Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Peanut Butter Crispy Bars

My roommate made these great grown-up version of Rice Krispy Treats this weekend. Since I've been slacking on the cooking and baking end (the frozen aisle of TJ's is my best friend these days and, according to Susan, is the first place you should look should I ever go missing), I'll share with you the recipe for these yummy bars that my roommate made.

She has this great book from a bakery in New York, called Baked. I was flipping through the book and the desserts in there looked amazing. I'm eyeing a brownie recipe that I might have to try one of these days. But for now, here are some Peanut Butter Crispy bars to tide you over.

These rice crispies are layered with a generous amount of peanut butter milk chocolate and then topped with a dark chocolate icing. My roommate calls these fatty bars, because they are really rich and chocolaty. Just a small bar is enough to satisfy any chocolate, peanut butter cravings you might be having. This apparently is kept refrigerated at the Baked bakery, so it's best served cold.

Peanut Butter Crispy Bars

For the crispy crust:
1 3/4 cups crisped rice cereal
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the milk chocolate peanut butter layer:
5 ounces good-quality milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup creamy peanut butter

For the chocolate icing:
3 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 72% cacao), coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon light corn syrup
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

Make the crispy crust

Lightly spray a paper towel with nonstick cooking spray and use it to rub the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan.

Put the cereal in a large bowl and set aside. Pour 1/4 cup water into a small saucepan. Gently add the sugar and corn syrup (do not let any sugar or syrup get on the sides of the pan) and use a small wooden spoon to stir the mixture until just combined. Put a candy thermometer in the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat and bring to a boil; cook until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage, 235 degrees F.

Remove from the heat, stir in the butter, and pour the mixture over the cereal. Working quickly, stir until the cereal is thoroughly coated, then pour it into the prepared pan. Using your hands, press the mixture into the bottom of the pan (do not press up the sides). Let the crust cool to room temperature while you make the next layer.

Make the milk chocolate peanut butter layer

In a large nonreactive metal bowl, stir together the chocolate and the peanut butter. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir for about 30 seconds to cool lightly. Pour the mixture over the cooled crust. Put the pan in the refrigerator for 1 hour, or until the top layer hardens.

Make the chocolate icing

In a large nonreactive metal bowl, combine the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is completely smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir for 30 seconds to cool slightly. Pour the mixture over the chilled milk chocolate peanut butter layer and spread into an even layer. Put the pan in the refrigerator for 1 hour or until the topping hardens.

Cut into 9 squares and serve. The bars can be stored in the refrigerator, covered tightly, for up to 4 days.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Alton Brown's Sherried Sardine Toast

I halved this recipe in half, because let's face it folks, sherried sardine toast didn't sound too appealing at first.

I wasn't sure I was going to like this, but once it came together, it looked pretty good and tasted even better. The key is to get perfectly ripe avocado and nice crusty bread and the rest is just icing on the cake. The creamy avocado cuts through the saltiness and it's a perfect compliment to anchovies. I might have to stock some sardines in my cupboard regularly now. Thank you Alton.

Sherried Sardine Toast
adapted from Alton Brown

1 (3.75-ounce 2-layer) tins brisling sardines in olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley leaves, divided (I used cilantro instead)
1/2 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/8 teaspoon lemon zest, reserve the lemon and cut into 4 wedges
Freshly ground black pepper
2 (1/2-inch) thick slices crusty bread, such as sourdough, country loaf or rye
1/2 ripe Hass avocado
Coarse sea salt (optional)

Drain the oil from 1 tin of sardines into a small bowl and set aside. Drain the oil from the other tin into another small bowl and whisk in 1 tablespoon of parsley, vinegar, lemon zest, and black pepper, to taste. Add the sardines, stir to combine and set aside for up to 1 hour.

After 45 minutes, put a rack 3-inches from the broiler and heat the oven to the broiler setting on high. Brush each slice of bread on 1 side with the reserved oil. Put the bread, oil side up, onto a cooling rack set inside a half sheet pan and broil 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown and crisp.

Halve the avocado and remove the pit. Smash the flesh in each half with a fork.

Spread the avocado evenly onto the toasted bread. Top evenly with the sardines. Pour any remaining dressing on top and garnish with the remaining parsley.

