November 29, 2010

tis better to give than to receive (yep, it's a giveaway)

When I was a wee lassie, Christmas was all about the presents for me. Selfish, I know. Perhaps even Grinch-like. Yes, I got gifts for others, but only to merit something from them in return.


Times have changed, and while I still enjoy receiving a thoughtful present, I also find a lot of satisfaction in picking out just the right thing to give someone else.


You've no doubt recently become familiar with Tate's Bake Shop, as they've wisely been enlisting bloggers to review their goodies and host giveaways. (That has to be one of the best marketing strategies ever.) I was lucky enough to be contacted by the company and given the chance to sample my own batch and spread the love.

The package that I received contained three types of cookies (chocolate chip, white chocolate macadamia nut, and oatmeal raisin), as well as the Tate's Bake Shop Cookbook by Kathleen King. I won't lie--I ate the cookies before I could take pictures of them, but if you're curious, you can see Emily's shots on her site. They were the polar opposite of cakey--all very crisp, yet with a nice chew and the welcome taste of caramel. Very delicious indeed.

The cookbook is full of interesting recipes, and I decided to make one in an effort to validate Tate's. I picked the GORP cookies, named using an acronym with which I was unfamiliar until Rachael Ray used it on her show.  (It's tr
ue.)  Good ol' raisins and peanuts. Well, I changed it up a bit, using pecans as my 'P.' The recipe is good--it turns out a delightfully chewy and flavorful batch of cookies.


So. Who'd like to win their very own cookies? One fortunate (United States) reader will win a Tate's Bake Shop cookbook and a six-box cookie sampler pack. Huzzah! To enter the giveaway, just tell me one thing you'd like to receive for Christmas. Be as selfish as you want--we're all friends here! To double your chances, become a fan of Tate's Bake Shop on Facebook, and after doing so, leave another comment telling me that you did. I'll close the comments a week from today, Monday, December 6th, and the randomly-selected winner will be announced shortly thereafter. Good luck!

Bonus for everyone--use the discount code cookie to get 15% off at Tate’s Bake Shop’s online store from now until Dec. 31, 2010.

GORP Cookies
(from Tate's Bake Shop Cookbook by Kathleen King)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon water
1 1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup cinnamon chips
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350°F; grease two cookie sheets or line them with Silpat.
In a bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon.
In a bigger bowl, cream the butter and sugars; beat in the egg. Add in the vanilla and water; mix together until they are just combined. Add in the flour mixture and oatmeal; mix until combined. Add in the cinnamon chips, pecans, and raisins; mix until combined.
Drop 1/4 cup dough onto baking sheets and press the cookies down lightly. Bake for 15-17 minutes; remove the cookies and cool them on a wire rack.

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November 23, 2010

it's never too early for hot sauce!

After years of being anti-scone, I've decided they may be one of the most ideal breakfast foods. They provide your meat, cheese, and bread all in one handy-dandy triangle.


Plus, there's nothing like the zing of hot sauce to peel your eyes open first thing in the morning!

That's right. I took my now go-to savory scone recipe and tweaked it a bit, using turkey and provolone and squirting in a nice dose of my now go-to hot sauce, Cholula.


Have you heard of this stuff? I was sent all four flavors (original, chili lime, garlic, and chipotle) to sample and review, and I'm quite comfortable saying that each one is fantastic. I thought the chipotle version might work best in these scones, and I stand by that decision. It supplied just enough zip to get my blood flowing and spice up my breakfast wedge.

Crags and craters of cheesy chew-phoria.

Incidentally, the other flavors are terrific too, and so versatile. Chili Lime Bloody Mary, anyone?

Spicy Scones for the Slow Waker-Upper
3 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, cold and cubed
1 cup buttermilk
two or three or twelve squirts of hot sauce
1 cup provolone cheese, shredded
1 cup ham, chopped

Preheat oven to 350F.
Combine the dry ingredients and cut in the butter until a coarse, crumbly mixture is formed. Mix in the buttermilk, hot sauce, cheese, and ham using a fork until everything is moistened and then turn the batter out onto a floured surface. Form into 2 6-inch wide disks. Apply an egg wash and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then cut each disk into 6 wedges. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes.

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November 19, 2010

setting the (candy) bar

Are you an Almond Joy person or do you prefer Mounds? Or, as a tragic option, do you eschew both, claiming that coconut is gritty and gross (I'm looking at you, Little Brother...)?


I consider myself a Mounds gal, but that's only because the whole almonds in an Almond Joy are so bulky and incongruent--there's no way to get a bit of almond in each bite unless you a)shove the whole thing in your mouth, or b)pop off the almonds and take a bite of candy bar followed by a nibble of almond. Ridiculous. If slivered or sliced almonds were used instead, I'd be all over it. Take note, Hershey's!

