Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pecan Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

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These cookies were requested by my husband.  Poor guy doesn't always get what he asks for.  The majority of the time I'm thinking about you all and wondering what recipe you want to see next or keeping in mind what holiday is approaching and the recipes you're going to be in need of.  So when he has a particular craving he wants satisfied, I often say "sure I'll make it" and am guilty of forgetting about it later.  It's time I dust off his list of recipe requests and surprise him with a few treats this week!

My husband's sweet tooth has been most neglected.  Due to my very busy wedding filled Spring I've been taking a bit of a break from desserts.  They're more time consuming to blog and so as a result, have been making infrequent appearances.  So when I was thinking about what recipes to make him, these Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies were on the top of the list.

I'm not sure where his craving came from, but recently he came home and said, "I have a request, can you make Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies?" My answer as usual was yes, but he wasn't convinced he'd ever see them.  To his surprise, while he mowed our lawn Saturday morning I had a fresh batch of cookies waiting for him in the kitchen.

I don't mean to brag, but these cookies were pretty darn amazing.  Deliciously buttery and perfectly flavored, these cookies were devoured all weekend long.   Half way through baking and a few cookies deep, my husband took a moment in between bites to mentioned he had oatmeal chocolate chip cookies once that were sweet on the top.  I thought it was a great concept to experiment with so I tried sprinkling a little brown sugar with about 5 minutes left to bake. Wow! Adding something as subtle as a sprinkling of brown sugar sent these cookies over the top.  It was the perfect finishing touch! 

While the flavor was delicious, I think consistency in a cookie is most important.  I look for thick and voluminous cookies that have a chewy bite to them.  I have to say, these were perfectly chewy with a subtle crunch along the perimeter.

Cookies are always great out of the oven, but I think the true test to determine whether you have a great chewy cookie is to taste them a day or two later.  If they haven't hardened and remain moist and chewy, you've got a great cookie on your hands.  I'm pleased to say this recipe has continued to be deliciously chewy from day 1 to day 3- officially labeling these cookies a great success!

Hope you and your family enjoy them as much as my husband did!



Begin with combining your softened butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer:


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Using the paddle attachment, mix on medium/high speed for 30 seconds until your mixture is smooth and creamy:

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Add your egg and vanilla extract:

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And beat on medium/high until mixed:

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Then add your flour, baking soda, salt, and oatmeal:

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Mix on medium speed until just combined.  You don't want to over mix your dough and break down your oatmeal:

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Meanwhile, roughly chop your pecans:

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Add your pecans and chocolate chips to your cookie dough:

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And mix with a large spoon until your ingredients are evenly incorporated:

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Then cover with plastic wrap, preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and put your dough in the freezer for 20 minutes to quickly refrigerate:

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Roll 2 tablespoons of dough into a ball:

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Place it on a buttered cookie sheet, leaving about 1 1/2 inches in between each:

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And bake for 12-14 minutes. During the last 5 minutes of your baking time, sprinkle the tops of your cookies with additional brown sugar and allow your cookies to finish baking until golden:
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Transfer to a wire rack to cool:

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Serve and enjoy!

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Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes: 28 cookies
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 12-14 minutes
(Printable Recipe)


Ingredients
2 sticks butter, softened (1 cup)
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar (plus more for sprinkling)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup pecans, chopped (optional)


Directions
Begin with combining your softened butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Using the paddle attachment, mix on medium/high speed for 30 seconds until your mixture is smooth and creamy.  Add your egg and vanilla extract and beat on medium/high until mixed. Then add your flour, baking soda, salt, and oatmeal and mix on medium speed until just combined.  You don't want to over mix your dough and break down your oatmeal. Add your pecans and chocolate chips and mix by hand with a large spoon until your ingredients are evenly incorporated. 

Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and freeze the dough for 20 minutes to quickly refrigerate. Once your dough is chilled, roll your dough into 2 tablespoon sized balls of dough and place them on a buttered cookie sheet, leaving about 1 1/2 inches in between each.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes. During the last 5 minutes of your baking time, sprinkle the tops of your cookies with additional brown sugar and allow your cookies to finish baking until golden.  In between batches, transfer your remaining cookie dough in the freezer to keep it cool while your cookies bake.  Transfer your cookies to a wire rack to cool.  Serve and enjoy!

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Three Bean Salad


This week on my Patch Column, "Cooking with Chelsea", I'm featuring my husband's favorite BBQ side dish: Three Bean Salad.  I've learned I can't make my favorite pasta and potato salad without it. 

Three Bean Salad wasn't on my menu this week and when my husband saw fresh pasta and potato salad he asked, "Where's the Three Bean Salad?"  When I broke it to him that I didn't make it, he looked at me with such a face of disappointment, I knew I had to sneak it in this week somehow.

