A Cookie A Day: Triple Chocolate Cookies

1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. white chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
Cream butter and sugars together until smooth, and beat in the egg and vanilla.
Add the flour mixture and mix until almost blended.
Add the chocolate chips and mix.
Scoop the dough onto an ungreased baking sheet 2 inches apart. Bake for 12-14 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, and store in an airtight container up to 7 days.
Makes 2 to 3 dozen (depends on the size of the cookie!).
My parents gave me a 2009 "A Cookie A Day" calendar for my birthday, and we tried out this recipe last night (I coaxed my husband into spending non-competitive time together before I creamed him in backgammon). I didn't have white chocolate chips so I substituted more semisweet chocolate chips, and it turned out tasting great.
Last year, I got a joke-a-day calendar for my birthday, and as fate would have it, some of the jokes were way too good to toss in the recycle bin of 2008. So I thought I'd share a few, and give you this challenge: if you bake these cookies to share with anyone, make them groan with a joke or two ...
Two antennas met on a roof, fell in love, and got married. The ceremony wasn't much, but the reception was excellent.
Did you hear about the man who fell into the upholstery machine? It was pretty bad, but he's fully recovered now.
A backward poet writes inverse.
Why can't a bicycle stand alone? It's two tired.
Once upon a time there were four men who decided to build a three-story house that they would share. They built the house, then decided it wasn't big enough. That's another story.
That's enough. I must subconsciously want to drive my one faithful reader away ... bad jokes, distasteful books, infrequent postings. I'll stop while I'm still ahead.
I'll redeem myself now ... to my one faithful reader out there: hope you have a very sweet 2009!


Southwest Pork in Black Bean Sauce + 14 Tubes of Chapstick = Amazing Christmas

Makes 6 servings 
Prep: 15 minutes, 
Cook: 15 minutes, 
Stand: 5 minutes 
For a less spicier dish, substitute a can of regular diced tomatoes for the mild diced tomatoes with green chilies. 

1 to 1 1/2 lbs. boneless pork loin chops 
1 Tbsp. ground cumin 
1 tsp. ground chili pepper 
1 tsp. garlic salt 
1 tsp. paprika 
1 (10-oz) cans mild diced tomatoes with green chilies 
1 (15-oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained 
1 (8-oz) can whole kernel corn, drained 
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil 
1 small red onion, chopped 
1 c. uncooked instant rice (or 1 c. leftover cooked rice) 
 Garnish: 1 c. grated cheddar cheese 
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro 
Flour tortillas 
lime wedges 

 Cut pork into 1/2 inch cubes. Combine cumin, chili pepper, garlic salt, and paprika in large zip-top plastic bag. Remove 2 tsp. cumin mixture and reserve. Add pork to bag, seal, and shake to coat. Set aside. 
Stir together reserved cumin mixture, diced tomatoes, black beans, and corn in a large bowl. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork and red onion, and saute 6-8 minutes or until pork is browned. Stir in tomato mixture, bring to a boil, and stir in rice. 
Cover and remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes. Sprinkle with grated cheese and cilantro; serve in flour tortillas or over corn tortilla chips. 

 My sister-in-law Ashley made this recipe for our family get-together over Christmas. She and my brother hosted the whole family in their new house, and served up some amazing food too. She had made this a couple of days before we arrived, and we finished it up ... it has a subtle spice that just builds on itself as you continue eating. I cooled it down by topping it with plain yogurt, but sour cream or guacamole would do the same thing. I think it would be interesting to try this with chicken, too. This was an interesting Christmas on both sides of the family. With my side of the family, we picked names and exchanged gifts based on the theme "Books and Music." My younger brother and I unknowingly picked each other, and being the geniuses that we are, we both bought the same book for the other. I was glad we have the same tastes, because I secretly wanted to keep the book I had bought for him. What is this book, you ask? Well, at the risk of scaring you away from my blog forever, the title of the book is What's Your Poo Telling You? by Josh Richman and Anish Sheth, M.D. I'll go ahead and tell you that you need to read it. After we exchanged all our books and music, we sat around, silently reading, and totally not interacting with each other at all. Who says you can't have fun and be reclusive at the same time? On Christmas Eve we traveled to North Carolina to spend a few days with my husband's family. The theme for this side of the family was "homemade" - and it turned out to be the best Christmas we've ever shared, in my opinion. The gift-opening lasted TWO HOURS because we spent so much time explaining the gifts and where the ideas had come from. My husband and I ended up with homemade cheese, ciabatta bread, lavender bath salts, a Swedish game called Kubb (rhymes with "tube"), an amazing scrapbook of a trip we took with our sister-in-law to Costa Rica, engraved walking sticks, and homemade shaving cream. On a final note: Santa was very thoughtful this Christmas - he put 14 tubes of chapstick in my stocking. Here's to hoping they last until Christmas 2009 ...


