Chewy chocolate chip cookies

I love baking (does that go without saying?). I  love trying new recipes and finding something that is just right. However, somehow, a few recipes have snuck in to my repertoire that are sub par. I have always felt my chocolate chip cookies were this way.

I want rich, chewy, big, golden cookies. What I usually got was a mixture of cakiness, toughness, and blah. What on earth? I can produce a stunning three tiered cake but am defeated by a recipe on the back of a little yellow package? (not naming names here)

Oatmeal cookies I have down pat. In fact I can vary my recipe and it comes out spectacular every time. Ribbon winning at the local county fair good. I accidentally just ate seven cookies in a row good. Impress new friends good. But plain Jane everyday chocolate chip cookies eluded me. Till now.

chewy chocolate chip cookies

I stumbled on to this recipe just recently and was struck at how odd it was. Melted butter? So much brown sugar? That many chocolate chips? How much vanilla!?! As per usual I whipped up the recipe verbatim the first time. The batter was odd but into the oven they went. And when they came out- Oh my! There is the cookie I always wanted to make!

So what did I do? I messed with the recipe. I added fewer chocolate chips. I tried using whole wheat flour. Results- disastrous. Ok well that is overstating things. They were mediocre. Better than the little yellow package but not the out of the world cookies that came out of my oven the first time.

So if you are a crunchy cookie person, sorry these aren’t for you. But if you want a cookie that is still ooey gooey three days later (if they last that long) then here is your perfect recipe.

chewy chocolate chip cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand. Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Homemade Ricotta

I want you to make your own ricotta. It is easy. I promise. It is not something just the Martha Stewarts of the world make. Everyone can (and should!) make their own ricotta.

We make this at least once a month. The taste and texture of homemade ricotta doesn’t even begin to compare to what you can find in stores. Make this once and you will never ever buy it again. Also it is infinitely cheaper to make your own.

A few years ago Nathan and I took a cheese making class at Cooks, Pots, and Tabletops. It was a riot. We pulled mozzarella, learned to make marscapone, and were introduced to the simplicity of homemade ricotta. We haven’t attempted the marscapone or mozzarella since but I can’t count the number of times we have made ricotta. We will be making mozzarella sometime soon though and I promise to share that adventure.

Here is the recipe followed by a  picture by picture tutorial.

Ricotta

1 gallon whole milk
1/3 cup plus 1 tsp distilled white vinegar
1 tsp salt (to taste really but 1 tsp is a good place to start)

Ingredients for Ricotta

It is three easy ingredients. Salt, milk, and white vinegar. Use whole milk. The flavor comes from the cream. It is worth the calories. Make sure the milk is just pasteurized not ultra-pasteurized. It will say on the box which it is.

Pouring Milk in Pan

Rinse a large non-reactive pan with cold water (will help prevent the milk from scalding), add milk and salt. Stir. Place over medium heat.

Thermometer in Milk

Place a thermometer in the milk. We rig up a system with some foil. Make sure it doesn’t touch the bottoms or sides. A probe thermometer works great although a candy thermometer will do as well. Heat to 180 degrees F stirring occasionally.

Adding Vinegar
Stirring Ricotta

Remove from heat add the vinegar and stir for one minute and one minute only using a metal spoon (not wood). Use an up and down motion rather than stirring around and be gentle. We are encouraging the curds to form so we don’t want to break them up.

Covered Ricotta Pot

Once done stirring cover with a clean dry towel and allow to sit undisturbed for a few hours. We have made it in the morning before heading to work then strained it when we got home or even made it before bed and strained it in the morning.

Removing Ricotta from Pot
Ricotta in Baskets

After it has sat for however long (at least two hours) get a straining basket or line a colander with a damp cheesecloth (a thin kitchen towel will work great, a couple of layers of paper towels will work in a pinch). With slotted spoon gently ladle the curds out either in to the colander or basket. Let it drain freely for a couple of hours or so depending on how creamy you want your cheese to be.

Finished Ricotta

Once it is done draining unmold and place in a sealed container for up to 7 days. Refrigerate. It does not freeze well so use right away. Makes roughly 4 cups.

That’s it! Simple right?