Patch was looking for a quick, easy, and inexpensive dish and I knew I had just the thing!  This Three Bean Salad, while cool and refreshingly delicious, is also extremely quick to prepare.  Requiring minutes to combine your ingredients in a bowl and boil your marinade, it's a perfect party dish to add to your buffet of items.  It must be made a day ahead to maximize the flavor, making it extremely convenient and hassle free.

I've made it with fresh beans and canned and while I prefer fresh ingredients, the canned beans soak in the flavor far better than the freshly cooked beans.  Although the choice is yours and can be done either way!

Hope you enjoy this delicious Memorial Day appropriate dish!  Click here to find the recipe on my Patch column!



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Friday, May 27, 2011

Potato Salad

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Memorial Weekend is upon us and continuing with my BBQ theme this week, I'm posting my favorite potato salad recipe.  I'm not normally a big potato salad fan.  I eat mayonnaise sparingly and often think potato salad has too much of an overpowering mayonnaise flavor.  This potato salad recipe has so many other wonderful flavors, the mayonnaise is merely there for consistency.

This potato salad is made with a mustard, mayonnaise base with a kick of cider vinegar.  It also contains a wonderfully fragrant and fresh addition of fresh minced dill.  The flavors are wonderful and the consistency is smooth and creamy with a great crunch to each bite.  Adding chopped celery, pickles, and red onion provide an added depth to the creamy consistency as well as wonderfully powerful flavor that enhances every bite.

Not only is this wonderfully flavored and has an excellent consistency, but it's also full of beautiful color.  It's a standout dish that really pops. Unlike anything else on your picnic table, it's an item people will gravitate to and thoroughly enjoy!

Similar to this week's Pasta Salad with Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette recipe, this potato salad was made often and enjoyed by family and friends last summer.  It was enjoyed by many with frequent recipe requests.  So it's only fitting that I add it to my Recipe Index for everyone to use when you're in need of a go-to full-proof BBQ dish your guests are sure to love. I hope you enjoy it on this beautiful long Memorial Day weekend!

Wash and cut your potatoes into small cubes:

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Fill a large pot with water, add your potatoes, and cook until tender.  If you can pierce a fork into the center with ease, your potatoes are ready:

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Meanwhile boil your eggs for about 10 minutes until cooked through:

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Once cooked, drain the water:

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And fill it with cold water to cool the eggs enough to handle:

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Meanwhile, dice your red onion.  Start with cutting both ends of your onion and removing the skin:

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Cut very thin slices stopping just short of the bottom so the shape of your onion stays in tact:

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Rotate your onion 90 degrees and cut the same thin lines down just short of the bottom of your onion:

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Tilt your onion on it's side and carefully cut your onion so your perfectly diced onion cubes fall off the onion:

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If you follow those steps, you'll get this perfectly diced pile of onion without any other chopping necessary!

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Dice your celery, pickles, and boiled eggs:

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Combine all of your ingredients in a large mixing bowl:

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Toss until thoroughly mixed:

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Then refrigerate overnight or for a few hours to allow the flavors to really marinate and consistency to thicken:
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Potato Salad
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Serves: 8-10 people
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
(Printable Recipe)

Ingredients
3 pounds medium red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled
8 dill pickle spears, coarsely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
5 celery stalks, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 small red onion, diced (about 1 cup)
3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons dijon or spicy mustard
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons minced fresh dill
salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Wash and cut your potatoes into small cubes. Fill a large pot with water, add your potatoes, and cook at a boil until tender.  If you can pierce a fork into the center with ease, your potatoes are ready. Meanwhile boil your eggs for about 10 minutes until cooked through. Once cooked, drain the water and fill it with cold water to cool the eggs enough to handle.

Meanwhile, dice your red onion, celery, pickles, boiled eggs, and dill.  Combine all of your ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Toss until thoroughly mixed. Then refrigerate overnight or for a few hours to allow the flavors to really marinate and consistency to thicken.
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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pasta Salad Tossed in a Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette

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Last year I found some great BBQ dishes that I made often.  This pasta salad was one of my favorites.  In fact, if you're a friend or family member reading this, chances are I've made it for you.  It was one of those dishes I couldn't get enough of!

I made sure to keep my refrigerator fully stocked with sun-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and capers all summer long.  That's the beauty of this recipe, it requires mostly pantry items that you can keep on hand and have available whenever a last minute BBQ needs to be thrown together!

It's also a great dish to make ahead of time.  Making this a day ahead allow the flavors to really marinade together and the pasta salad to get to a cold temperature providing the best results. 

BBQ's are meant to enjoy with friends and family.  Being able to prepare a make ahead meal is a great way to entertain worry-free!  Hope you enjoy this summer side favorite as much as I have!


Recipe Tips
  • I didn't have a cup of basil when I photographed this recipe so don't base your basil proportions based on my pictures.  I noticed a difference in flavor and feel it's definitely best to have the full cup of basil when preparing this salad.

