Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fudgy Coconut Cookies

My printer at home is broken. Canon wants me to ship it back to them so that they can repair it. I’m not sure that it’s worth it. Do I really need a printer? For weeks now, any time I needed to print something, I would load it on to my flash drive, take it to work and print my documents there. This works very well as long as one remembers to save what one needs to ye olde flash drive.

Like a cookie recipe. Today, I found myself trying to bake a brand new cookie recipe with the recipe on the computer screen at one end of the house and my kitchen at the other end of the house. I would memorize a few ingredients and their amounts and then dash down the hall to the kitchen. Sometimes I would forget the amount and have to make a second trip. Back and forth. Back and forth.

Eventually, I had all of the ingredients in all of their correct amounts added in the correct order, and properly mixed. The first batch was in the oven, the second on another cookie sheet waiting their turn when I looked up and saw the butter. The quarter cup of butter that I had put out a few hours before to soften. The butter that I had completely forgotten about and somehow missed while sprinting between computer and kitchen.

Much like the printer, I decided it wasn’t worth it to either try to add it the remaining batter or to start all over again. I didn’t think that it would matter much whether the butter was in it or not because I didn’t think that I was going to like this recipe. I don’t like chocolate and brown sugar, something I apparently overlooked upon my initial reading of this recipe.

I never hesitate to admit when I am wrong and I was definitely wrong about these cookies. They were billed as “inspired by a Mounds candy bar”, although I wouldn’t agree with the comparison. They turned out to be great without the butter. My only complaint is that the coconut probably should be in smaller pieces. I can’t wait to try them again, this time including the butter.

Verdict: Yum!! This one’s a keeper

Fudgy Coconut Cookies
(Source: Cooking Club of America)

12 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350°F. Place chopped chocolate in microwave-safe bowl; microwave on medium 3 to 5 minutes or until almost melted. Stir until smooth. Cool slightly. Stir in brown sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla until smooth.

In small bowl, stir together flour and baking powder; stir into chocolate mixture. Stir in coconut and chocolate chips. Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of batter onto baking sheets.

Bake, 1 sheet at a time, 12 to 15 minutes or until cookies are set. (Be careful not to burn cookies because batter is dark.) Place baking sheet on wire rack; cool completely.

18 cookies

Recycle: vanilla bottle
Compost: eggshells

Monday, September 21, 2009

Quick and Easy Chili in Homemade Bread Bowls

I’ve mentioned before that I find recipes in the unlikeliest places. This time I was reading Gardener News, a periodical aimed at gardeners obviously. But it also features recipes appropriate to the season. For the September edition, a chili recipe was offered.

I’ve been in search of the perfect chili recipe for years. Most of the recipes I’ve tried are called chili because they have chili powder in them. They don’t even come close to my idea of chili. And the few chili recipes that did come close, still lacked “something”.

This recipe caught my eye because it calls for a jalapeno pepper and Cayenne pepper. I love spicy food! It also contains half of a bell pepper which is cooked along with the onion before adding the rest of the ingredients. Most recipes use a whole bell pepper and cook it and the onion with everything else resulting in a chili with a lot of crunchy peppers and onions. I don’t like my chili crunchy.

I didn’t make the bread bowls. I’ve been cutting down on the amount of bread I eat. I even use wraps for my sandwiches. I used tomato juice instead of V-8 Juice. I thought that the chili would probably be spicy enough without the added spices in the V-8. I was little hesitant about using olive oil. I just don’t care for the taste. Usually I substitute vegetable oil. In this case I went with the olive oil because the intense spices would (hopefully) cover the taste of the olive oil.

The instructions to prepare the vegetables while the meat browned were right on. Of course I knew better and did the veggies first and then the meat. And found myself standing around watching ground beef brown. Not even as exciting as watching golf because with meat, you already know the outcome. Next time, veggies while meat browns.

It’s not often that I love a recipe the first time that I make it. More often, it’s the second day when the flavors have had a chance to meld. This is one of those rare occasions that was love at first bite. The olive oil taste was buried under all the spices, as was the acid in the tomatoes. My only complaint was too many beans, not enough meat. I’m not sure that I would add more meat, but I would definitely eliminate at least one of the cans of Pinto beans.

I finally found the perfect chili recipe.

Verdict: Yum!! This one’s a keeper!!