Having said all that, it's no surprise that I used sliced nuts in this Almond Joy-inspired cheesecake. Other magnificent components include a graham cracker crust riddled with coconut (which I consider a complete dessert in and of itself) and a creamy cake bedecked with chocolate chunks, toasted coconut, and a bit of coconut flavoring.

I'll admit that I'm not too keen on the flavor of almonds, but I do love the crunch the slivers provide. The amount of nuts used in this recipe is just right and there's none of that icky almond extract to muck up the flavor. What a relief.

Zagnut.

A few days after I made this, I had a Zagnut candy bar for the first time. Zagnut, where have you been all my life? Why do you taste so good and have such an awesome name? Crunchy peanut butter + toasted coconut = amazing. Because of this discovery, I think my next cheesecake endeavor will involve a peanut buttery crust and a purely coconut filling. Oh, yeah.

Not-Too-Almondy Almond Joy Cheesecake
(based on this recipe)

Crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut, toasted
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted (about 2 ounces)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Filling:
4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut, toasted
1 tablespoon coconut extract
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Optional garnishes:
chocolate shavings or drizzle, slivered almonds, toasted coconut

For crust: Preheat oven to 350°F. Wrap outside of 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides with foil. Finely grind cracker crumbs, coconut, almonds and sugar in processor. Add butter; process until moist crumbs form. Press mixture onto bottom and 1 inch up sides of pan. Bake crust until set and beginning to brown, about 12 minutes. Cool. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.

For filling: Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until smooth. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Mix in coconut and extract . Fold in almonds. Transfer filling to crust. Bake until cake is puffed and no longer moves when pan is shaken, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Cool completely on rack.

Run small knife around sides of cake to loosen. Release pan sides. Sprinkle with garnishes before serving, if desired.

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November 15, 2010

i'm here to pump(kin)...you up!

Oh, Ahnold. Why did you leave acting for politics? We've been unfairly robbed of your impersonation-worthy delivery of lame lines. Even more tragically, SNL has taken a massive nosedive in the years since Hans and Franz. Such loss, so sad.


As usual, I digress. You came here for food, and food you shall have. I made these cookies in a fit of pumpkin-loving madness. They're unique little noshes, with oats and chocolate morsels scattered throughout. Granted, my experience eating pumpkin is limited at best, but I don't recall seeing many recipes combining it with chocolate. It's a pleasant duo, to be sure. If you're sick of pumpkin pie as a Thanksgiving dessert or want to get a head start on the big meal, go ahead and make a batch of these--the dough freezes wonderfully.


Methinks even Mr. Schwarzenegger (a name actually found in the spell-check database!), Hans, and Franz would approve.

Punkin Cookies
(based on these beauts)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups quick or old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly grease baking sheets or line them with parchment paper.
Combine flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in medium bowl. Beat butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl until light and fluffy. Add pumpkin, egg and vanilla extract; mix well. Add flour mixture; mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets.
Bake for 14 to 16 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned and set in centers. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

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November 1, 2010

bogged down

Can we talk seriously for a moment? No?


How about a hot second? Okay.

I was given the opportunity to read and review Harold McGee's new book "Keys to Good Cooking." Folks, there's so much useful information in this tome that I don't even know where to begin. There are chapters focusing on safety, kitchen tools, and basic cooking methods. There are pages and pages about meats, fruits and veggies, breads, and, my favorite, sweets. It's written in an easily-understandable fashion, with each chapter beginning with a simple introduction followed by bullet point after bullet point of practical factoids. I'm not exaggerating when I say that it's a reference I'll be keeping within reach from now on.

Seriously. It's sitting on the desk beside me right now.

Fluffy. Fluffy like my hair on a humid day...but much more attractive.

In honor of the book, I made some cranberry pecan muffins. I know, what a way to celebrate, right? Handy tip #1: Cranberries stay fresh in the fridge longer than most fruits because of their high acidity. Handy tip #2: It's important to sort through the berries before using them in a baked good, as one sour gem can spoil the whole thing. Handy tip #3: To get a "shapely peak" (Harold's words--catchy phrase, yes?), avoid overleavening, fill the cups nearly full, and bake at a high temperature (400-425F).

Ah. I love science. And food. Ya done good, Harold.

Scientifically Superior Cranberry Pecan Muffins
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 400F. Line or spray 12 muffin cups.
In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients. In another bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients and stir into the dry ingredients just until moistened (batter will be lumpy). Fold in cranberries and pecans. Bake 15-20 minutes.

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