Monday, October 26, 2009

Chocolate chip pumpkin(asaurus) cookies*

Apparently there was a pumpkin crop failure this year. I went to Albertson's and found one lone can of Libby's pure pumpkin puree along with a note from the manager apologizing for their lack of canned pumpkin. Tragic. I grabbed the last can and wasn't sorry!

Whenever I make chocolate chip pumpkin cookies, EVERYONE and their mom asks me for the recipe. They taste like pumpkin muffin tops--they have the same soft and puffy texture--and are flavored with classic pumpkin pie spices and milk chocolate chips. I made 5 dozen a few nights ago for our bon voyage party, and had no leftovers!

As you can see, my husband thoroughly enjoys these cookies. Louie wishes he could enjoy these cookies.

Kate took an artsy shot of a pile of pumpkin cookies with Pauline holding a small pumpkin in the background for added drama. And Jason looks like he's about to fling one towards the lens. Ah, I'm going to miss my friends while we're in UK.

Anyway, if you can get your hands on some canned pumpkin (or if you aren't as lazy as me and would like to peel, cook and puree the pumpkin yourself!), you should make these for Halloween or Thanksgiving... because I wont be here to make them for you!

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies
Adapted from
makes 5 dozen

• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
• 1 cup white sugar
• 1 cup light brown sugar
• 2 large eggs
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
• 2 cups (12-ounce bag) milk chocolate chips
• Nonstick cooking spray or parchment paper

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray cookie sheets with nonstick spray or line them with parchment paper.

Using a mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Beat in the white and brown sugars until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time, then mix in the vanilla and pumpkin puree. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Slowly beat the flour mixture into the batter. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Scoop the cookie dough by large tablespoons onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake for 18-22 minutes, or until the cookies are browned around the edges and spring back lightly when touched. (They'll look like golden muffin tops.) Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and let them rest for 2 minutes. Take the cookies off with a spatula and cool them on wire racks.

*The -asaurus suffix adds grandeur and emphasis to any word or combination of words, according to my husband, Adam. Consider calling your spouse or significant other a giveupasaurus on a game night during which they are failing, or telling your friends that you are a hungryasaurus at dinner time, and a stressasaurus during finals.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

To Dorothy

To Dorothy; or as I knew her, Grandma. Neat, huh?

She loved Julia Child. So by extension, I love Julia Child too.

My grandma passed away recently and my Grandpa gave me her cookbook. I am so sad that she's gone, but at the very least, I can remember her with Julia Child madeleines and tea from some of her very best bone china English tea cups.

So here's to you, Dorothy. Thank you for singing at our wedding, thank you for always exaggerating my talents to extended family members and anyone else who would listen (no, I've never actually been contacted by the CIA to come work for them, I'm not a member of MENSA, I don't really write for the LA Times, and I don't actually wake up each morning and make home-made croissants for my husband), and thank you for never EVER missing a soccer game, birthday, holiday, bring-your-grandparents-to-school day, or big test. I couldn't have asked for a better Grandma.

Madeleines, or
little shell shaped tea cakes
Adapted from The Way to Cook, by Julia Child
makes 24

• 2 large eggs, lightly beaten in a 2-cup measuring cup
• 2/3 cup sugar
• 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus 1 Tbs for preparing molds
• 5 ounces (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
• a pinch of salt
• the grated rind of half a lemon
• a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice
• a few drops of vanilla extract (this is what Julia says; I say, use a capful)
• powdered sugar for dusting

Special equipment: 2 madeleine pans

Preheat oven to 375 ̊ and set the racks in the upper and lower middle levels.

Measure 1/4 cup of the eggs into a bowl, then beat in the sugar and the cup of flour. When thorougly blended, let rest for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a 6-cup saucepan, bring it to a boil, and let it brown lightly. Place the 1 tablespoon of flour in a small bowl and blend in 1 1/2 tablespoons of the browned butter; set aside for preparing the madeleine pans.

Place the rest of the butter in a small bowl. Fit the small bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice. Stir the butter over the ice until cooled but still liquid; blend it and the last of the eggs into the batter along with the salt, lemon rind, juice, and vanilla.

Paint the madeleine cups with the reserved flour-butter mixture. Divide the batter into 24 lumps of a generous tablespoon each, and drop them into the madeleine cups.

Bake until the cakes are lightly brown around the edges, humped in the middle, and slightly shrunk in the cups, about 15 minutes. Unmold onto a rack.
When cool dust with powdered sugar.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Mom's Carnitas

My mom and aunt make outstanding carnitas. And until now I thought I'd never be able to come near them in quality. But you know what? Last night I did... My friend Dan is above there to prove it. And what's more is that it wasn't even that hard. All one needs is the correct method--the rest is nearly impossible to screw up.

Carnitas are chunks of pork that are slow cooked until rendering their own fat and caramelizing. They should be savory, juicy, and falling apart. We like to use country-style pork ribs (boneless) but any fatty, boneless cut of pork will do. (For this reason, I would not recommend tenderloin.) Serve in tacos, burritos, or in a sufficiently large mound all on their own. And I personally think one should not eat carnitas without guacamole!

