Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookies

So every time I’ve posted a cookie post in this blog I mention how much I love chocolate chip cookies. Yes, they are my favorite and lately I’ve begun to realize that no store bought chocolate chip cookie comes close to the taste of a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. Even the pre-made dough (like break and bake or just a tube of dough) isn’t as good. My local grocery store had the pre-made dough on sale and they were just too good to pass up. Like I’ve said, cookies are quick and easy, especially if the dough is pre-made. The whole process takes about 15 minutes depending on your oven. Now that I’m a mommy, I need something quick because I don’t always have much time to be in the kitchen.

After I bought the pre-made dough a few times I asked myself why I wasn’t just baking them from scratch. It really doesn’t take long and all of the ingredients were things I either had on hand or should have had on hand anyway. Making the dough doesn’t take long and it stores well so I didn’t have to make the whole batch at once. I usually do 6 at a time so bf and I could each have 3. The recipe is said to make 5 dozen cookies so its perfect. I stored it covered in my refrigerator for about a week. I tried another chocolate chip cookie recipe from the Food Network ( I believe it was a Tyler Florence recipe). I liked how buttery the cookies were but no matter how I tried, the cookies just didn’t bake to my liking. They would flatten a lot and the tops would turn very brown very quickly, no matter how much I adjusted the temperature of my oven. When you’re baking with an electric oven you really have to keep an eye on what you’re baking because the oven gets so hot so quickly. Even with this recipe I adjusted the bake time so the cookies wouldn’t get too brown. While the recipe says to bake 9-11 minutes, with my electric oven I only needed to bake them for 7-9 minutes.

You can find the recipe on the back of the bag of Nestle Tollhouse chocolate morsels. When I make my cookies I like to mix semi-sweet and milk chocolate morsels for a richer chocolate taste. You could realistically use whatever kind of chips you like. I wanted to use toffee chips but my grocery store didn’t have them and I was too tired to chop up a Heath bar just for cookies. Since the recipe calls for 2 cups of morsels, I use one cup semi-sweet and one cup milk chocolate. But again you can improvise with that. Also, the recipe doesn’t specify what kind of brown sugar but I always use light brown. And make sure your eggs are room temperature!! These cookies are freakin’ delicious and I just finished off the last of the dough before I wrote this post while the Little One sleeps. Without further delay, here is your recipe!

Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup unsalted butter softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups Nestle Tollhouse morsels

Preheat over to 375 degrees

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. In a medium bowl beat butter, sugars and vanilla until creamy. Add eggs one at a time beating well. Gradually add dry ingredients and mix well. Scrape the sides to be sure all dough is incorporated. Stir in morsels. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 9-11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on cookie sheets for 2 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

chocolate chip cookies1

chocolate chip cookie2

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Chicken Fried Chicken with White Country Gravy

At the end of June, the bf and I embarked on a little cross-country vacation. I flew from LA to my hometown of NYC with my pup while the bf drove from LA to meet us in NYC. We spent about a week in NY and then after a one day trip to Boston, headed to his hometown of St. Louis. While I was home in NYC I ate at a lot of the same places I used to, hot dogs and cheese fries at Nathan’s in Coney Island, a meal at my favorite restaurant Southern Hospitality, bagels, pizza, the usual. Before we left for the trip I did some research into food chains that weren’t in NYC or LA but may be on our route. I found a couple I wanted to try and made bf promise that we’d go.

The two main places I wanted to go were Sonic and Cracker Barrel. We get Sonic commercials here in LA even though the closest one is like 25 miles away or something crazy. The food itself wasn’t anything to write home about but their shakes are insanely good. I got a chocolate covered strawberry the first time and strawberry cheesecake the second. I love strawberry. While Sonic was nothing special, Cracker Barrel on the other hand was AMAZING!! I love country style cooking so I was insanely excited when we finally went. I got the chicken fried chicken (I’m not a huge fan of chicken fried steak mainly because I like my steaks thick) and it came with three sides so I got corn, green beans and mashed potatoes. When the waitress asked what kind of gravy I wanted on my potatoes I chose white gravy. Mainly because I never really had it before but I had heard wonderful things. And it was absolutely wonderful.

