Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you know me, you know how much I love cookies. I’ve already posted a cookie recipe on here and I have a ton more saved up in my bookmarks. I love the ease of cookies. Generally they don’t take long to prepare, don’t take long to bake, and you can have a couple and feel very satisfied. My favorite kind of cookie is most definitely chocolate chip. There’s nothing more perfect than chocolate chip cookies. How many childhood memories are tied to biting into a warm, gooey, just baked chocolate chip cookie? Just saying it brings back those memories. And in my personal opinion, chocolate chip is the best kind of raw cookie dough. I know I shouldn’t advocate eating something with raw egg in it but come on, you know you do it 😉 Another thing, chocolate chip cookies are also perfect for embellishment. Not that they need it but the flavors are so simple that you can layer them really nicely.

Salted caramel is a flavor combination that I have come to love in the past few years. I love the mixture of sweet and salty; like chocolate covered pretzels or kettlecorn. When I found this recipe I thought it would be perfect. You couldn’t get much more perfect than chocolate chip and salted caramel. You can find the original recipe here. I tweaked the recipe slightly, mainly that I only added two cups of flour and omitted the two additional tablespoons. I just felt it wasn’t necessary. You can use any kind of chocolate chips you like; I mixed semi-sweet and milk chocolate. It’s just a tasty combination. I used Worther’s Original chewy caramels but you can again use any kind you’d like. Just make sure they’re individually wrapped! Be aware of your placement of the caramels into the cookies; the closer to the edge the more they’re going to stick to the baking sheet. It can be a little hard to get them off so try to do it when the cookies are still warm. The first time I made these (which was before I started this blog) I used a serrated knife to get them off the cookie sheet and ended up cutting my finger. It wasn’t bad but just save yourself the trouble 🙂 Also, when it comes to the sea salt, I used a finer grain of salt this time because that’s what I had. You can use a thicker grain of salt, or maybe even a fleur de sel, which is a pretty fancy French sea salt. Moving on, here’s the recipe!

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes approximately 3 dozen

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup salted butter softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 room temperature egg
1 room temperature egg yolk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup chocolate chips
16 caramels cut into 4-5 pieces each
sea salt

Mix flour and baking soda in a bowl and set aside

With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars together. Add the egg, yolk and vanilla and mix well. Gradually add the flour mixture and stir until dough forms. Fold in chocolate chips but don’t add caramels. Don’t over mix dough.

Chill dough for at least 30 minutes (you can store it for up to 5 days). Chop caramels into pieces. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Make sure to keep dough cold in between batches while baking!

Drop cookies by spoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet. Press a few pieces of caramel onto the tops of cookies. Bake 8-10 minutes or until edges are slightly browned. The centers should appear soft and puffy. Sprinkle with sea salt while warm. Let cool completely before storing in an air tight container.

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Tres Leches Cake

I first had this delicious cake in Illinois oddly enough. My brother lives out there and during a visit my sister in law took me and my niece and nephew out for Mexican. Never one to turn down a dessert recommendation, I tried the cake. My sister in law had introduced me to fried ice cream so I definitely trusted her. The cake was perfect. Thick, creamy, milky and wonderful.

After the initial introduction I didn’t have tres leches cake again for a long while. Since most of my Mexican cuisine came from places like Chevy’s and Chipotle, tres leches just wasn’t on the menu. I re-discovered it much like I discovered Tiramisu; in the dessert section of Whole Foods. It was just the way I remembered it!

