Molasses Ginger Chocolate Cookies

Two days of baking disasters and I’m ready to throw in the towel. Wave the white flag. Concede defeat. Surrender my baking pans and whisks.

Well…..I don’t think I’m prepared to go that far.

It was very disheartening to have thrown out an entire cake yesterday (the texture was like rubber), and a 9″ x 13″ pan of congo brownies today (the brownie batter was dry with a capital D… and completely inedible).

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Instead, I’m going to chalk my losses up to a bad week, and try again tomorrow. I think.

Thank goodness these cookies came out perfect. However, I realized, as I was typing out the instructions, that I neglected to roll the uncooked dough balls in additional granulated sugar before baking.

As the recipe clearly states.

I think I need to stop while I’m ahead.

Molasses Ginger Chocolate Cookies – adapted from Susan Spungen

  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1½ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tbs cocoa powder, sifted
  • 12 tbs unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus another 1/2 cup for rolling the dough in before baking
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup candied ginger, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 350°. Whisk together flour, baking soda, spices and cocoa in a large bowl. Set aside.

With a stand or hand mixer, cream together butter and 1/3 cup dark brown and 1/3 cup granulated sugar until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.

Beat in egg yolk. Add molasses and vanilla. Add flour mixture. Mix until combined and no flour pockets remain. Stir in chocolate chunks and candied ginger. Chill dough until firm.

Roll 1 ounce tablespoonfuls of cookie dough into balls. Roll in the additional granulated sugar. Place on cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Bake 10-12 minutes, rotating after 5 minutes, until beginning to crack and edges are just set. Do not overbake. Let cookies cool briefly on baking sheet then transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely.

Crockpot Tacos al Pastor

In addition to my daily, borderline obsessive, and up to the minute newsfeeds, (Feedly, Instagram, Buzzfeed, TMZ, and Pulse) I have recently become addicted to PureWow and Flipboard.

great….

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I am two months behind in reading my in-print magazine subscriptions as it is, so imagine my chagrin at becoming caught up in two additional sites that give me news, fashion, food, makeup, and home decor ideas.

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On the positive side, I am expanding my brainpower and becoming (I think) a bit more in touch with the tech world.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it. 

All the reading has paid off, though, because I found this recipe on Ali’s site via Feedly, and since we are a serious pork-loving family, I couldn’t wait to try it. And, as an added bonus, it utilizes one of my favorite kitchen appliances, the crockpot. It was absolutely delicious, and while the posse ate theirs in the traditional soft taco style, I thoroughly enjoyed mine over a bed of greens, which made me feel very virtuous.

Until dessert, anyway……

Crockpot Tacos al Pastor – adapted from Gimme Some Oven

  • 1 (7 lb ) bone-in pork  roast
  • 1 (12-oz.) bottle of beer
  • 2 chipotles in adobo sauce
  • 2 cups chopped pineapple
  • 1/2 cup chopped white onion
  • 3 tbs. chili powder
  • 3 tbs. fresh lime juice
  • 2 tbs. white vinegar
  • 1 tbs. ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Tortillas, cheese, salsa, sour cream, and avocado, for serving

Place the roast in the crockpot. Combine the chipotles in adobo, pineapple, onion, chili powder, lime juice, white vinegar, cumin and black pepper in a blender.  Blend until the mixture is completely smooth. Pour the mixture on top of the pork, then pour the beer into the crockpot.

Cook on high for 6-8 hours, until the pork is completely tender and falling off the bone. Shred the pork into a large bowl, and pour the juices over it, mixing to combine. Serve with tortillas, cheese, salsa, sour cream, and avocado.

Hot Fudge Sauce

For someone that loves chocolate as much as I do, hot fudge sauce isn’t something I prepare very often. Utilizing my vast expanse of brain cells, I have come to the conclusion I probably don’t make it as often as I should, because I would most likely eat it straight from the container, instead of the more traditional and common usage, such a pouring it over a slice of pie or a bowl of ice cream.

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So last week, when I found a half-full carton of heavy cream in the fridge, inspiration struck and I whipped up this recipe in a snap. Now I have a secret stash of sauce artfully hidden in the back of the refrigerator. Hopefully the kids won’t find it….

For future reference, the sauce straight from the fridge yields a consistency akin to chocolate truffles. The sauce warmed up yields a more fluid end result.

