Sunday, July 31, 2011

Peanut Butter & Bacon Cookies

Peanut butter = good. Bacon = good. Peanut butter x bacon = good2.

If you haven't tried this sweet and salty combo, you may be doubting me right now, but have I ever led you astray? Give this unlikely flavor duo a chance, and I promise you will love it. The rich nutty taste of the peanut butter complements the savory saltiness of the bacon perfectly. And of course putting it all in cookie form doesn't hurt.

I made these for my friend who is a major peanut butter junkie and she described them as a "wonderful mix of cookie/granola bar/can of yummy salty nuts." Well said. In addition to being really delicious, these cookies are super simple to make, require very few ingredients, and keep well for about a week after they're made, which makes the recipe a definite keeper.

The only change I would make for next time is to use creamy peanut butter instead of chunky. I think it would make for a better textured cookie. Otherwise, the recipe is perfect.

You want a bite, don't you?

Bon appetit!

Peanut Butter & Bacon Cookies
Makes 25 small cookies
1 cup all-natural peanut butter, chunky or creamy
1/2 cup sugar, plus extra for rolling the cookies in
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda
7 slices of bacon

In a skillet, cook bacon over medium high heat to desired doneness. Remove to paper towels or newspaper to soak up any extra grease. Cool and dice. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream peanut butter and sugars until well combined, about 2 minutes. Add egg and baking soda and continue to mix for 2 more minutes. Fold in cooked bacon.

Roll dough into equal-sized balls, about one heaping tablespoonful per cookie for small cookies. Place on a cookie sheet equipped with a baking mat or greased with butter. For additional decoration, create a criss-cross pattern on the cookies with a fork (this works better with larger cookies, smaller cookies tend to fall apart).

Bake for 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes before serving. Store in an airtight container.

Source: Joy the Baker

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Blueberry Crisp

Crisps are my absolute favorite thing to bake during the summer. They are fruit-filled desserts made with a yummy streusel or crumb topping. A crisp is the perfect way to enjoy the season's fresh fruit and only takes about 15 minutes to make. It is the perfect dessert for a summer dinner party– tasty, refreshing and relatively hassle-free. 

My love affair with crisps began one summer with this recipe for peach and raspberry crisp from the Barefoot Contessa. Since then, I have made crisps galore, but I never deviate from Ina's topping recipe. It's just so amazing and addictive that I can't bring myself to try any other variation.

A crisp is covered with a streusel topping while a cobbler has biscuit dough dropped on top

I have ventured to experiment with different types of fruit fillings, and Martha Stewart's blueberry filling tops the list, making this my second favorite crisp recipe behind Ina's. So, during the summer while I wait impatiently for the height of peach season, I stock up on blueberries at the farmers' market and keep this recipe handy at all times.

No one can resist a generous helping of warm blueberry crisp topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It's the perfect ending to a summer meal and tastes just as great reheated the next day, which means you get to enjoy all the leftovers. Score!

Bon appetit!

Blueberry Crisp
Serves 8-10
6 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (a little more than 3 pints)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp plus a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp coarse salt

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 lb. cold unsalted butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 375° F. To make the filling, combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and stir. Transfer mixture to a 8 x 11.5-inch glass baking dish. Set aside.

To make the topping, combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on low speed until the mixture has come together and is crumbly and the butter chunks are pea-sized. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the blueberry mixture. Note: this recipe makes a lot of topping. That's my favorite part of the dish, but if you're not as crazy about it, freeze the leftovers for later use.

Bake until bubbling in the center and brown on top, about 1 hour. Let cool for 30 minutes before serving (with vanilla ice cream, obviously). To prep ahead of time, let cool and then refrigerate. Reheat at 350° or 375° F for about 20 minutes or until warm.

This crisp tastes just as great after a few days, so reheat some of the leftovers and treat yourself

Source: adapted from Martha Stewart & The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

Monday, July 25, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Provençal Baked Chicken

Source: In the Small Kitchen

A couple of my friends came to visit recently, and in honor of their last night I cooked dinner for everyone. For our main dish, I made this provençal baked chicken from In the Small Kitchen, a cookbook by the authors of Big Girls Small Kitchen, an amazing blog for quarter life cooks. Since the dish graces the cover of the book, I figured it must be good. I was dead on– the chicken was stellar. Kalamata olives, dried figs, oregano, tomatoes, garlic and parsley come together to give the dish a great Mediterranean flavor.

