Tis the Season: Mexican Chocolate Cookies Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Look at this sunset!

Look at this sunset!

Since we are in the thick of the holiday season, I’ve been craving a really good homemade cookie. But just one! If I’m going to make anything this time of year, it will be my family’s butterball cookies, but I certainly don’t want them in the house because they are the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea. The Eater of the House doesn’t really eat sweets, so I know I’ll start looking like a butterball myself eating the entire batch! But I recently had the opportunity to try something new and these cookies were it! The melding of chocolate, cinnamon, and pepper is a classic Mexican mixture and it all came together in this cookie. A soft cookie with a deep chocolate peppery flavor, this made the perfect sized batch to accompany the casserole I took to a recent dinner party. And it made just 24 cookies for me, so it was a sized offering of cookies.

If you don’t have a microwave like me, you can easily melt the chocolate in a water bath. Just take a saucepan filled with water and set a glass bowl over. Bring the water to a boil and stir occasionally, the chocolate will start to melt gently.

I realized as I started this that I was out of cayenne pepper. To be honest, when I see “red pepper” in recipes I don’t exactly know what that means; I always take it to be a spicy red pepper. So without cayenne, I added a dash of spicy Hungarian paprika since that’s what I had on hand. Success!

Happy Cooking!

cookies
Mexican Chocolate Cookies

This recipe first appeared in the December 2007 issue of Cooking Light.

5 ounces bittersweet (60 to 70 percent) chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (about 3 1/3 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash of black pepper
Dash of ground red pepper
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Place chocolate in a small glass bowl; microwave at HIGH 1 minute or until almost melted, stirring until smooth. Cool to room temperature.

3. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through red pepper); stir with a whisk.

4. Combine sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add egg; beat well. Add cooled chocolate and vanilla; beat just until blended. Add flour mixture; beat just until blended. Drop dough by level tablespoons 2 inches apart on baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until almost set. Remove from oven. Cool on pans 2 minutes or until set. Remove from pans; cool completely on a wire rack.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Ben’s Kosher Deli and Restaurant
matzoIn the last *like* of my trip to New York City (see Like 1 and Like 2 here!), lunch on Monday was at Ben’s Kosher Deli and Restaurant. This restaurant right off Broadway didn’t seem to cater to tourists, or at least it didn’t seem so when I was there; at the height of lunchtime, it seemed to be more business and family lunches. Our meal began with a platter full of pickles and some coleslaw, which were both delicious. I ordered a bowl of matzo ball soup and half of a corned beef sandwich for my lunch. The matzo ball were the size of a tennis ball, yet light and fluffy, nothing like the ones I make at home. It was a good thing I ordered half a sandwich, it was layer upon layer of corned beef on a really nice rye bread. These were both delicious and gave me sustenance for an afternoon of walking around the city. This restaurant is definitely worth seeking out!

Ben’s Kosher Deli and Restaurant
209 West 38th Street
New York, New York
www.bensdeli.net

Can’t-Believe-It’s-Veggie Chili Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

I couldn't resist stopping and taking photos of the foliage on my way home. The light was just perfect reflecting off the orange leaves!

I couldn’t resist stopping and taking photos of the foliage on my way home. The light on the orange and red leaves made the colors pop out!

Chili is one of those meals that is so easy to make that you can fix it on a weeknight without a recipe and it can be ready to eat in well under an hour. A little bit of beef with some small beans, onions, garlic, and spices, you can throw everything in a pot and it will always be delicious. But my veggie chilis in the past have been less than mediocre, lacking in flavor and texture. Besides some beans and vegetables, I’ve never been able to make a decent pot. But this is one veggie chili I can believe in! Seasoned with lots of spices, with beans and wheat berries as a “meat replacement,” this chili is one for the books and has convinced me that you can make a good veggie chili at home!

Although the ingredient list is long, you definitely can make this on a weeknight, just don’t do like I did and postpone cooking by 30 minutes because you forgot a critical ingredient and had to run out to the store! The veggies can be prepped in advance and the wheat berries can be cooked early, too. The only change was I substituted one tablespoon of tamari in place of the amino acids, since I didn’t have a bottle on hand.

