Thursday, October 30, 2014

Spooky chocolate chip spider cookies

Alright, folks! It's almost Halloween and you still have time to make a creepy and fun treat like these chocolate chip cookies infested with chocolate spiders inspired by the idea at Real Simple magazine. My husband and I both worked on painting the chocolate legs on these spiders. Granted, some look more like brown suns, but, hey - they are still cute! As you can see, we got a little carried away and started painting legs on chocolate chips to make it look like the spiders were also emerging from the cookies, not only crawling on top! It was getting late, and we were having fun. 

This idea can be used with any chocolate chip cookie recipe. The below recipe will make about 30 cookies. I used Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips because they are darker, large, and I like the bittersweet contrast in a sweet cookie. However, you can use a sweeter and/or smaller chocolate ship if you prefer.

 Happy Halloween! 

Spooky chocolate chip spider cookies
1-3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips, divided, plus an extra chocolate chip for each cookie
1 teaspoon refined coconut oil (or canola)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

Cream together the butter and sugars in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg and vanilla. When incorporated, add the dry ingredient and mix until combined. Stir in 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.

Using about a tablespoon at a time, roll the dough into a ball and place on the baking sheets about 2-inches apart. Then, gently press a chocolate chip, pointed side down, into the top of each cookie (centered or off-center - mix it up). 

Bake approximately 10-12 minutes, until the edges and bottoms just start to turn golden. Place the cookies on a wire rack to cool.

Melt the remaining 1/4 cup of chocolate chips and coconut oil in a small pan, stirring often. Using a toothpick, draw eight legs onto the chocolate chips you pressed into each cookie.

Let the chocolate dry completely and store in an airtight container. 

What was I cooking one year ago?: hot German potato salad
Two years ago?: delicata squash & hazelnut shortbread bars
Three?: maple-glazed pumpkin cake
4?: chili with pumpkin & black beans

Monday, October 27, 2014

Applesauce oatmeal bread

Apples, apples, apples This time of year I'm always looking for new apple recipes. I recently made and canned some applesauce from the apples we picked and I had some leftover applesauce that didn't fit in a jar. Since we've been eating so many apples, I knew we probably wouldn't want to eat the applesauce right away, so I decided to use it in a quick bread before it went to waste. I loosely based it from a recipe at King Arthur Flour though I modified it quite a bit. 

The applesauce I made this year is so good - no need to add any sugar or other sweeteners. We picked all sorts of heritage apples this year like golden russets, pound sweet, Tollman sweet, snow (sign below), wolf river, and more. The flavors and textures of these heritage apples are so complex and they smell so good. I've been reading a lot about apples including the history and uses of different varieties in this great book lately - Apples of Uncommon Character: 123 Heirlooms, Modern Classics, & Little-known Varieties. I had no idea that there are so many varieties of apple and so many flavors! 

But back to the bread - this bread is very moist and fluffy and full of autumn spices. The touch of oatmeal gives it some extra texture and fiber. This recipe will make one 9-inch loaf of quick bread.

Applesauce oatmeal bread
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or more all-purpose)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups applesauce (mine was slightly chunky)
1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons old-fashioned oats, divided
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Lightly butter a 9-inch loaf pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Whisk together the dry ingredients (flour through nutmeg) in a medium bowl. Whisk together the sugars, eggs, butter, vanilla, and applesauce until well-combined. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet until almost combined and then add the 1/2 cup oats and walnuts until just combined.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan and spread evenly. Top with the 2 teaspoons of oats and a sprinkling of extra cinnamon (about 1/8 teaspoon). 

Bake for approximately 55-65 minutes, until the top is golden and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container.

What was I cooking one year ago?: apple & pork macaroni n' cheese
Two years ago?: German sweet & sour red cabbage
Three?: ginger-vanilla pear sauce
4?: pear, blue cheese, and arugula-stuffed chicken

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Green tea jelly {and a green tea giveaway!}

This was my first time canning jelly! I know that seems weird since I can a lot of food each year, but it's true. I was a little nervous about making this jelly because not only did I decide to try making jelly for the first time, but I also wanted to use the homemade green apple pectin recipe from Liana Krissoff's wonderful book Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry. I'm loving this book and one of the recipes I wanted to try right away was the tea jelly. Lucky for me, I was recently provided with a sampler of different types of loose leaf green teas from Teavivre, a Chinese tea company. You can see two of the teas in the photo above/below and these are the two that I used to make the jelly. We have also used them to make tea for drinking and have enjoyed all the flavors. I especially love the whole leaf tea because it is so pretty and green. As you all know, I love tea so I was super excited to be able to try these teas and also use them in a fun recipe!

The tea jelly recipe is also from Krissoff's book (slightly modified). The recipe says you can use any tea you like, so I used two different loose leaf green teas. The aroma of the jelly is quite wonderful and the taste is very unique. It would be perfect for a tea party! While it is of course terrific on biscuits, scones, and toast, you can also use this jelly as a glaze for salmon or chicken - mix in some ginger, garlic, and chiles when you spread it on and it would be perfect for a savory dish! 