Tres leches means three milks: regular whole milk, sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk. The last two come in cans and if you’re shopping in a regular grocery store they can be found in the baking aisle. They’re usually pretty inexpensive so you can stock up on them! I’m not a brand snob so I usually buy whichever ones are the cheapest. The cake is also topped with whipped cream. The recipe tells you how to make it and I promise its not hard to do but if you’re afraid, I’d say use something like Cool Whip over Redi-Whip simply because of consistency. Redi-Whip just doesn’t stand up to being stored in the fridge. Also, you can serve this cake topped with fruit (the recipe even suggests it) but I don’t for storage/flavor reasons. If you knew you were going to consume the whole cake at once you could probably top it with fruit but I just don’t see the point =)

These cakes are pretty easy to make and having made it twice now I feel more confident with my skills. Like the note on the recipe says, if you’re using a metal baking pan keep an eye on it because it will bake quickly. Once it’s out and cooled slightly (you want to pour the milk over a warm cake) I poke holes with a fork. I think a skewer/toothpick is more time consuming and kind of small. Also, when making the whipped cream use COLD heavy cream and a chilled bowl. It just sets better the colder the cream. I got this recipe from the almighty Martha Stewart so I didn’t really mess with it too much. She can do no wrong in my mind. The recipe can be found here. Moving on…

Tres Leches Cake
serves 12

1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp coarse salt
5 large eggs
1 cup sugar (3/4 cup for cake, 1/4 cup for whipped cream)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter 9×13 inch baking dish. In a medium bowl whisk together dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt). In a large bowl, using an electric mixer beat eggs and 3/4 cup sugar until pale and thick, approximately 4 minutes. Add vanilla and beat to combine. Switch mixer to low and gradually add dry ingredient mixture. Beat to combine. With a spatula mix in melted butter until incorporated. pour batter into dish and bake until top in golden brown and knife or toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes. Rotate halfway

In a medium bowl whisk together milks. Once cake is warm, not hot, poke holes in top of cake with fork. Pour milk mixture over the top of cake and let cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.

Whip heavy cream and 1/4 cup sugar until medium peaks form. To serve, spread whipped cream over the top of completely cooled cake. If you’d like, top with fruit of your choice. I thin berries would work best.

I have a pic of the top of the cake, I should have taken one of it cut into.

tres leches

Sa’iyda’s Famous Baked Macaroni & Cheese

*stretch*

Hey out there in the blogosphere. I’m sorry I like fell off the face of the earth. Even though I’ve been cooking, I’m crap at the blogging part. I really need to start my recipe binder. Mind you, I’ve been talking about doing this for I’m not even going to say how long. I’ve recently become unemployed so maybe now with the extra free time I’ll get my kitchen crap together.

For me macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. As a kid I always loved eating Kraft in the blue box but my mother, being a stay at home mom and a fantastic cook pretty much forbade me from eating “fake” mac n cheese. So on the rare occasions she was out and it was just me and Dad for dinner I’d con him into buying some. It is still a treat for me even as an adult. If I’m going to eat a boxed mac n cheese though, I actually prefer Annie’s. With either one, I usually use whole milk (even though the box calls for lo-fat. yuck) so I add a little extra butter (not margarine. BUTTER). Anyways, my mom only makes her mac n cheese during the winter and fall because she feels that its too hot to make in the summer. Once we had an AC near the kitchen I tried to nullify this argument but it didn’t really work. I usually asked for it every Thanksgiving and for a lot of birthday dinners (since my birthday is in April, its still cold enough to make!).

As I got older, my mom trusted me with more responsibility than just grating the cheese. Though this is a challenge enough. I remember when I was helping my mom prepare it for my Sweet 16 party I almost grated off an acrylic nail. Hi, I’ve said I’m clumsy. I plan on investing in a food processor soon because I HATE grating cheese. And this is the most time consuming part of the process. Now as an adult, my mom makes the mac n cheese my sole responsibility. I can live with this. I have kept her outline and tweaked things as I’ve learned what works best. We only use yellow American cheese and cheddar. If you want to get fancy and try other kinds please do and let me know how it turns out. I’m usually all about experimenting but with this one, I’m sticking with my perfection. Sorry kids.

