Monday, August 29, 2011

Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies

I have been kind of all over the place lately.  Probably 7 out of the past 8 weeks, I have been without my own kitchen.  Or without my kitchen stuff.  So, I have borrowed plenty of people's kitchens.  And made lots of salads and sandwiches.  And smoothies, because for some reason a blender was one of the kitchen tools I have kept by my side (and my knives, which now go everywhere with me).  Now, I am finally back at home.  With all my kitchen gear.  I was so ready to cook and eat real food.  And eat whatever I want.  And to eat VEGETABLES!  Summer is almost over!  Ahhhh!

Unfortunately, Hurricane Irene has left us without our kitchen.  We are pretty lucky since tons of people have no power at all.  We live by a main road so we got our power turned back on right away.  However, there is some damage and our whole house is only getting half the power.  We will just be using our grill and eating all the delicious fresh produce available right now.  The tomatoes are completing my life.  Why can't someone invent a way to eat summer tomatoes all year round?

Anyways, I just returned home from one heck of a wedding celebration.  Weddings are somewhat life-changing.  Each one in their own way.  I love participating in a close friend's wedding and then meeting all of her close friends and family.  I feel like weddings make me love people again.  And relationships.  

I made these cookies for the bridal shower.  Although the entire menu for the shower was inspired by the bride (lots of comfort food), these cookies were my own selfish preference.  During the shower and bachelorette party, everyone was raving about the other options (Cookie Dough Truffles and Lemon Poppyseed Cookies) and it seemed to me that many people didn't even try the oatmeal cookies.  However, I couldn't stop thinking about them.  I normally can control myself around sweets.  I usually get sick of whatever I make after eating it once or twice.  But I probably ate at least 15 of these cookies.  I gave some to Scot's grandparents when we went over there for dinner.  They ate them the next morning (for breakfast, which by the way is an excellent idea).  Grandma R. called me up immediately after finishing off the entire batch I gave her and said they are the best thing ever.  I had a similar (somewhat emotional) reaction myself, so I was so glad to share the same taste with Grandma R.  

These are a soft oatmeal cookie with butterscotch chips, toffee bits, and a little shredded coconut.  They have some flour in them which I find essential for soft, chewy, non-flat oatmeal cookies.  One of my favorite cookies in a long time.  

Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies
originally from Taylor Takes a Taste via Annie’s Eats

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
3/4 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
1/4 cup toffee bits

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Stir to blend, and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugars and beat on medium-high speed until light and smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in the egg until incorporated. Blend in the vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients just until incorporated. With a spatula, fold in the oats, coconut, butterscotch chips and toffee bits until evenly combined.

Drop scoops of dough (about 2 tablespoons each) onto the prepared baking sheets, a few inches apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until just set and light golden, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Let cool on the pans about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

(Servings: 24 cookies, Prep time: 30 min., Bake time: 30 min., Difficulty: Easy)

foodforscot Ratings:

Shanon (taste):  10/10
Scot (taste):  8/10
Effort:  2/5
Dishwashing Effort:  2/5

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ham and Cheese Pretzel Bites

Sometimes people ask me how I have time to cook all the time.  Or how I have time to cook such elaborate things.

In some ways, I do see people's point.  Making things like pretzel bites, doesn't make too much sense.  They aren't that easy.  Not to mention, that aren't all that necessary.  And I do often make unnecessary things like pretzel bites, because I think it is fun.  And I knew my little sister would like them.

But in general, I cook all the time because we need to eat.  And I don't understand how some people eat but don't cook.  How does that even work?  Sometimes I wonder when people say they don't cook if they mean they just eat out.  Or maybe they mean the just eat cereal and PB&J's?  Or maybe they mean they just make salads and sandwiches?  Or maybe they mean they eat frozen pizzas and hungry-man?  Or maybe they mean they eat Reese's and Doritos?  So many options.

I do know that I do have time to cook/prepare food.  It is almost always at night.  It is almost always dark outside (no matter what the season).  I am always in a hurry.  But there is no other option, food doesn't have to be convenient, yo!

As I was making these, I was cursing in my head about how long they took and how we needed to be done before our movie.  Story of my life.  My little sister helped out.  We got them done and eaten before the movie.  They were delicious.  They smell amazing.  They might be a good party appetizer if you make them in advance and warm them quickly in the oven before serving.  I wouldn't want to mess with boiling and baking them while the guests were there.

Ham & Cheese Pretzel Bites

1 package (1/4 oz) active dry yeast (or instant yeast)
2 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon packed brown sugar, divided
1/4 cup warm water (110-115°F)
1 cup warm milk (110-115°F)
2 1/2 to 3 cups flour
1/2 cup finely chopped ham (about 3 ounces)
1/2 cup shredded cheese of choice (I used cheddar)
6 cups water
4 teaspoons baking soda
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1-2 Tablespoons coarse salt

Combine the yeast, 1 tsp brown sugar, and warm water in a large bowl. Set aside until foamy, 5-8 minutes. (If using the instant yeast, you can skip this step and just add it to the flour.) In another bowl, stir together the remaining 2 Tbsp brown sugar and warm milk until dissolved.