Season lightly with sea salt and serve with lemon wedges. I didn't add the sea salt and I thought the sardines were plenty salty enough. I would taste before adding any additional salt.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ginger Almonds

Here's one of the recipes featured on Alton Brown's show recently.

Ginger Almonds
Alton Brown

1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1 dried arbol chile, stemmed and broken into small pieces (I found this in the Mexican aisle of my local supermarket)
1 pound whole natural almonds
1 tablespoon less-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Heat the oven to 250 degrees F. Combine the ginger and salt in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Heat the olive oil and sesame oil in a 12-inch saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the arbol chile and cook, stirring frequently, until the chile begins to give off an aroma, 30 to 45 seconds.

Add the almonds and cook, stirring frequently until lightly toasted, approximately 5 minutes. Add the soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce and cook until reduced slightly and the pan looks dry, approximately 1 minute.

Immediately remove the nuts to the large bowl and toss with the ginger mixture. Spread the coated nuts into a single layer on a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

Remove the pan to a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes or until completely cool. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

So what is my final verdict? I was expecting some freaking amazing nuts so when I tasted it straight from the oven, it was a big let down. It almost tasted bland. I know, how can ginger and chile be bland, but it was. Maybe it was because I was munching on a lot of different things in the kitchen that day so the flavors felt a bit muted. However, the next day, when I brought the almonds to work to eat, the flavors decided to finally show up. I was so wrong about it being bland. If anything, they have tons of spice and crunch. I have them hidden in my drawer because the ginger is pretty pungent. haha. It was really easy to make and it's a nice change from eating raw almonds. I'm going to look into making some candied almonds next time.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tips and Recipes from Alton Brown (the skinny version)

If you've seen Alton Brown recently, you'll see that he's slimmed down quite a bit in the past year.

I saw an episode of Good Eats where he talked about what steps he took to lose the extra weight and just be an overall healthier person. He's writing a book about it in fact, but he shared his tips for the weight loss. It seems like he drastically changed his diet, which I'm sure not all of us can do, but I think his suggestions definitely reminded me of food items that I should try to eat on a more regular basis and also foods that I should avoid. His tips came at a good time for me since I am getting used to the working again and trying to eat healthy during the work week can be quite challenging.

Here are some of his tips.

Try to eat on a daily basis:
  • fruits
  • whole grains
  • leafy greens
  • nuts
  • carrots
  • green tea
For me, I definitely need to eat more leafy greens, nuts and carrots. I got the fruits, whole grains and green tea covered.

Try to eat at least three times a week:
  • oily fish
  • yogurt
  • broccoli
  • sweet potato
  • avocado
I definitely need to try to eat more in this category. Chicken seems so much easier to prepare than fish, so I end up eating lots of chicken, but oily fishes need more love. A great way to get more yogurt in your diet is Kefir or my personal favorite, Greek yogurt with some honey. Broccoli is really hard to eat on a regular basis too, but I learned a trick from my friend who cuts up broccoli, blanches them in hot water and keeps a Tupperware full of broccoli in her fridge. Once you have it prepped, it's easy to enjoy them as a snack or eat it with some dip or some chogochujang (vinegary red pepper paste). Baked sweet potato is super easy and super tasty. I eat tons of avocado when I make guacamole, but other than that, I don't end up using much avocado, so I'll try to slice up some avocado and put it in my salad or in my omelet from now on.

Limit these to once a week:
  • red meat
  • pasta
  • dessert
  • alcohol
I think the hard parts for me will be cutting down on the dessert and alcohol. It's only Monday and I've already exceeded my wine quota for the week. Oh boy.

Never eat:
  • fast food
  • soda
  • processed meals/frozen dinners
  • canned soup
  • "diet" anything
I really like his whole no "diet" anything rule. I think it's probably better to indulge in the real thing once in awhile than to consume fake anything. I'm guessing he thinks canned soups and frozen dinners are bad because of the sodium.

He also shared some recipes, which I tried recently. I will post those soon as well. Please feel free to share your tips as well.

Any tips on how to wake up early to go to the gym would be greatly appreciated. =)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Great Seas Chinese Restaurant - Chicago, IL

It's been 3 years, 10 months and 7 days since I left Chicago and since that time I have been dreaming about the day I can go eat gam pong gi (Korean chicken wings) at Great Seas again. Well ladies and gents, the time has finally come.