Okay, so let’s get down to brass tacks. You can use any kind of pasta you like. I usually use either elbows, medium shells or farfalle (bow ties). They fit best in a standard 9×13 pan. I always keep pasta in the house so if I make this on a whim I just go with what I have. =) I have also realized that for the cheese sauce you need more American cheese than cheddar because the creaminess of the American will counter balance the oiliness of the cheddar. So if I use a pound of cheddar I use a pound and a half of American. I like my sauce cheesy!

Ingredients

for cheese sauce1 lb block cheddar
1.5 lb block yellow American
whole milk

1 box pasta of your choice

Grate the cheese. I like to alternate so that the cheese mixes before it gets in the sauce. If you have to do it by hand, do this before you start doing anything else! Keep the cheese you’re not using in the fridge; it grates better cold. I NEVER use pre-grated cheese. The taste isn’t right and it doesn’t melt well enough. If you are smart and have a food processor, you can wait until you put the water up to boil.

Fill a large pot with cold water. Salt liberally, cover pot and set to boil on medium high heat. Grease bottom and sides of 9×13″ square pan. I like to use either Pam or butter.

Once the water is boiling, add pasta. Stir occasionally so the pasta doesn’t stick together. Do not add oil to the water! Salt works much better. Pre-heat the oven to 350.

In a large sauce pan on medium low heat, add milk and a handful of cheese blend. Stir continuously as it melts, add more milk as the cheese becomes too thick. You don’t want to use a lot of milk because it will make the sauce too thin. Keep a careful eye on the sauce, it will burn on the bottom quickly!

Drain pasta when its done. I like it a little more than al dente because you’re going to bake it. Once pasta is drained, return it to the pot. Slowly pour the done cheese sauce over the pasta, mixing once or twice to keep the sauce from congealing.

This is where you may need a buddy. Transfer the pasta to the pan. It’s going to be heavy so if you can get someone to hold the baking pan while you pour its advised.

Bake covered for about 40-45 minutes. Uncover an bake for an additional 10 minutes so the top layer gets brown and gooey.

mac n cheese

Tiramisu

I discovered my love for tiramisu a couple years ago. I stumbled upon it in whole foods’ dessert section. in some places, they sell individual servings of cake. Having never tried it before I gave it a shot. It was love at first bite! There’s something about the cold creamy filling, the coffee soaked ladyfingers, the way it all mushes together…its bliss. I think it’s also because I like coffee and not overly sweet desserts. That’s one of the good things about tiramisu; you can control the sweetness of the dessert. While a traditional tiramisu recipe calls for rum, I like mine alcohol free. I think sometimes when you add liquor, it detracts from the taste of the dessert.

Another thing I love about tiramisu is that it is fast! The prep time is about 15 minutes and it takes a minimum of 2 hours to chill and set. This means you can make it in the afternoon and it’ll be ready after dinner! The recipe I adapted is from one of my favorite Italian chefs, Giada DeLaurentiis. It can be found here.

Here’s a little shortcut I was lucky enough to stumble upon. At my local grocery store (I shop at Ralphs for all of my CA friends), there is a coffee flavored marscarpone cheese. I still mix a little coffee into the marscarpone but I use it more to enhance the coffee flavor. I also don’t have a coffee maker at home so I just get a grande iced coffee (no ice!) at my neighborhood Starbucks. Grande is a perfect size to have enough to soak the ladyfinger sufficiently. I also like to taste the cream after I’ve mixed in all of the ingredients and see if it’s sweet enough. If not you can always add another tablespoon of sugar. Here we go!

6 egg yolks
3 tbsp. sugar
1 lb marscarpone cheese
1 1/2 cups strong coffee, chilled
24 packaged ladyfingers
unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

In a large bowl beat or whisk egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale, approximately 5 minutes. Add marscarpone and beat until smooth. Add 1 tbsp. of coffee and mix until thoroughly combined.

In a shallow dish, dip ladyfingers in coffee for a few seconds. You want them to be fully absorbed but not too absorbed or they will fall apart. Line the bottom of baking pan (I use a 9×9) with half of the ladyfingers. Smooth half of the marscarpone mixture over the top of the ladyfingers.

