Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Soft Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies

Let's face it, there has been too much healthy eating on this blog recently.  In the spirit of all things in moderation, it's time for dessert.

It was surprisingly difficult to find a go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe.  I like my cookies on the soft side, but unless you underbake to the point of rawness, chocolate chip cookies have a tendency to turn crisp.   Don't know about you, but if I wanted something crunchy, I'd eat a carrot and save the calories.  My other go-to cookie recipes have built in softeners: blondies have coconut, oatmeal raisin cookies have oatmeal, and peanut butter cookies have peanut butter, but a plain and pure chocolate chip cookie has nothing to protect itself from the cruel world.

One of the recipes I tried was the venerable NY Times gold standard.  With all the extra detail - two different kinds of flour! a 24+ hour dough aging process! - you would figure it must be incredible.  To be fair, the cookies I brought in to work were gone by the next day, but I really resented the recipe.  I wouldn't have minded the fussy ingredients and multi-day prep time, but the end result was a cookie just like any other cookie.  Not life changing, and still on the crisp side.  The search continued...and then I found the one.  They were soft as pillows right out of the oven.  They were silky soft later that evening under the stars with a bottle of red wine.  And the next day, they were still all softness and cuddles.

(Recipe from The Picky Palate)
Yield: 2-3 dozen cookies, depending on size

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups chocolate chips


Cream the butter and sugars together for 2 minutes.

Introduce the egg and vanilla, beating until just combined.

Combine the flour, corn starch, baking soda, and salt.  Add the dry ingredients in 3 batches, beating lightly between additions.

Next comes chocolate.

Next comes a dose of extreme self discipline to not eat the entire batch of dough then and there.

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Drop the dough by small spoonfuls onto the cookie sheet.  Cookie size is a matter of personal preference, and my preference is for a smaller cookie.

Space out the cookies evenly on the sheets.

Set the cookies' shape by pressing down lightly.  I'm using waxed paper for the job.

Take a second to admire your work.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, rotating the sheets front to back and top to bottom at the halfway point.  9 minutes was the magic time for my oven.

Let the cookies sit on the sheet for a minute to settle in.

Remove to cooling racks.

And dig in. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Teriyaki Tofu Bowls

Picking up from where we left off last time, the end of the 10 week grad school marathon of this summer is in sight.  With a few days left to go, it's time for part 2 of our series on portable/no reheating/minimal refrigeration dinners.  Rice noodles, crisp veggies, and succulent tofu bites in teriyaki sauce fit the bill perfectly.

(Recipe adapted from Veggie Belly)
Yield: 3 servings

  • Tofu and Teriyaki Sauce:
    • 16 oz extra firm tofu
    • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
    • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
    • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
    • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon ginger
  • Rice Noodles
    • 3 oz rice noodles
    • ½ cup carrots
    • ½ cup cucumber
    • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
    • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
    • ½ teaspoon dried chili flakes 

Drain tofu and cut into 1" slices.

 Half the slices.

Cover the tofu slices with a triple layer of paper towels on each side.

Place a cutting board on top and weigh the tofu down with whatever assorted canned goods you may have on hand.  The goal is not to smush the tofu, just to add a little weight to drain it.  Walk away for about 20 minutes, during which time the tofu will get try and the paper towels will get wet.

This is the first year I planted cucumbers and it will not be the last.  Garden fresh is the way to go.

Slice the carrot and cucumber into thin slices.

Pan fry the tofu.  Heat a layer of oil (not much, maybe 2 tablespoons?) on medium until the skillet gets fairly hot.  Fry for a few minutes on both sides until brown and crispy.  Work in batches according to your skillet size, topping off the oil as needed.

Place on paper towels to drain.

Meanwhile, assemble the sauce ingredients.

Heat the sauce to boiling and let simmer for a few minutes.  Remove from heat.

Place the tofu in a small bowl and pour in the sauce.

Add the rice noodles to hot water and let sit for a minute or two until they soften.

Drain them.

Toss in the sesame oil, rice vinegar, and red pepper flakes.

Assemble the bowls.  There will be a lot of teriyaki sauce left over.  Add a few spoonfuls to each dish and discard the rest.

And sit back and enjoy the zen.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Spicy Peanut Noodles

Summer 2013 will live in memory as the summer I decided to take 12 graduate credit hours and lost my mind.  Not the least of my problems is the issue of meals.  My degree program is ranked 34th nationally but does not include a student microwave.  I went in search of portable cold dinners, things that are on the light side, safe to be away from the refrigerator for a few hours, and of course, utterly delicious. 

Spicy peanut noodles are a wonderful thing.  They are good hot, they are good cold, and they are good at all temperatures in between. I've chosen an all veggie version to cope with my lack of refrigeration, but chicken or especially shrimp would be a great addition to the awesomeness.

(Adapted from The 15-Minute Vegetarian Gourmet)
  • ⅓ cup peanut butter
  • ½ cup vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Red pepper flakes to taste
  • Sriracha sauce to taste
  • 8 oz pasta, such as linguine
  • 4 cups chopped vegetables

Chop up a bunch of your favorite vegetables into bite sized pieces.  That's "a bunch" of broccoli, two carrots, and half a red pepper, resulting in four cups of raw vegetables.

Lightly steam anything that needs it.  I didn't steam the red pepper, since the heat from the broc, carrots, and pasta is all that it needs to cook.  And if you're not familiar with the concept of steaming, it's a fancy way of saying to put the veggies in a covered bowl and run them through the fresh vegetable setting on your microwave.  Err on the side of under cooking, especially if you plan on eating the leftovers.

Cook the pasta.  I broke all of the noodles in half for ease of eating.

Dice the garlic.

Prepare the sauce.  I greased the measuring cup with cooking spray so that the peanut butter would just slide out instead of having to work for it.

Whisk all of the sauce ingredients together, adding red pepper flakes and a splash of Sriracha.

 Toss the cooked noodles with the steamed veggies.

Add sauce.

Toss the sauce to coat the pasta and veggies.

Package in serving containers for the long nights away from home that lie ahead.

 And console yourself that this too shall pass.