Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Nutella-Filled Brown Butter Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Now, those cookies may not look like much from the outside. But on the inside (where it really matters, amirite?) there is a delicious, melt-y, chocolate-y NUTELLA center. And no one can resist nutella. Keep that in mind the next time someone approaches you at a bar. Get to know them. They may be filled with nutella too!

As part of the 2015 Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, I baked the above cookie and sent them out to my three match-ups ... Lynsey Lou's, The Kitchen Adventurer and Recipe Runner. Hopefully the ladies enjoyed their cookies - and from the Instagram posts I got, I think they did! My coworkers also enjoyed the sample that I gave them so I'll need to bake more soon.

Every year, I participate in this cookie exchange as part of the holidays, but the great thing about it is that to participate, the swappers are asked to donate $4 and the proceeds to go Cookies for Kids' Cancer. In the last few years, we've raised over $7,000 with just this exchange during the holidays, in tandem with the brand partners (Dixie Crystals, Land O Lakes and OXO), who match all contributions 1:1. Not only that but they send us nifty little gifts for participating! This year I got a set of measuring beakers and a silicon baking mat - both super cool!

Definitely think of joining next year if you're also a blogger - it's fun and everything goes to a great cause!

Nutella-Filled Brown Butter Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Layers of Happiness

1 cup unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp of salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp ground cloves
4 Tbsp of pumpkin puree
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
Nutella (refrigerated)

First of all, refrigerate your nutella. I can't stress this enough. If I have an enemy, I'm just going to cover them in nutella and they'll go insane trying to get it off. IT GETS EVERYWHERE when it's at room temperature.

In a skillet (preferably not coated), melt butter over medium heat - stirring constantly. Once the butter begins to foam and has the aroma of a nutty flavor, remove it from the heat immediately or the butter will burn and that's no good for everyone. It will be slightly brown at the bottom of the pan. Set it aside and let it cool down.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour and baking soda, incorporating well.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the cooled brown butter, salt and sugars, blending thoroughly. Add in the egg and egg yolk, pumpkin, spices and vanilla - mix well again. Turn down the mixer to the lowest speed and add the flour mixture slowly. Remove from the blender and fold in all the chocolate chips.

Chill dough for 2-3 hours to make it easier to work with. Preheat oven to 350degrees.

Measure out 1.5 tablespoons of dough out and smash it flat between your palms. Put a chunk of refrigerated nutella in the middle, then roll the rough around it and form a ball, sealing the nutella completely.

The best way to do this is to use two knives so your hands never touch the nutella. It helps if you have a sheet of Saran Wrap laid out and you can take out a few chunks at a time, and keep refrigerating the rest. Don't ever touch the nutella!!

Bake the cookies for 10 minutes or until they begin to turn brown. Don't worry if they look underdone in the middle - you don't want fully cooked nutella!

Thanks to the ladies of Ambrosia Baking for your chewy ginger molasses chews, The P.K.P. Way for your holidays spice coookies and a mystery sender that sent chocolate peppermint crunch cookies for my sweets - my coworkers and I enjoyed them immensely!!

Looking forward to the 2016 cookie swap!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Coconut Curry Cauliflower Soup

Coconut curry cauliflower soup. Say that ten times fast. I've only had this soup one time at Mendocino Farms but it was enough to make an impression on me cause it was absolutely DELICIOUS. I've made some homemade version modifications to this soup to cut the calories and boost the fiber content and I'm very pleased with the results.

Definitely set aside a couple hours to make this soup. Don't let the thought of that be too daunting; soup making is therapeutic and the house will smell amazing. Read the entire recipe first, as some of the steps can be done simultaneously.

I took this soup to work and it was devoured by the girls for lunch. Since there is coconut milk in it, it probably won't freeze too well but will stay good in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

Coconut Curry Cauliflower Soup
adapted from LA Times
makes about 3 quarts soup

First, make the lentils and lentil stock:

2 cups green lentils
1 small carrot, quartered
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
2 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
2 sprigs thyme
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp kosher salt
6 cups water

Rinse the lentils and place in a medium, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the carrot, onion, garlic, thyme, olive oil, salt and water; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, skim any scum floating on top and loosely cover. Cook until the lentils are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove from heat and remove the carrot, onion, garlic and thyme with a pair of tongs. Strain the lentils, reserving 4 cups of the lentil stock and 2 cups of the cooked lentils (use the remaining stock and lentils for another recipe). If you are short the 4 cups stock, you can add enough water to make 4 cups - the soup will taste just as good!

Now you're ready to make the soup! ...

1 medium-large head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 large carrot, finely and evenly diced
1/3 to 1/2 cup oil, divided
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 onion, minced
3/4 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp black pepper
4 cups lentil stock (above)
2 cups water
1 11 oz package coconut milk
2 Tbsp agave nectar or honey
2 cups cooked lentils (above)
2-3 cups Tuscan kale, finely chopped/shredded

Heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Take the cauliflower and cut off the tiny, cute florets at the top to leave whole in the soup (2 cups worth) and toss with the diced carrot in 2 tablespoons oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Spread the cauliflower and carrots onto a rimmed baking sheet and roast until tender and slightly golden brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove and set aside for the end of the recipe.

