Chocolate chip cookies #19

Chocolate chip cookies #19: Based on Plain Chicken’s Bisquick Chocolate Chip Cookies. Baked on 11/10/12.

Once again I don’t have enough time to write a decent update. I’ve been working on a couple of things, but they aren’t ready for publishing yet. I wish I had more time to work on them tonight, but I want to get up early so I can go to my spinning class at 5:30 AM. That means I need to go to bed at a decent hour – not something I’ve been very successful at recently. I’ve got to at least try and do better. But anyway, back to the cookies. I was excited when I saw this recipe for chocolate chip cookies made with Bisquick because I had a bunch left over from some recipe or another. Not only am I always on the lookout for a new chocolate chip cookie recipe to try, but what else was I going to do with leftover Bisquick? Unfortunately these cookies were terrible. Really, really bad. I’m glad I didn’t take a picture of them because I don’t want to anything to remind me of how awful they were. I tried a bite, spit it out, and then the whole pan went in the garbage. And it seems I wasn’t the only one who hated this recipe because several folks wrote comments about decreasing the amount of Bisquick to improve the results. I wish I’d read the comments before I started baking. But I knew I wasn’t going to find the best homemade chocolate chip cookie recipe without running across a complete flop or two. Live and learn – and never make cookies with Bisquick ever again!

Foodie Friday – Pumpkin cake in a mug

I love the idea of making cake in a coffee mug. It’s fantastic that after a few simple steps and just a few minutes you have the perfect personal-sized cake to enjoy. Brilliant! I am a huge fan of the brownie in a mug recipe I discovered last year. It’s so delicious. Unfortunately this pumpkin cake in a mug I made the other day didn’t turn out quite as well. I’m not posting the recipe here because I don’t recommend making it, but I figure sometimes it’s just as helpful to share the failures as the successes when it comes to food. I was eager to make this cake because I had some leftover pumpkin puree in the fridge, but the end result had very little pumpkin flavor. And the texture was really rubbery which was a major turn-off. That tends to happen when there’s an egg in a microwave recipe, which is why I like the brownie in a mug recipe instead. No egg equals no rubbery texture. Anyway, I tried this recipe and it was a bust, but I haven’t given up on all mug cakes yet. I plan to try a few more to see if there are any other delicious discoveries to be made.

Based on Kirbie’s Cravings Pumpkin Mug Cake.

A Tale of Two Pecan Pies

A couple of weeks ago I promised to make a pie for the Arthur Murray Christmas party even though pies and I haven’t exactly agreed in the past. Sounds like a recipe (pun intended) for disaster, right? You got it. My mom has been using my Aunt Martha’s incredible pecan pie recipe as long as I can remember so I figured that would be the safest thing for me to make. It’s tried and true and never let my mom down. I even successfully made one myself for Thanksgiving 2005 (see photo above) in my tiny Seal Beach apartment kitchen. So making a decent pecan pie now that I have a larger kitchen and a lot more cooking experience should have been a piece of cake (another pun intended), right? Unfortunately not. The fact that I ended up making two pies should tell you something right off the bat. On the first one the crust retracted in two places and some of the filling spilled over the top, in between the crust and the pan. I didn’t think too much of it when I took the pie out of the oven, but when I tried to slice it yesterday parts of the crust were hopelessly stuck to the pan. That filling that had made its way outside the crust was as good as super glue after it cooled to room temperature. I couldn’t get a full slice out of the pan without it falling apart. No big deal, I figured, because I had enough ingredients and just enough time to make another pie before the Christmas party. This time I used my shallower pie pan so I would have plenty of crust covering the edge of the pan, hopefully avoiding the problem of the migrating filling. The second pie looked beautiful coming out of the oven so I though I’d hit it out of the park this time. I was wrong. As soon as I set the pie on the cooling rack I realized that the crust had completely split down the middle – something I could only tell because the pan was glass. This allowed a good amount of the filling to seep out and form a layer of sticky liquid between the crust and the pan. How could that possibly have happened? Slightly panicked, I called my mom for help. After talking about it for about twenty minutes we decided that the crust must have been bad. I used Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust because I’ve never been brave enough to make my own from scratch, and the two I used for the pecan pies came from the same box. There must have been something weird about that particular batch. Maybe this little incident will motivate me to try make my own pie crust in the future. But anyway, I had run out of time so I cooled the second pie to room temperature, sliced it, and transferred the slices to another plate as carefully as possible to take to the Christmas party. Those slices didn’t look pretty and most of them were missing large chunks of crust that were still attached to the pan, but I took them to Arthur Murray anyway. Based on a couple of sample bites the pie tasted great – it just wasn’t as pretty as it should have been based on past results. The owner of the studio said it was the best pecan pie he’s ever tasted so that’s something. I love my Aunt Martha’s recipe because it uses brown sugar instead of corn syrup (yuck) for the filling. It’s seriously delicious. After I get over the two disastrous pecan pies I made this week I’ll have to try the recipe again to make sure I can get a good result. Thanks Aunt Martha!