I noticed the “(Meat) Eater of the House” had seconds so I take that as a resounding thumbs up! Topped with a little bit of cheddar, avocado, red onion, and sour cream, it made excellent leftovers for lunch, and enough to pop in the freezer for another meal!

chili

Can’t-Believe-It’s-Veggie Chili
This recipe first appeared in the October 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Serves 6 (serving size: about 1 1/4 cups chili, 2 1/2 tablespoons cheese, 4 teaspoons onion, and 2 1/2 teaspoons sour cream)

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced peeled carrot
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons unsalted tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (14.5-ounce) can stewed tomatoes, undrained
2 cups water
1 cup lower-sodium vegetable juice
1/2 cup uncooked wheat berries
1 cup water
1 cup lager beer (such as Budweiser)
2 tablespoons liquid aminos (such as Bragg)
1 (14.5-ounce) can unsalted kidney beans, rinsed and drained
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream

1. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and next 6 ingredients (through garlic); sauté 10 minutes or until liquid evaporates and vegetables begin to brown. Add tomato paste and next 5 ingredients (through red pepper); cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Using kitchen scissors, cut tomatoes in the can into bite-sized pieces. Add 2 cups water, vegetable juice, and tomatoes to pan; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat; simmer 30 minutes.

2. Combine wheat berries and 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Add wheat berries, beer, aminos, and beans to chili; cook 20 minutes. Serve with cheese, red onion, and sour cream.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Candy Corn Cookies
I thought with Halloween just a few days away, I would bring to you one of the most popular recipes I ever posted on my blog for any new readers: candy corn cookies! These tiny sugar cookies are about an inch high in height and are adorable and make lots to share!

Aren't these adorable? And this was cookie sheet #1, so my batch definitely made more than 5 dozen cookies!Candy Corn Cookies
From PBS Food’s Fresh Taste blog, recipe by Jenna Weber

2 sticks of butter, softened
½ cups powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 egg
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
Red food coloring
Yellow food coloring

1. Cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and continue to beat until incorporated.

2. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients to the butter sugar mixture and mix until a soft dough just forms. Remove dough from mixer bowl and separate into three equal pieces (use a food scale to weigh each piece if you want to be exact!). Mix together a little bit of red and yellow food coloring to make orange and then add the orange coloring to one of the dough pieces. Make another dough piece yellow and leave the third plain.

3. Place a piece of plastic wrap or tin foil inside a loaf pan and pat down the white dough inside. Place the orange dough on top (pat down firmly) followed by the yellow dough. Remove dough from pan, wrap up in either tin foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least four hours.

4. When you are ready to bake your cookies, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut 1/4th inch slices down the width of the dough. Continue cutting each slice into small triangles.

5. Place triangles on a lined baking sheet (line with parchment paper) and bake for 6-8 minutes until tops are puffy and bottoms are golden.

Yield: 5 dozen tiny cookies

A Sweet Treat for the Sweet Day: Double Chocolate Cookies

valentines useWhile I’m not that crazy about the actual “holiday” of Valentine’s Day, I do use it as an excuse to make something sweet for the Eater of the House (plus myself!). Since Shrove Tuesday is coming up and my annual 40 days of no sugar is almost here, I decided to make something delicious and chocolaty before I can’t!

These little cookies are a true delight, just 100 calories, and since they are small, the size a bit bigger than a quarter, you are getting just a bite-size of deep, rich chocolate flavor. The batter itself isn’t particularly sweet, but the chocolate chip adds just the right amount. And it comes together super easy and most of the ingredients you probably have on hand. Some of the cookies I molded into a ball and some I just spooned on the tray. I have to say, the molded ones look a lot better (see below); the others, while delicious, had something to be desired in terms of their appearance! (As you can imagine!)

For years I have always used King Arthur flour for all baking,  but it wasn’t but a year ago that I switched to all-purpose flour for most of my baking except from bread. KA has a high gluten content, and while all of my goodies turned out alright, an all-purpose flour like Pillsbury or Gold Medal make things a little lighter, I think.

The directions are right, don’t overbake them; I found them similar to the texture of a brownie. And the way I look at it, they say a little bit of chocolate is good for you, so these are perfect to make for your own sweetheart this weekend!

choco cookies

Double Chocolate Cookies

This recipe originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

The secret to these rich chocolate cookies is not to overbake them. For a gooey, creamy cookie center, pull them out of the oven when they are still a bit glossy.

Makes 26 (serving size: 1 cookie)

6.75 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
3/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

1. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cocoa, and salt in a bowl, stirring with a whisk.

2. Place sugar, butter, and oil in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined (about 5 minutes). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla; beat 1 minute. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until combined. Add chocolate; beat at low speed just until combined. Cover with plastic wrap; chill 30 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 350°.