Ever since I’ve been craving a re-creation of that meal. Once I got home and settled I decided I would just make it myself. I didn’t find any satisfactory recipes on my go to, the Food Network website so I just Googled chicken fried chicken and white gravy. Chicken fried chicken is incredibly easy; its basically a chicken cutlet breaded with flour instead of breadcrumbs. You just have to pound the chicken breast really thin. I think next time I make it, I may add a little Panko or breadcrumbs just to give the coating a little crunch. But it was still great. The gravy on the other hand was a bit of a challenge. Thank god I told bf to get the gallon of milk. When I tried to follow one recipe I found and make it in the same pan I made the chicken in, it didn’t work. I don’t know if there was too much grease or not enough but it just tasted like flour and wasn’t that pure white I was looking for. So I went back to the internet and found another recipe that makes it on the stove top. It makes a lot so be prepared to have some leftover for another few meals. You could probably freeze it; I have it refrigerated right now. When you reheat it, just add milk to thin it out again. You can find the gravy recipe here.

Now, since this is a typical southern country meal, I knew it needed some typical country sides. I served my chicken with mashed potatoes, corn and macaroni and cheese. You can find the recipe for the mashed potatoes and mac and cheese here on my blog. The corn was just frozen corn, nothing special to prepare there. I only made two chicken breasts but you can make however many you need. That being said, here are the recipes!

Chicken Fried Chicken
boneless skinless chicken breasts
flour to dredge (about 1/2 cup)
salt, garlic powder and poultry seasoning to season flour
1 egg
oil for frying

Pound breasts to flatten. You want them about 1/4 inch thick. Season flour with spices. Crack egg in a separate container; beat with a fork.

Dredge chicken in egg, then flour mixture then egg again. Heat oil in pan on medium heat. Don’t make it too high or your oil will get too hot and your breading will burn.

Add chicken to heated oil. Cook until golden brown on each side, about 8 minutes total.

Remove and place on paper towel to drain excess oil

White Country Gravy
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. salt

Melt butter in saucepan over low heat.

Add flour, Stir until smooth and bubble. Add salt and pepper

Add milk and bring to medium heat, whisking constantly. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Let boil for one minute.

chicken fried chicken

Chicken covered in white gravy!

chicken meal with gravy

Full meal: chicken, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and corn!

Simple Strawberry Shortcake

It’s summer! I love summer and more importantly I love summer fruit! Strawberries are my absolute favorite fruit of all time hand’s down, no question about it. They are one of the most universal dessert fruits really. There isn’t much you can’t do with a strawberry. They’re good on their own, with any kind of cake, topping or dipping sauce. God, how can one fruit be so bloody amazing?

I really love strawberry shortcake by the way. There is something perfect about the combination of strawberries, vanilla cake and whipped cream that is just so perfect. I usually order it for dessert at a restaurant unless I’m craving chocolate cake. I just impulsively decided that I really wanted a strawberry shortcake. I looked through my recipes and discovered I had saved a bunch of recipes but I really just decided I wanted to create my own cake. Really, its that I was lazy and didn’t want to bake an entire cake from scratch and boxed cake was the way to go.

When I got to the grocery store I was faced with a few decisions to make, namely what kind of cake mix to buy. I knew yellow cake wasn’t going to work with the recipe because it had too distinct of a flavor. So that left me with either French vanilla or white cake. I couldn’t make a decision so I bought both and figured I’d decide when I got home. French vanilla won mainly because white cake requires egg whites and again, I was lazy. I also like the subtle taste of vanilla in my cake so I think that also influenced my decision.

Box cake mix is really where the simple part of where this cake comes from. I also had one other shortcut, whipped topping. I find its a better binder in the center of the cake than homemade whipped cream. But the homemade whipped cream is perfect for frosting the outside of the cake. As far as the strawberries are concerned, you could just slice them and fill the cake but they are so much better if you macerate them. Macerate means to soften or break up. It just really enhances the strawberry flavor and if you use strawberries that are close to but not entirely ripe, macerating them will really bring out the strawberry flavor.