Apple-Cranberry Scones

Makes 10-12 scones
2 c. flour
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. cold butter
3/4 c. half and half, milk, sour cream, or yogurt
1 egg
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 1/3 c. shredded peeled apple
1/4 c. dried cranberries
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
In another bowl, whisk cream, egg and vanilla. Add to dry ingredients just until moistened (dough will be stiff if you used sour cream or yogurt, or stickier if you used half and half or milk).
Stir in apple and cranberries. Drop by large spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet, or turn out onto floured surface, knead 10 times, and cut into wedges (I've found that the dough is usually too sticky to knead and neatly cut into wedges, so I've resorted to simply dropping the dough).
Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until done (watch out for the bottoms burning!)
Scones make think of friends. For the past 4 months, I've been getting together weekly for breakfast and coffee with a few women that I met when I first moved here. The girl who hosts usually fixes coffee and something to eat ... I think I've made scones every time I've hosted. The great thing about these scones is that you can substitute whatever you want to instead of apples and cranberries ... I've used just cranberries, just raisins, raisins and cranberries, pears, chocolate chips, and blueberries. I've added cinnamon before, and left it out. It's really flexible (like friends), pretty forgiving (again, like friends), and worth it every time (you get the point).
To my one faithful reader out there: Let me know if you try the scones with something else ... I've considered grated carrot, cinnamon, and nutmeg, but don't want to gross everyone out, and I'm not sure I'm willing to eat an entire batch of carrot scones. I'd love for you to let me know if Banana-Coconut Scones work out for you ...


Black Bean Chili: Reasonable, Seasonable

This recipe is from the November 2007 issue of Southern Living. I made it the other day, actually following the recipe ingredient by ingredient (something I rarely do, since I think that recipes are more like suggestions than requirements). I was so pleased, and will probably make this "my" chili recipe from here on out ... 
3 15-oz. cans black beans 
1 large sweet onion, chopped 
1 lb. ground beef 
4 tsp. chili powder 
1 tsp. ground cumin 
1/2 tsp. salt 
1 14-oz. can chicken broth 
2 14.5-oz. cans petite diced tomatoes with jalapeños
Toppings: sour cream, shredded Cheddar cheese, lime wedges, sliced jalapeño peppers, chopped fresh cilantro, chopped tomatoes, corn chips 
Rinse and drain 2 cans black beans. (Do not drain the third can.) 
Sauté chopped onion and ground beef in a large pot over medium heat 10 minutes or until meat is no longer pink. Stir in chili powder and next 3 ingredients; sauté 1 minute. 
Stir in drained and undrained beans, chicken broth, and diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 10 minutes. Serve chili with desired toppings.

We had this chili last week after coming home from watching the town Christmas parade. I made it beforehand, and let it simmer on low heat for the hour or so we were at the parade. It was a fantastic way to end up the evening!
7 Parade Highlights
1. Seeing at least 5 Sweet Junior Miss Little Precious Snowball Queen Something-or-Others
2. Picking up candy (nothing says "safety" like seeing the fireman toss candy from his window into the turning lane of Main Street so the kids can scramble to be the first one into the road)
3. The Jeep Club section of the parade (not because I'm particularly fond of Jeeps ... I was just surprised by the fact that people who own Jeeps like to get together with other people who own Jeeps so that they can talk about their Jeeps, drive their Jeeps, and parade their Jeeps. Maybe I should join a Corolla club ...)
4. The roller skaters who slowed down the parade because they couldn't make it up the hill
5. Our friend stepping in horse poop on the walk back home (it was not a highlight because it happened to him, but instead because it brings to light the absurdity of watching for horse poop on a downtown road)
6. The church bus converted into the Polar Express, complete with the bell on top (we decided that the lucky one who got to ring the bell must've been the pastor's kid.)
7. Rescuing the glow-stick that fell off of some boy scout's uniform ... I ran out into the parade, dodging candy like missiles, picked up the light, and handed it to the scout leader in the truck bed. Go me.
Oh, and I lied about following the recipe ingredient for ingredient (I realized this as I typed up the recipe.) Having unwittingly begun chili before realizing I didn't have the exact ingredients, I have to confess these substitutions: Paprika instead of chili powder (ground-up sweet peppers instead of ground-up hot peppers); I made chicken broth with bullion cubes instead of using a can of it; and I used regular diced tomatoes instead of "petite diced tomatoes with jalapenos." Now, I'm glad I confessed that, because I was starting to worry about my impending recipe legalism.