Susan, Aleen and I took public transportation to go to Great Seas last weekend from downtown, which took us about 40 minutes. That is what I call dedication. It's basically on the last stop on the Brown Line at the Kimball stop. Once you step out of the station, you end up on Lawrence Avenue and it's a short walk to your right. You'll see a yellow sign with black and red lettering in Chinese.

LA is the land of Chinese-Korean restaurants and while I've had my share of gam pong gi in LA, it just does not compare to Great Seas. I've given up in trying to find a replacement for it in LA. So you can imagine my excitement when I knew I'd be in the land of gam pong gi again. Most gam pong gi places in LA use pieces of fried, boneless chicken, but here, they cut the wings to make it look like round, chicken lollipops. The sauce is just the perfect blend of spicy and sweet too.

Their jjajangmyun (black bean noodles)and jjampong (spicy seafood noodle soup) are alright. I wouldn't come here specifically to eat the noodles, but it's nice to have dietary diversity and share a bunch of plates with your friends. I forgot to take pics of the jjajangmyun, but here's the jjampong.

I was a huge fan of their mapo tofu from before, but it didn't have the same power over me this time. It was a bit too spicy (our fault since we said we wanted it so). I'll give it another try next time.

They also will post up a picture of you on their wall if you eat the most number of chicken wings. I think the current record is 86 wings. That's a little nuts. Adam Richman from Man v. Food needs to come here and try to top that. The wings have a lingering kick, so I give mad props to whoever ate 86 wings. I was drinking tons of water (as usual) to compensate.

FYI for you die-hard Great Seas fans. Great Seas' daughter opened a franchise called Take Me Out where they are serving the same Great Seas lollipop chicken wings, aka "little hotties", in Pilsen, which I think is closer to downtown. We shall have to make the trek out there next time.

Great Seas Chinese Restaurant
3254 W Lawrence Ave
(between Sawyer Ave & Spaulding Ave)
Chicago, IL 60625

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hub 51 - Chicago, IL

Saint Patrick's Day was technically yesterday, but the festivities started early in Chicago. This past weekend was the annual dyeing of the river.

I requested that we go see it this year. It turns out we didn't even have to go outside, because you can see it from my friend's apartment. They never knew it was visible from their place this whole time. How many years have you guys lived there? Silly girls. =) It was raining and pretty cold outside, but there were a lot of people out.

Next year we are going to go see the parade, but this year, because of the weather, we opted for brunch instead. We were debating whether to go to Billy Goat Tavern for their burgers, which is depicted in a SNL sketch that you can see here. It's a Chicago icon so I will have to try it someday, but we decided to go to Hub 51 for some brunch food since we were craving breakfast food. It's a nice bar/restaurant close to where my friends live in downtown.

I was a bit weary of the menu at first because they had regular brunch items like eggs and pancakes, but also sushi rolls and Mexican food for brunch. Anywhere that serves both sushi rolls and Mexican food on the same menu is just weird to me, but I was willing to try it.

Again halfway through our meal, I got consumed with eating and forgot to take pictures. But I think the best thing we ate that day was the pulled chicken nachos, which I did take a picture of. It came with freshly fried chips (which was key!), guacamole, salsa, cheddar and Oaxaca cheeses and sliced fresh jalapenos. The pulled chicken with the chipotle sauce was yummy and I loved that they gave you extra salsa on the side.

We also ordered Blueberry Pancakes, a Denver Omelette and a Cheeseburger to share. The omelette didn't get our love, but the pancakes and the cheeseburger were good. Nothing spectacular, but decent. Like I said, the nachos were the best, so maybe I will try their Mexican food items next time.

BTW, if you come in your PJ's, you get 10% off and 20% off if you're in your last night's outfit. Good to know for next time.

Hub 51
51 W Hubbard St
(between Dearborn St & Clark St)
Chicago, IL 60610

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

How to Use a Dishwasher

I learned how to stack dishes in a dishwasher from Dane when I went to go visit his family this fall. It's not that I never do dishes, it's just that I've just gotten into the habit of washing them myself and I end up using the dishwasher as the drying rack. So anyhow, Dane told me I was loading them the wrong way.

