to use 10 to 12 ounces rather than 6), sherry and sub part of the milk with fat-free "half and half."  We usually eat it with a crusty bread and a salad.

Crab Chowder
6 to 12 oz. crabmeat, preferably high-quality canned from seafood counter
1 medium zucchini, cut into julienne
1 medium sweet bell pepper (your choice color; i like red, yellow or orange), chopped or julienned
1 large potato, diced (skin on or off, your choice)
2 tbsp. margarine or butter
2 tbsp. flour
4 cups milk (I like to sub half with fat-free or low-fat "half and half")
2 tbsp. sliced green onion
1/2 tsp. bouquet garni seasoning
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 3-oz. package cream cheese or neufchatel, cut up
2 tbsp. sherry
2 tsp. snipped fresh thyme
Fresh thyme springs for garnish (optional)

In a medium saucepan cook zucchini, sweet pepper and potato in hot margarine or butter until crisp-tender. Add green onion and cook another minute. Stir in the flour. Add the milk, half and half, bouquet garni, salt and pepper. 

Cook and stir over medium-high heat until thickened and bubbly. Add the cream cheese, sherry and thyme. Cook and stir until cheese melts. Stir in crabmeat and heat through. 

If desired, garnish each serving with additional thyme.

Serves 4.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Apple-Cheddar Soup

This is a 2007 Better Homes and Gardens recipe that I found filed among my 8 or 10 notebooks of recipes I gathered from the Internet, magazines and library cookbooks. It's a handy way to use any leftover cider, but it's also worth buying it just for this recipe. I make a few changes, such as adding more thyme -- one of my favorite herbs and a great perennial -- and cooking the soup a bit longer before adding the flour-milk mixture. I also doubled it so we could enjoy it for a few days; it tastes even better the second day and we like soup as a main course. I've incorporated my changes. I don't remember what I served with this; I'm catching up on posts I meant to make earlier. I'm guessing salad and bread, though.

Apple-Cheddar Soup

1  cup finely chopped onion
2  tbsp. butter
4  medium baking potatoes, peeled and diced
4 cups apple cider
1 heaping tbsp. snipped fresh thyme or 1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme, crushed
1  tsp. salt
Dash cayenne pepper
2  medium cooking apples, peeled, coarsely chopped
1  cup milk
4 tbsp. all-purpose flour
8  oz. sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)
  Fresh apple slices
  Green Peppercorns (optional; Joe's not crazy about pepper, so I skipped it)


1. In large saucepan cook onion in hot butter over medium heat until tender. Stir in potatoes, cider, thyme, salt, and cayenne pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 15 minutes. Add chopped apple; simmer, covered, 5 minutes or until potatoes are tender. In small bowl combine milk and flour; stir into soup. Cook and stir until bubbly. Slowly add cheese, whisking until cheese is melted.
2. Divide soup among serving dishes; top with apple slices and peppercorns. Makes 4 to 6 side-dish servings

Nutrition Facts

Calories 352, Total Fat (g) 16, Saturated Fat (g) 10, Monounsaturated Fat (g) 4, Polyunsaturated Fat (g) 1,
Cholesterol (mg) 48, Sodium (mg) 527, Carbohydrate (g) 32, Total Sugar (g) 10, Fiber (g) 4,
Protein (g) 12, Vitamin A (DV%) 0, Vitamin C (DV%) 31, Calcium (DV%) 27, Iron (DV%) 9,
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Baked Pork Chops with Parmesan-Sage Crust


I love these pork chops. I used a fantastic Bon Appetit recipe from; the chops come out tender and moist.

If you have the patience to make smaller bread crumbs than I do, your chops will look a little smoother and less rustic. One review of this recipe on the Web site says halving the bread-crumb mixture makes enough for the crust, but I like to really pack on the crust mixture because it's so tasty. I add more lemon zest and fresh sage, which I've incorporated into the ingredients.

I  recommend starting with one egg. If it's not enough, go with the second egg.

Baked Pork Chops with Parmesan-Sage Crust

1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs made from crustless French or other good bread
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 
1 tablespoon dried rubbed sage or 2 tbsp. fresh, chopped sage
Grated peel from 1 lemon, with none of the white pith
1 to 2 large eggs
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

4 center-cut pork loin chops (each about 1 inch thick, boneless is fine)
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
Lemon wedges (optional)
Orange wedges (optional)

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Mix breadcrumbs, cheese, sage and lemon peel in pie dish. Whisk eggs in a bowl or a second pie plate to blend. Place flour on plate; season generously with salt and pepper.

Coat pork chops on both sides with flour; shake off excess. Dip chops into eggs, then coat on both sides with breadcrumb mixture. Let rest 5 minutes.

Melt butter with oil in heavy large, nonstick, ovenproof skillet* over medium-high heat. Add pork chops to skillet and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer skillet with pork to oven.

Bake until breading is crisp on the outside and meat thermometer inserted into pork registers 150°F, about 20 minutes (less if chops are thinner). The chops will continue to cook a little after removed from the heat.

Transfer pork chops to plates. Garnish with lemon and orange wedges, if desired, and serve. 

*If you don't have an ovenproof, nonstick skillet, use your favorite large skillet and transfer cooked chops to casserole dish to bake.