Second Annual Bake Sale, June 16th

Many of you probably saw this already on Facebook, but if you didn’t, next Tuesday, June 16th, I’m having my second annual bake sale to benefit the Second Harvest Food Bank! Come by anytime between 3 and 6pm to pick up your favorite cookies, desserts, and baked goods. For more details on location, timing, and menu offerings, click this link here. You can even reserve treats ahead of time if you’re worried about missing out on brown sugar cookies or a jar of salted caramel sauce. I’d love to see you there!

Tasty Tufts: How to Conserve Water in the Kitchen

drought

My latest post on Tasty Tufts has been published, and it includes my top ten tips to reduce water usage in the kitchen. You can find the article by clicking here. Little things like loading the dishwasher correctly and being careful about running the tap can really add up over time when done consistently, and while these habits are especially important for us Californians they’re good ideas for all cooks regardless of your state’s annual rainfall.

In other news, I’m home for the summer! Which means that there are two loaves of bread rising on our kitchen counter and I’ve already seen my brother laugh so much that he accidentally inhaled some mesclun greens at dinner. It’s good to be back.

Tasty Tufts: Food Memoirs

food memoirs

If you haven’t seen it already, I have a new post on Tasty Tufts, and this one talks about one of my favorite areas of literature: food memoirs. I’ll take any chance I can get to spend my free time thinking about food, and spending a few hours with a book all about traveling the world in search of culinary nirvana is a great way to pass a lazy afternoon. The post on Tasty Tufts is the short list of my favorite food memoirs and novels, but if you’re looking for more, perhaps less popular titles, check out On the Noodle Road by Jen Lin-Liu, Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking by Anya Von Bremzen, An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler, White Jacket Required by Jenna Weber, Cooking for Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser, and Talking with My Mouth Full by Gail Collins. I’m also eagerly awaiting the published of Phyllis Grant’s memoir that will hopefully be just as poignant and gutsy as her blog, Dash and Bella.

Tasty Tufts: Easy Ways to Improve Flavor

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Happy Friday, everyone! Click on over to Tasty Tufts to read my new post on how to improve the flavor while you cook. There’s all sorts of food science and tips for how to apply the information to your meals, whether you eat all your meals in a dining hall or at home.

(Unrelated photo, but if you’re looking for a way to celebrate spring break, make a batch of my favorite chocolate chip cookies!)

Pumpkin Bread and Tasty Tufts

010815_2207_PumpkinBrea2.jpg

Some of you may already know this, but this semester in addition to posting on Kinsey Cooks I’ll be contributing to the Tufts food blog, Tasty Tufts. It’s a great website full of Boston and Somerville restaurant reviews, recipes, and thoughts on eating in college. My first post (which you can find by clicking here) is the recipe for my favorite pumpkin bread, and more posts will be coming from me this semester. Anytime I have a post on Tasty Tufts, I’ll post the link here on Kinsey Cooks so that you can stay up to date with the Tufts food scene.

Carrot-Ginger Soup

A few weeks ago, I got a text from a friend asking what I had been cooking over break. I immediately sent him a picture of this carrot-ginger soup, and got a recipe request in response along with the accusation that I had “staged” the photo. True, I did set up this picture on the floor of our kitchen near a full-length window, but nothing about this soup is fake–the flavor of carrots is as prominent as the orange color suggests, and the texture is perfectly silky without any milk or cream to deaden the spice from the ginger.

What makes this recipe so revolutionary is the addition of just one simple pantry ingredient. Cooks’ Illustrated came up with the recipe of course, seeing as the test cooks there remained unparalleled in their use of kitchen chemistry in recipes for the home cook’s advantage.  Just half a teaspoon of baking soda added to the simmering carrots raises the pH of the soup enough to break down the cell walls of the carrots in record time. It’s the same trick that I use to make stir-free polenta, tender braised green beans, and nutty broccoli pesto.  Twenty minutes later, the carrots get pureed into an unbelievably silky soup that is quickly brightened up with a splash of cider vinegar, which is added at the end of cooking to keep the pH in the basic range. The short cooking time has advantages beyond just saving time, too; having the soup simmer for less than half an hour prevents the flavor and heat from the ginger from fading into the background. No fussy straining or special techniques are needed, just sauté some aromatics in butter with ginger before adding the rest of the ingredients, then blend the soup quickly and serve, preferably with a grilled cheese sandwich made with good bread and sharp cheddar.

I made this when I was in the always-temperate Palo Alto, but I would love a bowl of this to combat the twenty degree weather in Massachusetts. No matter the weather outside your house, this soup is a simple, healthful meal that everyone will love.

Carrot-Ginger Soup

Serves 6

Adapted from Cooks’ Illustrated

2 tablespoons unsalted butter (If you need to make the soup vegan, use canola oil or another similarly neutral cooking oil, such as grapeseed.)

2 onions, diced fine

1 ½ tablespoons grated fresh ginger (store your ginger in the freezer to make it easy to grate)

2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

Salt and pepper

1 teaspoon sugar

2 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick

5 ½ cups water, divided

2 sprigs fresh thyme

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

  1. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, fresh ginger, garlic, two teaspoons table salt, and sugar. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are softened but not browned, 5 to 7 minutes.
  2. Increase the heat to high, and add the carrots, 4 ¾ cups water, thyme sprigs, and baking soda. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered until carrots are very tender, 20-25 minutes.
  3. Discard thyme sprigs. Puree the soup in a blender in two batches until smooth, 1-2 minutes. Return soup to a clean pot and stir in remaining ¾ cup water and vinegar. Return to simmer over medium heat, then serve. Soup can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe!

