Thursday, July 29, 2010

Homemade Thin Mint Cookies

Today, I went lingerie shopping. (Lingerie, skivies, unmentionables...which I am now mentioning). Control your heart rate, it's not as R rated as it sounds. I was on a mission and searching for a decent bra. A beige colored one with extra padding. False advertising? You bet! I found one at that store. You know the one that packs your skivies in pink striped colored bags with unnecessary pink tissue paper saturated with fragrance. It seems to grab the attention of all the males in the mall who think you may have something naughty in there to transform you into a VS Angel. Wouldn't that be nice?

You know what else would be nice? You and me baking and eating chocolate covered chocolate mint cookies. Will I be doing it in my comfy boring bra? Heck yes! Care for some cookies? This is why we're friends :)

Chocolate-Covered Chocolate-Mint Cookies
From Desserts by the Yard
 By Sherry Yard
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter , cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 tsp. peppermint oil
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 pounds bittersweet chocolate 
Place the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse a few times to combine the ingredients. Add the butter and pulse to cut the butter into the dry ingredients. Add the egg yolks, peppermint oil, and vanilla and pulse until a dough forms on the blades of the food processor.

Remove the dough from the food processor and shape into a 2-inch-thick log. Wrap in plastic wrap or parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Place racks in the middle and lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Cut into 1/4-inch-thick disks and arrange 1/2 inch apart on the baking sheets. Bake for 10 minutes. Switch the baking sheets from top to bottom and rotate from front to back and continue to bake for another 3 to 4 minutes, until the cookies are light brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on racks. Make sure to let the baking sheets cool between batches. Do not handle the cookies until they are cool, or they'll break; they're very delicate.

Melt and temper the bittersweet chocolate. Keep the chocolate warm while you dip the cookies. Place a sheet pan upside down on your work surface, next to the melted chocolate. Cover with parchment paper. Dip the cookies one by one in the chocolate, using a fork to turn them over and then lift them out of the chocolate. It helps to tilt the bowl forward by leaning it on a folded kitchen towel.

Set the dipped cookies on the parchment, beginning at the far end so you don't drip chocolate on other cookies when you set them down. 

 Allow to cool completely, then store in an airtight container.

I like to store mine in my belly.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sweet and Spicy Beef Lettuce Wraps

I spent the entire day cleaning and organizing my home. First, I vacuumed then I steam cleaned the carpet, washed the curtains, cleaned the oven, mopped the floor, rearranged the pantry and polished the silver. Ok, I didn't really do that last one, but had I had silver to polish, it would have been polished. For reals. Before I knew it, 10 am had turned into 4 pm. Dinner was fast approaching and I wanted something fast and easy to prepare. It's times like these that I turn to my trusty wok for a quick meal. I was able to have dinner on the table in under 40 minutes. You beat me this time Rachael Ray!

So there's only one question. Are you ready to wok? (Come on, you knew that was coming).


1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1.5 tablespoons sriracha chili sauce (optional or to taste)
1 cup of green onions, finely chopped
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon ginger powder
2 lbs flank steaks (cut across the grain into very thin slices, no more than 1/8-inch thick) you may also substitute chicken breasts for the steak
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Juice of one small lemon

Broccoli slaw, for topping
Chopped green onions, for sprinkling
Lettuce leaves  (romaine, bib, iceberg)

In a bowl stir together soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, green onions, garlic, ginger and lemon juice; mix until the sugar is dissolved. Add in the steak and toss to coat; marinade 20 minutes at room temperature.

Heat oil in a wok over high heat until just smoking, then add in the steak slices in one layer, saute the slices turning occasionally until browned and cooked through. Transfer to bowl and sprinkle with green onions.

Fill a lettuce leaf with beef and roll it up. Top with broccoli slaw (optional).