I called my mom the other day asking her for her "recipe." I put that in quotes because my mom doesn't follow recipes. Rather, she remembers basic formulas, hand-measures ingredients, and drops them in a pot. (And that's why she doesn't care for baking so much.) Anyway, the conversation went something like this:

Me: Mom, I want to make carnitas like yours and Jesse's.

Mom: Well the first thing you should do then is get an electric skillet.

Me: What? No... I doubt Mexicans in Mexico use those, Mom. Do they even sell them there?

Mom: Well, no. People wouldn't buy them!

And now you know where my love for kitchen gadgets comes from. Anyway, she says you can use a large dutch oven or a heavy-bottomed pot. That's what I did and it worked beautifully.

Mom's Carnitas

Adapted from Mom
Serves 6-8

• 2.5 lbs country-style pork ribs, cut into 2-inch chunks
• 3/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon cracked pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon coriander
• 2 cloves garlic, smashed
• the peel of 1 lime, green zest only
• 2 cups water
• flour tortillas, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, chopped onion and cilantro for serving

Place all ingredients in a large heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven, stir and bring to a simmer. Cover pot and allow pork to braise on low heat for 2 hours or until the meat is tender. (Check for tenderness by prodding the meat with the tines of a fork. If it begins to spread and fall apart into a ropey pile, it's tender enough.) Remove the lime peel.

Remove the cover from the pot and raise heat to medium-high. Boil water and juices from the meat until only pork fat remains, about 45 minutes. Allow meat to caramelize in its fat for about 15 minutes longer, watching to make sure it does not dry out. Serve with flour tortillas, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, chopped onion, salsa and cilantro.

Wait you read this far down? Good for you! You get a bonus recipe then!

Grilled Chiles Rellenos
makes 12 peppers

• 12 large Jalapeños
• 12 ounces cream cheese
• 6 slices thick cut bacon, cut in half
• 24 toothpicks

Slice the jalapeños lengthwise to create a 1.5 inch cut, from the stem to about a quarter inch above the tip. Use a 1/4 teaspoon to wedge inside the cut, gutting the seeds and membrane from the inside of the jalapeño to hollow it out. (I like to recruit my husband for this step.)

Cook's note: Be VERY careful when handling jalapeños! Do not touch your eyes, or face, lest you'd like to spend the next the next few hours dipping these body parts in a bowl of milk. If you don't think you can be careful, use rubber gloves.

Slice bricks of cream cheese cross-wise to create long blocks that are slightly smaller than the size of the jalapeños, about 1 ounce each. Squeeze the peppers open. (It's okay if they break a little.) Stuff with cream cheese using 1/4 teaspoon if necessary.

Wrap jalapeños with bacon strips being careful to cover holes and openings. Secure with two toothpicks each.

Grill on low heat, turning often, until bacon is crisp and jalapeños are slightly charred, about 25 minutes.

I'm thinking I might need to get this someday...

Thursday, October 1, 2009


I come from a family of hungrymonsters.

My brother is 7 feet tall (no really, he's that tall) and that little hungrymonster above there is my nephew, Nathan. We have yet to confirm that he's not actually a clone of my brother.

Anyway, whenever we have my family over for dinner we plan the menu accordingly--there needs to be plenty of food.

My favorite dessert for feeding a crowd (or a small group of hungrymonsters) is bread pudding. I've taken a cue from my mom on this one, as she always likes to make capirotada on occasions that call for a lot of servings. (Capirotada is a Mexican bread pudding with cinnamon and piloncillo, by the way-- a recipe that I promise to post at a later date!) But tonight, in order to satisfy a week long craving for chocolate, I made chocolate bread pudding.

It's one of the easiest desserts I've ever made given the amount of praise it gets. See Nathan? That's chocolate bread pudding love. It's all over his face, his hands, his shirt (our floor, the top of Louie's crate for some reason), and I think a little even got in his hair. Yes--it's magic given that this pudding was made from day old bread (it's actually
better when it's a day old) and given that most of the ingredients are things I already have in my pantry. I like to serve this melty chocolaty dish warm from the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Chocolate Bread Pudding
adapted from (Southern Queen) Paula Deen

• 1 (1-pound) loaf French or Italian bread, cubed
• 3 cups milk
• 1/4 cup heavy cream
• 1/2 cup coffee flavored liqueur, or brewed coffee
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 cup packed light brown sugar
• 1/4 cup cocoa powder
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
• 1 tablespoon almond extract
• 2 teaspoons cinnamon
• 6 eggs, lightly beaten
• 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips for topping, optional
• chopped walnuts (optional)
• Vanilla ice cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Lightly grease a 13 by 9-inch baking dish and place the bread in the dish. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, cream, and liqueur. Using another bowl, combine the sugar, brown sugar, and cocoa powder and mix well. Add the sugar mixture to the milk mixture and mix well. Add the vanilla and almond extract, and cinnamon to the beaten eggs. Combine the egg mixture to the milk mixture and mix well.

Stir the chopped chocolate and walnuts into the mixture. Pour the mixture over the cubed bread in the pan. Let the mixture stand, stirring occasionally for at least 1 hour or until bread absorbs most of the milk mixture. Scatter chocolate chips on top of pudding. Bake for 1 hour or until set. Check pudding by inserting a knife through the middle and it should come out clean.

Serve the pudding warm with ice cream, or refrigerate and serve chilled if desired.

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