Saturday, February 23, 2013

Pretzel and Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies

Raise your hands if you watch the show Girls on HBO.  Both of my hands are emphatically raised right now (Newt is dictating) because not only do I watch the show -- I adore the show.  I know a lot of people don't like it.  Maybe it's because it presents the truth like a slap in the face and that could be hard for some people.  

You may have seen Lena Dunham stumbling around in her heels accepting Golden Globes recently (at least I can walk in heels better than she can although she's still beating me in the winning-Golden Globes category).  The first season was magical and, although this second season has had some hit and miss moments, I still find it strikingly relevant.  

It's one of those shows that if I were more brave, I would watch with my mother or father and be like "This is the truth.  Ignore all the white noise of nudity and profanity one encounters during each episode and know that I felt (let's be honest -- still regularly feel) this way."  But I am still not comfortable enough to watch nudity on TV with my parents.  But that's an issue for another day. 

In the meantime, order HBO.  Or, 'borrow' someone's HBO Go password (thanks Mr. and Mrs. Samuel!) and watch it.  There's only ten episodes to a season.  Each episode is 30 minutes and there has only been one full season.  We are through the sixth episode of the second season.  Catch up!  You can do it!

In a recent episode, there is a scene where the main character Hannah is interviewing for a job.  There is a picture frame on a wall with nothing in it and written on the wall outside of the frame are the words "Where the magic happens."  In a comical exchange, we learn that the picture frame represents one's 'comfort zone' and the 'magic happens' outside of said comfort zone. Although this may not seem like the most clever situation ever written within a TV series, it is an example of how the show reinvents old-fashioned cliches into charming coming-of-age themes for the ubiquitous generations X and Y.   
Some may see this scene and apply it to their jobs or their goals in life.  Hannah used it as an excuse to do cocaine for the first time.  I apply the scene to cookies.  In a blog of standard cakes and brownies, I am going to go outside that picture frame and experience the magic by pushing the envelope on what constitutes a classic chocolate chip cookie.  With pretzels and butterscotch.  BOOM.

Pretzel and Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup salted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pretzels
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325F degrees.

Mix your flour and baking soda in a bowl and set aside. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars together. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and mix well. Gradually add the flour mixture and stir until a dough forms.  Fold in the pretzels, butterscotch chips, and chocolate chips.*  Do not overmix the dough.

Chill dough for at least 30 minutes (or up to 5 days) in the refrigerator.  Drop by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 8-12 minutes or until edges are slightly browned.  Mine took around 12 minute range but I was luxuriating in a bigger kitchen at the time with a bigger oven.

*This is a great recipe to make with a child.  I tackled it with my nephew John and he loved chopping the pretzels and adding in all the chips and pretzels.  Use a ¼ cup measuring cup to make the ½ cup pours twice as time consuming.  

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Beef and Sausage Stew

Another cold spell is coming!  Now that we are in the middle of February, I am making sure to milk all these cold days for what they are worth.  After last week's snowfall (9.5 inches!) and Sunday's high temperature expected to be below freezing, I am living it up. Before I know it I'll see nothing but double-digit numbers that begin with 8 or 9 in the forecast with equally as dismal humidity and air pressure numbers.  (I watch a lot of "Wake up with Al.")  And I'll be reminded of how gross the human body can be when one doesn't take a shower three times a day like I do between the months of May and October.

Speaking of how gross the human body is, apparently they get very disgusting on a cruise ship that's lost all power and is floating through the Gulf of Mexico.  Probably not the greatest vacation ever but I bet there was never a group of people more excited to see Mobile, Alabama in recent history.  Other wacky news includes the meteor that HIT. EARTH.  I should note that I am not, in any way, an expert on astral things other than my obsession with Van Morrison's Astral Weeks album but, knowing how big the universe allegedly is, this story scares the beejezus out of me.   Now I have to add 'meteor' to my 'things-to-watch-out-for' list when I walk out of my house every day.

Oh, and Duke beat UNC in basketball this week.  This was neither wacky, nor unexpected but I wanted to make sure I included it.