Lesson # 1, from Dane, was to stack the dirty side of the dishes towards the center. I was trying to stacking them pretty close together in the same direction, to fit as many dishes as I can, but since the water sprays from the center, if you stack them facing out, the water won't reach all of the dishes. I had no clue.

Lesson #2, which I learned from this NYT article. Don't prerinse your dishes before putting them into the dishwasher. I always thought I was helping the dishwasher, but turns out you want enough food particles in there to act as the abrasive. Who knew! So now dirty dishes, in you go, as is.

Lesson # 3 is that you are probably using way more soap than you need.

This article also provides pointers for the washing machine and dryer as well. It's quite informative!

Monday, March 15, 2010

My First Day

Today was my first day at work and I was exhausted when I got home, but was stoked to see this treat in front of my room.

A homemade peanut butter and chocolate chip cookie. I had this with some soy milk. Delish!

My roommate is the greatest. How did I get so lucky? It might be a little tough to post as much as I have been, but I shall try my best. I do have some new Chicago posts, coming your way.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Shortbread Cookies

My aunt said the reason why she loves the Samoas cookie so much is that they are composed of her two favorite cookies: shortbread and coconut macaroons. So since we were making the Samoas and Coconut Macaroons, I figured we might as well do separate shortbread cookies too. My philosophy is you're going to make a mess in the kitchen when baking anyway, so might as well bake as much as you can in one sitting.

Shortbread Cookies
adapted from Ina Garten

3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 to 7 ounces very good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together.

I will warn you, our batch came out really crumbly.

We had left the butter out but it's quite chilly these days so it didn't quite soften as we would have liked, so I just ended up using my hands to soften and warm it up. In the end, the dough came together and we ended up forming three small disks of dough. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.

When you're ready to take it out of the fridge, start flattening out the dough with the plastic wrap still on it. The dough starts to break apart if you unwrap it and roll it out. We flattened it to about an inch thick and started cutting it into 1/2 inch slices. We then cut them in half to make little finger shaped dough pieces.

Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature.

When the cookies are cool, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. We used the leftover chocolate from the Samoas cookies to dip some of the shortbread cookies.

Here is a plate of the cookies we made that night for my aunt and uncle, who stayed up past midnight to eat these cookies. Talk about dedication.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Homemade Girl Scout Samoas Cookies

I made these cookies twice. I first tried making bars out of them with my girlfriends and the second time around, I ended up making individual cookies. The shortbread base is a bit crumbly once it's been baked, so it's hard to cut through them cleanly. So my suggestion is to cut out shapes or at least cut them into bars before baking.

I think if you are trying to make them look exactly like the Samoas cookies, they are going to take some more time, but if you're willing to have fun and play around with it, it will turn out really cute and will be just as tasty. The second time for me was way easier than the first. I've made some adaptations, which I hope will make your first time way easier too. So roll up your sleeves and get baking peeps. You no longer have to wait a year to eat these cookies.

Homemade Samoas (a.k.a. Caramel de-Lites) Cookies
adapted from www.bakingbites.com


Shortbread Base
1 cup butter, soft
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
up to 2 tbsp milk (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Mix in flour, baking powder and salt at a low speed, followed by the vanilla and milk, adding in the milk as needed to make the dough come together without being sticky (I didn't end up adding the milk and it was fine). The dough should come together into a soft, not-too-sticky ball. Add in a bit of extra flour if your dough is very sticky.

Roll the dough (working in two or three batches) to about 1/4-inch thickness (or slightly less) and use cookie cutters to make rounds, bars or shapes.

I asked Jung if he had any round cookie cutters at home and he rummaged through one of his drawers and come up with a bunny and carrot-shaped cookie cutter. These were too adorable not to use, so we decided to make bunny and carrot samoas cookies instead. Very fitting for spring, right?

Place the cookies on a parchment lined or greased baking sheet. Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, until bottoms are lightly browned and cookies are set.

Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

I particularly liked this one. Jung used the leftover dough to make a nose. Too bad it would get covered with caramel and coconuts.

Caramel/Coconut Topping
2 to 3 cups shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
12 to 16-oz good-quality chewy caramels
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp milk or water
8 oz. dark or semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 300. Spread coconut evenly on a baking sheet (preferably one with sides) and toast 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until coconut is golden. Cool on baking sheet, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Jung had a scale on hand so we measured out 12 ounces of caramels. I used about 14 ounces of caramel this time around because the first time I made this, it wasn't sticky enough and wouldn't really hold on to the cookie.