Begin with cooking your pasta according to the package directions.  Once cooked, toss with a tablespoon of olive oil to prevent sticking and set it in the refrigerator to chill:

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Next, take your basil leaves and stack them on top of each other, placing the largest leaves on the bottom and smaller on top:

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Then roll your stack of basil leaves into a tight roll:

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Using a small sharp knife, cut your roll in very small increments to get nice thin julienne basil strips:

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Then chop your Kalamata olives and sun-dried tomatoes:

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Prepare your Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette by combining your sun-dried tomatoes, capers, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a small chopper.  Pulse until smooth:

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In a large serving bowl, combine your cooked pasta, feta cheese, chopped Kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, julienne cut basil leaves, and Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette:

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Toss until the ingredients are well mixed and refrigerate until chilled:


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Pasta Salad Tossed in a Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette
Adapted from Ina Garten
Serves:6-8
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
(Printable Recipe)

Ingredients
1/2 pound fusilli (spiral) pasta, cooked according to package directions
3/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, sliced
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and sliced thin
3/4 cup feta cheese
1 cup packed basil leaves, julienned

Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette:
5 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
6 tablespoons good olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon capers, drained
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Directions
Begin with cooking your pasta according to the package directions.  Once cooked, toss with a tablespoon of olive oil to prevent sticking.  Then chop your Kalamata olives and sun-dried tomatoes.  Next, julienne slice your basil leaves.  Do this by stacking your basil leaves on top of each other, placing the largest leaves on the bottom and smaller on top.  Then roll your stack into a tight roll and using a small sharp knife, cut your roll in very small increments to get nice thin julienne basil strips. 
 
Prepare your Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette by combining your sun-dried tomatoes, capers, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a small chopper.  Pulse until smooth.
 
In a large serving bowl, combine your cooked pasta, feta cheese, chopped Kalamata olives and sun-dried tomatoes, julienne cut basil leaves, and Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette and toss until the ingredients are well mixed. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.
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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Asian Asparagus Salad with Walnuts

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I can't believe Memorial Day is almost here... with that comes the start of BBQ season! If you haven't already caught on, I've been looking forward to this day for a long time.

I absolutely love BBQ's.  The variations of pasta salads, potato salads, coleslaws, and fresh veggies you can come up with are endless providing a vast supply of deliciousness to enjoy all summer long!

This Asian Asparagus Salad with Walnuts is a salad my Ciocia Ella has made for many occasions.  It's a recipe she borrowed from her good friend, Ann, and has become one of our family favorites. We all agree it's the marinade that makes this dish.

While this side dish may appear deceivingly simple, don't be fooled by it's appearance.  When you bite into your asparagus you'll enjoy a mouth full of Asian inspired flavor!  Smoky, salty, and subtly sweet- it's a dish your guests will love.

It's a perfect BBQ item to add to your spread of salads served cold and prepared the night before.  It's the perfect party dish that allows you to be a guest at your own party- a hassle free side that takes minutes to prepare!


Recipe Tips
  • If you're planning on using this recipe for a BBQ or picnic, use two large bunches of asparagus and double the marinade.


Begin with washing your asparagus:

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And breaking the tough ends. Do this by bending your asparagus towards the bottom and letting it break where it naturally wants to, about 3/4 down the asparagus:

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Then roughly chop your walnuts into large pieces:

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In a large mixing bowl, combine your balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and sesame oil and stir until the sugar dissolves:

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Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil:

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Add your asparagus and let it cook for 3-4 minutes or until just barely tender:

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Once cooked, transfer your asparagus to a large bowl of ice water.  This process shocks your asparagus and stops it from continuing to cook.  You want your asparagus to have a nice fresh bite to it without being soft and overcooked:

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Then cut your asparagus at an angle into 2 inch pieces:

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Thoroughly dry your asparagus with a paper towel:

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Add your asparagus to the vinaigrette:

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Add your chopped walnuts and mix until coated.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight:

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Transfer to a serving dish and serve!

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Asian Asparagus Salad with Walnuts
Family Recipe Courtesy of Ann Larson
Serves: 4-6
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 3-4 minutes
(Printable Recipe)

Ingredients
1 bunch of asparagus
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons sesame oil

Directions
Begin with washing your asparagus and breaking the tough ends. Do this by bending your asparagus towards the bottom and letting it break where it naturally wants to, about 3/4 down the asparagus.  In a large mixing bowl, combine your balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and sesame oil and stir until the sugar dissolves.  Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add your asparagus and let it cook for 3-4 minutes or until just barely tender.  Once cooked, transfer your asparagus to a large bowl of ice water.  This process shocks your asparagus and stops it from continuing to cook.  You want your asparagus to have a nice bite to it without being soft and overcooked.  Cut your asparagus at an angle into 2 inch pieces.  Thoroughly dry your asparagus with a paper towel.  Add your asparagus and chopped walnuts to your bowl and mix until thoroughly coated with the marinade.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.  Then transfer to a serving dish and serve!

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