The scoop pictured above is somewhere between the two. And delicious all the way around…

Hot Fudge Sauce – adapted from Epicurious

  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 6 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), finely chopped
  • 2 tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Bring cream, corn syrup, sugar, cocoa, and half of chocolate to a boil in a 1 to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until chocolate is melted. Reduce heat and cook at a low boil, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes, then remove from heat. Add butter, vanilla, and remaining chocolate and stir until smooth. Cool sauce to warm before serving.

No Bake Chocolate Cheesecake – and an Anniversary!

Fun fact: exactly one year ago today, April 10, the posse and I packed up our bags (and Daisy), said goodbye to our friends in Vegas, loaded up Dad’s plane, and made our move to Austin.

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And quite frankly, my mother hasn’t forgiven me (or J) since…

However, to say we love it here would be a grave understatement. We really love it.  How can you not love a city that bills itself as the Music Capital of the World? And has food trucks on every corner? Suburbia when you want, and quiet country life as well?

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 Sunset in our slice of country life …

Although traffic here is epic (comparable, in my world, to SoCal traffic), it’s a small price to pay for what we consider home. And even though we’re still in the rental, and a bit cramped from what we’re used to, nothing can dampen our spirits.

I take that back….there is one thing. The only downside to the euphoria of this scenario is that I miss my family. We are that odd breed that truly enjoys each others’ company, and if you see us in public, we’re the ones that are laughing the loudest, having conversations that border Mensa-level, and living life to the fullest. I’ve come to realize I need to up the ante to persuade Mom and Dad to move here. I mean, really, everyone has a price….. I just need to find theirs.

Mom? That’s easy – find her the best high-rise condo, in a location not too far from the city, and not too far from the ranch (or the swamp, as she lovingly refers to it…) and she’s good to go.

Dad? Well….. he’s going to take a bit of work to leave Vegas. Note I said “a bit of work, not a piece of work..” His requirements are a tad more complex. After all, this is the man that was worried his daughter was going to become a hill-billy. Like that could ever happen – our neighbors at the ranch can hear my car approaching from a mile away. I’m that girl walking the property with the builder in my platform pumps, without worrying about the dirt and dust… And although I receive a fair amount of good natured teasing for my sometimes over-dressed attire, I know that you can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the girl.

Not that I have any intention of changing. And I’ll find his price….somehow...

Happy one year anniversary to us! Yay!
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I downsized the recipe (since it was just for the three of us) and skipped the crust completely. Although I did top Alexander’s glass with an Oreo…..

No Bake Chocolate Cheesecake – adapted from serious eats

  • 10 ounces chocolate cookie wafers (such as Nabisco Famous wafers)
  • 2 tbs. granulated sugar
  • 8 tbs (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) plus 2 tbs. confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (I used greek yogurt)
  • 7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
  • Cocoa powder for dusting

    Pulse cookie crumbs and granulated sugar in food processor until fine. Place in a large bowl and toss with melted butter until moistened. Firmly press into the bottom and 1 1/2-inches up sides of an 8-inch springform pan.

Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until light and creamy, about 1 minute, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Reduce speed to low and mix in vanilla, sour cream, and melted chocolate until smooth and homogenous.

Spoon mixture into crust and smooth top. Chill until set, about 4 hours. Dust with cocoa powder and let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature before serving.

Hidden Berry Torte

I am so in need of baking something right now. I’m frustrated beyond words, and for me, baking is the ultimate stress reliever. Well, that and the daily 6.5 mile walks I’ve been taking.

My father will probably break my legs (more like throw out my running shoes) for admitting this, but last week I logged 27.5 miles. Truth. I actually broke out the calculator and added it all up. First I tried doing it in my head but we all know how THAT goes….

I really enjoy those walks, though – I can get so much organized in my head – and come home clear headed and ready for the day. I had every intention of going for a walk this morning, but since I tossed and turned thinking from 1:00 am until 4:00 am, there was no way I was getting up at 5:30 to be out the door at 6.

sigh.

So right now I’m debating between baking this bread or this cake.

And wishing I had a piece of this torte.

