Tuesday, February 21, 2012

cookies for breakfast (or lunch, or a snack...)

I have a gigantic sweet tooth. I like to think I come by it naturally (my sister has the same condition, if you can call it that), but no matter the source it's there. My regular winter breakfast is oatmeal with almond milk, cinnamon, and a sliced banana, so I even start my day with something a little sweet.

These cookies are kind of a grab-and-go version oatmeal, akin to granola bars. Most of the "breakfast cookie" recipes I've seen include some measure of white flour and a fair amount of sugar, and although I'm certainly not opposed to either of those, I try to hold off on having them until after lunch. The only added sugar in this whole recipe is 1/4 c of maple syrup, which comes out to 1 tsp per (pretty large) cookie. Calling them "cookies" might be a bit of a misnomer, but I just like thinking that I'm eating dessert for breakfast.

These go great with tea or coffee, or they're delicious alone. You can also make any number of substitutions to this recipe; if you prefer different sweeteners, fats, grains, seeds, spices, or dried fruit, feel free to give them a shot. If you want more of a "real" cookie taste, chocolate chips would be a great addition (clearly, since the original recipe uses them).

breakfast cookies
adapted from 101 Cookbooks
makes one dozen large cookies  

2 medium bananas, mashed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 c maple syrup
1/4 c peanut butter
2 c rolled  oats
1/4 c wheat germ
1/4 c flax seeds
1/2 c dried coconut
1/4 c dried dates, chopped
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 and line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Combine first four ingredients in a large bowl and set aside. In a medium bowl, stir together remaining ingredients; add to banana mixture and mix together until thoroughly combined (you can use a spoon or your hands, although it's a bit sticky).

Scoop dough into 1/4-c. portions and place on cookie sheet. Press down a bit to make them as tall or flat, neat or messy as you'd like. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes (longer if you'd like them to be crunchy rather than chewy).

The cookies will last a few days in an airtight container, or freeze them for up to a month and pop one into the toaster for a quick, healthy breakfast.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

the best thing about the super bowl (no, it's not the commercials)

I couldn't care less about professional football, but I love the Super Bowl. Any event that requires that you have a drink in hand and consume copious amounts of chips and dip gets an A+ in my book. 

But what to make? In my opinion, this is one of the only times during the year when it's perfectly acceptable to throw together sour cream and Lipton onion soup mix and call it an appetizer. But why would you want to do that, when there are so many other options out there? Well, maybe you're having 20 people over to your house and you just don't feel like whipping up a dish with the same number of ingredients as there will be guests.

So, I've come up with a few suggestions depending on your level of commitment and concern for nutrition. I'm dividing these recipes into "classy" and "trashy". This might sound a bit elitist, but honestly I would be happy eating any of the dishes from either category. I'm a little embarrassed that I like some of the trashy recipes, but hey, everyone (okay, almost everyone) wants that kind of food every once in awhile.

"classy" recipes:
hot buttered soft pretzels: I've always wanted to make soft pretzels, and King Arthur Flour's recipes consistently deliver.  
yoghurt-spinach dip, 'borani esfanaaj', in the persian manner:  this wins the prize for the longest name. (food52)
spicy maple cashew popcorn:  I like to add bacon to this, and you can substitute whatever nut you have on hand. (Cooking Light)

"real" texas chili con carne:  I'm not even a big chili fan, but this looks fantastic. (Serious Eats)
caramelized pork banh mi:  an amazingly flavorful sandwich that's worth the prep.

jacques torres' chocolate chip cookies:  my roommate made these once, and they were the best chocolate chip cookies I had ever tasted. (Martha Stewart)
the baked brownie:  probably my favorite brownie recipe, by the famed Brooklyn bakery. (Brown Eyed Baker)

"trashy" recipes:
sausage balls:  I loved these as a kid, which may help explain my childhood physique. (Paula Deen)
ranch oyster crackers:  a family friend used to make these for Christmas gifts, and they are addictive. (allrecipes.com)
italian sausage and cheese dip:  "the ultimate Super Bowl dip"? We shall see. (Better Recipes)

mexican chicken casserole: starts with a layer of crushed doritos. Enough said. (jam hands)
party ham sandwiches: if you've ever been to a tailgate in the South, you've had these. Don't let the ingredient list throw you--they are delicious. (Southern Living)

homemade kit kat bars:  I have yet to try these, but they're on my list. (Serious Eats)
compost cookies:  these straddle the trashy/classy line, as the recipe is from Momofuku Milk Bar, but the ingredient list includes 1 1/2 c of snack foods (I use potato chips and pretzels). (Live! with Kelly)

Friday, February 3, 2012

shortbread, the little black dress of cookies

Okay, so maybe that metaphor is a little far-fetched, but shortbread is incredibly versatile, elegant, and, let's be honest, anything with that much butter in it has to be sexy.

mmm...you know you want some of this.

I decided to make shortbread for a dinner party I went to last night, and I happened to have a few ounces of good dark chocolate and candied orange peel in my cupboard, so that's the combination I went with. This recipe would be perfectly lovely on its own as well, or with an endless number of other additions. A few possible combinations, before I get to the main recipe:

-1/2 c chopped white chocolate + 1/2 c of your favorite dried berries
-1 tsp cinnamon (mixed into flour) + 1 c toasted chopped pecans
-1/3 c dried coconut + 1/3 c chopped dark chocolate + 1/3 c slivered almonds
-3/4 c shredded parmesan + 1 tbsp fresh chopped rosemary
-3/4 c shredded sharp cheddar + 1 tbsp red pepper flakes
-1/3 c cooked diced bacon + 1/3 c crumbled bleu cheese

shortbread master recipe
adapted from sarabeth's bakery: from my hands to yours
makes about 2 dozen

16 tbsp (2 sticks) salted butter (my preference), at room temp and cut into 1/2" cubes
1/2 c sugar (for sweet shortbread only)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (sweet only)
grated zest of 1/2 lemon (sweet only; use your judgment depending on flavor additions)
2 c all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
flavor additions of your choice

Preheat oven to 350, and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Beat butter on using a mixer set to medium-high speed until it is smooth, about 1 minute. Gradually add the sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest if using, mixing until light in color and texture, about 3 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour and salt. Mix until thoroughly combined, about 3 minutes. Fold in extra ingredients, if using.

If you're working in a hot kitchen, refrigerate the dough until it's slightly cooler than room temperature. Place dough on a lightly floured counter, lightly flour the top of the dough, and roll it out into a 1/4-inch-thick rectangle. Using a medium cookie cutter, cut out the shortbread, and place each them about 1 inch apart on the cookie sheets. Gather up the scraps, roll out again, and cut out more until you've used all the dough. Refrigerate the cookies until firm, 20-30 minutes.

Bake until the edges are very lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cook on the pans. Shortbread can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for about 5 days.

Okay, so they don't LOOK that sexy, but it's all about the attitude, right?