Kitchen exploits

That looks like a lovely bowl of homemade chicken curry and rice, right? And it was. Too bad that one serving is the only bit that survived my kitchen exploits yesterday. I can hardly believe what I did. Sometimes I imagine all manners of horrible disasters that could happen and then I thank my lucky stars that they’re just in my head. Unfortunately yesterday one of them became a reality. But let me start at the beginning. On Tuesday I made a batch of curry sauce using this recipe from Three Many Cooks. This sauce was a different than any other curry I’ve made because it required me to puree an onion and a bell pepper before adding the traditional ingredients (coconut milk, tomato paste, and spices). At least I got to used the Magic Bullet blender than I bought many years ago after watching an infomercial in the wee hours of the morning. Not my best purchase. Since I didn’t have enough time to slow cook the chicken curry that night I put the sauce in the fridge to wait for a less busy evening. On Thursday night I threw the sauce into my Crockpot with some diced chicken and cooked it for about four hours before I decided it was done. This was my fourth attempt at making chicken curry, but it smelled fantastic so I had high hopes for this batch. Dan and I didn’t eat the curry for dinner that night because it took so long to cook, so I dumped the contents of my Crockpot into a large Corningware dish and put it in the fridge. Finally yesterday I decided I was going to eat some of the meal I’d been preparing for the last four days. I spooned a single serving into a bowl and put it into the microwave to reheat. There was still a lot of the curry left so I was going to put it back in the fridge for another meal. This is when it all went wrong. The big Corningware dish had some condensation on the outside and it slipped out of my hands I was was trying to hoist it onto the top shelf. Can you picture this? The dish fell onto the kitchen floor, shattered, and bright orange curry sauce went everywhere. My new New Balance shoes were covered in it and my jeans were pretty well coated as well. The sauce was also on the inside of the fridge, the outside of the fridge, and on the front of the oven. I stood there in shock for a few seconds before I ran outside to shed my sneakers and start cleaning up. Dan was kind enough to hose off my shoes before any permanent damage was done. It took a while, but I managed to remove all signs of my clumsiness from the kitchen and the only lasting damage is a broken piece of plastic in the refrigerator (the top of the meat and cheese drawer). I still can’t believe it happened, though. From now on I’m going to be extra careful when I’m putting stuff away.

Foodie Friday – Forty-fourth new recipe

Brownies – good. White chocolate – good. So why not combine them? When I saw this recipe for white chocolate brownies I was really excited because I thought they would be a great alternative to a classic brownie. They were really easy to make and the only specialty ingredient I had to buy was white chocolate (I wasn’t sure the Nestle’s white chips I had in the cabinet were suitable). So all the stars aligned with this recipe, right? Not exactly. Unfortunately the white chocolate flavor wasn’t that pronounced and the “brownies” had a cake-like consistency. In fact the result tasted like white cake and not like brownies at all. Very disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, they didn’t taste bad, but they weren’t that great either. I’m tempted to try making them again, refrigerating the dough before baking to see if that makes them any denser and fudgier. Or maybe just use one egg. I guess there are a few tweaks that might help. I really want this recipe to work because white chocolate brownies just sound so delicious! Maybe there’s hope after all. I’ll let you know if I have any success in the future.

