Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bourbon Banana Bread

Oh baby! No playing around here, there is some serious taste in this banana bread and I urge you to run home and make it immediately! I have made this bread before under the title Boozy Banana's Foster Bread but I added a few ingredients that I believe really take it over the top. I confess that the caramel drizzle was an after-thought. I had some in the fridge and thought, why not. If you really want to shoot the taste into the stratosphere, make your own salted caramel, drizzle it, taste it and then call your mother and thank her for bringing you into a world that allows for the amazing pleasure that comes from delicious food. I personally felt the need to do just that a few weekends ago when I tasted duck fat fries for the first time...but that is a different post.

Another point on this bread is that you will notice that these little darlings are in small loaves. I am now absolutely enamored with small loaf pans as I have found that they cook the bread more evenly, they are easier to remove, they are fantastic for storing, easy to give as gifts, (I give this bread out a lot and it is my way of saying, I think you are really neat!). Anyway, so the list of benefits of cooking small versus the cumbersome big loaf that never cooks all the way through is very long. With that, go forth and bake! Enjoy! AJ

3 to 4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted salted butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar packed
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons bourbon
1 teaspoon baking soda
Big pinch of kosher salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
Pinch of Allspice
Pinch of ground cloves
1 1/2 cups and two tablespoons of flour

Brown Sugar Topping:

5 tablespoons salted butter cold and diced
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of Kosher salt
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose white flour

Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla and rum, then the spices. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered 4x8 inch loaf pan. Bake for one hour to one hour and ten minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Salade Niçoise

I have been wanting to make this salad forever and could never find an excuse or occasion to do so. Hard boiled eggs, tuna steak and olives all have the potential to put off a picky eater/dinner guest. I like to avoid sticky situations so I have shied away from this dish and making it for myself seemed a little too indulgent. Ok, fine, it's a lot of work for just little ol' me and I can get one heck of a stand-in at the Nordstrom Cafe which is located 10 minutes from my place. They make theirs with salmon instead of tuna and the results are also fantastic. On a side note, the Nordstrom Cafe is an awesome lunch spot and you can head over to the shoe department to drain your wallet after you eat that fabulous lunch.

So, about the taste. I absolutely love dishes that have flavors that are interesting when they come together. Some examples are raspberry and chocolate, goat cheese and honey, chocolate and cinnamon, balsamic and get the idea. This salad has those same interesting qualities with the dill, basil and parsley playing wonderfully with the vinegar, wine and dijon mustard as the dressing. Add in the salty olives, seared tuna steak, sweet tomatoes and meaty eggs and you have one hearty dish. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, by Ina Garten


1 (1-inch-thick) fresh tuna steak
extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound French string beans (haricots verts), stems removed and blanched
1 recipe French Potato Salad, recipe follows
2 small tomatoes, cut into wedges
3 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and cut in 1/2
4 to 5 good black olives, pitted
1 bunch watercress or arugula

For the vinaigrette:

3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 tablespoons good olive oil


To grill the tuna, get a charcoal or stove-top cast iron grill very hot. Brush the fish with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill each side for only 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. The center should be raw, like sushi, or the tuna will be tough and dry. Arrange the tuna, haricots verts, potato salad, tomatoes, eggs, olives, watercress, on a large flat platter.

For the vinaigrette, combine the vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion. Drizzle some over the fish and vegetables and serve the rest in a pitcher on the side.

French Potato Salad:

1 pound small white boiling potatoes
1 pound small red boiling potatoes
2 tablespoons good dry white wine
2 tablespoons chicken stock
3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 tablespoons good olive oil
1/3 cup minced scallions (white and green parts)
3 tablespoons minced fresh dill
3 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves

Drop the white and red potatoes into a large pot of boiling salted water and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until they are just cooked through. Drain in a colander and place a towel over the potatoes to allow them to steam for 10 more minutes. As soon as you can handle them, cut in 1/2 (quarters if the potatoes are larger) and place in a medium bowl. Toss gently with the wine and chicken stock. Allow the liquids to soak into the warm potatoes before proceeding.

Combine the vinegar, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion. Add the vinaigrette to the potatoes. Add the scallions, dill, parsley, basil, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Best Frosting and Cupcake Ever!

I know I am on a bit of a cupcake kick these days and I would like to kindly ask for forgiveness for my lack of variety. I actually was swearing off cupcakes until I came across the two gems below. Any cake or frosting that boldly proclaims to be the "best ever", begs to be tested. Well I tested and wow! Seriously, wow!

Let me give some serious credit to that Pioneer Woman. Out of all of the amazing recipes that are submitted to her Tasty Kitchen blog, she singled this one out and with good reason. I know the ingredients do not look like they could produce such a divine taste but trust me, they come together beautifully. This frosting was so good that I have to admit, they barely made it on to the cupcakes. I actually had to make another batch because I, ahem, "ran out" and not so much from just putting the icing on the cake.

