So this post was originally supposed to be about New Year’s resolutions.I guess the dog derailed that too.
A criminally skinny German Shepherd showed up on my doorstep today while I was making dinner. Very friendly, desperate for human company, starving (I fed her) and really, really skinny.Leather collar but no tag (this dog must belong to someone).I have been in comparable situations before—I look for the tag and either call the owners or in the case of no tag I call the proper authorities.I lost a dog once (well the kennel lost him) and it was awful so I am pretty anal about getting dogs to someone in charge so that their owners can find them—or so they can be adopted if possible.So I called the dog catcher.Should have been case closed.
I live across the state border on a 55 mph road (although thankfully not too busy)—civilization (in the form of our little college town and the Dayton and Cincinnati suburbs) are within a 15-45 minutes drive for me.But I live across the border, and in this area of Indiana, there is nothing. Nothing at all. So it turns out finding the dog catcher is an issue. He still hasn’t called me back. In the meantime, I put the dog in the yard, which she promptly escaped from (yes she is that skinny because I promise you my dogs could not make it through the gap she found). On my way to the garage (our freezer is out there) she saw me and frantically tried to get back in.So I put her back in.She got back out.Then when I next looked for her—figuring the dog catcher could be calling at any moment—she was back in the yard.In the meantime my dogs really needed to go out…
Luckily John got home soon thereafter, so the dog is now in a kennel in a garage.I guess tomorrow if we still have not heard from the dog catcher we will drive her to the humane society.It is a pain because John will have to miss work for it as I am not going to put my toddlers in the car with an unfamiliar dog so I need him to come home.Argh.And in the meantime this dog is breaking my heart.She seems desperate to belong here (breaking back into my yard for goodness’ sake) which tells me she either needs her old home or needs a new good one.But it can’t be mine, sadly.Not only do I have toddlers to worry about (I am not sure that toddlerhood is a good time to get an adolescent dog who is not used to babies) but our middle dog, Finnegan, does not like other dogs.He puts up with them—he is not aggressive—but ever since we addedDelilah, our youngest, to the mix he has made it clear in no uncertain terms what he thinks of adding more dogs to the family.
So that was my evening.Dinner did get made but it was way late and frankly way under-appreciated by me as I spent a lot of the night scanning various websites trying to find this poor dog’s owner.And no pictures got taken of dinner, although I do have some nice ones of the cookies.
New Year’s Resolutions
I have more resolutions than usual this year. One of them is for our family to become more flexitarian in our approach to food. Make no mistake, we are meat eaters.I believe in the cycle of life and the food chain and that we are part of it.I believe that we have an obligation to raise and slaughter our animals humanely and I also believe that we have an obligation to use as much of the animal as we can—to waste none of it.To these ends you will see references to us eating locally purchased, free range beef, pork and chicken and you will see reference to me using products like homemade chicken stock and lard in otherwise vegetarian dishes, because I am not going to go out of my way to find a vegetarian substitute for lard in a Mexican dish, for example, when I was already willing to eat the tenderloin and the bacon in previous meals. But to get back to the point, I do also believe that a primarily meat-centric diet is no longer sustainable, at least not in this country.The resources expended for us to eat meat are just too much for everyone to eat meat all the time.And so I want more vegetarian dishes in our diet.We already had some—for example a lot of the Indian dishes I make are vegetarian because that country has such a large percentage of vegetarians.But I have never made true, American vegetarian food (i.e., food that while perhaps influenced by other cultures, is not totally traditional either). So I have resolved to start thinking outside the box and trying some of those dishes—dishes that once I would have skipped over.Tonight’s potpie was the first such dish.
I do not have a picture of this dish, thanks to the dog fiasco, and honestly I did not like this dish much.I am not sure why and I am not convinced it is the dish’s fault—I think maybe it was just not to my taste.But my husband and kids really liked it (John loved it) and so I think it is worthy of telling you about since you might like it too.
I ordered a whole bunch of books from The Good Cook in their After Holiday Sale, and in the order I got 3 Martha Stewart books (4 if you count the pre-order on her cookie book which I am SO excited for this coming May). This recipe is from the Meatless Main Dishes section of The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The Original Classics.I got both the original and the new classics and not surprisingly, given this country’s shift in interest toward Asian foods of all kinds, I am more interested in the new classics volume.But the original nonetheless held some recipes of interest.I chose this recipe because John pretty much loves the flavor of curry powder in anything.