Add 2 1/2 cups flour and milk mixture to the yeast. Stir with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. Add the remaining flour as needed. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead a few times, forming a smooth ball.

Brush the inside of a large clean bowl with olive oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm, draft free area for about 2 hours, until dough has doubled in size and bubbles appear on the surface.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 4 equal pieces. Lightly dust your hands and rolling pin with flour. Roll one of the four sections into a 12°—4-inch rectangle. With the long side facing you, gently press 1/4 of the ham and cheese into the bottom third of the dough, and roll as tightly as possible, starting with the end that has the filling. Cut into 12 1-inch pieces and transfer to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Repeat with remaining 3 portions of the dough.

Let rest, uncovered, at room temperature for 30 minutes. (Again, if using instant yeast you may choose to skip this step as it only requires one rise.) Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400°F.

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add the baking soda and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Boil pretzels in batches, cooking about 20 seconds each, turning once.  They should be slightly puffed. Use a slotted spoon to transfer them back to the baking sheets.

Bake until puffed and golden-brown, about 15 minutes.

Brush warm pretzel bites with melted butter and sprinkle with salt. Serve warm or at room temperature.

(Servings: 48 bites, Prep time: 3.5 hrs., Bake time: 30 min., Difficulty: Intermediate)

foodforscot Ratings:

Shanon (taste):  7/10
Scot (taste):  7/10
Cindy (taste):  7/10
Effort: 3/5
Dishwashing Effort:  3/5

Monday, August 15, 2011

Orange Chicken

You know when you read an email and can't respond because you need to look further into something or need to talk to someone first or because you need to wait for something else to get planned first.  But then it gets to be a week...two weeks...a month later and it is just awkward to respond so late.  I feel like that is how this blog is right now.  So this is me, writing back, saying "Sorry it took me so long to get back to you!"

I moved.  I don't live in Boulder, CO anymore.  :(  I am now an East Coaster (job -> re-locay).  :)  Scot, Copper and I are now living in a world of bagels, delis, diners, pizza and donuts.  We are also getting used to the random humidity and rain.  It is fun.  But Boulder and all the wonderful people there took a piece of my heart.  There is also a pretty good chance that I am getting fat.  ter.  

My little sister has been visiting, like she does every summer.  Read more about her here.  When we picked her up from Laguardia, we spent the afternoon in the city.  As we were walking around, I asked her what she was hungry for.  She said "sandwiches or Asian".  I got excited and told her she could get any Asian food she wanted in NYC.  And good stuff too.  So I asked, "do you like real Asian or American Asian."  She said, "probably American Asian".  

After crying, I told her to forget about it.  Ughs-ies.  If there is anything I hate more than American Asian food, it would have to be the devil or Taco Bell.  Don't get me wrong, I went through the Sesame Chicken phase in high school.  I did that.  I went there.  BUT, it ain't right.  We all know that.

Anyways, if she wants "Chinese" food, I will make it from scratch.  I am not afraid of a little frying.  At least this way, I know what is in it.  Make sure to serve it with some steamed vegetables. NEED to serve veggies with this.  It is the only way to get out of this situation alive.  

Orange Chicken
from Cooking at Home in America’s Test Kitchen via Annie’s Eats

For the marinade and sauce:
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
11/2 tsp. finely grated orange zest
6 tbsp. white vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar (dark or light)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
11/2 lbs. boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. cold water
8 thin strips orange peel (optional)

For the coating and frying:
3 large egg whites
1 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
3 cups peanut or canola oil (I like a combination)

To make the marinade and sauce, combine the chicken broth, orange juice, orange zest, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and cayenne pepper in a large saucepan; whisk to blend well. Measure out 3/4 cup of the mixture and transfer it to a large zipper lock plastic bag. Add the chicken pieces to the bag, pressing out the excess air and sealing well. Refrigerate and let marinate 30-60 minutes, but no longer. Place the saucepan with the remaining mixture on the stove and heat over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water until smooth. Add the mixture to the saucepan with the sauce. Continue simmering until the sauce is thick and translucent, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the strips of orange peel, if using.

To prepare the coating, place the egg whites in a pie plate and whisk until frothy. In a second pie plate combine the cornstarch, baking soda and cayenne pepper; whisk to blend. Drain the chicken of the marinade in a colander or large strainer; pat dry with paper towels. Place half of the chicken pieces in the egg whites and turn to coat. Transfer the pieces to the cornstarch mixture and coat thoroughly, shaking off the excess. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.

To fry the chicken, heat the oil in a 11- or 12-inch round Dutch oven or straightsided sauté pan until the oil reaches 350° F. Carefully place half of the chicken pieces in the oil and fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes, turning the pieces halfway through cooking. Remove from the oil with a skimmer or slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Return the oil to 350° F and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.

Reheat the sauce if necessary and toss with the cooked chicken pieces. Serve over rice, if desired.

(Servings: 4, Prep time: 1 hr., Cook time: 45 min., Difficulty: Easy)

foodforscot Ratings:

Shanon (taste):  6/10
Scot (taste):  8/10
Cindy (taste):  9/10
Effort:  4/5
Dishwashing Effort:  3/5