So let's have some stew!  This stew has half a dozen types of meat in it.

Not really, just two - but they are two substantial meats. Although it was delicious, I would leave out one of these next time and save my arteries the agony.  I would also use precooked sausage (as the recipe calls for but which I failed to notice).  I used homemade sausage that had not been cooked and this certainly added a richness to the stew that is probably not expected when you follow the original directions.  And in typical winter weather fashion, this is a slow cooker recipe.  

It will be a sad day when I put it up for the season.  Side note - I spy Newt.  

Beef and Sausage Stew

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-puprose flour, divided
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 pounds beef for stew, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 can (16 ounces) diced tomatoes in juice, undrained
3 red potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 pound smoked sausage, sliced
1 cup chopped leek
1 1/3 cup sliced white mushrooms (I added these, the original recipe called for a chopped onion)
4 ribs celery, sliced
1/2 cup chicken broth
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons water

Put 1/2 cup flour, salt and pepper in a large sealable bag.  Shake so it is well mixed.  Add beef.  Shake again until beef is coated with flour mixture.  Put beef in your slow cooker.  Add remaining ingredients except the 2 tablespoons of flour and 3 tablespoons of water.  stir well.  Cover and cook on Low for 8 to 12 hours or on high 4 to 6 hours.  One hour before serving, remove the lid and skim of any excess fat should you have used uncooked sausage (like I did).  Combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour with the 3 tablespoons of water in a small bowl.  Stir until becomes a paste.  Add the paste to the stew and mix well.  Cover.  Turn slow cooker to High and cook until thickened.  

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Red Cabbage Glazed with Maple Syrup

I adore snow.  People up here think I’m crazy.  I was convinced that everywhere but New York City would see more snow than me this winter and I assumed it was my fault.  I tend to repel snow (except the infamous blizzard of Christmas 2010 where Chesapeake/Virginia Beach got over a foot of snow, stranding Robbie and me from Christmas, Part Deux with my family – luckily my parents didn’t give my gifts away).

Last winter (my first winter here) was one of the mildest winters in New York City and this winter seemed to be heading in the same direction.  We’ve had some really cold spells but I don’t mind the cold either.  I have a jacket that looks like I’m walking around in a sleeping bag so I can cope.  I can’t hear anything and my peripheral vision becomes obsolete but that’s ok. 

There were rumblings at the beginning of this week about snow at the end of the week.  I got semi-excited.  But then, when I heard Al Roker say “Nor’easter” and “Clipper” in the same sentence, I immediately perked up.  This could be big.  We went from the 3 – 6 inches range, to the 3 – 30 inch range (quite a range), to the 12-18 inch range and ended up in the 6-12 inch range.  Enough to make everything pretty and white and not so much that my weekend is ruined.  I’d say it was a pretty perfect situation.  Side note – I have yet to step outside since yesterday afternoon so I may change my mind the first time I step out into the street into what appears to be asphalt and is actually six inches of dirty snow water . . .

Here’s something else I love that may seem strange – cabbage.  And when you bake cabbage with maple syrup and apples a wonderful thing happens.  It becomes sweet and soft with a wonderful tender texture.  Throw an egg on top and you have yourself a complete meal.  And that striking red from the cabbage looks great against the backdrop of a snowy evening.  
Red Cabbage Glazed with Maple Syrup

5 slices bacon
1 onion
1 medium firm, tart apple (I used a Granny Smith)
1/2 a head of a good size-red cabbage (or as much as you want, you could use a lot more if you like)
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup maple syrup (the original called for 1/2 cup maple syrup but you don't need this much if you use just 1/2 a head of cabbage)
salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice your bacon and then saute until crisp in a cast iron skillet (or some other ovenproof casserole dish).   Mince your onion and slice your apple.  Prepare your head of cabbage by removing the outer leaves and the core.  Shred the remainder.  Add the onion and saute until translucent.  Add the remaining ingredients, cover with foil, and transfer to the oven.  Bake for 30 minutes.