INGREDIENTS:
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
8 oz white chocolate
1/4 c sugar
1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 c flour
2 eggs

DIRECTIONS:
In a medium bowl, melt the butter and white chocolate together in the microwave. Whisk until smooth. Add the sugar, vanilla, and flour and mix well. Stir in the eggs until well blended. Pour the batter into an 8×8″ pan lined with aluminum foil and coated with cooking spray. Bake for about 35 minutes at 350 deg F or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares. Enjoy!

Based on Salt and Chocolate’s White Chocolate Brownies.

Thirty-fourth and thirty-fifth new recipes

Not all recipes are winners, as I’m well aware after all of my experimental cooking so far this year. Quite a few of the new recipes I try are great, which is very encouraging, but unfortunately the last two have been real stinkers. It’s no secret that I love pumpkin and I’ve been looking for a good pumpkin soup recipe for a long time. In 2002 I went with Dan to Lake Tahoe for Thanksgiving and had an absolutely delicious bowl of pumpkin bisque at a restaurant there. I would love to be able to recreate that dish at home, but so far my attempts have been pretty much disasters. The photo above is a bowl of A Year of Slow Cooking’s Jamaican Pumpkin Soup. It doesn’t look pretty and didn’t taste that great either. After reading some reviews I added about half a can of coconut milk to the soup and it was greatly improved. I actually took the leftovers with me to work for lunch and practically licked the bowl. So I think this recipe has potential, just not quite as originally written.

Pumpkin soup, take 2. I’ve had Sugarcrafter’s Pumpkin Bisque recipe bookmarked for a long time and it was so simple that I made it last week on my day off from work. The directions for this soup should have been easy to follow, but I still made one major mistake. I took a can of chicken broth and a can of vegetable broth out of the cabinet at the same time and set them on the counter. The chicken broth was for the pumpkin soup and the vegetable broth was for some quinoa I intended to make later. But when it came to add broth to the soup I wasn’t paying attention and used the vegetable broth. Oops. I’m not sure if the substitution made the soup as unpalatable as it was, but I didn’t like the taste at all. I have two Tupperwares of leftovers in the fridge because I want to give the soup a second chance, but I have a feeling I’ll just throw it out. What a waste of a perfectly good can of pumpkin. There’s got to be a good pumpkin soup recipe out there somewhere – I just have to keep looking.

Twenty-eighth new recipe

I’ve tried a bunch of recipes from Noble Pig’s food blog with great results just about every time. For example, I can’t say enough about the cider-glazed sausages that I made twice last week! Unfortunately this recipe wasn’t quite as successful. It was pretty easy to make, which I appreciated, and the soup smelled delicious as it was simmering, but I’m just not crazy about the end result. Maybe it was the wine flavor (I’m in the minority of people who don’t drink – I just don’t like the taste of alcohol) or the type of cheese (I think adding another kind along with the cheddar would have helped), but there was something unpalatable about this soup. It wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, though. Dan and I eat ate a bowl for lunch last Sunday and we discovered that it was infinitely better with bread, but still not worth a repeat performance. There’s a Corningware container full of white cheddar cheese soup in our refrigerator right now, but I have a feeling it’s going to be thrown out rather than eaten as leftovers. Too bad. This will not deter me from trying other recipes from Noble Pig, however, because I’ve found so many delicious ones on her blog. I’m especially fond of her Ranch Mac and Cheese!

INGREDIENTS:
1/4 c unsalted butter
1 c yellow onion, diced small
1/2 c celery, diced small
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground white pepper
1/2 c dry white wine (I used Chardonnay…from a box)
1 1/2 c chicken broth
1 1/2 c whole milk
1-1/2 c heavy cream
12 oz white Cheddar cheese, grated

DIRECTIONS:
Saute onion and celery in butter in a large pot over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Add garlic and saute 1 minute more. Stir in flour to coat the vegetables. Add dry mustard, salt, and white pepper. Stir constantly for 2 minutes to prevent scorching. Whisk in wine – the mixture will be clumpy. Then whisk in broth, milk, and cream, scraping the bottom of the pot. Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cheese. Continue stirring until cheese is completely melted. Transfer to individual serving bowls. Enjoy!