4. Drop dough by 1 1/2 tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350° for 8 minutes or until almost set. Cool on pan 2 minutes or until firm. Remove cookies from pan; cool on wire racks.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Soups, Broth, and Stocks

zoup1It seems like everywhere I turn these days I’m seeing something about bone broths. I never really knew what anyone was talking about until I listened to Tom Ashbrook’s On Point episode last week and realized I’ve been doing this for years, since I boil up my chicken and turkey carcasses after dinner.

Two of my favorite cooks, Ming Tsai and Bridget Lancaster, joined Tom to talk about soups, broths, and stocks. The show was so inspiring that I thawed a package of homemade chicken broth and made chicken noodle soup this past weekend. Mind you, this was the second soup I made in a week. When it’s as cold and snowy as it’s been here in the Northeast, you need something warm and comforting when you come in from shoveling! And this show was the perfect inspiration

You can listen to the story by click here: Get It While It’s Hot: A Show About Soup.

Recipe Redux: Candy Corn Cookies

jackolanternSince it’s Halloween week, I thought I would pop in a day early with this week’s recipe so you have extra time to grab these ingredients if you want to make these cute little sugar cookies! While I don’t normally give you two sweet recipes in a row, I couldn’t resist a trip back to these cookies, which I originally posted in 2012.

Living in the country, we don’t get door-to-door trick or treaters; the only ones who have visited through the years were our next door neighbors and all four kids have since grown up. So when I made these, I gave bags to co-workers and friends as this recipe makes a lot because I made them the actual candy corn size, but you can always make the cookies bigger. And watch out, these are delicious and being so small, you can definitely get carried away with having “just one more!”

Aren't these adorable? And this was cookie sheet #1, so my batch definitely made more than 5 dozen cookies!

Aren’t these adorable? And this was cookie sheet #1, so my batch definitely made more than 5 dozen cookies!

Candy Corn Cookies
From PBS Food’s Fresh Taste blog, recipe by Jenna Weber

2 sticks of butter, softened
½ cups powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 egg
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
Red food coloring
Yellow food coloring

1. Cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and continue to beat until incorporated.

2. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients to the butter sugar mixture and mix until a soft dough just forms. Remove dough from mixer bowl and separate into three equal pieces (use a food scale to weigh each piece if you want to be exact!). Mix together a little bit of red and yellow food coloring to make orange and then add the orange coloring to one of the dough pieces. Make another dough piece yellow and leave the third plain.

3. Place a piece of plastic wrap or tin foil inside a loaf pan and pat down the white dough inside. Place the orange dough on top (pat down firmly) followed by the yellow dough. Remove dough from pan, wrap up in either tin foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least four hours.

4. When you are ready to bake your cookies, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut 1/4th inch slices down the width of the dough. Continue cutting each slice into small triangles.

5. Place triangles on a lined baking sheet (line with parchment paper) and bake for 6-8 minutes until tops are puffy and bottoms are golden.

Yield: 5 dozen tiny cookies

marthaMVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Thanksgiving-Themed Cooking Magazines
Thanksgiving is hands down my favorite holiday. Since it is a little later than usual this year, now is the time to gather together the Thanksgiving-themed magazines to see what recipes you’d like to try out for this year’s meal! There are so many out there: Cooking LightMartha Stewart Living, EatingWell, Bon Appetit. I guarantee you’ll find more recipes than you can cook for your Thanksgiving dinner!

Coconut Orange Refrigerator Cookies

This time of year, I always keep the makings for different kinds of cookies in the cupboard. Mainly because I never know when I’m going to be snowbound–or in the case of our recent weather, house bound, because it’s so cold! While I love a lazy day at home, around 3 p.m. I start getting stir crazy. One year I was stuck inside for two days during a massive blizzard and made a different batch each day. Forty-eight hours later when the plow man arrived with a backhoe to “plow” the driveway, I was able to give him a bag of homemade cookies!

These cookies are an old family recipe and I love making them in the winter because I always have a fresh orange in the fridge (although you can always use dried orange rind, too). Yes, I use shortening, but you can substitute butter, which would make then even more like a flavored shortbread. Also, you can substitute a teaspoon of lemon juice instead of extract which is what I always do. They’re especially sweet, so you can always have a cup with your morning tea and coffee and call them a biscuit!

DSCN4207
Coconut Orange Cookies
The original recipe says to bake at 400 degrees with 8-10 minutes. Maybe it’s my oven, but that always leaves me with hard, burned cookies. I baked this latest batch at 350 degrees for about 13 minutes, watching them carefully. I pulled them out a bit early when they were underdone, but once they cooled, they were perfect. They freeze well, too.

