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

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.

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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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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