Chocolate Chip Cookies: The recipe is in my head!


The well-used recipe

I have a whole recipe box full of recipes for all kinds of cookies, but 99.9% of the time when I’m baking cookies, I choose my tried and true chocolate chip. I’ve made these cookies so much that I have the recipe memorized – no need to get out the battered and grubby-looking  recipe card, although I sometimes do just to make sure I haven’t missed anything. This recipe is adapted from the original Toll House Cookie recipe  (what do toll houses have to do with cookies anyway?) that appeared on the back of the Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chip package 37 years ago. One of my modifications was to add extra chocolate chips, because, let’s face it, that is the REAL reason why we eat chocolate chip cookies. This makes a large batch of cookies, unless you eat too many samples of the dough during baking. (Yes, I know the FDA, CDC, NAACP and FAA do not recommend eating raw cookie dough. But c’mon – is there anyone who doesn’t do this?)

1 1/3 cups Crisco or other vegetable shortening, softened

1 cup white sugar

2 cups light brown sugar, packed

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 teaspoons water

Cream together the above ingredients with a large mixing spoon. 

Then add:

4 large eggs

1 1/2 packages of semi-sweet chocolate chips (12 ounce packages)

Mix well. If you like to have nuts in your cookies,  add those now as well.

Add the chocolate chips before adding the dry ingredients - much easier to mix in!

Add the following dry ingredients,  adding about half of the ingredients, stir, then add the rest:

4 1/2 cups white flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons salt

After dough is thoroughly mixed, drop by tablespoon-full onto cookie sheets covered with parchment paper.

Use a tablespoon or a cookie dough scoop.

Bake 375 degrees Farenheit for 10 minutes and 10 seconds. Cookies will puff up and appear to be underdone when removed from the oven. Allow cookies to rest on the cookie sheet a few minutes to finish baking, and they will be soft, but completely done. Enjoy.

Yum!

 © Huffygirl 2011

Passing on a family tradition: the family pasty recipe


Mom, the original pasty maker, with her first-born son.

Here’s my mother-in-law’s recipe for Cornish pasties, with my modifications. It works best to make pasties with a team: one person rolling out the dough, the other person filling the pasties.

 

 

Crust:

2 cups all-purpose  flour

1 teaspoon salt

a pinch (about 1/8 teaspoon) baking powder

2/3 cup vegetable shortening (Crisco or similar)

1/2 to 2/3 cup cold water

Place dry ingredients into the bowl of a food processor with the standard chopping blade. Add shortening. Pulse food processor until shortening is mixed in, to the consistency of thick cornmeal. Do not over mix! Pour cold water through the chute while pulsing processor, until dough begins to form a ball. Remove dough, divide into two balls, wrap in wax paper and set aside.

Meat filling:

sirloin steak or round steak, about 1  1/2 to 2 #, cut into 1-2 inch cubes  (I use sirloin)

1 small onion, cubed

5-8 red-skin potatoes, washed or peeled,  and cubed

6-10 large carrots, scraped and cubed

1-2 sticks of regular margarine or butter

salt and pepper

In bowl of food processor with standard chopping blade, pulse the meat and onion until finely chopped. Set aside in large mixing bowl. Repeat with most of the carrots,  and most of the potatoes, adding to the meat mixture. Stir the meat mixture with a large spoon. Add more carrots or potatoes until the mixture looks like a good balance of meat to potatoes and carrots. 

On counter or table, set up the following  work areas:

Dough area: pastry cloth with rolling pin and rolling pin cover;  flour,  pie dough balls, sharp knife

 Filling area: wax paper or cutting board; fork, knife, margarine, salt and pepper, and small spatula

Two-three large cookie sheets covered with parchment paper

My first-born son at work in the dough prep area.

With sharp knife, cut each pie crust ball into 6-8 pieces, depending on how big you want the pasties to be. Roll out each piece into a circle; fold in half and pass to the  filling area. Do not knead or over-handle dough, or it will become tough and dry.

At filling area, unfold dough. Fill one side of the dough with the meat filling; cut one pat of margarine and place on top of filling; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fold dough over to form a half-moon shaped pie. Fold up crust edge against the pasty.  (You can trim excess dough with a pizza cutter if there is too much, but I don’t). Poke 6 times with fork; use spatula to transfer to cookie sheet.

Pasty dough with filling.

Bake pasties at 350 degrees farenheit, for about 60 minutes. Crust should be lightly browned. Makes 12-15 pasties. Enjoy!

The finished product. Yum!

© Huffygirl 2011

Passing on a family tradition: Making pasties


Okay, first, it’s pah-stee, not pAy-stee. I’m talking about food. Pasties, or Cornish pasties, are self-contained meat pies. Legend has it that the pasty was brought to this country by immigrants from Cornwall, England, who came here to work  in the mining industry, in the upper peninsula of Michigan and upper Minnesota. The miner’s wives made this tasty delicacy with a mix of meat, potatoes, onions, and rutabaga, wrapped in pie crust. The miners would tuck a towel-wrapped pasty into their pockets and take them to work, where they would stay delightfully warm until lunch time. Right.

I can’t speak for Minnesotans, but anyone raised in Michigan, or anyone who has traveled to the upper peninsula, should know what a pasty is. Michiganders know that the best pasties are found the farther north you go of the Mackinac bridge. In fact we all heard the expression growing up “you can’t get good pasties this side of the bridge.” Today you CAN buy pasties south of the bridge, usually at local diner-type restaurants, but I contend the best ones are still north of the bridge (Houghton maybe) although we have found good pasties in St. Ignace, just across the bridge, at a mom and pop store that sells pasties, fudge, magazines and bait.

My husband’s family got their pasty traditions from the family roots in Duluth, Minnesota. Shortly before we were married, my future mother-in-law schooled my husband and me in the art of making pasties, thinking she couldn’t let her first-born son starve to death with a wife who didn’t know how to make a pasty. There was no recipe – just Mom’s tutelage in making and rolling out the dough, spending what seemed like hours dicing up meat, potatoes and carrots (no rutabaga in this family’s pasties), filling the crust, trimming and baking.

Since that day many years ago I’ve added my own refinements – I no longer trim the dough into a neat half-circle as my mother-in-law did – it just wastes dough and time and adds nothing to the finished product. I now use one pat of margarine instead of two (cholesterol conscious I guess) and cut the prep time at least by half by chopping all the ingredients and making the dough in the food processor. Things aren’t diced as evenly and prettily, but hey, I’ve got better things to do than standing in the kitchen dicing half the day. And it still tastes great.

Recently, best husband and I passed on the tradition by teaching our first-born son how to make pasties. Besides explaining the basics, we passed on all the little tips that we’ve gleaned from making pasties over the years. I feel better knowing that someday when I die, I will have at least passed on the secret nuances of pasty-making that one will never learn  from reading  a recipe, hopefully to be passed on again and again, so the family pasty tradition will remain alive.

Recipe to follow.

Two generations of pasty makers: husband and first-born son.

© Huffygirl 2011

The world’s best club sandwich


I’ve just eaten one-quarter of the world’s best and most authentic club sandwich. My only wish is that I had taken the photo before I started to eat it, so everyone could see what the world’s best club sandwich should look like: a  glorious presentation  on a delicate floral china plate, with a crisp pickle spear, and crunchy chips heaped in the center. Really, this is how it should be, but nowadays seldom is. What most restaurants (and by most I mean the dominant American restaurants, the dreaded chain restaurants) pass off as a club sandwich is this: toasted bread, only two layers, thinly sliced deli turkey, bacon, greenhouse tomatoes, and, the worst insult ever, American cheese. No, no no. A club sandwich should be like this one: a triple-decker sandwich with  thick slabs of real white meat turkey, juicy vine-ripened tomatoes, crisp green Romaine lettuce, bacon, and never, ever, ever, cheese.