My batch made eight 4-oz jelly jars. I'll be giving these little jars out for holiday gifts this year.

Green tea jelly
6 tablespoons loose leaf green tea of your choice
2-1/4 cups boiling water
1/4 cup lemon juice (I used bottled)
3-1/4 cups sugar (I used unbleached organic cane sugar)

Sterilize your canning jars and keep them hot in your canning pot. Place lids in a small pot with just enough water to cover them and keep on a low simmer. See Ball website for instructions on preparing jars and water bath canning, if needed. 

Put the tea leaves in a heat proof bowl and pour in the boiling water. Let steep for 5 minutes and then strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large pot. Stir in the pectin stock, lemon juice, and sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture registers 220 degrees on a candy thermometer. 

Ladle the hot jelly into your prepared hot jars leaving 1/4-inch of headspace. Wipe the rims with a damp paper towel. Place a lid on each jar followed by a ring secured to fingertip tightness. Place in the canning pot, cover, and bring to a boil. Process at boiling for 5 minutes. Then turn off the heat, remove the canner lid, and let sit for 5 minutes. Remove the jars to a towel and let sit overnight. If any jars are not sealed after about 1 hour, place them in the refrigerator and use first. Store jelly in a cool, dark place.

Now for the giveaway! 
For your chance to win a sample pack of delicious loose leaf green teas from Teavivre just do any/all of the items below. For 2-7, make sure you come back and leave a separate comment on this post for each item you do so that you are entered multiple times (if you already like/follow, just leave separate comments for each telling me so)! Please make sure your comment(s) have a valid email address so I can contact you. 

1) Leave a comment on this blog post
6) Share this post on your Facebook page
7) Pin this post on Pinterest 

This giveaway is now closed. Thanks to TeaVivre and everyone who entered!

Disclaimer: Teavivre provided me with the tea; however, as always, all opinions expressed are my own. 

What was I cooking one year ago?: salsa verde

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Honey-sesame cashews

I've been wanting to try to re-create the honey-sesame cashews from Trader Joe's for a while now. Have you ever had these? They are roasted nuts covered in a sweet honey glaze with sesame seeds. We just got a Trader Joe's here about a year or so ago. I've only been to it twice, but what I end up buying there is nuts. They are delicious and I always want to go back and get more. I wanted to make the cashews at home for less money and with better ingredients. Mission accomplished! Mine are a little less sweet as I didn't use extra sugar. You could add a bit of granulated white or brown sugar to increase the sweetness if you want. These cashews make a great snack or even an appetizer to an Asian meal. We ate them while playing some card games and enjoyed them a lot. They are addictive though - as I find all glazed nuts to be!

Honey-sesame cashews
1-1/2 tablespoons coconut oil
2-1/2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons raw sesame seeds
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
2 cups raw cashews

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 

Mix the coconut oil, honey, vanilla, sesame seeds, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in the cashews until they are well coated. Pour onto the baking sheet into a single layer.

Bake for about 15 minutes, stirring about halfway through. You want the cashews to be golden and the glaze be be thickened and sticky. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with a couple pinches of salt.

Let the nuts cool completely so the glaze will be hardened and stuck to the nuts. Serve or store in an airtight container.

What was I cooking one year ago?: slow cooker sticky Asian drumsticks with sesame savoy cabbage
Two years ago?: apple-turkey burgers with cranberry-apple relish
Three?: apple crumb tart
4?: peanut butter oatmeal cookies

Monday, October 13, 2014

Apple ring pancakes

I warned you that apple recipes would be coming since we recently picked a bushel. I canned a few batches of applesauce and we've been eating them with our lunch every day, but it still leaves plenty for cooking with as well. One thing I've been waiting for apple season to make is these apple ring pancakes. I got the idea from my Pennsylvania Dutch cookbook (which I love - there's been a free e-cookbook on Amazon for a while now. I have two different print versions and this one may be different as well). However, this recipe was for deep-fried apple fritter rings and while that sounds delicious, it wasn't quite what I wanted for breakfast. So, I decided to dip them in a spiced pancake batter instead. Served with an extra sprinkle of cinnamon, some real maple syrup, and a couple breakfast sausages made these a perfect weekend breakfast. I must say that these three turned out the nicest, that's why they are in the photo. Most of them were a little messier, but they were still delicious! 

Apple ring pancakes
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 large egg
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for cooking
2 large apples, cored and cut into 1/4-inch thick rings (I used one tart apple and one sweet apple)

Whisk together the flour through salt in a bowl until combined. Whisk together to egg through butter in another bowl until well-combined. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined.

Heat a griddle or cast iron skillet until hot. Lightly butter the hot pan.

Dip the apple rings into the batter coating both sides. Let any excess drip off. Place onto the hot skillet. Flip when the batter begins to bubble and the first side is golden. Cook until the second side is golden and repeat until all the apple rings and/or batter is gone. 

What was I cooking one year ago?: apple & pork macaroni & cheese
Two years ago?: apple crisp pie
Three?: chipotle sweet potato soup
4?: spaghetti squash gratin