Unwrap the caramels and place in a large microwave-safe bowl with milk or water and salt. Cook on high for 3-4 minutes, stopping to stir a few times to help the caramel melt. When smooth, fold in toasted coconut with a spatula.

It should look like this once you're done. The original recipe called for 3 cups, but again I thought the first time there was too much coconut and not enough caramel, so I omitted a cup of coconut. If you want more coconut, just beware that you will need to add more caramel or else it'll be too dense and won't be sticky enough. If it starts to harden to quickly, reheat the caramel in the microwave for a few seconds.

Using the spatula or a small offset spatula, spread the topping on cooled cookies, using about 2-3 tsp per cookie. Our cookies were bigger so I used a lot more topping, but it ended up covering the cookies perfectly. Reheat caramel for a few seconds in the microwave if it gets too firm to work with.

Jung also suggested we add a layer of caramel in between the cookie and coconut topping to act as the glue, so we peeled about 7 more caramel pieces separately, melted them in a bowl and put a thin layer of caramel in between the cookie and topping and it worked beautifully. Try it out and if your layer sticks without this extra caramel, then this step is not necessary. I left the edges in tact with these cookies because I wanted you to be able to see the shape, but if you are making round ones, just cover the cookie entirely.

While topping sets up, melt chocolate in a small bowl. Heat on high in the microwave in 45 second intervals, stirring thoroughly to prevent scorching. Dip the base of each cookie into the chocolate and place on a clean piece of parchment paper or a flexible, hard surface, like this plastic sheet.

Drizzle the cookies with the remaining chocolate (or melt a bit of additional chocolate, if necessary).

I'll let you in on a little secret. We used a disposable syringe (my uncle's a doctor), filled it with chocolate and drizzled the chocolate that way. But since not many people have disposable syringes on hand (I'd be concerned if you did), transfer the chocolate into a piping bag or a ziplock bag with the corner snipped off and drizzle finished cookies with chocolate. Or if you're lazy like me, just drizzle it with a fork. It'll look more like a Jackson Pollock painting, but it'll still be tasty.

Let the chocolate set completely before storing in an airtight container. The cookies will only peel off cleanly if the chocolate has completely hardened. We put the cookies in the freezer for a few minutes to hasten up the process. These are monster cookies. They are pretty big and thick; they almost look like rice crispy treats. I didn't get to taste them because it was way too late and then I had a plane to catch the next day, but the word at my cousin's is that they are de-lite-ful. =)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Coconut Macaroons

I went over to my aunt's house over the weekend and she loved the Homemade Girl Scout Samoas cookies I made with my girlfriends and asked if I could make her some coconut macaroons. So I came back a few days later with bags of shredded coconut in tow ready to whip up some macaroons.

Jung and I ended up making three batches of cookies that night and I think by the time we were done, it was well past midnight. We're crazy I tell you, but my aunt and uncle loved them, so it was well worth it. It was also really funny to see Brutus, Jung's dog, try to sneak a lick of the butter every so often while we weren't looking.

I made this recipe years ago and I remember it being a little too sweet and it not really holding up its shape, so I read some comments and found that you need to use less condensed milk and also refrigerate the mixture before baking. Someone suggested adding some almond extract as well so we added 1/2 teaspoon and found it a bit too strong, so I halved it in the recipe below.

Coconut Macaroons
adapted from Ina Garten

14 ounce bag of sweetened shredded coconut
14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Combine the coconut, condensed milk (minus 2 tablespoons worth - make some Vietnamese coffee with it later on), vanilla and almond extract in a large bowl. Whip the egg whites and salt on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until they make medium-firm peaks.

Carefully fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Drop the batter onto greased or parchment lined sheet pans using either a 1 3/4-inch diameter ice cream scoop, or 2 teaspoons.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Cool and serve.