Note- If making ricotta to use in a desert or a sweet application reduce or omit salt. You can replace 1 pint of the milk with 1 pint of whipping cream for a more decadent, creamier cheese. The longer it sits the more separated the curds will become. Let it sit 3-4 hours for a creamier cheese, 6 or more for more cottage cheesy like texture.

A recipe for what to do with all this cheese will follow next week!

How to Make Ricotta

Blueberry Muffins

When Nathan and I got married nearly seven years ago (that long already!?!) we had just arrived home from our honeymoon and woke up that first Saturday morning hungry. Wanting to be the perfect new little wife I asked him what he would like for breakfast. He surveyed the pile of gifts still in our living room and eyed our new waffle iron.

“Are you going to make waffles?” I asked.

He shook his head.

“Are WE going to make waffles?” I asked.

He shook his head.

“Am I going to make waffles?” I asked.

He nodded enthusiastically. (He can talk by the way…)

Waffles  take work. I was not going to make waffles for just the two of us. So I called my sister and her boyfriend (now her husband!) to see if they wanted to come over. And they did! So then started the tradition of Saturday morning breakfasts. For nearly four years. Every Saturday morning we would tidy the house, whip up waffles, and serve them hot at 10 am (9 am if there was a noon kickoff football game. Priorities people.).

We had as few as just Nathan and I and one other person for breakfast and as many as 14. I used to live in a tiny apartment and then a tiny house. We ate in shifts. It was wonderful. I loved it.

Over time the tradition ran its course and we have all gotten busy, some have moved away. I miss a house full of family and friends. I can’t wait till Little has sleepovers and I get to make breakfast for a flock of sleepy boys.

After years of cooking every Saturday morning I still feel the need to DO something when I get up. Saturday mornings at my house still mean family time. It used to be a broad definition of family will all kinds of family and friends swooping in to devour plate after plate of waffles. These days, with Little, Saturdays start early. Much earlier than any human being should be up on a Saturday. Instead of waffles I make other things- muffins, pancakes, french toast. Mercifully, these muffins come together in a flash and, thanks to picking and freezing blueberries every summer, we always have the ingredients on hand.

I hope these blueberry muffins bring love and joy to your weekend mornings like they do to mine.

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry muffins

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour (or you can use 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour and omit the all-purpose)
3/4 cup white sugar (or you can use 3/4 sucanat- an unprocessed sugar)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup melted and cooled butter
1 egg
1/3 cup milk (approximately)
1 1/2 cup fresh blueberries (ok to add frozen)
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Pour the butter in a 1 cup measuring cup. Add the egg then add the milk to fill to the cup. Pour wet ingredients into the dry ones. Stir till combined (10 stirs). Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups (greased if you aren’t using liners) about 3/4 full. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake 20 to 25 minutes till light brown and toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Makes about 12 regular size muffins.

Oh and they won the blue ribbon at the local county fair. Not that I am bragging or anything.

(Note- if you use whole wheat flour and sucanat the muffins will come out quite dark although just as tasty. I would recommend using frozen berries as they add a tid bit more moisture and the “real” food version can be a bit drier. Still just as good though!)

Strawberry Cupcakes

About a month before I turned 29 I created a list of 30 things I want to accomplish before I turn 30. I was ambitious.  I wrote it all up on a piece of poster board and it hangs next to my kitchen. Close enough that I can check things off as I complete them and ever present to remind me to work on it. I am slowly checking things off. Some are easier than others. Perfecting 10 french macaroon recipes was a stupid one to put on there. Macaroons and I are not friends of late.

Easier ones included cleaning out my closet and giving away 27 things and giving away 15 cupcakes to 15 different people. I decided to tackle both of these last month and I hosted a clothing exchange party. Several sweet girlfriends brought the extra clothes from their closets and we all pawed through each others things looking for treasures. I came away with several skirts, sweaters, and tops. Oh and we drank champagne and ate these stellar cupcakes. What else says fancy party like a fancy cupcake?

Strawberry cupcakes and champagne

So I got rid of so many things out of my closet, added a few things that I will wear and got to sit around chatting with my girlfriends. I think everyone had a blast. I truly enjoyed it. It was wonderful to host a party in my new home and to stuff my face with these delicious treats.