Arrange the remaining ladyfingers over the top of the mixture. Top with the remaining  marscarpone mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours.

Before serving, dust with unsweetened cocoa powder.

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Chicken and Spinach Lasagna

Because I work nights, I’m always on a quest to make things that I can quickly reheat when I get home and I’m hungry. I also like to have things at home that Jon can reheat for himself. I love lasagna but I’m not a huge fan of traditional ground beef so I use chicken. Adding the spinach is also a great way to add veggies.

Lasagna is also a great meal to make when you’re having guests over. It is a definite comfort food. I love comfort foods, especially in winter. Once I decided I was going to make a lasagna this week I invited over a friend and her boyfriend to join us. At the store I grabbed a quick loaf of bread to serve and a little pre-packaged salad. It was just greens but I added some black olives, tomatoes and dressing.

Making lasagna can be a little time consuming, so if you’re having guests plan accordingly. It was also be a bit messy but totally worth it. My friends brought over a lovely bottle of red wine but you can serve it with any wine of your liking! Enjoy!

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12 lasagna noodles
4 chicken breasts
1 15oz. container ricotta (I used whole milk)
Shredded mozzarella cheese (I shredded my own but you could buy pre-shredded)
1 1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach thawed and drained
tomato sauce of your choice
dried basil and oregano

In a large pot bring well salted water to boil. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To prepare chicken, pierce skin lightly with a fork on both sides of each breast. Season well with salt, poultry seasoning, basil and oregano. Add a splash of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Line small baking sheet with tin foil and bake chicken for about 5-6 minutes per side. Let cool before cutting into cubes.

Once water has boiled, add lasagna noodles. Cook for about 8-10 minutes. Drain and lay noodles flat on paper towels, layering noodles and paper towels to dry them.

Mix ricotta cheese, basil, oregano and spinach in a medium bowl. Grate mozzarella cheese. I used about a cup per layer but if depends on how cheesy you like your lasagna. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray bottom of a 9×13″ baking pan with cooking spray. Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce before laying down the noodles.

To construct: layer 3 noodles on bottom of pan. Drop 2-3 spoonfuls of ricotta mixture on each noodle. Sprinkle with chicken and add a layer of tomato sauce (thickness is up to you). Sprinkle with mozzarella. Repeat for 2 more layers. On top of the last layer, add tomato sauce and mozzarella only. Bake covered for 50 minutes.

Uncover and add more mozzarella. Continue to bake until cheese is bubbling and slightly browned, about 10 minutes. Edges of noodles should be a little crisp and sauce should bubble. Cool before serving. Serve with garlic bread (recipe below)

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Garlic Bread

1/2 loaf of crusty bread (I used french bread)
4 tbsp. salted butter at room temperature
1 tbsp. crushed garlic (I used the jarred kind)

Cut bread in half. If necessary preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mash together garlic and butter with fork. Spread over bread.

Bake until bread has absorbed butter and edges are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Spread remaining butter on bread before serving.

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Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I think cookies are awesome. Chocolate chip are my absolute favorite cookie ever. I love to find variations of chocolate chip cookies because I have yet to find one that isn’t delicious. I also really love peanut butter cookies. Peanut butter has always been a staple in my life. I love the stuff. I remember once having peanut butter cookies and deciding that the only thing that could make them better would be adding chocolate chips. Peanut butter and chocolate is my absolute favorite sweet flavor combo.

When I found this recipe I was so excited. It has minimal ingredients and the lack of flour really enhances the flavor of the peanut butter. Here’s the link to the original recipe. I kept pretty much to the recipe but it didn’t specify what kind of brown sugar. I used light. I may try dark and see how it changes the flavor of the cookie. Also, the recipe calls for creamy peanut butter but I may try chunky too. These cookies are honestly a cinch! It takes about 15 minutes from start to finish. How perfect is that? The recipe says to flatten the cookies at about the 7 minute mark if they’re not already flat but I think if I would have left them they would have flattened on their own. I flattened them and then they spread further.