So, without further ado, here are the recipes. Please, go make them immediately! xoxo - AJ

Cupcake recipe adapted from Pioneer Woman's Best Chocolate Sheet Cake Ever Recipe


2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
¼ teaspoons Kosher salt
4 tablespoons (heaping) Dutch Process Cocoa
2 sticks butter (Irish Kerry Gold)
1 cup boiling water
½ cup shaken buttermilk
2 whole beaten eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla


In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt.

In a saucepan, melt butter. Add cocoa. Stir together.

Add boiling water, allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds, then turn off heat. Pour over flour mixture, and stir lightly to cool.

In a measuring cup, pour the buttermilk and add beaten eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Stir buttermilk mixture into butter/chocolate mixture. Fill cupcake liners about 3/4 of the way up and bake at 350-degrees for 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean from a center of the pan cupcake.

Cool cupcakes completely before piping or spreading on the frosting.

Frosting recipe adapted from Tasty Kitchen


1 cup whole milk
5 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup salted butter
1 cup granulated sugar (not powdered sugar!)


In a saucepan, whisk flour into milk over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens. Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature. (Do not skip this step as I did the first time, it will make piping/spreading difficult and runny) Stir in vanilla.

While the mixture is cooling, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Then add the cooled milk/flour/vanilla mixture and beat until it all combines and resembles whipped cream.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Gougères (Cheese Puffs)

If I may be so bold, I would like to dispel what seems to be a common myth, that Champagne is for special occasions only. Au contraire! Life is a celebration everyday and although I am not saying one should drink Champagne when they get up in the morning to celebrate the sun rising, I do fully advocate drinking it just as much if not more than you would any other bottle of wine. In my mind, we only live once and the thought of relegating such a fabulous drink to weddings and New Year's is depressing! Buy it with reckless abandon and drink to celebrate that you are living a life that offers so many amazing pleasures and opportunities to consume delicious food and drink, hear the sweet laughter of children, feel the satisfaction of fulfilling work and to experience the divine bliss of being in love. On a side note, these are the basic themes of this blog because they are what I appreciate most in this crazy world.

Now that you have bought out Binny's, may I suggest a wonderful appetizer to accompany that fabulous bubbly you have sitting next to you. I believe that it is common knowledge that Champagne and salty and/or greasy food is about the best food/drink combination ever! On my trips to Paris, I love to do as the French do and order Champagne with an omelet or steak frites, sit in a sidewalk cafe and watch the beautiful people walk by which, in Paris, there is no shortage. When I am not moonlighting in the city of light, I love to make Gougères which, just as a side note, I cannot pronounce despite my best efforts. For those as verbally challenged as I am, feel free to refer to these little treats as cheese puffs. The combination of salt, butter and cheese would go well with just about any drink but have it with Champagne and the combination is addictive. Enjoy! AJ

Recipe adapted from the Christmas Card sent from The Inn at Little Washington, Washington, VA.


1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup whole milk
3 1/2 tablespoons softened butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 ounce Swiss cheese, grated (about 1/4 cup)
1 ounce gruyere cheese, grated (about 1/4 cups)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees, Line 1 baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the flour, black pepper and nutmeg and stir with a fork or whisk to combine.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the water, milk, butter and salt. Bring to a boil and remove from the heat.

Add the dry ingredients to the milk mixture and return to low heat. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and transfer the dough to a mixing bowl. Allow it to cool for 5-7 minutes.

Using a wooden spoon, beat the eggs into the dough until they are fully combined. (This will be quick but please beat rigorously). Fold in both of the grated cheeses.

Place the dough in a pastry bag and pipe the dough into small balls, about the diameter of a quarter, 2 inches apart on the lined baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown. Serve immediately. Leftovers can be frozen and reheated in the microwave or oven.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Best Kiddie Sauce Ever!

I admit being skeptical about a sauce that everyone was raving about with just three overly simple ingredients. How can tomatoes, one onion and some butter be that great? Well, I stand corrected. This sauce is fantastic and the real story is that it is the magical combination that will get any difficult food you want into your little tike's mouth. Seriously, my little man is gobbling this stuff up like he has never eaten before in his life. Simply opening the fridge to take the leftovers out for dinner triggers a bouncing around in the chair reaction. Of course, then he devours it in about three minutes and I have my silent time for the night. Yes, three whole minutes is what I have these days and you know what, I will take it and say thank you very much!

So, about the taste. It is very subtle and light, yet inexplicably addictive. I think the best way to say this is that the simplified ingredient list really allows the tomatoes to shine through and pop in your mouth. The onion adds a delicate undertone and the butter provides some depth and heartiness to the tomato/onion combination. This is almost the peanut butter and jelly of the sauce world, uncomplicated, robust yet smooth and wonderfully comforting in it's unadorned form. Enjoy!