I would also like to mention that my sweet brother-in-law whom I left Little with for less than 20 minutes FED him some of these cupcakes. Little enjoyed them thoroughly, mom missing out on his first bites of cake not so much.

Strawberry cupcake

These cupcakes are dense. And when I say dense I mean dense. They aren’t too sweet and are just perfect with the plain cream cheese frosting.

Enjoy. Throw a party and make these for your friends.

(Also writing this has made me miss all my girlfriends. If I made cupcakes, popped a bottle of champagne, and invited you over would you come sit on my porch and chat with me?)

Strawberry cupcakes

Strawberry Cake

1 cup butter
2 & 1/2 cups sugar
2 egg yolks
5 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 & 1/4 cups pureed strawberries (I just used my immersion blender. About 1 lb of strawberries)
3 cups flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
1 cup buttermilk

Cream Cheese Frosting
4 oz cream cheese, room temp
1/3 cup butter, room temp
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
a few drops of red food coloring
4 cups +/- Powdered Sugar

2-4 Tbs milk

Strawberry Cake Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, beat butter with sugar for 3 minutes. Add egg yolks one at a time, then the vanilla,  and strawberries, beat for another 3 minutes. Sift dry ingredients and add to butter/egg mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix just till combined. In another bowl and clean beaters, beat egg whites till stiff and add in an increment of 3 to cake batter, being sure to fold in thoroughly but gently. Pour in to cupcake pan or greased and floured cake pan. If making cupcakes fill to 3/4 full as these do not rise much. Bake for 18 or so minutes for cupcakes and 20-25 minutes for 9 inch round cake pans.

Frosting Directions

In a medium bowl, add cream cheese and butter, whip till light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla. Slowly add powdered sugar while mixing. Add food coloring. If too thick add milk one tablespoon at a time.  You are trying to achieve a medium stiff consistency. Whip for several minutes.

 

Sweet potato, zucchini, and sausage dinner- yumminess

I love my husband (pardon the sappiness). He decided some time last year to buy a juicer and, based on the movie Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, to go on a juice fast. Several of said fasts ensued of varying success levels and length. However this year he buckled down and fasted for 60 days. S.I.X.T.Y. days. It was maddening.

As someone who loves to cook I couldn’t cook for him. Every morning involved an elaborate 20 minute juicing spree as he made his juice for the day and cleaned up. Little and I looked on, often hanging out in the kitchen keeping him company.

Dinner time was hard on me. I wanted to sit at the table and eat but Nathan would suck down his juice and I would scrounge for dinner. My sister and brother-in-law came over for dinner often, mostly so I could have someone to cook for and eat with.

But is over. As of last Thursday he is more than 40 lbs lighter (HOT!) and way in to eating veggies. But the best part of that last sentence is he is EATING. And I got to make him dinner.

Nathan with juice - day 60That is him. Isn’t he handsome? That was his last juice breakfast. He had juice for lunch but I wasn’t there to photograph the very end. And that night I made him this for dinner. It was oh so good. Filling. Full of veggies. Full of love and care and affection that I hadn’t been able to give in the form of food for 60 days.

So proud of him. So glad this is over.

This recipe is entirely out of my own little brain. It is so easy. Feel free to substitute whatever you have on hand.

sweet potatoes and zucchini (just added to the pot)

Sweet potato, zucchini, and sausage dinner (serves 2 and a Little)
Mine

2 small or 1 large sweet potato
2 small or 1 large zucchini
1/2 onion
2 chicken sausages
olive oil
1 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper

Peel and chop sweet potato in to bite sized pieces. Place in a pot of water over medium high heat and boil till fork tender. Drain. Chop zucchini, onion, and sausage into bite sized pieces. Saute zucchini, onion, sausage, and garlic powder in olive oil over medium high heat. When onions start to get soft add drained sweet potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy. Makes spectacular left overs.

sweet potatoes and zucchini (cooked)

(We are feeding Little whatever we are eating as long as it is soft enough for him to gum. This is also known as baby led weaning or baby led solids. This meal is perfect for the family and for your Little as they can eat most of the dish! My Little gobbled it down.)

 

Tough Day Buttermilk Rosemary Pound Cake

Little is 8 months old. He has slept through the night three times. In February. Most nights I get an ok amount of sleep. Last night was not one of them.