The chicken is baked skin on in a bath of white wine, olive oil and red wine vinegar, which not only keeps it moist and tender, but also makes for plenty of amazing sauce to pass around with the chicken. It's an impressive looking dish that isn't overly complicated to make, perfect for a dinner party.

Can't wait to make this dish again and take some pictures for a recipe post!

Source: In the Small Kitchen

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Whole Wheat Bread

This may seem odd, but ever since I began baking, I've been intimidated by bread. Well, at least yeasted bread. Breakfast bread I can do. Give me a recipe for banana bread and I'll whip it right up, but not yeasted bread. With all the kneading and rising and rolling, it has always been incredibly daunting to me, my personal Everest, if you will. But last week, it was finally time for me to face the challenge.

I had run out of excuses– I had a spacious kitchen with an island perfect for kneading and rolling, my mother's old rolling pin (she was an incredible baker and even ground her own wheat, intense!), yeast in the pantry, and, thanks to my lack of AC, a nice warm place to allow my dough to rise.

Initially, I had planned to use a recipe from my KitchenAid cookbook of baking basics, but as I was measuring out my flour, I noticed I only had fresh milk and the recipe called for dried milk. So, I was forced to search online for a whole wheat bread recipe using fresh milk, which was surprisingly tricky to find.

Eventually, I wound up with this recipe from some random website, but I was pleased with how it turned out. Certain directions are vague. For instance, “Stir in enough of the remaining flour to form a soft dough.” What is a soft dough? How soft is soft? I have absolutely no idea, so I just played around with it a little bit.

The only major problem I encountered was the outside of the bread was very crusty, while the inside was still a little underdone. Not sure how to fix that. I think I’ll try out a different recipe next time. Overall, I really enjoyed my first bread-making experience, especially that whole kneading thing. Glad I finally gave bread baking a chance!

Try a slice of this bread fresh out of the oven with some blueberry preserves

Bon appetit!

Whole Wheat Bread 
Makes 2 loaves
8 cups whole wheat flour
2 packages active dry yeast
2 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 3 1/2 cups flour, undissolved yeast and salt. Heat milk, water, honey and oil until very warm (120-130° F). Gradually, add to dry ingredients. Using the dough hook, beat for 2 minutes at medium speed, scraping down the bowl occasionally. Add 1 cup of flour and beat for another 2 minutes at high speed, continuing to scrape down the bowl. With a spoon, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough. Continue to mix for another 2 minutes. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 5-6 minutes. 

For a great instructional video on kneading check out this tutorial on Epicurious

Place dough in a greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Loosely cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 45-60 minutes. Punch dough down. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and divide in half. Roll each into a 12 x 7" rectangle. Beginning at the short end of each rectangle, roll up tightly. Pinch the seams and ends to seal. Place, seam sides down, in two greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2" loaf pans. Cover loosely and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 30-60 minutes.

Bake at 375° F for 35 to 45 minutes. Remove and transfer to wire racks to cool.

I like that this bread is nice and crusty on the outside but soft on the inside

Source: cdkitchen

Friday, July 15, 2011

Dining Out in Chicago: Girl & the Goat

After almost a year of waiting, I finally had the pleasure of dining at Girl & the Goat, Top Chef Chicago winner Stephanie Izard's restaurant dedicated to "serving fun foods and craft beers in a rustic and bad ass environment." The West Loop hot spot has generated quite the buzz since it appeared on the scene last July, so I definitely had high expectations going into the night.

GATG did not disappoint. The location, situated along the Randolph Street Restaurant Corridor, is a former industrial building that has been transformed into a stunning space complete with exposed beams, a beautiful French oak bar and a creepy albeit eye-catching painting of a girl and a goat. The decor can be described as clean and simple with a gritty edge. The combination of coffee tones and burnt wood gives the space a warm, homey feel while still maintaining a trendy vibe.