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Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte – adapted from Dorie Greenspan

For the Crust:
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 sticks (12 tbs.) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
2 large egg yolks
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the Filling:
1/3 cup thick berry  jam
16 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
2 large eggs, preferably at room temperature

Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting (optional)

Getting Ready:
Butter a 9-inch springform pan, dust the inside with flour and tap out the excess. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

To Make the Crust:
Put the flour and sugar  in a food processor and pulse just to blend. Toss in the pieces of butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir the egg yolks and vanilla together with a fork, and, still pulsing the machine, add them and continue to pulse until the dough comes together in clumps and curds – restrain yourself, and don’t allow the dough to form a ball.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface. If you want to roll the dough, gather it into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for about 20 minutes before rolling. Or simply press the dough into the pan. The dough should come about 1-1/2 inches up the sides of the spring form. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Fit a piece of buttered aluminum foil against the crust, covering it completely. Fill the crust lightly with rice, dried beans or pie weights and slide the sheet into the oven. Bake the crust for 20 minutes or so – you don’t want the crust to get too brown. Transfer to a rack to cool while you make the filling.

Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

To Make the Filling:
Stir the jam, and spread it over the bottom of the crust – it’s okay to do this while the crust is still warm.

Put the cream cheese into the food processor and process, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times, for 2 minutes, until you’ve got a smooth, satiny mix. Add the sugar and spices and process for another 30 seconds. With the machine running, add the eggs and process, scraping the bowl as needed, for a final minute. Pour the filling over the jam.

Bake the cake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until the filling is uniformly puffed and no longer jiggly. Gently transfer the springform pan to a cooling rack and allow the torte to cool to room temperature, during which time the filling will collapse into a thin, elegant layer.

Run a blunt knife between the crust and the sides of the pan, then open and remove the sides of the springform. If the sides of the crust extend above the filling and you don’t like this look, very gently saw off the excess crust using a serrated knife. Chill the torte slightly or thoroughly before serving and, if you’d like, dust the top with confectioner’s sugar.

 

Spicy Roast Chicken

Here’s another addition to my collection of outstanding dinnertime photography:

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Seriously, on a more pressing note, I’m putting together a plan to host a little soiree to celebrate Sabrina’s high school graduation. Which, by my calculations, shouldn’t be happening for at least another 5 years.

But ……. it’s actually occurring in less than two months. gulp.

She informed me yesterday that we (we?) need to go shopping so she can search for an absolutely apropos, age appropriate, and stunningly sophisticated dress. The parameters for said dress are really quite simple: no frilly stuff, no annoying bows, no suffocating belts, nor any dangly ornamentation…. no obscure colors or patterns, the length must be not too short nor too long, fabric must be smooth and not itchy in the least, and it must not require three people to assist her in/out of it.

This should be a snap……..

Spicy Roast Chicken – adapted from Food and Wine

  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbs. water
  • 1/2 tablespoon ancho chile powder
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped sage
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • One 4-pound chicken, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 to 1 jalapeño pepper, finely diced
  • 2 tbs. chopped parsley
  • 1 tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbs. unsalted butter

Bread Crumb Topping:

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbs. chopped parsley
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a bowl, whisk together the Dijon mustard, water, chile powder, half of the gar­lic, 1 tablespoon of the sage, 1/2 teaspoon of the oil and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Place the chicken breast side up in an ovenproof baking dish; coat with the mixture.

Bake the chicken for 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until cooked through.  Let rest for 10 minutes.

In a skillet, cook the jalapeños, parsley, lemon juice, the remaining garlic and the remaining sage in the butter and remaining oil over moderate heat until fragrant.

In a skillet, combine the bread crumbs, garlic, zest, parsley and cayenne and stir until the crumbs are crisp.

Top the chicken with the jalapeño butter, sprinkle with the crumbs and serve.

 

Slow Cooker Spinach Artichoke Dip

After trying this recipe, I may never make spinach artichoke dip the same way again. And if you believe that, I’ll give you a dollar.

Maybe two.

My love of slow cookers is well documented and universally known. After all, I am the proud owner of four. So anytime I come across a recipe that utilizes one of my favorite kitchen appliances (next to my mixers, of course…) I sit up and take note. And this dip has the definite distinction of being multi-purpose. Not only did we enjoy it straight from the crockpot, I was feeling creative one night and stuffed a few jalapeños to see how they’d turn out.

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In a word? awesome …

Slow Cooker Spinach Artichoke Dip – adapted form Damn Delicious

  • 1 (14-ounce) can quartered artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup shredded smoked chipotle Gouda cheese
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, cubed

Combine all the ingredients in the slow cooker. Cook on low for 90 minutes, stirring every so often. Remove the lid and keep on the “warm” setting to serve.