So where did I find the world’s best club sandwich? I’m sitting in the waterfront dining area of The Carriage House, a charming Mackinac Island restaurant snuggled so close to the Hotel Iroquois that we almost didn’t find  it. We discovered it on a nighttime walk, snooped around the back, saw the waterfront seating area, and decided to come back during the daytime for lunch. Besides a great atmosphere and the world’s best club sandwich, we had a terrific view of the harbor, Victorian homes on the east bluff, and a pair  parasailing. What could be a better lunch than that?

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© Huffygirl 2011

Yummy bran muffins


Yummy bran muffins

I bet you never thought yummy and bran belong in the same sentence. What   makes the difference in these muffins is the yummy secret ingredients that  offset the blandness of the bran. Before you go down the Metamucil pathway to get your fiber, try these muffins. Bran can be a pretty potent fiber, so start out by limiting yourself to one a day.

The original recipe came from the side of the Kellogg’s Bran Buds Cereal box, many, many years ago. I’ve made a few changes and have switched to using All-Bran Cereal, because Bran Buds is either no longer made, or not available in my area.

Yummy Bran Muffins

1 1/2 cups Kellogg’s All Bran Cereal

1 1/4 cups skim milk, soy milk or rice milk (I used rice milk)

1 egg

1/3 cup olive oil or canola oil

Not quite yummy-looking yet!

Pour bran cereal into a medium mixing bowl. Add egg, milk and oil, stir. Allow to sit for 2-5 minutes, until bran cereal is softened and mushy-looking. (It looks bad at this point, but it will get better.)

Stir in 1/2 cup white sugar, and

1/2 to 1 cup of  yummy secret ingredients:  chocolate chips, chopped dried cherries or apricots, chopped nuts, raisins, currents, sunflower seeds, blueberries, diced apples or bananas, or any  combination of above.

Add:

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt.

Mix ingredients until all are moistened. Dough will be quite thick.

Line a regular-size muffin pan with muffin papers, and fill muffin cups 3/4 to 7/8 full. Bake 400 degrees Fahrenheit, about 22 minutes. Cool on baking rack. Makes 12 regular size muffins.

Yummy bran muffins ready to eat

Related post:
© Huffygirl

America’s Love Affair With Cheese


English: Individually wrapped slices of Americ...

Image via Wikipedia

Why is America so obsessed with cheese, and when did this happen? In the good old days when I was a kid, cheese was something we put on pizza, and occasionally on hamburgers, but usually did not. Why cover up the juicy taste of the burger with slippery, cheesy cheese? Plus, ordering cheese on your burger in a restaurant cost extra, and we were practical people who did not spend extra money on something we had at home in the refrigerator, that we could eat anytime we wanted for almost nothing.

And there, in part, lies the answer – restaurants put cheese on everything because they can charge more for it. Remember the catch phrase “you want fries with that?” We don’t get asked that as much, because now we have “combo meals” which automatically include the fries and two-gallon cup of soda. Now in order to up-sell, we have to ask the question “do you want cheese on that?”

Now I have nothing against cheese. Cheese is in fact yummy. Cheese consumption keeps cows and dairy farmers in business. Cheese gives us calcium and protein. Cheese also gives us calories.  Lots of them.  The calories come mainly from fat, which by the way, also gives us cholesterol. Fat content varies among different cheeses, depending upon the amount and kind of milk used in its production.