Note the eerie wall decor. Source: Saveur

The menu is broken down into three sections–vegetables, seafood and meat, and is accompanied by a specials menu which features signature breads (baked in house daily), goat dishes and oyster dishes. Dishes are meant to be shared, family-style, and the staff recommend 2 to 3 dishes per diner. The drink menu includes craft beers (occasionally there's even a brew crafted by Izard herself), wines blended in house, and GATG custom cocktails.

The service was excellent. From the hostesses to the bus boys, the staff could not have been more warm or friendly. Our server was extremely knowledgeable and she guided us through the entire menu, making recommendations and reigning us in when we got a little carried away ordering.

But, enough of my chatter. Let's get to the fun stuff...the food

Our meal consisted of:
Bread & Oysters
Chicken little bread • carrots • chicken liver butter • carrot butter
Wood fired tomahawk oysters • horseradish • bacon • preserved lemon
Roasted cauliflower • pickled peppers • pine nuts • mint
Roasted asparagus • rogue river smokey blue • shaved radish • crispy onion
Roasted beets • green beans • white anchovy • avocado creme frâiche 
Seared scallops • brown butter XO • bok choy • shiitakes • white asparagus
Crisp calamari • rabbit ravioli • spring onions • red watercress
Fried soft shell crab • pickled ramps • zucchini • chili lime
Wood fired walter's chicken • yuzu harissa • fried pickles • shaved brussels • grilled naan 
Confit goat belly • bourbon butter • lobster n' crab • fennel
Bittersweet chocolate cake • shiitake gelato • toffee creme frâiche 
Ganache pork fat doughnuts • yuzu blackberries • salted oat streusel • malted vanilla gelato
Rhubarb • lemon gelato • salted graham cracker crumbs • panna cotta

Owner, Stephanie Izard & my favorite dish, the seared scallops. Source: Chicago Magazine

The standouts of the evening were the roasted cauliflower, the scallops, the soft shell crab, the goat belly and the bittersweet chocolate cake.

The roasted cauliflower was stellar. I love any kind of roasted vegetables, but this dish went above and beyond. The pine nuts and mint complemented the cauliflower beautifully. I never would have thought to pair mint with cauliflower, but it was a great combination.

The scallops were by far my favorite dish of the night. Drenched in a rich buttery sauce and accompanied by crisp shiitakes and bites of white asparagus, they were cooked to perfection. This dish could not have been executed more perfectly.

Runner-up for best dish of the night goes to the soft shell crab. It was so delicious that after eating one helping, we replaced one of our other orders with more of the crab. It was served on a bed of slaw and strawberries and topped with a chili lime sauce which gave it a hint of Asian flavor. The crab was succulent and overall the dish had a really fresh feel to it.

GATG is always bustling but still retains a warm, laid-back vibe. Source: Chicago Magazine

With the confit goat belly I had no idea what to expect, but I was very pleasantly surprised. The meat was extremely tender and slightly less fatty than pork belly. It was served in a rich, creamy bourbon butter with chunks of lobster and crab. Definitely a winning dish.

And finally, dessert– bittersweet chocolate cake with shiitake gelato and toffee creme frâiche. Of our three desserts, this was my selection, and I could not have been more pleased. The dish was made up of a deep, dark, rich pastry similar to flourless chocolate cake topped with a creamy gelato (I know shiitake seems like an odd gelato flavor, but I promise you, it tasted nothing like mushrooms) and finished with a sweet toffee cream and a pinch of something crunchy.

All in all, a meal to remember. My words don't do it justice.

The rundown
Price: $$$ ($31-$60 per person, including one drink, tax & tip)

Final verdict: two very big thumbs up, I would go back tomorrow if I could

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Sweet Potato, Arugula & Ricotta Flatbread

Source: The Kitchn

This week's selection for Recipe of the Week is a sweet potato and arugula pizza made using ricotta and Parmesan cheeses as well as some fresh thyme. Mmmm! This would be a great vegetarian-friendly appetizer for a dinner party. It's super quick to throw together, which is clutch when you find yourself without an appetizer 30 minutes before your guests are set to arrive or when you're exhausted after a long day at work but don't feel like ordering in.

