Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving with Ginger Candied Carrots

I hope you all had a wonderful day filled with family, laughter, and of course, delicious food!  There is so much to be thankful for that a one-day celebration does not seem to be enough.  Today, I am most thankful for being able to celebrate this holiday with a lot of food on the table and the people I love next to me.  

I spent most of the day cooking and cleaning before our guests arrived at 4pm.  While my dad was in charge of the turkey, I led the charge on side dishes.  We had a vegetarian dining with us this year, so we really tried to amp up our side dish offerings so she had plenty to eat.  

My sister specifically requested this Ginger Candied Carrots recipe.  The festive orange carrots and gingery sauce lend itself to a unique side dish that eaters of all ages will love.  My dad made these for us when we were kids, and they are still our favorite today!

Ginger Candied Carrots
From The Silver Palate Cookbook
Serves 6 

12 medium-size carrots, peeled, and cut into 1-inch lengths
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds

  1. Place carrot pieces in a saucepan and add cold water to cover.  Cook carrots until tender, 25-30 minutes.  
  2. Melt butter in a small saucepan.  Add brown sugar, ginger, and caraway seeds. Mix and set aside. 
  3. When carrots are done, drain and return to the pot.  Pour butter mixture over them and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Transfer to a serving dish and serve immediately. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Back to Basics: Chocolate Chip Cookies

I was bored after work yesterday, so I baked cookies.  That's a totally normal thing to do, right?  I had a long list of things I need to do--answer emails, paint my badly chipped nails, order Chanukkah presents for my family, watch Modern Family--but last night I decided that baking chocolate chip cookies was much more important.  

I take chocolate chip cookies very seriously.  If I am going to spend the time baking cookies (and the calories eating them), the cookies better be delicious.  There are a lot of different recipes out there, including ones that make you wait a whole 24 hours before you can even bake them.  I have tried dozens of recipes over the years, but this Cook's Illustrated recipe below is my all-time favorite.  They produce a perfect cookie with crispy edges, and a soft chewy center.  These are totally worth the calories, and they are so easy to make on a weeknight.  

This recipe calls for browned butter, which adds a much deeper toffee flavor.  I suggest using a lighter colored pan to cook the butter in--I always have difficulty judging the color of browned butter in a dark non-stick pan!

Cook's Illustrated Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 16 cookies

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar (try to use unopened brown sugar if possible)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks (Guittard is my favorite brand)

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.
3. Add both sugars, salt and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand for 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips, giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.
4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use a #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet.
5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10-14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

Back to Basics: Perfect Scrambled Eggs for One

My boyfriend and I are trying the whole long-distance thing.  He lives out in the Bay Area, and I am now a Washington DC resident.  Most days, it's manageable;  I go out with my girlfriends, stay late at work when I need to, and spend a weekend every month with my boyfriend.  

And then there are days like this past Saturday, where all I wanted to do was eat breakfast in bed with my boyfriend.  Instead, I was sitting at the breakfast table by myself, eating scrambled eggs for one.  

Scrambled eggs seem so simple, yet there are so many ways to mess it up.  Too rubbery, too firm, burnt, undercooked--the list of scrambled egg sins is pretty long.  I wanted a perfect scrambled egg that would leave me with big, fluffy curds to pile on top of my buttered toast.  This Cook's Illustrated recipe does just that, and it's easy to follow.

Scrambled Eggs
One Serving

2 eggs, plus one yolk
1 tbsp half and half
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1/4 tbsp butter

  1. Whisk eggs, half-and-half, salt, and pepper, in a bowl until they are combined and a pale yellow.  Don't over whisk!
  2. Melt butter in a small pan over medium-high heat, until the butter is no longer foaming.
  3. Add egg mixture to the pan, and constantly scrape the bottom of the pan using a rubber spatula. Once the eggs begin to clump, and the spatula leaves a trail (30-60 seconds), turn down the heat to low.
  4. Gently continue scraping the pan for 30-60 seconds longer.  Eggs will be done when they are clumped, but still wet.  Eat immediately!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Pumpkin Spice & Everything Nice

I am not a pumpkin pie fan.  I don't drink pumpkin spice lattes.  My family would make a pumpkin pie each Thanksgiving, but it was typically an afterthought. Compared to the apple pie my family spent laboring over, the pumpkin pie never stood a chance.  

This pumpkin spice cake recipe turned me into a pumpkin fan.  In fact, it turned my whole family into pumpkin fans. Be warned though--you'll want to make two of these because the recipe is easy! 

Pumpkin Spice Cake:
From Cake Mix Doctor's Cookbook

1 box spice cake mix
1 3.4 oz box of vanilla pudding mix
1 cup  canned pumpkin
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
3 large eggs
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Lightly mist a 9X13'' baking dish with vegetable oil spray.
  3. Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Using an electric handheld mixer, mix on low for 1 minute.  
  4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Increase spread on mixer to medium, and mix batter for two minutes.
  5. When the batter looks thick and well-blended, pour  the batter into the prepared pan.  Smooth the batter with a rubber spatula as necessary.
  6. Bake for 32-26 minutes, or until a toothpick entered into the center of the cake comes out clean. 
  7. Let the cake cool for at least 20 minutes on a wire rack.  When it is completely cool, frost with the buttercream frosting recipe below!

Buttercream Frosting

1 stick butter at room temperature
3 cups confections' sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1-2 tbsps of milk

  1.  Place butter in a bowl.  Using a hand held mixer, mix on medium until butter is light and fluffy.  
  2. Sift the 3 cups of confectioners sugar, and then add it to the butter.
  3. Add vanilla and one tablespoon of milk to the bowl.  
  4. Mix on medium until combined.  If the frosting is too thick, add more milk.  If the frosting is too runny, add more sugar.


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