Curry Chickpea Potpie
Source: The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The Original Classics
4 T unsalted butter
1 cup millet
2 cups boiling water
2 large eggs
¾ t kosher salt
2 T fresh chopped flat leafed parsley (I used curly as it was all I could find)
8 oz frozen broccoli (actually she calls for fresh which she has you blanch in a separate
step—to me frozen was just fine and probably fresher given the time of year)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups (from ½ head) shredded green cabbage (possibly why I did not like the dish—cabbage is something I am trying to train
myself to eat)
2 garlic cloves, minced (I used 6)
1 T freshly grated
ginger (I used 2 T minced)
1 T curry powder
2 large carrots,
cut into ½ inch dice
8 oz small potatoes, quartered
1/3 cup dried red
½ cup canned chickpeas, drained
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in skillet over medium high heat.Add millet and toast, stirring, for 3 minutes, until golden brown.Add another tablespoon butter and the boiling water; return to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes.Transfer to a bowl to cool slightly and tent loosely with foil.When cool, mix in the salt, parsley and 2 eggs.
Preheat the oven to 350 F.Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until onion is softened. Add cabbage and cook another 3 minutes.Add garlic, ginger and curry powder; cook for 2 minutes.Add 2 cups water and stir, scraping up any bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan.Add carrots, potatoes, lentils and chickpeas and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.Stir in broccoli and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Place the stew in a 1 ½ qt ovenproof dish and cover with the millet mixture.Dot with remaining 1 tablespoon butter.Place the dish on a baking sheet and place in the oven.Bake for 30 minutes, until golden brown and crisp.Serve hot.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Quest
Like a lot of people, my favorite cookie is the chocolate chip cookie. And like a lot of people I seem to be on this never-ending (and often frustrating) quest for the right recipe. Josie and I have talked about it a lot—she suspects that what is missing from my homemade cookies are those very ingredients we have all sworn off—Crisco and corn syrup, which keep certain bakery cookies really moist, thick and chewy. And that is what I want, moist, thick and chewy. I am willing to consider organic, trans-fat-free, natural shortening (Earth Balance makes a good one) and I am willing to consider a *very* small amount of corn syrup. But for the most part I really want to find this recipe using butter and traditional sugars. So I keep trying. And you, the lucky (if you like chocolate chip cookies) readers, you get lots of recipes in the meantime. Until I find that One.
My latest comes from 2 sources. I first read about it on Cookie Madness, where Anna described it as a good cookie to try if your cookies came out thinner than you would like (me! me!). Anyway, she said it was adapted from Sherry Yard’s Desserts By The Yard, which yea for me, arrived in the mail the next day thanks to that same Good Cook sale. So I adapted from both recipes as I went.
I don’t have much to say about Yard’s book yet, for those of you who are curious. I ordered a lot of books and have not yet had a chance to seriously peruse it. But it is heavy, and we all know when it comes to cookbooks, I like heavy.
Yard gives detailed instructions, such as length of time to mix for each step, etc. Which I like. You will notice after a while that I adhere much more closely to baking recipes than I do cooking. This is not just because exact amounts are more important in baking (since baking is chemistry) but also because I am a much more experienced cook than baker, so I don’t always have the confidence to navigate too far off the recipe. Plus I am impatient by nature, so it is sometimes good to be able to set a timer for beating the butter so I don’t quit too soon!
These cookies are quite good.They are not perfect, but they will get filed under “repeat when I have a better oven.”It is a long story—worthy of its own separate post at some point—but due to being unable to sell our previous home (like so many people) we are now renting and I have been stuck with what might be the world’s worst oven.The only way anything ever browns is to use the broiler—well as you can imagine broiling cookies is a tricky business.Based on this I suspect my results were just slightly off by baking just a little too long under that broiler for the last 2 minutes or so.Also, the recipe calls for a dark chocolate but honestly I really prefer semi sweet in chocolate chip cookies.The cookies were not quite as thick as I would like (see picture to left to get an idea of thickness–pardon the blurry thumb!) but they were not totally thin either.Anna, in her adaptation in her Cookie Madness blog, calls for using cold butter—I think I might also try this variation next time.