These were crispy and golden on the outside and chewy on the inside. My aunt couldn't believe how easy these were to make and how few ingredients were involved. With the slight variations from the original recipe, these were a definite hit.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies

The interesting thing about this recipe is that you put baking soda in hot water. I'm not quite sure what it does. We need some scientists (or Jung) to explain the mechanics of this for me, but all I know is that it makes for some yummy cookies.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Dora (Allrecipes.com)

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons hot water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar (optional)
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream together the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Dissolve baking soda in hot water. Add to batter along with salt.

I read later that if you add a 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar to the batter, it will make for a better looking cookie. It won't have that smooth surface, but it will crack a bit. FYI for next time.

Stir in flour, chocolate chips, and nuts. Drop by large spoonfuls onto ungreased pans. Bake for about 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges are nicely browned. When you take them out of the oven, they look a little puffed, but let them cool a bit and they will settle nicely.

Wonster and I like our cookies a bit underdone so these were perfect. Soft and chewy. Yum, yum! We both agree these were far better than the Nestle Toll House cookies we made before, but not quite as delicious as the NYT cookie. But the NYT cookie takes days to prepare, while this we whipped up in less than 10 minutes.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

I've been busy packing and preparing for my move to Chicago and my friends have been asking, is there anything you want to do before you leave? And my universal answer has been, let's bake cookies! I spent a whole day baking with my girlfriends a few days ago, Wonster came over the other day and in the quest to not waste my last few cups of flour, we managed to crank out a batch of Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies and Chocolate Chip Cookies, which turned out pretty darn delicious. Tomorrow, I'm going over to my cousin's to bake macaroons and Girl Scout Samoas cookies. Man ... I am going to miss these moments. Sniffle, sniffle.

OK, enough sappiness, I know you want to get down to business and figure out, what is the recipe for these glorious cookies. Here they are, courtesy of the Food Network.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Wayne Harley Brachman

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups rolled (old-fashioned) oats
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Set 2 racks in the middle and upper thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, oats, and pecans together with a whisk or fork.

In a large bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together for 30 seconds until blended. Beat in the egg until smooth and barely fluffy. With mixer running on medium high, drizzle in the maple syrup, and vanilla until incorporated. Turn the mixer down to its lowest setting and gradually add the flour-oatmeal mixture.

Blend just to combine, then mix in the chocolate chips. Drop walnut-sized balls of dough onto a nonstick or parchment-lined cookie sheet at 3-inch intervals. With moistened fingers, flatten and round out the cookies a little.

Bake for 9 minutes, turning the pan once for even baking. The cookies are done when they are lightly browned on top. Set the cookie sheets on a rack to cool.


Friday, March 5, 2010

New favorite brunch spots in LA

I've been having really yummy brunches these days, but I keep forgetting my camera so I'm borrowing these pics from other reviewers from yelp.

First up is BLD, which I discovered is super close to where I live. I've never noticed it before though, shame on me. I've gone to Toast and Doughboys many a times, but after awhile, it gets a bit old and the lines are out of control. The line at BLD was not that much better, but I'm always on the hunt for good brunch spots (aside from the usual IHOP which is unavoidable with Papa Choi), so it was worth it.

We had to wait quite a bit so we looked at their menu beforehand and firmly decided on the ricotta blueberry pancakes and the turkey sausage frittata. However, once we got seated, we eyed the couple next to us who was grinning ear to ear and raving about their fried egg sandwich. It looked really good, so we caved and ordered that instead.

The fried egg sandwich ($13) consisted of toasted sourdough bread, nueske's thick cut bacon, gruyere cheese, aioli and a side of potatoes. I feel like I could attempt to make this sandwich at home, but where can I get my hands on some nueske's thick cut bacon? It was thick and salty and paired wonderfully with the runny, golden egg yolk. Oh my lord. Wanda and I thought it was a bit oily and couldn't figure out where it was coming from, but now that I read the ingredient list, I think it was from the aioli, which melted from the heat.

Wanda and I also shared the Ricotta Blueberry Pancakes ($13), which were so fluffy and light. It was served with warm butter and Berkshire maple syrup, which was housed in a cute log cabin tin. Adorable!

I am usually not a big fan of pancakes because they end up tasting a bit bready and dry and I end up dousing the whole thing in syrup, but these made a believer out of me. I need this recipe pronto.