Toss the remaining cauliflower with 1 1/2 tablespoons oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Spread out onto a rimmed baking sheet and roast until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes; use this for the soup.

** The cauliflower roasting can be done at the same time as the lentils are cooking.

In a medium, heavy-bottomed pot, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the roasted cauliflower (not the small pretty pieces), potatoes, curry powder, turmeric, cayenne and black pepper, the four cups lentil stock and two cups water.

Bring to a boil. Reduce to a gentle simmer, loosely cover, and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk.

Increase the heat and bring the soup to a boil, then remove from heat. Cool the soup slightly, then purée with an immersion blender until smooth. You can also purée in batches in a blender, but be careful not to burn yourself.

Add the agave nectar and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir in the cooked lentils, roasted cauliflower and carrots, and the shredded Tuscan kale.

Gently reheat, then taste and add more salt as needed.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap Year 5

I'm joining again this year!! Unfortunately, I wasn't able to participate last year due to a hectic work and travelling schedule but this year ... everyone at my work will be eating cookies, all day every day. Can't wait to see what gets delivered to my door in a few weeks.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Romesco Sauce

Guys. Look at that picture. I know the vegetable looks kind of weird - that's broccoflower, which is a hybrid cross between broccoli and cauliflower (clever, huh?). But don't focus on the genetically mutated cross-bred vegetable, Focus on what's underneath the broccoflower - the romesco sauce. I wanted to eat that sauce with a spoon, in great big mouthfuls. But I refrained cause I'm a lady.

The sauce pairs well with chicken, beef and basically any sort of roasted vegetable. I roasted more cauliflower afterwards and it also tasted great!

Romesco Sauce
adapted from Melissa Clark

2 medium red bell peppers, halved and cored
1 plum tomato, halved
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup peeled almonds (or peeled hazelnuts)
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp sherry vinegar (or combination of Shaoxing wine and red wine vinegar)
1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses or 1 tsp honey
1 1/2 tsp hot smoked paprika
1 tsp kosher salt

Set oven to broil and arrange the bell peppers (cut side down), the tomato (cut side up) and garlic on a baking sheet. Broil until the garlic turns a golden brown, about 3-5 minutes. Turn garlic and broil a couple minutes more. Transfer garlic to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Continue to broil peppers and tomatoes until the peppers are charred and blackened, about another 5-10 minutes. Remove to the same bowl as the garlic, cover with plastic wrap and set aside to cool.

In a dry pan over medium heat, toast the almonds. Once they are a light golden brown, transfer to a food processor and pulse until they are broken up (not too fine).

Peel the skins off the peppers and tomatoes, being careful as they are hot. The skins should come off fairly easily, but just try to get most of it.

Combine the rest of the ingredients into the food processor with the almonds. Puree until almost smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more vinegar, honey or salt as needed. Eat with roasted veggies!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Lobster Stock

What do you do when you have a ton of leftover lobster carcasses? If your answer is "throw them away, of course - the delicious lobster meat is gone and that's trash" then that answer is wrong! Take the shells and make a delicious, rich lobster stock. The stock is very versatile - use it as a base for a lobster bisque, seafood soups, chowders, seafood pot pies, etc.

After you eat the lobsters, scoop out the thick roe on the inside and save that for another use. My mom is going to make porridge with it tonight, which is also very exciting - but beware of the cholesterol levels, if that's an issue for you. Also, remove the gills and any innards.

Simmering the stock made my apartment smell amazing and seafood-y (is that a word?). I think the first thing I'm going to make is lobster miso soup, much like the kind made from the heads of sweet shrimp at Japanese restaurants (amaebi). Just add some miso and a few cubes of tofu and I'll be good to go!

Lobster Stock
Makes about 2-3 quarts

Carcasses and shells from two lobsters
3 Tbps canola or vegetable oil
1 onion, cut into wedges
1 carrot, cut into chunks
2 Tbps tomato paste or 2 tomatoes, chopped
1/3 cup mirin
1/3 cup dry white wine (or 2/3 cup if not using mirin)
8-10 cups water

Heat oil in large stockpot over medium heat. When the oil is hot (but not smoking), add lobster shells. Stir often with a wooden spoon until they are browned, about 15 minutes. The longer you deepen the color, the more flavorful the stock will be.

Add onion, carrot, tomato paste (or tomatoes), mirin and wine. Cook until the wine has evaporated by half. Add water and bring stock to a simmer. Continue to simmer for an hour, uncovered. Strain stock and keep at room temperature for up to a day, or refrigerate for a week. Freeze for up to three months.