The cake was truly a success! The boyfriend ate two large slices of the first night and actually devoured most of the cake. Usually I don’t bake cakes because he never eats them but now I know he’ll be all over this one!

strawberry shortcake1

Here is step one in cake construction. One layer of cake, whipped topping and the macerated strawberries.

strawberry shortcake2Here is step two! Second cake on top!

Simple Strawberry Shortcake
1 box french vanilla cake mix
1 pint strawberries
1 8oz. container whipped topping
1 pint (2 cups) heavy cream
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp sugar

Bake cake in two 9 inch round cake pans according to box directions. Let cool completely

Cut one pint strawberries into slices. If you have larger berries, cut the slices into halves. Mix with 1 tbsp. sugar. Place container into refrigerator to macerate. Let sit for at least 15 minutes, up to 30.

Remove cakes from pans. Place thicker cake on plate, slice off a thin top layer with a serrated knife to create an even surface for whipped topping. Spread half of whipped topping over cake. Cover with macerated berries. Cover with whipped topping. Its okay if you have some left over. Place other cake on top and refrigerate.

Mix cold cream and 1/4 cup sugar in a metal bowl. Whip until stiff peaks are formed. Cover entire cake using offset spatula.

Place strawberry on top of the center of the cake to decorate. Refrigerate before serving or serve immediately.

strawberry shortcake full

Finished product!

strawberry shortcake slice

First slice!

Cheesy Chicken Pasta Bake

Let me admit something…no matter how many recipes I may have saved, nothing beats food I already know. Sometimes all it takes is just re-imagining to make something new again. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Italian (or Italian inspired) food. There’s only so many times in a row you can have chicken parmigana but you can still use chicken, cheese, pasta and sauce!!

This is something I came up with one night because I was bored eating chicken and pasta side by side. So, I figured why not combine it? It’s just as quick as a lasagna but definitely less labor intensive. You can make the pasta while you’re making the chicken but you want to give the chicken a little bit of a head start. If you do make the pasta first, toss it with a little olive oil so it doesn’t turn into a giant clump. I used sauce that I had frozen but you can use jar sauce. No need to make it fresh until you want to. I also used pre-shredded cheese. It melts pretty nicely.

In terms of pasta, you can use any kind you’d like. I used fusilli but that’s because its one of my favorites. I like the way the sauce sticks to it. But penne or rigatoni would also work well. When I season my chicken, I always use salt, garlic powder, season salt, and poultry seasoning. You can use whatever you like but that’s just me. And the sauce doesn’t have to be hot since you’re going to make it. Just reserve enough to spread over the top of the bake to serve. This is also a great meal to have as a make ahead. You can put it all together, throw it in the fridge and then bake it when you need it! That being said, here’s your recipe!

Cheesy Chicken Pasta Bake
1 lb. pasta
1 lb. boneless chicken breast
2 cups tomato sauce
1 8oz. package shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350. In a small container season chicken. Add a dash of Italian seasoning. Pour 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil and 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar. Let sit for at least 15 minutes to marinate.

Line baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place chicken on sheet and bake approximately 7 minutes per side.

In a medium pot, cook pasta to al dente.

When chicken is cooked leave out to cool. Chop into small to medium sized cubes. Drain pasta and return to pot. Spray or grease bottom and sides of 9×13 inch baking dish.

In pot mix pasta, chicken, half the cheese and 1 cup sauce. Transfer mixture into baking dish. Cover with 1/2 cup sauce and rest of cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 additional minutes to brown the top.