My second recommendation is the Alcove Cafe and Bakery in Los Feliz. We came here after hiking in Griffith Park. It's an outdoor cafe and it feels like you are eating in the front porch of someone's house. It kind of reminded me of The Cottage in La Jolla. They have tables out in front of the cafe and all along the sides. It's a cute place to just sit out and enjoy the California sun with a newspaper in hand and some yummy breakfast.

Wanda got the peach crepes ($11.95), which had about 4 thin crepes stuffed with fresh whipped cream infused with espresso and caramelized peaches. It definitely was not enough food for breakfast, but would be a tasty snack or dessert to share. I couldn't find a picture of the crepes.

James got the crab cake benedict ($13.95). It had Maryland style crab cakes made from sweet blue crab meat, fresh spinach, two poached eggs on focaccia with hollandaise and fresh chives.

I ordered the cobb omelette ($12.95), which had grilled chicken, applewood smoked bacon, point reyes blue cheese, tomato and avocado in it. I don't know why no one thought to make a cobb salad into an omelette before, but it's genius I tell you, genius!

They also had a huge dessert case and I am pretty sure they get their cakes from Susina. Usually when my friends have a hunkering for dessert, Susina is my go-to place, but their tables fill up pretty quick, so I think I'll take them to Alcove next time. They have the same desserts and you can sit outside on a warm night.

7450 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Alcove Cafe & Bakery
1929 Hillhurst Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Gorbals - Los Angeles, CA (Downtown)

Wanda and I met up for dinner last month and she had suggested that we try Scottish tapas. Scottish tapas? I've never heard of such a thing, but it sounded weird enough, so of course I said yes.

The Gorbals' chef and owner is Ilan Hall, the winner of Season Two of Top Chef. I didn't watch that season, but I had high expectations and maybe that was my mistake going into this. The Gorbals is in the old Alexandria Hotel in downtown LA. The only thing that hints of a restaurant here is a chalkboard sign outside and a small black sign above the doorway inside. It's quite an interesting set up.

Inside is a small cozy space filled with wooden tables and an open kitchen. Despite being open for now almost 6 months, the place still felt really bare to me and even barer, when there are empty tables and chairs nearby. Maybe it was a slow night, we were there on a weeknight after all, but I hope they are a bit livelier on the weekends.

The menu is composed of small, savory plates that reflect Hall's Scottish and Jewish upbringing. We ordered a couple dishes to share. We got the Crispy Broccoli with soy, chilies & vinegar ($7). I could probably venture a guess that this is not a Scottish or Jewish dish, but it was still pretty good. It was flash fried, causing the broccoli florets to almost crumble in your mouth. It's a sure fire way to get anyone to like eating broccoli, but I must warn you, eat this fast, because if you let it sit, all you end up tasting later on is the oil.

This is the Gribenes, Lettuce and Tomato (GLT) sandwich ($7). Chef Hall uses gribenes - crisp chicken skin - as a replacement for bacon in this classic sandwich. It's one of those dishes that is nice in theory, but you soon realize that there's a reason why the B in BLT stuck and not the G. There was an odd poultry smell to it that just wasn't that pleasant and the skin wasn't quite crispy enough and not as satisfying as eating into a thick slice of crisp bacon. The gribenes doesn't quite hold its own here.

The potato latkes ($7), on the other hand, were a classic done well. They came out crispy and warm with a delicious homemade apple sauce.

The bacon-wrapped matzo balls ($5) were highly recommended by the waitress. They came stacked high with a weird pink sauce on the bottom, which was supposed to be horseradish mayonnaise. Why it's pink, I have no idea. I could barely taste the horseradish in this. There is no way this can be kosher, but it was still quite tasty. But frankly, you can wrap anything around bacon and it'll taste good, no?

For dessert, we shared the sticky toffee pudding with ice cream and maldon salt ($7). The ice cream was a tangy yogurt that paired well with the sweet and salty aspects of the toffee pudding.

Overall, I didn't love it like I had hoped and perhaps we ordered wrong, but everything ended up being fried and a bit too greasy. Nothing really stuck out as particularly memorable either. Jonathan Gold, however, recently declared The Gorbals' Dill Fries as one of 99 Things to Eat in L.A Before You Die. I didn't see dill fries on the menu for dinner, so maybe they only serve it for lunch. Perhaps the fries alone are worth a revisit.

The Gorbals
501 S Spring St
Los Angeles, CA 90013