A few notes about sifting: Yard calls for sifting the flour. I have one flour sifter and it doubles as a strainer. This means that whether or not I sift sometimes rests on how important I think it is to the recipe. I will always sift for a sponge cake, for example. However I did not sift this flour because the sifter/strainer was dirty and I don’t consider chocolate chip cookies “sift worthy.” Go ahead and sift if you have one handy though!
Quintessential Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from: Desserts By The Yard & Cookie Madness
1 ½ cups all purpose flour (7 oz) (I prefer to always weigh flour)
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (4 oz) butter, softened
½ cup brown sugar, packed
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg
1 (12 oz) bag Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips or 12 ounces of chopped bittersweet chocolate (next time I would use semi sweet)
Whisk together the flour and baking soda and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer (or I suppose by hand but I confess I have a stand mixer and haven’t mixed by hand in eons), cream the butter on medium speed for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the sugars and the salt. Beat again on medium for an additional minute, until well combined.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl again and add the egg and the vanilla. Beat on low until well combined—do not overbeat.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the flour mixture on low speed. Beat slowly until the flour is entirely incorporated and then add chocolate.
Remove the dough and place in the middle of a large rectangle of wax paper (you could use parchment paper but there is no need and it is much more expensive). Using clean hands, smoosh the dough out to each side to form a rough log. Use your hands to smooth and shape it until it is no longer shaggy looking. Then, using the wax paper, slowly the roll the log up in the wax paper so that it both becomes more of a cylinder and also is air tight with the wax paper. Either chill a minimum of 1 hour (according to Yard) or freeze the dough.
If you are baking all of the cookies at once, be sure to place the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven—getting as close as possible to the middle while still having enough space between them. If only baking some cookies, place the rack on the middle shelf. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper. Bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating the pan/s back to front (and top to bottom if appropriate) halfway through. The cookies should be lightly browned when removed from the oven. Slide the parchment paper and cookies onto a cooling rack and be sure to cool for at least 5 minutes before eating.
*Normally a cookie recipe would begin by telling you where to place the racks in the oven and what temperature to set the oven at. One of the great things about Yard’s recipe is that she likes to roll her cookie dough into a cylinder and chill it, preferably overnight. To me this is the perfect excuse to freeze it and have it ready to slice and bake when I want just a few cookies.
Edited to say that for some reason the fonts are not cooperating on this post–sorry for the eye-jarring experience! I have been using a mac and a PC and I suspect they are not cooperating–hopefully I will have it resolved by next time.
I don’t use corn syrup all that often and tend to replace it with Lyle’s Golden Syrup or even brown rice syrup if needed. As for shortening, I have been using Spectrum Organic Shortening for some time and it works out quite well.
hmm. i was gonna suggest lyle’s. i have only bought it one time. you may even be able to make a thickened sugar syrup yourself. i have a recipe for ‘strawberry cake’ from country living that has this recipe for homemade strawberry preserves: For a quick batch of fresh strawberry preserves: Cook 2 pounds strawberries and 4 cups sugar for about an hour over medium-low heat to a thick syrup consistency.
maybe that can be adapted for you.
so… if i was gonna use crisco and corn syrup, what is the BEST chocolate chip cookie ever?
Joe: I have looked for Lyle’s EVERYWHERE here and just cannot find it. I even checked my (really good usually) grocery store’s extensive British section! So, until then… but thanks for giving me yet another reason to maybe finally bug their customer service about it. I have thought about buying their Agave syrup in the meantime if anyone knows anything about that.
Tom: Well until about 6 mos ago, when I decided I was no longer going to reject recipes for using those dreaded ingredients 😉 I only tried recipes with butter and sugar. Believe me, if I find the One recipe, even with shortening and corn syrup, at this point I am making it and posting about it! 🙂
Have you ever tried the recipe that came with your Kitchen Aid? A friend once told me that it was the best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever…and since trying it, it is the only one that I have ever made! Yummy…and the dough freezes very well, if, like me, you’d eat the entire batch in one sitting if you baked it all at once!
Leila: no I have not. And I have no idea if I have the recipe book anymore. But I will hunt around for it online; thanks for the suggestion!