Serve topped with warm sauce.

cheesy chicken bake

Apple Crisp

Contrary to the recipes I have been posting on here as of recent, dessert is actually my favorite part of a meal. I absolutely love it and if I go out to dinner I’ve been known to not eat part of my entree to make sure that I have room for dessert. Its sooooo good!! I love anything sweet; hot, cold, lukewarm, I don’t care as long as its delicious. I have been more into making my own desserts at home lately due to the monotony of your average grocery store snacks like ice cream, tasty cakes or cookies. There is something satisfying about eating a dessert you’ve made yourself. I think its because of the fact that baking is so scientific. If you screw one little thing up you can totally throw off your whole recipe. (I did that once this week with a botched but still delicious chocolate pudding pie. I’ll tell you the whole story once I fix the bugs and post the recipe)

As I scoured the dozens of dessert recipes I have bookmarked on my computer, there were so many that piqued my interest. I’d click on the link and examine the recipe. Today when I decided I wanted to bake something, I wanted to do it with as many ingredients in my possession currently as possible. The boy, the pup and I are heading out on a three week long sojourn to see our families at the end of the month and I don’t want to buy a ton of groceries or have a bunch of leftovers to try and eat before we leave. Some I ruled out due to the lack of ingredients in my person, some just seemed more tedious than I really wanted and then some were just too delicious to waste on a lazy Saturday afternoon. I also decided that for some reason recipes with fruit just seemed more appealing to me right now. I think I just eat more fruit in the summer. That being said I need some more summer fruit dessert recipes.

As we enter month three of my “funemployment” I have found that being at home all day has caused me to pack on some extra pounds in my tummy area. Anything with an elastic waistband has become my best friend. I really wish this weight went to my boobs or something but alas. So I also wanted to find something that wasn’t going to be overly rich. I think fruit desserts are good for that. I always love desserts with apples in them, even though I know apple desserts are often considered a fall thing. I don’t really think about things like that. If a fruit is available at any given time of the year I will eat it! That being said, I love Granny Smith apples. I just love tart stuff. When I’m baking with apples though I do like to mix the kinds I use just to vary the taste. So I settled on an apple crisp (the other options were either some sort of apple cake which would never get finished in this house or a crumb cake but again, cakes just don’t work in a house with two people). I know when you think of apple crisp you think of chilly weather and multicolored leaves but I’m a rebel 😉

So, I found the recipe here and I was happy I had mostly all of the ingredients in my cupboards. All I really needed to buy was flour (I ran out the last time I made cookies) and of course the apples. No one in this house eats oatmeal (yuck) but I had a couple packets of instant oatmeal from the last attempt I made at eating it because my dad told me it was better for you than cereal. FYI: two packets of instant oatmeal is exactly 3/4 cup! What’s better was that it was apple cinnamon flavored. This crisp was meant to happen, let me tell ya! Since the recipe is non specific on things like brown sugar and butter type I used what was already open. That being said, I used light brown sugar and unsalted butter. I left the butter cold and cut it into cubes because it mixes better with the topping that way. I learned that from the hours I’ve spent watching my favorite tv chef Ina Garten make crisps. For the apples I used Granny Smith, Fuji and Red Delicious. When I went to the grocery store they had mostly what they call “lunchbox size” apples so I got the Fuji and Red Delicious in that size. I got regular size Granny Smith because that’s all they had. If you have to do the same thing, I got 2 Fuji, 2 Red Delicious and 2 Granny Smith just to be safe. I ended up using the 2 Fuji but only 1 each of the Red Delicious and Granny Smith.

The recipe also says that you can either slice or dice the apples. I thinly sliced them one because I like big pieces of apple in my dessert and also because I was preparing the crisp while I was making my dinner so it was actually just faster. You need to core the apples but don’t worry about peeling them. No need to make more work for yourself. Also, the crisp topping in the original recipe is very basic which is fine but I like to spice things up a little which in this case meant adding some spices to make the flavors more in depth. This time I added them as an afterthought so I just mixed them in with the topping but for all intensive purposes, I’m telling you to mix the cinnamon with the white sugar and flour that you toss the apples in and add the cloves in with the crisp topping. Also, I want to start incorporating more photos in my posts so I took pictures of the crisp in its various stages of final product. I would never post pictures of the cooking process because I don’t want you all seeing pictures of my dirty kitchen! And here’s your recipe!

Apple Crisp

4 cups sliced or diced apples
1 tbsp. flour
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter diced
3/4 cup oatmeal
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, toss apples with flour, regular sugar and cinnamon. Place well coated apple mixture in a well greased 8×8 baking pan.

In another medium bowl combine additional ingredients and sprinkle over apple mixture.

Bake 30 minutes. Serve warm. Place leftover crisp in the fridge.

apple crisp full
full apple crisp

apple crisp plate

plain on a plate

apple crisp ic

topped with some vanilla ice cream

apple crisp caramel

all done up with some caramel drizzle!

 

 

Tri-Color Pasta Salad

We already know how much I love pasta. It’s incredibly versatile and you can eat it hot or cold which is perfect for those days when you don’t want to cook or just want something quick.

Now that summer is quickly approaching, the weather is definitely starting to get warmer a lot faster than I had anticipated. When it gets really hot the last thing I want to do is stand over a hot stove or oven, even though we do have an AC unit. That’s where pasta salad comes in. Its something that you can make in bulk and throw in the fridge so that if you’re hungry all you have to do is grab a bowl (or if you’re me sometimes just a fork).

I have been making variations of this pasta salad for years with different kinds of ingredients. It really depends on how much money I want to spend or what kind of taste I have. The recipe I’m posting is my pasta salad in its most basic form with the fewest ingredients. When I’m feeling fancy, I’ll add roasted peppers (I’ll post my tips on roasting your own or you can use the kind in a jar), cucumbers (I prefer to use the Hothouse variety because they have fewer seeds), and basil (I buy it fresh and just julienne it). You have options with your cheese size. You could buy a big block and chop it, or use different sized mozzarella that comes in a container. I ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS use fresh mozzarella. It just really transforms the taste. Any other sort of pre-packaged  mozzarella is just too salty and that’s really the job of the kalamata olives. You could probably use just regular green olives but I prefer kalamata based on the color and size of the olive. Don’t use black olives; they have no real taste. You can use either cherry or grape tomatoes, I don’t recommend anything bigger because then you really have to cut them up and there are seeds, and it gets wet and no one likes that. Plus, my boyfriend hates tomatoes so I like to make it easy for him to pick them out.

In terms of pasta, you can use regular rotini if you don’t want to use the tri-color. I feel that we eat with our eyes before our mouth and the more colors in your pasta salad, the better. I really like any sort of spiraled pasta. You could use the wheel shaped (rotelle),  or fusilli as well. I tried oriechette (ear shaped) once but it all just kind of stuck together. In previous incarnations of the salad I used to make a balsamic vinaigrette but this time I was going for something a little lighter and used red wine vinegar. If you were going to use the balsamic, taste it after 3 tbsp. Because it’s a little stronger than the red wine vinegar you may not need as much.

Funny story about this particular endeavor of pasta salad making. My sink was full of dishes and I didn’t want to put my giant pasta strainer in to drain my pasta. So I just decided to use the lid of the pot and pour the water out. Seemed like a good idea…and it was until the lid fell off and the pasta spilled into the sink. I was able to salvage some of the pasta and I figured I’d just run the garbage disposal to get the rest. I didn’t realize just how much went down the drain and clogged my sink. It took the poor maintenance guys almost an hour to unclog it. I wanted to buy them a beer afterward because I felt so bad. Without further ado, here’s your recipe.

Tri-Color Pasta Salad
2 boxes (24 ounces) tri-color rotini
1 cup chopped kalamata olives
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1 cup mozzarella pearls (1 8oz. container)

For the Vinaigrette
6 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
5 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. chopped garlic
1 tsp. fine sea salt
1 tsp. Italian seasoning

In in large pot bring well salted water to boil. Cook pasta to al dente. Strain and set aside to cool. Stir a few times once strained to relieve heat from the center of the pasta.