Little with pan and a wooden spoon

He has been teething for a year. Never mind he isn’t a year old. He has been teething for a year. I promise.

So, I’m tired. Out of patience. And outside it looks like this.

Kitchen window to garden

Yes, I live in Oregon and I KNOW it rains a lot here but it is May (almost June!) and we had a week of 75+ degree weather at the beginning of the month. I was happy about the rain at first. As you can see through the window that is my garden. My garden is loving the rain. I loved the rain. Now I want my sunshine back.

Tired and cranky and so over the weather. Also I think I should have indulged in a second latte instead of tea.

Bah humbug.

While counting down the minutes to nap time today I gave up. I let Little crawl all over the dining room and kitchen keeping an eye on him while I threw this together. The fact that I only had 1/2 cup of buttermilk didn’t deter me. I simply added a 1/2 cup of regular milk and a teaspoon and a half of lemon juice. Eh. That will do, I figured.

buttermilk rosemary pound cake (batter)

So now I have cake. And it is delicious. A far cry from yesterday’s whole wheat vegan yumminess, this is packed with all the things you shouldn’t eat but certainly make up for teething babies, lack of sleep, and not enough coffee.

Go make this. It comes together in a flash, requires no thinking whatsoever, and is guaranteed to improve your day.

buttermilk rosemary pound cake

Rosemary Buttermilk Pound Cake

3 Cups of all-purpose flour
1/4 Teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 Teaspoon of salt
1 Cup of butter
3 Cups of white sugar
6 Eggs
3 Teaspoons of fresh lemon juice
1 TBSP of fresh rosemary, chopped
1 Teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 Cup of buttermilk (1 cup milk minus 1 tablespoon plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice can substitute here).

Directions

Preheat oven to 325° F. Butter a 9-inch or 10-inch loaf pan. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, beat butter with sugar till light and fluffy (2 minutes). Mix in the eggs, one at time, mixing well and scraping bowl well after each addition. Stir in the lemon juice, vanilla extract and chopped rosemary. Gently mix in flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk. Begin and end with wet ingredients. Do not overmix. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 90 minutes. Do not open oven door until after one hour. When cake begins to pull away from the side of the pan, it is done. You can test with a toothpick to make sure it is done. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

buttermilk rosemary pound cake

Real Food Banana Muffins (vegan)

There will be lots of butter on this blog. I guarantee it. You will get your fill of sugar- white, brown, unprocessed or otherwise. Bacon will no doubt make an appearance.

But today, for our first day, I want to offer you the first recipe I have ever written. Vegan, real food, whole wheat and amazing.

Sure I have thrown things together in a pot and called it dinner (and boy does that normally end in delicious!) but this is my first honest to God wrote it down recipe. And it is baking. Booyah.

I am ridiculously proud.

First a bit of backstory. We are trying to transition to eating “real” food. This means eliminating white sugars and flours and processed foods. I have loved it. We eat lots of veggies, whole grains, and happy meat as we call it (humanely and locally raised). I have found an incredible local whole wheat flour I put in everything.

I had purchased two bananas for Little, my 8 month old son, and never got around to feeding them to him. They were screaming to be made into banana muffins! My favorite recipe seemed easy enough to adapt to real food I decided to challenge myself and -gasp!- make it vegan too! What ensued was some googling egg replacements then deciding who needs eggs anyways! I scribbled it all down on a piece of scrap paper, put Little down for a nap, then off to the kitchen I went.

This recipe makes 6 muffins. Feel free to double it. They are moist, delish, and you can’t even tell they are vegan.

Real Food Banana Muffins (vegan)

Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Real food banana muffins that happen to be vegan. This recipe makes 6 muffins.
Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 tbs melted coconut oil
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat muffin pans with nonstick spray, or use paper liners. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.Combine bananas, honey, and coconut oil in a large bowl. Fold in flour mixture, and mix until smooth. Scoop into muffin pans.Bake in preheated oven. Bake muffins for 19 to 22 minutes. Muffins will spring back when lightly tapped.
  2. Options: You can replace the coconut oil with melted butter if you prefer or if you don’t have it on hand. Also you can add nuts- 1/3 cup of walnuts should do.