A selfless recipe for Pumpkin Bread

Makes 3 loaves
1 c. vegetable oil
3 c. sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1 large can pumpkin
1 c. chopped pecans and/or 1 c. chocolate chips
3 1/2 c. flour
2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
1 t. ginger
1 t. cloves
Mix oil, sugar, eggs, and pumpkin in large bowl.
Combine dry ingredients and pecans/chocolate chips in separate bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture, stir until mixed.
Fill half-full either 3 well-greased 1-pound coffee tins or 3 well-greased loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour 15 minutes. Remove from pans immediately and cool on wire racks.
This is a fantastic recipe. My husband hates it when I give loaves away.
I've never made it with nuts, and I've never made it without chocolate chips (they're a must). The four spices (cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg) could be substituted with pumpkin pie spice - I guess 3-4 teaspoons of it would do.
This recipe is my default "gift bread." Case in point - my husband's sister just had her first baby. We show up with pumpkin bread. We weren't sure what to give our pastor for his birthday - pumpkin bread. Friends come over for craft night - pumpkin bread to take home. It's the perfect recipe because I can give away a loaf and still keep a couple for myself. Recipients think that I am so kind and selfless to have put all that work into the bread for their little occasion, but little do they know that I get to keep two-thirds of the efforts, rewarding myself for my kindness with an appetizer slice, a slice with dinner, and one with ice cream for dessert. I'm ashamed to admit, but we could go through a loaf in less than 24 hours. Need breakfast? Pumpkin bread. Need dessert? Pumpkin bread. Need a bread to go with your creamy tomato bisque from a can? Pumpkin bread.
So if you have an occasion coming up, be on the lookout for the bread. Feel free to call me out for keeping my two loaves, but be warned that I might make you share your ONE loaf with me right then and there.


Russian Apple Pancakes a la father-in-law

Makes 2 large apple-filled pancakes with caramelized surfaces; serves 6 to 8 
1 c whole or reduced-fat milk (plus 2 Tbsp if using 3/4 c whole wheat flour), heated to lukewarm 
1/2 tsp active dry yeast 
1 1/2 c flour: 3/4 c each whole wheat and all-purpose, or 1/2 c whole wheat and 1 c all-purpose 
1/4 c sugar 
1 large egg 
1 tsp salt 
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature 
2 Tbsp unsalted butter 
2 medium to large tart apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced 
About 2 Tbsp cinnamon sugar (1/2 tsp cinnamon to 2 Tbsp sugar) 

Place the milk in a medium bowl and stir in the yeast, then stir in the flour and 2 tablespoons sugar. Stir for 1 minute, then set aside for 30 minutes to 2 hours, whichever is most convenient. When ready to proceed, add the egg, salt, and melted butter and mix thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 6 to 8 hours, or overnight. (If keeping the batter for longer than 8 hours, or if the temperature is very warm, refrigerate the batter until 2 hours before using.) The batter should be bubbly when ready. 

Before cooking the pancakes, decide which method you wish to use to caramelize the pancakes: If using a broiler, turn on the broiler and use an ovenproof 8- to 9-inch skillet. Otherwise, put out two heavy 8- to 9-inch skillets. 

Heat a heavy 8- to 9-inch skillet over medium heat, and melt 1 Tbsp of the butter. Add half the apples and saute until soft but not brown. Spread the slices well over the bottom of the pan, sprinkle on 1 Tbsp sugar, and lower the heat to medium-low. Pour on a scant 1 1/2 cups batter and spread it to the edges of the skillet. Cook until the top is spongy and dull, no longer liquid and shiny, about 5 minutes (be patient). 

Meanwhile, if using two skillets, butter the other one lightly and place over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the top of the pancake generously with cinnamon sugar (about 1 tablespoon). Place the skillet under the broiler and broil until the cinnamon sugar melts, about 1 minute; or flip the pancake into the other skillet and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the pancake to a platter apple side up. Repeat with the second pancake. Serve hot. For breakfast or brunch, serve plain or with maple syrup. Or, if serving for dessert, offer heavy cream or vanilla or nut-flavored ice cream as an accompaniment. Allow a third to a half of a skillet cake per person for breakfast, and a quarter per person for dessert. 

 If you've ever read the book Como Agua Para Chocolate (Like Water For Chocolate) by Laura Esquivel, you'll get the setup of this blog. If not, then let me explain. Esquivel begins each chapter of her book with a recipe, followed by a narrative. Most of it is believable. Some of it is, well, a stretch. I'll give you a new recipe every so often, along with some narrative. You might get some stretchiness every once in a while, and some true things too. My philosophy is that some things just need to be shared, like the time that my father-in-law said, "I might take my legs along, just in case I need them." The recipe for Russian Apple Cakes is from said father-in-law. More about him, and other people who make life interesting, to come ...