While pasta is cooling, chop olives, slice tomatoes into halves and if you didn’t buy mozzarella pearls chop cheese into small cubes. If you choose to add any other ingredients chop those as well.

In a small container, whisk together all vinaigrette ingredients.

Mix all ingredients once pasta is cool but still slightly warm so it will absorb the vinaigrette. Place in refrigerator to cool completely. Stores up to three weeks (but it won’t last that long!)

pasta salad

Tips for Roasting your own peppers:

With a gas stove
With a pair of tongs, hold the pepper over medium high flame. Rotate the peppers until the skin turns black. Once they are charred all over, put in a brown paper bag. This will steam the pepper and the skin will come off.

With an electric oven
Turn oven to broil. Line a baking sheet with tin foil. Place peppers on baking sheet. Turn a few times to make sure all skin is charred. Remove from oven and place in brown paper bag to steam. Remove skin.

Sa’iyda’s Yummy Tomato Sauce

Italian food is definitely one of my favorite types of food. It’s comforting, delicious and usually quite easy to prepare.

Growing up, a lot of my friends and my mom’s friends were Italian. That’s what happens when you grow up on Staten Island. I spent a lot of time at their houses and there is something very sensory about the smell of tomato sauce. It reminds me of Sunday mornings after sleepovers, big bowls of pasta and sitting around the family table.

Now making sauce is about convenience and affordability as well as nostalgia. Buying tomato sauce can get expensive nowadays and when I make it at home I can freeze portions that will last for months. This will come in handy if I’m low on money and still have a taste for pasta (because I always keep at least 5 boxes/packages in the cupboard). I also just love making my own sauce. The house smells delicious as the garlic and olive oil  begin to warm up. The tomatoes smell warm and homey. And there is something immensely satisfying about tasting your own sauce.

I used a few different kinds of tomatoes in my sauce. The foundation is crushed tomatoes and then I also used a can of diced tomatoes and a can of whole peeled tomatoes that I cut into cubes. I really like the taste of different sized tomato pieces. If you don’t want to use the whole I recommend using two cans of diced. But you definitely want to use some sort of chunky tomato. Make sure when buying your canned tomatoes that you aren’t buying anything seasoned or flame broiled. It will alter the taste of your sauce.

I only had a mild injury (we know boiling liquids and I don’t always agree), the sauce bubbled up and hit me on the wrist where I had previously burned my hand cooking chili. But fear not, it was a minor injury and left no additional scarring.

Also, make sure you cook the sauce at a low heat so as not to burn the bottom of the sauce. Don’t stir it constantly either, you want to let the flavors marry. Unfortunately I didn’t take a picture of the pot because I think I got overly zealous about the eating of the sauce. Trust that it is delicious and sitting in my refrigerator and freezer.

Tomato Sauce

2 28oz + 1 14.5oz can crushed tomtatoes
1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes
1 14.5oz can of whole peeled tomatoes
1 1/2 tbsp. chopped garlic
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 6oz. can tomato paste
2 1/2 tbsp. italian seasoning
3 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese

In a large stockpot, brown 1 tbsp. chopped garlic in 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil on medium-low heat. Once garlic begins to darken and become fragrant, add crushed tomatoes one can at a time. Stir constantly to keep the garlic from burning.

After adding all 3 cans of crushed tomatoes, add 1/2 tbsp garlic and the diced tomatoes. Add the cubed whole tomatoes and stir. Once sufficiently mixed, add tomato paste to begin thickening. Add 2 tbsp. Italian seasoning and 2 tsp. salt. Let come to a boil.

Once sauce is boiling, add the last 1/2 tbsp. Italian seasoning and 1 tsp. salt. Stir and let boil for an additional 5 minutes. Taste and see if sauce is seasoned to your liking. If necessary add more sauce, lower heat and simmer for additional 10 minutes. Once ready, remove from heat. Stir in 2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese while still hot. Serve over pasta or in a tasty dish.

Sauce can be stored in refrigerator or freezer. I like to freeze sauce in small portions so make defrosting easier.