“The fat content of cheeses varies widely, mainly because of the type of milk (e.g., whole, reduced fat, non-fat) and milk product (e.g., cream) used to make cheese. Non-fat cottage cheese contains less than 0.5 g per 4-ounce serving, whereas a serving of Cheddar cheese (1.5 oz.) contains 14 g of fat. A high-fat cheese, such as cream cheese, is always enriched with cream and as such contains a greater proportion of fat than protein. Cheeses such as Cheddar, Brie, blue, Limburger, Muenster, Gouda, and Swiss are generally made from whole milk and have about the same amount of fat and protein.” http://www.nationaldairycouncil.org/NationalDairyCouncil/Nutrition/Products/cheesePage5.htm

Are we Americans really eating more cheese now than we did in the good old days, aka when I was a kid? The answer seems to be a resounding yes.

“Average U.S. cheese consumption nearly tripled between 1970 and 2003, from 11 pounds per person to 31 pounds. In 2000 (the latest year for which nutrient data are available), cheese contributed 26 percent of the calcium in the U.S. diet (up from 11 percent in 1970), 12 percent of the saturated fat (up from 5 percent in 1970), and 16 percent of the sodium (up from 6 percent in 1970).” http://www.ers.usda.gov/amberwaves/february05/findings/CheeseConsumption.htm

The most commonly used cheese in America seems to be so-called “American cheese”,  those slices that come in individual cellophane wrappings, which I’m sure contribute to clogging up our landfills with plastic, a topic for another time. American cheese is not really cheese at all, but processed cheese. Processed cheese, also called cheese food, cheese product, or cheese spread, is made by taking scraps of cheese left over from cheese manufacturing, and adding emulsifiers, preservatives, water, salt, artificial coloring  and artificial flavor, to form a somewhat palatable, cheese-like substance, that holds up well to cooking temperatures, and has a long shelf-life. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Processed_cheese)

So Americans are basically becoming fat by eating the cheese industry’s leftover scraps, fluffed up with artificial flavors, and colors, the veritable “chicken nuggets” of the cheese industry.

I am allergic to dairy foods, so I find the American obsession with cheese particularly vexing. Try to go to a restaurant and order something that doesn’t have cheese on it. Appetizers? Again, another ploy to make people fat, and food that definitely should be avoided. But say you worked out hard today and can handle an appetizer without going over your daily calorie budget. What are the choices? Potato skins, bruschetta, nachos, mozzarella sticks, all cheese, cheese, cheese. Most salads come with some kind of cheese, and when I find one that I think will not have cheese, but ask just to make sure, I’m always assured that they will be happy to put cheese on it. Many entrees that are not a good old hunk of meat, have cheese in some form – sprinkled on top, in a sauce, or mixed in with the other ingredients. Pasta, which I once thought was safe with its tomato-based sauce, will almost always have cheese sprinkled on top, and often added to the sauce.

Try this experiment – try to go a week, a month or a year without eating cheese. Recently others have parlayed this trend into literary achievements, by choosing to behave a certain way or go without something for a year, then writing about it.  A.J. Jacobs wrote The Year of Living Biblically, a hilarious recounting of his year spent living as closely as possible to Biblical rules. Sara Bongiorni wrote A Year Without Made in China, in which the author and her family spent a year (with much difficulty) trying to only purchase items that were not made in China.

Start by doing this: go to a restaurant. Try to order an appetizer, entrée and dessert that do not include cheese (including cream cheese – no cheesecake for you!) Then try it in a fast-food restaurant – this gets more difficult. Then a pizza restaurant.  Okay, you can have cheese on the pizza, but not more than once a week, and no extra cheese, no cheese crust, and no bread sticks (they are usually sprinkled with cheese). Do this repeatedly. After awhile, you’ll feel fatigued from asking if (insert menu item here) has cheese on it, and fending off aggressive server’s attempts to add cheese for you. Then go another week, and another. Do the same at home – no cheese and nachos, no cheese on salad, no mac and cheese, ravioli, “Hot pockets”, pizza pockets,  and so on. If you tend to be on the overweight side, I bet you’ll start to notice a dip on the scale, without making any other changes in your lifestyle, except for going cheese-free.  Post your comments on the no-cheese challenge and how it affected you.

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