Sunday, March 23, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sure, chocolate chip cookies are ubiquitous. But there's a good reason for that! When it's a cold night in the bleak midwinter, a warm batch of gooey chocolate chip cookies are just what a body needs to begin to look on the bright side of things. Send the kids to their baths, make your dough, eat a few bites before it pops into the oven, and when the kids come down all squeaky clean and jammied, they'll love you more than ever. As a matter of fact, seems to me they should call 'em "chocolate chip cookie points."

Make sure your butter is softened before you start, and begin with room temp ingredients. I also like to use parchment paper on my cookie sheets for a nice, even baking. At 375F, I find that 11 minutes and 30 seconds is just right for a soft, golden brown cookie.

Don't forget that delicious raw milk!


Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies

2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup light sugar, packed
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375F. Combine flour, baking soda and salt and set aside. In a large bowl, beat the softened butter until smooth, add brown and white sugars, then beat until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs, on at a time, mixing on low speed. Add vanilla. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture little by little, mixing just until all of the flour is absorbed. Add the chocolate chips and the nuts, and mix. Drop tablespoons of dough onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake for 11.5 minutes at 375F, or until golden brown.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Macaroni and Cheese--the Original Comfort food!

Recently my daughter's choral ensemble was hosting a lunch for the singers, and someone had requested a macaroni bar--a sort of buffet featuring different types of macaroni dishes. My contribution was homemade macaroni and cheese, a favorite around here that is much creamier and tastier than that blue box stuff. Experiment with the combinations of cheeses for your own unique dish!


Homemade Macaroni and Cheese
Serves a large family or a small family with guests

4 cups elbow macaroni
8 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
2 cups grated Vermont sharp cheddar (white cheese)
8 ounces cubed flavorful melting cheese, cut into small cubes
(optional) 1 cup crumbled Ritz crackers and 2 tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Butter a 13x9x2 baking dish (I use my stone cookware and then I don't butter it)
Cook the macaroni according to the al dente package directions. Drain and spread into your baking dish.
Melt the butter slowly, then whisk in the flour, mixing completely. Add milk.
Stir until it's smooth and thick.
Add the grated cheddar; stir until melted.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add the sauce to the macaroni in the baking dish, stirring until the sauce is evenly distributed over the macaroni.
Evenly distribute the chunks of cheese throughout the macaroni. It won't be melted just yet, but will melt as you bake the dish.
At this point, you can cover the top of the macaroni with the crushed crackers and dot with 2 tablespoons of butter, if you like. I don't care for it, so I leave it off, but you could do it half and half the first time to see which one you like best.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until it's lightly browned and very bubbly.
Serve with hunks of buttered bread and a fresh salad. Yum!

Adapted from The Tasha Tudor Cookbook.