Sunday, September 30, 2012

Peanut Butter Filled Chocolate Chip Cookies

You guys...I made an awesome discovery today. I may never look at chocolate chip cookies the same again - they are now exclusively a vehicle for peanut butter. See, I have a little bit of a chocolate/peanut butter problem, and I am not ashamed. For example, one of my friends in college introduced me to the amazing combination of chocolate pudding and peanut butter. Seriously, we would sit there with a container of pudding and a container of peanut butter and scoop them onto the same spoon, and it was incredible. These cookies are just another representation of that beautiful marriage between these two ingredients!

Now, I totally cheated and used cookie dough that was pre-made from Berkeley Bowl, our local grocery store. It's from a local, organic-focused store so it's ok, right? That's not to say I never make cookies from scratch; I have the Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookie memorized. Anyway, you can use pre-made dough too or make it yourself using this recipe:

Chocolate Chip Cookies:

2 1/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I always use 2 teaspoons though)
2 eggs
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
*The original recipe calls for nuts but I really don't like them interfering with the purity of my cookie dough. If you want to, you can use 1 cup chopped walnuts.

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl or using a mixer, beat the butter, both types of sugar, and vanilla extract until creamy. Add the eggs and beat until they are well incorporated. Slowly add in the flour mixture and stir until combined, then add in the chocolate chips and nuts if you're using them.

Ok, now that you have your cookie dough ready, you should probably sample a bite to make sure it tastes good (duh). Now for the fun part! Scoop out about 3 tablespoons of dough -you can estimate on that, basically just a huge scoop. Then flatten out the dough using the palm of your hand so it's about 1/2 inch thick, and mold it into kind of an oval shape, like the picture below.

Dollop a hefty scoop of peanut butter onto one half of the oval. I used salted natural peanut butter and it worked great, though you could use whatever you have on hand.

Then fold over the un-peanut buttered half to form a ball and seal the edges off so no peanut butter escapes. Repeat using the rest of the dough.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 6-8 minutes or until just brown on top - my philosophy on cookies is that they should be just barely cooked in the middle and a little crisp on the outside.

These are soooo good, especially right out of the oven.

See that little pocket of peanut butter in the middle?!

This was just too funny not to share - Gabe was working from home earlier in the week and competing for couch space with Poppy. I think it's pretty clear who won that battle...look at that smug look on her face!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fall Vegetable Lasagna

Hi guys! Long time no blog! 

So, I need to preface this post with a little personal story. This week, Jack's Mannequin announced that they will be (amicably) disbanding. If you knew me in high school, you'll know I was just a little bit obsessed with this band. At one of their earliest shows - a TINY show at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco, I got to meet Andrew, the lead singer and pianist, who puts on the best live show I've ever seen (photo of us below - check out my baby face!). Not long after that, he was diagnosed with leukemia and underwent a stem cell transplant the same week that Jack's Mannequin's first album came out. Fortunately he made a full recovery and has continued making amazing music ever since. His songs were the soundtrack to Gabe's and my early dating years in high school, and they played over the radio as we drove up and down the coast of California to visit each other during college. 

Last year, we got to meet him together and tell him how much his music meant to us - it was such an awesome experience!

Anyway, thanks Andrew for the music, and thanks to everyone else for listening to me ramble! Now on to the recipe...

I've been noticing lately that it's getting dark earlier, and the morning air is just a little bit colder than usual. This can only mean one thing: it's lasagna season! I mean, fall!

Seriously though, I think lasagna is the ultimate comfort food - pasta, sweet tomato sauce, gooey cheese, and fall vegetables (and/or meat if you so choose). I whipped up a pan of it earlier this week and I'm not ashamed to say that Gabe and I ate half of it in one sitting. For this recipe, I used some late summer squash and zucchini, but you can substitute in whatever you'd like!

Fall Vegetable Lasagna:
1 package lasagna noodles (approx. 1 pound)
4 small-medium squash, halved and thinly sliced
4 small-medium zucchini, halved and thinly sliced
About 2 cups white mushrooms, thinly sliced
3 cups tomato sauce
3 cups (at least!) mozzarella cheese, grated

Start by cooking the lasagna noodles according to the package directions. For some reason these noodles always stick together, so make sure you add a few tablespoons of olive oil to the pasta water. Drain the noodles and let them cool.

Thinly slice your vegetables - you don't want them too thick otherwise they won't cook in the lasagna. 

Then the fun part - lasagna assembly! I start by spreading about 3 heaping spoonfuls of tomato sauce in the bottom of a pan (usually a 9 by 13 pan is the best but I used a pie pan here and made a smaller lasagna). Then add a layer of noodles, another layer of sauce, and on top of that a layer of vegetables. Spread a generous amount of grated cheese over the veggies, then cover it all with noodles. Continue with this noodles-sauce-veggies-cheese pattern until your pan can't hold any more! Top it all off with some more sauce and cheese which will get nice and crispy in the oven...mmm.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 40-45 minutes, or until it's bubbly and brown on top. 

I don't even know what to say about this and staging courtesy of Gabe:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Vanilla Bean Smoked Porter French Toast

Ok, I must forewarn you that this is a very beer-heavy post. If you don't like beer, I'm sorry...maybe you'll enjoy my pictures at least? Anyway, last weekend, Gabe and I went to Point Reyes with some friends. But first we made a stop at our favorite brewery in the area (Gabe's favorite brewery ever, maybe?!): Lagunitas! We got a massive sampler, had some delicious food, and enjoyed the sun on the patio.

From there, we headed to the coast and drove along Tomales Bay, stopping at the Marshall Store for oysters! They were super local, from Hog Island Oysters just up the road. Seriously, so good! Plus it was a gorgeous sunny day out on the water, which can be hard to come by in that area.

So pretty


Anyway, the food and beer filled long weekend continued on Monday with some Vanilla Bean Smoked Porter French Toast. I know, beer for breakfast, kind of weird. Let me assure you, it was soo tasty! Let me also assure you, you will not get drunk or even tipsy from this, so it is perfectly appropriate to eat for breakfast. We used Stone Brewing's Vanilla Bean Smoked Porter, sadly a one time release. It lends a dark, smoky, chocolatey character to the french toast - unusual but delicious! If you can't find this beer, you could use any porter or stout (maybe Maui Brewing Co's Coconut Porter?? Yum!). The recipe serves two to four people, depending how hungry you are.

Vanilla Bean Porter French Toast (slightly adapted from The Beeroness)
1.5 cups milk
1 cup Vanilla Bean Smoked Porter (or beer of your choice)
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 medium to large loaf french bread, thickly sliced
Butter...lots of it! To cook the french toast in, of course

Beer in my favorite pint glass from Eagle Rock Brewery

The recipe really couldn't be easier....

Just combine the milk, beer, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a shallow bowl. Dip the bread slices into the mixture and make sure they soak up a lot of liquid. Melt a big pat of butter in a frying pan and cook the bread slices over medium heat, flipping so they brown evenly on both sides.

Serve with your favorite topping - maple syrup, fruit, powdered sugar, or all of the above!

Have I ever mentioned Poppy's love for chips? A rustle of the plastic bag and she comes galloping over. No wonder she's a little chubby...