Definitely putting this at the top of my list of recipes to try!

Source: The Kitchn

Friday, July 8, 2011

Tuna & Ginger Burgers

I'm back! It's been a while since I last posted a recipe, I know. I sincerely apologize. I had my hands full with graduation and the events leading up to it. It's been a crazy few weeks! It hasn't really hit me yet– that I'm a college graduate and what some would consider a 'real person.' I certainly don't feel like a full-fledged adult. Maybe I'm not, considering this recipe is coming to you from my parents' kitchen. Regardless, here it is– my first post-grad blog entry, tuna and ginger burgers courtesy of my girl Gwyneth Paltrow.

Naturally I am following up my last recipe post from Gwyneth's cookbook in which I confessed my love for her with another recipe post from her cookbook. I wasn't kidding around when I said I was obsessed.

I love the color of these tuna steaks

I could not have been more pleased with how this recipe turned out. I'm a big fan of tuna to begin with, but put it in burger form, mix it up with some Asian flair, and top it with crispy shallots, fresh arugula and soy & sesame mayo, and I'm in heaven. The flavors in this recipe complement one another perfectly. Each bite combines salty, sweet and bitter tastes to create a dish that packs a flavorful punch.

The recipe is super simple to put together and requires relatively little hands-on time. The only downside is the price of tuna. At my local Whole Foods, tuna runs about $20/lb. so expect to spend a pretty penny on ingredients for this dish.

The final dish with fresh cut fries

Bon appetit!

Tuna & Ginger Burgers
Makes 4
1 tsp wasabi powder
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp water
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
1 tbsp garlic, finely minced
1 1/2 tbsp peanut oil, plus more for cooking
1 lb. highest-quality tuna, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
4 hamburger buns
Fresh arugula

Soy & Sesame Mayo
1/2 cup mayo
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
Sriracha, to taste

Wasabi powder, mustard and water make up these burgers' spicy base

Combine the wasabi, mustard and water in a small bowl. Mix well and transfer to a food processor. Add the pepper, salt, ginger, garlic and peanut oil and pulse to create a paste. Add the tuna and pulse until just combined– be careful not to overprocess the tuna, you want your burgers to have some texture. Form the mixture into 4 burgers and set in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to combine, at least an hour, up to overnight.

To make your soy & sesame mayo, whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Refrigerate the mixture until ready to use. 

This soy & sesame mayo is tasty and versatile– use any extra to spice up a boring sandwich

When you're ready to cook your burgers, preheat a grill or grill pan over high heat. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a skillet. Add the shallots and sauté until they are soft and sweet and a little brown, about 10 minutes (watch them carefully, mine started burning after about 6 minutes, crispy shallots= good, burnt shallots= not so much). Set aside.

Rub the burgers with a little peanut oil and grill for about 2-3 minutes a side, to desired doneness. Grill the buns alongside the burgers. Slather the buns with soy & sesame mayo, add some sauteed shallots and fresh arugula and top with the burgers.

Source: My Father's Daughter

Friday, July 1, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Gazpacho

Source: The Pioneer Woman Cooks

This week's selection for Recipe of the Week is the Pioneer Woman's gazpacho– a delicious rendition of the classic chilled tomato soup chock full of vegetables and tons of vitamins and nutrients. Topped with avocado and cilantro and served with grilled bread and shrimp, it's light and refreshing– the perfect dish for summer.

I made this soup earlier in the week and have been eating it for lunch every day since. Not only is it great tasting, it's great for you and requires no cooking whatsoever. Half of the vegetables are blended and the other half are finely chopped, which gives the soup an amazing texture. I have to admit, prepping all the vegetables is a bit tedious, so if chopping veggies isn't your thing, this recipe is not for you.

I added in a jalapeño for extra kick and served with baguette slices drizzled with olive oil and a pinch of salt, rubbed with a crushed clove of garlic and grilled to perfection. Yum!

Source: The Pioneer Woman Cooks