Based on Noble Pig’s White Cheddar Cheese Soup.

Twenty-seventh new recipe

There is officially no more peanut butter in the house. I found a half-full jar of crunchy peanut butter that was who knows how old so I put it to good use – making peanut butter bars! I used to make a version of these delicious no-bake treats when I lived in Tallahassee. I even garnered a marriage proposal from one of my guy friends when I was sixteen because of them. I remember a boy I had a crush on walking around with a whole plate full of them at some high school function, which made me hopeful, but he didn’t like me nearly as much as the peanut butter bars. I need to get my mom to send me the recipe that we used back then because the one I tried this weekend just doesn’t measure up. I never remember using graham cracker crumbs before and I think that’s definitely what makes my recent batch of peanut butter bars so bland. A couple of similar recipes online use graham cracker crumbs as well, but much less than the one I made. Whatever it is, I’m just not a fan of this particular recipe. My co-workers were very appreciative when I brought two plates of them on Monday, though. They were gobbled up very quickly. I will revisit this recipe when I get the tried-and-true version from my mom. I’m really looking forward to making those!

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 c butter, melted
1 1/4 c graham cracker crumbs
1 c peanut butter (I used chunky)
1 1/2 c powdered sugar
1 c milk chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS:
In a medium bowl, stir together melted butter, graham cracker crumbs, peanut butter, and powdered sugar. You might have to use your hands to incorporate all of the dry ingredients. Press the mixture firmly into the bottom of an 8×8″ pan. Melt chocolate chips in the microwave (about 1 min on HIGH), stirring occasionally. Spread melted chocolate over the peanut butter base. Chill for about 15 minutes in the fridge, then cut into bars before the chocolate is completely set. Return the pan to the fridge until ready to serve. Enjoy!

Based on The Girl Who Ate Everything’s Reeses Bars.

Twenty-third new recipe

Before I tried this recipe, I don’t think I had ever made brownies from scratch before. Why bother when you can pick up a box of Ghiradelli brownie mix at the grocery store? Delicious! So why did I try making this recipe for Fat Witch Bakery’s classic brownies on Cakespy’s webpage? A couple of reasons – 1) I’d heard a lot of good things about the famous brownies from the Fat Witch Bakery in NYC, 2) I was craving chocolate at the time, and 3) I had half a carton of Egg Beaters I needed to use before they went bad. I guess the satisfaction of discovering a good from-scratch brownie recipe ranks right up there too. Adding some dense, moist, fudgy brownies to my holiday care packages would definitely be a plus. Unfortunately the brownies that came out of the oven last Monday night do not fit the bill at all. I was so hopeful after reading Cakespy’s great review of this recipe from Fat Witch Brownies: Brownies, Blondies, and Bars from New York’s Legendary Fat Witch Bakery, especially since they were so simple to make. My kitchen smelled amazing as they were cooking, and the brownies looked perfect coming out of the pan, but they tasted…off somehow. They weren’t really that chocolatey and they had a weird custard-y flavor. More like cake that brownies – very disappointing. I was afraid I’d made a mistake in the preparation, but then I read the book reviews on Amazon. It seems that quite a lot of people for the same results as I did and just about everyone has come to the conclusion that this is not the recipe for the brownies that Fat Witch Bakery sells. Very disappointing. My coworkers all has good things to say about them the next day when I left a bunch for them to sample, but I think they were just being nice. The brownies definitely tasted better after sitting overnight, but I won’t be making this recipe again. The search for a good brownie continues.

INGREDIENTS:
14 Tbsp (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 c plus 2 tablespoons bittersweet chocolate chips (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)
1 1/4 c granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c plus 2 Tbsp flour
Pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS:
1) Melt the butter and chocolate in the microwave in a medium bowl. Set aside to cool while you prepare the next step.
2) Cream the sugar, eggs, and vanilla together. Add the cooled butter and chocolate and mix until well blended. Gently mix in the flour and sugar until no trace of the dry ingredients remains.
3) Spread the batter evenly in a greased 11×7″ pan and bake at 350 deg F for 33 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs. Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting. Enjoy!

Based on Cakespy’s review of the Fat Witch Brownies recipe.