Blue Cheese, Walnut, and Fig Thumbprint Cookies

It’s been nearly two weeks since I’ve been back home for winter break. Much as I expected, Palo Alto has stayed more or less the same—there were some rumors about our favorite local restaurant closing, which prompted a frenzy of lunch visits and curry takeout orders all around the neighborhood, but it appears as though the claims were for the most part unfounded. Despite the continuity of our life here in California, it seems ever so slightly different after being away for four months. Things I used to take for granted, like eating my mom’s Almond Roca or taking my dog for a walk, are a treat after getting used to living in a dorm. It’s so nice to be able to see my high school friends and cook in our kitchen.

It seemed so luxurious to bake these thumbprint cookies for our Christmas Day party; I had forgotten how nice it is to use a standing mixer and dishwasher and to have all of the ingredients at my fingertips. I didn’t have to take the blue cheese from the salad bar or remove nearly a cup of chopped walnuts from the condiment station—what a treat!

We had a container of fig jam in the freezer left over from the summer (long story, but it involves homemade fig newtons), and after making a batch of fig and blue cheese focaccia, I thought the flavors would do pretty well together in a cookie. These cookies are barely sweetened, a resemble more of a savory shortbread, and have toasted walnuts and Roquefort folded into the dough before the centers are filled with fig jam. They’re a great accompaniment to a cheese plate and serve as great puzzle-solving fuel if, like us, you still have an unfinished 1000 piece puzzle that is the one lingering guest from your Christmas party.

Walnut, Blue Cheese, and Fig Thumbprints

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

½ cup granulated sugar

1 egg

3 cups all-purpose flour

¾ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

4 oz. blue cheese, crumbled

¾ toasted walnuts, finely chopped

½ cup fig jam or spread

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. For the dough: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and pistachios and set aside. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream them together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and mix until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Add the blue cheese and walnuts and mix on low speed until distributed throughout the dough.
  3. Taking 1 tablespoon of dough at a time, roll the dough into balls and place 1 ½ inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Using a wine cork or the back of a wooden spoon, press an indentation in the cookie. Fill the indentations with the fig jam. Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes until just barely golden. Let cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe!

Salted Caramel Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

It’s time for one of the biggest food blogging events of the year: The 2014 Food Blogger Cookie Swap! All around the world, food bloggers exchange holiday cookies to support the organization Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. Long-time readers may remember that I participated in the cookie swap last year as well, with my recipe for Almond Toffee Cookies. In all honesty, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do the cookie swap this year. Baking and packaging cookies at home is a breeze, but carrying ingredients and equipment down to my dorm kitchen involves a few more logistics. Even so, I’m really glad that I decided to participate in the cookie swap this year; it was a great study break to dream up a new cookie recipe, and getting boxes of cookies in the mail has been such a nice surprise during finals week. This year, I sent cookies to Emma from My Upbeet Life, Kate from Three Sixty Five Degrees, and Diana from The Dreamery. Over the past few weeks, I’ve gotten Mexican Chocolate Cookies from Hannah of FleurDelicious, Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies from Aly of The Michigan Mom, and Peppermint Chia Seed Cookies from Holly of Happy Food Healthy Life. All the cookies were absolutely delicious and my friends and I have been enjoying them after dinner or for snacks in between classes.

This year, I decided to make a peanut butter oatmeal cookie with salted caramel peanuts mixed into the dough. The recipe may or may not have involved the always-treacherous task of taking a mug of half-and-half from the dining hall without being noticed, but it was worth the risk. The cookies are full of flavor from the dark brown sugar, brown butter, and peanut butter, but still have the delicate, almost shortbread-like texture that peanut butter cookies are known for. The peanuts are coated in a simple salted caramel sauce before being folded into the dough, and if you are lucky enough to have any peanuts leftover they make for an excellent sundae topping.

With that, I hope everyone gets to bake and eat plenty of cookies this holiday season and that you all have a wonderful start to 2015!

Salted Caramel Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

Cookie dough recipe adapted from How Sweet Eats

Salted Caramel Peanuts:

1/3 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons water

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 cups dry roasted, unsalted peanuts

Cookie Dough:

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and browned

1 7/8 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/8 teaspoon baking powder

9 tablespoons creamy, salted peanut butter

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 egg plus 1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups salted caramel peanuts

  1. For the salted caramel peanuts: Line a baking pan with parchment paper and set aside. Stir together the granulated sugar and water in a large skillet, then place over medium-high heat. Cook the sugar, without stirring until it turns a deep amber color and smells like caramel. Immediately remove the pan from the burner, then stir in the butter until melted. Return the pan to medium-low heat, and add the cream and the sea salt and stir well to combine. Add the peanuts to the pan and toss until coated, and cook until sticky and covered in caramel sauce. Transfer the peanuts to the prepared baking pan and let cool completely before proceeding with the recipe. Once the peanuts have cooled, break them apart so that each nut is separate from the rest.
  2. For the cookie dough: Place 1 stick (8 tablespoons) of the butter in a skillet over medium heat and cook until melted and browned, 5-6 minutes. The butter should be a deep golden brown in color and have a nutty fragrance. Pour the butter into a large bowl, and add the remaining 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons of butter) and stir until melted. Let the butter sit for 15 minutes.
  3. While the butter cools, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 325F. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking soda, and baking powder, and set aside.
  4. Once the butter has cooled for 15 minutes, whisk the peanut butter into the melted butter until smooth. Add the brown sugar and the granulated sugar and whisk until well combined. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and whisk to combine. Add the dry ingredients, and fold gently to combine until just incorporated. Fold in the salted caramel peanuts until evenly distributed.
  5. To form the cookies, roll 1 tablespoon of the dough per cookie into balls, then flatten into disks, and place 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes until the edges of the cookies are golden brown. Take care not to overbake these cookies. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe!