My Favorite Cookies, by sharon

February 27, 2008
These really are my favorite cookies. This is the recipe I use, but I tend to mess around with it every time. For example, I never just put in a 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. I grab the cinnamon container and dump in a lot, maybe a couple teaspoons or more. Because I like cinnamon and chocolate together and I think cinnamon is great with oatmeal. A lot of people have remarked that they love these cookies and I really do think it’s the extra cinnamon. Also, most cookie recipes tell you to have a separate bowl, and in that bowl you have the dry ingredients which you then add to the wet stuff. Well, let me tell you, that’s another bowl for me to clean and I don’t feel like it. I never do the extra bowl thing and my cookies always turn out very nicely, thank you. So, let’s make some cookies!
Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Cookies
Ingredients:
1 1/2 sticks of butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (or more!!)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup oats
11.5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

Method:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine the butter, sugars, vanilla, and egg. For whatever reason, I really prefer using a wooden spoon to do this. Metal utensils are supposed to have some wonky reactive thing and wooden spoons are really easy to grip. Mix thoroughly until you have a nice yellow, grainy goop. Make sure you break down the brown sugar clumps. You might be like me, have old brown sugar and it’s become a giant cube. It will submit if you work hard enough.

At this point, I add the salt, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda. Damn the rules, I refuse to clean that extra bowl. Again, I add way more cinnamon than necessary–enough to be very visible throughout the batter. Next, add the flour. It really is easier to add it in stages and then mix it up, but I rarely follow that rule. I’m also a very impatient person.

Next, add the oats. It really doesn’t matter if you use regular or quick-cooking oats, but I think that regular makes for a crisper cookie. I’m all for the crisp cookies. Which is why sometimes I add more than a cup of oats. Then add the chocolate chips and mix, mix, mix. Make sure to flop the batter over a few times with the spoon and catch the loose chocolate chips that have fallen to the bottom of the bowl so you can incorporate them into the batter. Or eat them. Whatever.

Be bad and pinch off some cookie dough to eat it. You know you want to. Do you honestly think that today is the day you’re going to die from salmonella? I’m here to tell you that it isn’t. I heard somewhere that if you wash the outside of the egg, you’re more than fine because it lives on the outside of the shell. I could be wrong, so don’t go quotin’ me on that one. Also, if your eggs have been refrigerated properly, you really have nothing to worry about. So eat that cookie dough!

If after this you have any dough left, grab a cookie sheet. I have a teflon one that has been loved half to death. Don’t grease the cookie sheet! There’s enough butter in these things to take care of any sticking. I like to make the cookies smaller, a few bites each. I use a round tablespoon to get nice sized little scoops of dough. Place on cookie sheet. Another good thing about extra oats–the cookie is not as wet and it doesn’t spread out as much when cooking. Also, using the rounded spoon gets a bit of height on the dough ball, another good way to stop the evil cookie spread. I can fit about 20 of these on a regular-sized cookie sheet. Observe:

Cookie dough

Cook at 375 degrees for 10-14 minutes. I usually cook them for the entire 14 minutes because I like them browned and crisp. Do whatever you want, they’re your cookies. Once you’ve removed the pan from the oven, place on a cooling rack and wait a minute. See how the cookies are fairly small and have not spread everywhere?

Cooked cookies

Then remove the cookies from the cookie sheet and place them on a separate cooling rack. I bought some handy dandy stackable cooling racks and my god do I love them! Letting the cookies cool from above and below really does make a difference.

Cooling Rack

Once the cookies are cool, I like to place them in tins lined with wax paper. I have a serious addiction to those giant tins of super-thin ginger snaps they sell at World Market and I like to keep a couple of those tins around. They fit a batch of cookies perfectly, have a lid, and are nice looking enough to take to a party.

Cookie tin

So that’s it! My favorite cookies. I just made a batch (I couldn’t sleep) and I think Courtney will be very surprised when she wakes up tomorrow. I’m considering trying out my new-found crepe mastery tomorrow by making cream cheese and strawberry stuffed crepes with a raspberry sauce. Wish me luck!