Quick and Easy Chili in Homemade Bread Bowls
(Source: Cherry Huntoon, Kings Cooking Studio)

1 package frozen bread dough – 3 loaves to a package
¼ cup olive oil
1 ½ pounds ground beef or ground turkey
1 small onion
½ - bell pepper – any color
1 small Jalapeno
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon Cayenne pepper
3 cans Pinto beans (15-16 ounces each)
1 large can plum tomatoes (28-ounces) – whole or diced
2 cups tomato juice or vegetable juice (V-8)
Salt and pepper

Defrost the dough according to package directions. Cut each loaf into 3 pieces. Shape each piece into a ball. Place the balls on parchment lined baking sheets and set aside to rise (30 to 40 minutes). Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake until they are golden brown. Set aside to cool.

Preheat a large soup pot. Add 2-3 tablespoons olive oil and swirl the pan to coat the bottom. Add the ground meat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.

Prepare the vegetables while the meat is browning:
· Peel the onion and chop it by hand or use a mini-chop to make a fine dice.
· Cut the pepper in half. Remove the ribs and seeds and cut it into strips ½- inch wide, then cut the strips into a ½-inch dice.
· Cut the jalapeno in half and remove the ribs and seeds, then cut it into
a fine dice. Combine the onion and peppers and put aside.
· Peel the garlic and put it through a garlic press. Do not combine the
garlic with the peppers.

When the meat is browned, remove it to a bowl and set it aside. Drain the liquid. Put the pan back on the burner and add the remaining oil.

When the oil is hot, add the onions and peppers. Sauté until they are soft, adjusting the heat if necessary so they do not get brown or crispy.

Add the garlic and cook no more than 1-minute. Be careful it doesn’t burn.

Add the meat back to the pan. Sprinkle the chili powder, cumin and cayenne over the meat and stir to combine.

Drain and rinse the beans. Add them to the pan, then add the tomatoes. Break the tomatoes with a wooden spoon, if necessary. Stir in the tomato juice. Taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper and even more cayenne, as you like. Simmer on low, stirring occasionally, for 30-45 minutes.

Cut the top off each cooled bread ball. Scoop out most of the bread inside, being careful to not break or crack the outside. Fill the empty bread bowls with chili. Serve with diced onions, shredded cheese, crackers and/or hot sauce, if desired.

Recycle: olive oil bottle, pinto beans and tomatoes cans, tomato juice bottle or can

Compost: onion skins, garlic skins, ribs and seeds of jalapeno and bell peppers

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Quick Chocolate Cake

Woo hoo! Summer is over. The cooler temps of fall have tempted me back into the kitchen. So this past weekend when I experienced a sudden urge for chocolate, instead of opening the freezer to check out the ice cream situation, I turned on the oven.

Normally when I have an urge for chocolate, I bake brownies. They are fast and easy. But in this case, I had no butter in the house. My thoughts then turned to cakes. Coincidentally, I had just finished the last of the Half & Half (used in a pinch when I have no milk) that morning. What to do, what to do?

I know! This is a great opportunity to try out that recipe I saw in Better Homes and Gardens for a chocolate cake that uses no eggs and no milk. It is made in one bowl and bakes in a 9x13x12-inch pan like brownies. Instead of frosting, the recipe suggests ice cream, whipped cream or a dusting of powdered sugar. Plus, the recipe is the brainchild of a BHG reader so it has to work, right? Who submits recipes that don’t work?

So I greased up my brownie pan, dumped all of the ingredients at once into a bowl and mixed. The recipe says to beat until the “well combined”. I did but it didn’t have the consistency of cake batter. I beat some more. No dice. Crossing my fingers, I poured the rather runny batter into the pan and popped it into the oven.

And forgot to set the timer. No problem! I’ll just take it out when the sides start to pull away from the pan. Which they did. Before the middle finished baking. Experience has taught me that if I had left it in the oven, the edges of the cake would have burned before the batter in the middle baked all the way through. So out it came.

After it cooled, I tried a piece from the cooked edge. The texture was very light as was the taste. I could barely taste any chocolate. No way that this would stand up to ice cream or whipped cream. Those require a dense cake with a strong chocolate flavor. All baked goods taste better the second day, so I tried another piece the following day. Still light texture but with a stronger chocolate flavor.

Yes, this is a quick chocolate cake but it’s not a very good one. I should have realized that there was a good chance that this recipe would neither work nor taste very good. The reader who submitted the recipe wrote the following in the category of Favorite to Make: “I love to bake pies!”

Verdict: What were they thinking???

Quick Chocolate Cake
(Source: Better Homes and Gardens Magazine, July 2009)

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 cups cold water
⅔ cup vegetable oil
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. white vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla

Heat oven to 350°F. In large mixing bowl combine all ingredients. Beat with electric mixer on medium to high speed until well combined. Pour batter in a greased 9x13x2-inch baking pan.
Bake 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream, or dust with powdered sugar.

Recycle: vegetable oil bottle, vinegar bottle, vanilla bottle