1 cup sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
1 cup shortening
1 tsp. lemon extract (or juice)
2 Tbs. orange rind
2 eggs

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1/2-3/4 cup of unsweetened coconut

1. In a mixing bowl, cream together the sugars, shortening, lemon extract or juice, orange rind, and eggs.

2. In another mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and coconut.

3. Gently add the flour to the wet mixture, using a hand mixer, until it is well mixed together.

4. Chill the cookie mixture in the fridge. (For at least a half an hour or until you’re ready to bake.) Roll out and cut into cookies or roll into balls. Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

Halloween Treats!

Golden evening light.

Happy Halloween!

For the past few weeks I’ve been in a nesting mode and wanting to do some baking; I think it’s the cooler weather and darker days. I had been thinking of making something pumpkin-related for the holiday, and when America’s Test Kitchen Radio had a recipe for pumpkin bread, I knew the fates were looking upon me and I needed to make a batch. But then for days I kept seeing the photo of Candy Corn Cookies in my Facebook news feed, posted by PBS Food. They looked so good, I decided to make them, too!

Luckily for my waistline, I gave away most of the cookies and bread, much to the dismay of the eater of the house. His description of the bread isn’t suitable for publication; let’s just say he thinks the pumpkin bread is the bee’s knees and I have a feeling this won’t be the last time I make it! (It is pretty good!)

Aren’t these adorable? And this was cookie sheet #1, so my batch definitely made more than 5 dozen cookies!

Candy Corn Cookies
From PBS Food’s Fresh Taste blog, recipe by Jenna Weber

2 sticks of butter, softened
½ cups powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 egg
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
Red food coloring
Yellow food coloring

1. Cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and continue to beat until incorporated.

2. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients to the butter sugar mixture and mix until a soft dough just forms. Remove dough from mixer bowl and separate into three equal pieces (use a food scale to weigh each piece if you want to be exact!). Mix together a little bit of red and yellow food coloring to make orange and then add the orange coloring to one of the dough pieces. Make another dough piece yellow and leave the third plain.

3. Place a piece of plastic wrap or tin foil inside a loaf pan and pat down the white dough inside. Place the orange dough on top (pat down firmly) followed by the yellow dough. Remove dough from pan, wrap up in either tin foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least four hours.

4. When you are ready to bake your cookies, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut 1/4th inch slices down the width of the dough. Continue cutting each slice into small triangles.

5. Place triangles on a lined baking sheet and bake for 6-8 minutes until tops are puffy and bottoms are golden.

Yield: 5 dozen tiny cookies

Cook’s Notes:
• I found this made more than 5 dozen cookies; one slice of the dough made about 10!
• While I tried various methods to make them bigger, my cookies were tiny, a little larger than a regular candy corn. And watch out, these are delicious and being so small, you can definitely get carried away with having “just one more!”

Pumpkin Bread

From America’s Test Kitchen

Makes 2 loaves

The test kitchen’s preferred loaf pan measures 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inches; if using a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan, start checking for doneness five minutes early.

INGREDIENTS

TOPPING

5 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt

BREAD

2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 ounces cream cheese , cut into 12 pieces
4 large eggs
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup walnuts , toasted and chopped fine

INSTRUCTIONS

FOR THE TOPPING:
Using fingers, mix all ingredients together in bowl until well combined and topping resembles wet sand; set aside.

FOR THE BREAD:
• Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pans. Whisk flour, baking powder, and baking soda together in bowl.

• Combine pumpkin puree, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in large saucepan over medium heat. Cook mixture, stirring constantly, until reduced to 1½ cups, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove pot from heat; stir in granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, and cream cheese until combined. Let mixture stand for 5 minutes. Whisk until no visible pieces of cream cheese remain and mixture is homogeneous.

• Whisk together eggs and buttermilk. Add egg mixture to pumpkin mixture and whisk to combine. Fold flour mixture into pumpkin mixture until combined (some small lumps of flour are OK). Fold walnuts into batter. Scrape batter into prepared pans. Sprinkle topping evenly over top of each loaf. Bake until skewer inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Let breads cool in pans on wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove breads from pans and let cool for at least 1½ hours. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cook’s Notes:
• Given the amount of sugar in the bread, I decided to forego the topping. It seemed like it would be closer to cake than that of a snacking bread.
• I discovered as I was just about to spoon the bread into the pan that I now own only one bread pan. So instead of waiting to reuse the pan, I went with an 8 x 8 square pan. Cooking time was a little bit shorter, but it was still delicious. I wrapped some pieces and popped them in the freezer for later eating!