Now here’s something that I will say now. I have an electric stove. I think they’re awesome but you have to keep an eye on things when you’re baking. Sometimes with an electric oven, things don’t need to bake as long as they do in a gas oven. I usually check them about 5 minutes before the suggested bake time is over.

Flourless Peanut Butter Choco Chip Cookes
makes about 2 dozen cookies, depending on your scoop size

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 lg egg
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup chocolate chips (I mixed semi-sweet and milk)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat. (They’re okay if you don’t have either)

In a bowl beat together peanut butter, sugars, egg, baking soda and vanilla. Stir in chocolate chips.

Scoop cookie dough on to baking sheets approximately 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake the cookies for about 7 minutes. If cookies have not flattened, flatten with a spatula until they are 1/4 inch in thickness. Continue to bake cookies until they have set and turned golden brown, about 2-4 additional minutes.

After removing cookies from the oven, let cool on baking sheets for a few minutes. Transfer the cookies to cooling racks to cool completely.

pb cookies

Sa’iyda’s Mashed Potatoes

I have a confession to make….I LOVE potatoes. I really really love them. The only potato based food that I don’t like is potato salad but that’s because I hate mayo. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.

Tonight I made chicken for dinner. I often make chicken for dinner because it doesn’t take long to defrost, its not particularly difficult to cook and you can do a lot with it. Today I used Kraft’s Fresh Takes which is a flavored coating that you can use on things like chicken, fish and pork. The one I used tonight was flavored with bacon and came with cheddar and jack cheese. Each Fresh Takes comes with cheese a a part of the coating. It’s like heaven. Highly recommend them. Something like that clearly calls for a mashed potato side dish.

Over the years I have cultivated my mashed potatoes. I first experimented with adding cheese. It was perfection. I tend to like my mashies plain so they don’t overwhelm the main dish. I also despise lumpy mashed potatoes. I once made them for my niece and nephew and they were shocked because my mashed potatoes were incredibly smooth compared to my brother’s super lumpy mashed potatoes. They asked me to stay and make them mashed potatoes all the time.

I’m going to share my biggest trade secret, which I got from my mom. To make truly excellent mashed potatoes, warm your milk and melt your butter. This way you’re not drastically changing the temperature of your potatoes. Use it as you will. Recently, I’ve started adding sour cream to my mashed potatoes. It gives them an even creamier consistency and a nice bite to the flavor.This discovery was made when I once made mashed potatoes and realized I was out of milk after I had already boiled the potatoes.

Now, I usually use Russet potatoes because they’re often cheaper and cook nicely. But you can really use any type of potato you like. I’ve used Yukon Gold potatoes before but you need more liquid as they are thicker when mashed. I haven’t tried them with the sour cream yet but I’d imagine it would still be yummy. Another thing to keep in mind is that Russets can be quite large when sold by the pound. When I went grocery shopping today I only needed 2 one pound potatoes to make enough for me and Jon to have ample servings and leftovers!

Today’s cooking did have a minor mishap…be careful when the potatoes are boiling! I got hit in the hand with some very hot water. Luckily it didn’t blister. It just hurt for a second. Me and boiling things don’t always mix kids. Without further ado, here’s the recipe!

2 lbs potatoes
1/2 cup whole milk
1 tbsp. salted butter
1 tbsp. sour cream
sea salt to taste

Peel and cut potatoes into medium cubes

Fill 1 large saucepan with water and salt the water liberally before adding the potaotes

Boil on medium high heat. Stir frequently to avoid starch buildup. When you can break the potatoes with a fork or wooden spoon, remove from heat and drain

Once potatoes are drained, microwave milk and butter together for 1 minute; most of the butter will melt. It’s okay if its not entirely melted!

Slowly add liquid and mash to your desired texture. Make sure you use all the liquid!

Add sour cream and salt. Stir. Taste. Add more salt if necessary

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