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Archive for April, 2007

That’s good enough for me. Considering my affinity for cookies, that has to be one of the finest songs ever sung on Sesame Street. I always felt sorry for Cookie Monster, though. He never got to enjoy the cookies. As soon as he crammed them into his gaping mouth, they’d hit a wall of fabric. For him, eating the cookies meant spewing forth a messy fountain of crumbs. Sad story, indeed. No, merely having the illusion of eating cookies is not good enough for me. There was a very recent time in my life when I could have called myself a Cookie Monster, only I didn’t have the shaggy blue ‘do to pull it off. I would go down to the school cafeteria almost every day to pick up a freshly baked GIGANTIC chocolate chip cookie as an afternoon snack. Imagine the crumbs flying now.

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I make cookies every now and then, but I still haven’t found a recipe that gives me a cookie that’s crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Something tells me that I might have to attempt GIGANTIC cookies to achieve that. Maybe later…for now, just give me a tall, cold glass of Lactaid milk.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Chip Cookies
(makes 36 good-sized cookies – about 3 in. diameter)
1 cup (2sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp almond extract, plus 2 tbsp water
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with foil or parchment paper.
2. Combine butter, sugars, eggs, water, almond and vanilla extracts, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl; beat until light and fluffy. Blend in flour until dough is smooth and stiff. Stir in chocolate chips and peanut butter chips.
3. Roll dough into little balls, placing them about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheets. Flatten and shape them by pressing down on the dough with the back of a spoon. Bake until edges are lightly browned (or about 16 minutes, rotating the pan 180 degrees after 10 minutes of baking).

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I am a kitchen klutz. I spilled an entire bottle of pure almond extract making this tart, which is a shame because I have also been wanting to make almond cupcakes. It’s a good thing that this tart turned out well. Otherwise, I would be shaking my fists at my kitchen counter, blaming it for not being more considerate of my clutter and causing me to knock things over left and right.

An almond crust from epicurious, and a tart filling from foodnetwork (emeril). Together, these recipes gave me what I was searching for: a strawberry and peach tart with orange filling and an almond crust.

Almond Crust

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup slivered blanched almonds (about 2 ounces)
1/4 cup sugar1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons (about) ice water

Blend flour, almonds, sugar and salt in processor until nuts are finely ground. Add butter and cut in using on/off turns until mixture resembles coarse meal. Mix in almond extract and enough water to form moist clumps. Knead dough briefly on work surface to combine; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic; refrigerate until firm before rolling, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out. Fit the dough into a 10 1/2-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. (I think my tart pan was 12″, but there was still plenty of dough left-over.) Trim the dough flush with the rim and freeze the tart shell until firm. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line the shell with foil or parchment and fill with pie weights, rice, or dried beans. Bake for 20 minutes until set. Remove the foil and weights and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes until lightly golden. Remove the shell from the oven and immediately brush the hot pastry with the egg white.

Orange Cream Filling
8 oz softened cream cheese
4 tbsp granulated sugar
3 teaspoons fresh orange juice
3/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
2-3 cups whipped cream (you can make your own from scratch, or use Cool Whip, like I did. The real stuff is better, no doubt, but I was trying to make good use of resources.)

In a medium bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, orange juice, and orange zest until smooth. Fold in the whipped cream.

Assembly

Spread the cream mixture evenly over the bottom of the tart shell. Arrange fresh fruit over the top. (I used fresh strawberries and canned peaches.) Using a pastry brush, lightly glaze the top of the fruit with the syrup from the canned peaches.

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I nearly broke the blender trying to pulverize the almonds. If you look closely at the photo, you can still see almond slivers in the crust.

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a two-week soup

Weeks ago, I was craving soup — one with a clear broth, but one that was also hearty enough to satisfy as a meal. After a quick search on Epicurious, I found a recipe for meatball soup. The same night, I eagerly sought out ingredients for the soup at the supermarket. The recipe called for escarole, but I couldn’t find any, so I decided to substitute with kale instead. (Kale has a slight bitterness to it. It is another one of those leafy green veggies that get a lot of use during the winter months, and can be found sitting beside the mustard greens and swiss chard.) With my kale, ground beef, and carrots in tow, I happily anticipated making the soup the next day.

A week passed, and no meatball soup in sight. (Don’t worry, the ground beef was kept in the freezer.) Then I thought I could make it easier for myself by splitting the work into two parts. I could always make the meatballs first, then freeze them. With the meatballs already rolled, making the soup should be a breeze.

Week 2: Meatballs from week 1, but still no meatball soup. Looking into the fridge, I saw that the kale was limp and on the verge of shriveling. The carrots weren’t getting any younger, either.

Well, I guess you know what happened next.

Meatball Soup
(I made some changes to the recipe on Epicurious)

Ingredients:
1/3 bunch of kale, chopped into 2″ pieces
1/3 onion, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped on the bias
6 cups chicken broth, plus 6 cups water
mini meatballs (see recipe below)
5 oz mini shells
grated parmesan cheese

Meatballs:
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup very finely minced onion
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
ground pepper, to taste

Combine the ground meat, bread crumbs, cheese, onion, egg, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Shape the mixture into tiny balls, less than 1 inch in diameter.

Assembly:
Cook onions in olive oil until tender and translucent. Add chicken broth and water, and bring to a boil. Add kale and simmer for 15 minutes. Toss in the carrots and simmer for another 10 minutes. When the kale is almost tender, stir in the pasta and return the soup to a simmer. Drop the meatballs into the soup. Cook over low heat, stirring gently, until the meatballs and pasta are cooked, about 25 minutes.

italian meatball soup

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