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I make a mean Cannelloni, by sharon

February 25, 2008

From time to time, I might post a recipe on here of something that I have made successfully. Successful is defined by: 1) not burning the dish, 2) not burning myself, and 3) Courtney makes “ooh yummy” noises when she eats it. The burning myself part, well, you should see the burn I have on my right thumb from a spitting roux just after Thanksgiving. It was a deep, mean burn that has scarred terrifically and left a neat little indention in my flesh. Tasty!

So, the recipe I bring you today is my favorite cannelloni. I despise pasta shells/tubes because they’re a pain in the ass to fill, always seem to split, and are too thick to enjoy the flavor of the filling. So I made crepes instead, which are amazing, taste like super-thin pasta, and I always seem to have the ingredients around. To be fair, this was my first time making crepes, and I threw out a lot of them because I tore them during the attempted flip. But I’m sure I’ll feel more confident next time.

Meat and Spinach Cannelloni

Ingredients for crepes:
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
dash of salt

Ingredients for filling and the rest of it:
1 pound ground beef, ground turkey, or whatever meat you feel like eating that day
10 ounces frozen spinach
ricotta cheese, I forget how much, but it was the medium-sized container at HEB
salt
pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
tomato sauce (get a good, basic kind–I used a chunky tomato with basil)
shredded mozzerella

First, mix the crepe batter:
Beat the egg in a bowl, add the milk, flour, and salt. Whisk together thoroughly. Place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to let the batter get nice and cold. You might want to play with the milk amount a little. I ended up adding more because my batter seemed a little thick and it didn’t want to swirl in the bottom of the pan. It should be pretty thin, much thinner than pancake batter.

To make the filling:
While the batter is chilling, saute the garlic briefly, and then add the meat. Microwave the spinach to thaw it, then drain it and squeeze all the water out. I find this easier by smushing various chunks of it between some paper towels. Drain the meat and garlic, throw in a bowl with the spinach. Add the entire container of ricotta, salt, pepper, and any other seasoning you might like. I added some oregano and all-purpose seasoning, but you just go nuts. Taste the filling along the way to see how you like it. Mix thoroughly and put it into the fridge while you make crepes or watch something good on tv.

To make the crepes:
Slap a pan onto the stove and turn the burner on low. Either run some butter around the pan or spray with cooking spray. If you’re going to use butter, I recommend cutting off a tablespoon and keeping it the wrapper. That way you can keep picking it up without getting all greasy-fingered and annoying.

Lightly grease the pan and pour in some batter. I was using a small pan and poured in a little less than a 1/4 cup of batter per crepe. Let the crepe cook gently for about 30-40 seconds, until it no longer looks wet on top. To flip, lift one edge up with a spatula, grab it with your fingers (it’s not that hot, I swear!) and playfully flip it over in the pan. Let the other side cook for about 20 seconds and then remove it to a plate. I separated the crepes on the plate with wax paper so they wouldn’t stick together. I should mention that I find this much easier using a rubber spatula than a . . . flipping spatula? They’re both called spatulas, right? Anyway, the rubber spatula is, you know, flexible, and it lifts the edge of the crepe much more easily and helps you avoid tearing the thing.

Observe my blurry spatula action:

Spatula

Assembly:
Go sit at your table or stand somewhere comfy and roomy. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spread some of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a large baking dish. Place a large spoonful of filling in the center of a crepe, roll lengthwise, and place into the pan seam down in a single layer with a bit of room between them. Continue until you have used all the crepes you were able to make. I only got 7 good crepes out of my batter because I kept throwing away the ones I tore and got angry at. But 7 crepes filled my baking dish, so yay me! Glop some more tomato sauce over the crepes (as much or as little as you want, this is your baby) sprinkle some mozzerella over the whole thing, and bake for 15-20 minutes.

This is what it looks like assembled:

Assembled and ready to bake

Smell the savory goodness as it bakes. I made a quick salad and some crusty garlic bread. I actually had half of my filling left over, since my crepes didn’t all turn out, so I put it into a Ziplock, smushed it down some, and froze it. I plan on thawing it next week and making more crepes. I should have taken a picture of this culinary miracle, but didn’t think of it at the time. Next time, I will, I promise!

With the salad and the happy bread:

Dinner

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