Serve with hot jasmine rice.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Homemade Milano Cookies

If I told you something personal would you promise not to judge...too harshly? I'm a bit of a Gleek.
No, not the pet blue space monkey of the Super Friends, but a fan of the television show Glee.
I've seen every episode, I own the Season 1. Vol 1 dvd and bought Vol 2 on advance order. Wait, there's more and this maybe the worst of them. I also have Glee cds which I use to sing at Mr. Incredible. Not sing to him, but I sing at him with intensity. Ever have someone who was tone deaf sing at you? Frightening.

So, I've given this a lot of thought. If these Milano cookies were to represent characters from the super awesome show Glee, then the traditional milano would play Emma Pillsbury, the lovable guidance counselor who is crazy (she's a bit germophobic), sweet, prim and proper.
Prim and proper is how I would describe the traditional milanos. Two thin butter cookies flavored with warm vanilla are glued together with rich ganache.

The double choco milano would play Puck Puckerman, the bad boy Casanova who is a bit temperamental but caring. Puck has a reputation of being a bad-ass which is exactly what these double chocolate milanos are...bad ass. The cookie outsides are dense, almost brownie like with luscious ganache filling.

The ganache filling would play the character Mr. Shuester, the caring and sweet Glee director. His smooth, creamy voice is much like ganache. He is the glue that holds Glee together. Did you feel that? This post just got deep.

Now get deep into making these cookies!

Milan / Milano Cookies Recipe
(Courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website)
Serves: about 3 dozen cookies

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
6 egg whites
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lemon extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Cookie filling:
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 orange, zested

  1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.
  2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
  3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
  4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.
  5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
  6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
  7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
  8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
  9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.
  10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies. 

*For Double Chocolate Milanos substitute 3/4 c. of dark chocolate cocoa powder for half of the flour in recipe and omit the lemon extract.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ciabatta bread

I longed for the luxurious fragrance of freshly baked bread emanating from my kitchen. It had been so long (a couple weeks) since my fingers worked with bread dough and they were aching to knead something other than Mr. Incredible's back. I decided on Ciabatta bread because it would be perfect for sandwiches I planned on making for lunch. Sliced, still warm from the oven, smeared with glistening butter melting and saturating every crevice of this honey combed textured bread sounded like a delectable treat. (I'm trying to use more adjectives in this post. How am I doing?)

Mini lesson...ready? Ciabatta, pronounced /cha-bah-tah/, is an Italian white bread that is elongated, broad and flat. It's name, meaning "slipper" in Italian, is a reference to its shape which kind of resembles a slipper. When made well, ciabatta bread has a moist, holey crumb and a crackly, crisp crust.

Many of ciabatta recipes begin with a poolish (pronounced pool-eesh, accent on the second syllable). A poolish is a pre-mixed “starter” of flour, water and a touch of yeast. It is mixed a few hours before the remainder of the ingredients. It's said to give the bread a better texture and flavor. 

The recipe I'll be sharing today does not use a poolish. This means I'll have ciabatta in my belly in less than 3 hours rather than 2-3 days. 

Mini lesson over. Let's bake some bread!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Vegas baby! (Croissants and muffins revisited)

I saw radiant fountains that danced to music.

Exquisite murals painted on high gilded ceilings.

Magnificent architecture.

And thousands of these evil things. The Wheel of Fortune slots. These machines are equipped with a free spin symbol that gives you a bonus payoff. Once you activate the bonus spin, a "Wheel of Fortune" wheel on top of the machine is activated. The games have a button to push that starts the wheel spinning and awards you, depending on where the wheel stops, anywhere from 25 coins up to the current progressive jackpot. 

This machine and I were not first. I set my limit to the $50 I put in it. My money was going fast and with nothing to show for it! All I wanted was one SPIN. Forget the current progressive jackpot of $4.5 million...I want that bonus spin! (which on this machine only ranged from $25-$1,000). Then finally, I hit my first SPIN. The lights start flashing, the Wheel of Fortune music and audio of a "live" studio audience oooooh-ing and aaaaaaaaaaw-ing start playing. Hitting the SPIN was really very exciting.