Adapted from Marcela Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking

28 ounces whole peeled tomatoes from a can (San Marzano)
5 tablespoons salted butter
1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and halved
Kosher salt to taste

Put the tomatoes, onion and butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Bring the sauce to a simmer then lower the heat to keep the sauce at a slow, steady simmer for about 1 hour, or until droplets of fat float free of the tomatoes. Stir occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat, discard the onion, add Kosher salt to taste and keep warm while you prepare your pasta. If there are chunks of tomato still floating around, use an immersion blender to smooth out the rough spots. A big piece of tomato in a little unsuspecting mouth could cause a choking situation so please be cognizant of that.

Serve with noodles or in the case of these pictures for little mouths, bite size shells or elbows.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Crispy Bacon

Oh how do I love Wolfgang Puck? Let me count the ways. Puck is a true talent who creates recipes that are simple, elegant and very tasty. So tasty that I can only describe them as the cream cheese on my bagel, the cream in my coffee, the bacon on my donut. I have saved many Puck recipes over the years but I forgot about this one and I am so very glad I came across it in one of my cleaning frenzies. The recipe was given to me by my Mother; an avid Puck fan who reads the Chicago Tribune in which he used to have a column that has since disappeared. My Mom would meticulously cut out all of his recipes and try them for herself and then eventually hand the recipe over to me.

This pizza is one of those cutouts that I found buried deep in my recipe box, stained with Olive Oil and taking on a yellow antique quality. This pizza has an undeniably fabulous mixture of sweet caramelized onions, salty bacon, four different cheeses and a dash of thyme and nutmeg that strikes the perfect balance in flavor. Could there be a better combination of ingredients to be piled on soft honey laced pizza dough? Actually, any recipe that intermingles cheese, bacon, onion and starch is guaranteed to make me swoon with delight.

Note: I first made this pizza a few years ago without the called for pizza stone and on a regular baking sheet and it was fantastic. However, I made the pizza for this post on the pizza stone and it definitely made it taste even better. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Wolfgang Puck, 2004, Chicago Tribune


1 teaspoon olive oil
3 slices bacon (about 2 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 small onion, peeled, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup farmer's cheese
Freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces Pizza Dough, recipe follows
1/2 cup grated mozzarella
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves


Place a pizza stone on the middle rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

In a medium size saute pan, add olive oil and heat over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the bacon and cook until the bacon is very crispy and all of the fat is rendered. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the pan and discard. Place the pan over high heat. Add the onions to the hot bacon fat and cook until the onions are well browned, about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring often. Remove to a paper towel lined plate.

In a small bowl, combine the mascarpone and farmer's cheeses. Season with nutmeg and black pepper. Reserve.

On a lightly floured surface, stretch or roll the dough as thinly as possible, about 14 to 15-inch circle. Evenly spread the mascarpone mixture over the dough. Sprinkle with the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, bacon, thyme, and sauteed onion. Bake until the pizza crust is nicely browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Remove pizza from the oven, transfer to a cutting board, cut into slices and serve immediately.

Pizza Dough:

1 package active dry or fresh yeast

1 teaspoon honey

1 cup warm water, 105 to 115 degrees F

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for brushing

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and honey in 1/4 cup warm water.

In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour and the salt. Add the oil, the yeast mixture, and the remaining 3/4 cup of water and mix on low speed until the mixture comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl and starts to climb up the dough hook.

Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead by hand 2 or 3 minutes longer. The dough should be smooth and firm. Cover the dough with a clean, damp towel and let it rise in a cool spot for about 2 hours. (When ready, the dough will stretch as it is lightly pulled).

Divide the dough into 4 balls, about 6 ounces each. Work each ball by pulling down the sides and tucking under the bottom of the ball. Repeat 4 or 5 times. Then on a smooth, unfloured surface, roll the ball under the palm of your hand until the top of the dough is smooth and firm, about 1 minute. Cover the dough with a damp towel and let rest 1 hour. At this point, the balls can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Yield: dough for 4 small pizzas

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Icing

Not so long ago, that wonderfully discreet young man with an amazing voice and even more amazing words, John Mayer, made some headlines when he said that Jessica Simpson was "sexual napalm". Poor Jessica was so upset by his comment that she had to grab some couch time...with Oprah. Question; can someone please explain to me why it is so horribly upsetting to be called sexual napalm? If John Mayer or anyone else described me in such a manner, I would rip that article out and have it framed. Ok, granted I can be pretty tasteless about this sort of thing but going on Oprah to cry about something like that seems like a pathetic ploy to give her flailing career a jump start.

Anyway, I digress. My point in my little diatribe above is to say that if Jessica Simpson is sexual napalm, these cupcakes are chocolate and peanut butter napalm. Yes my darlings, they are that good. They are also rich, very, very rich so consider yourself warned. I went through many recipes to put these cupcakes together and modified them ever so slightly to produce deep chocolate flavor mixed with creamy peanut butter, cream cheese, sour cream, cocoa and espresso.

If you choose to make these please be sure to use Dutch process cocoa powder as anything less will produce a cupcake that is not as heartily robust as this one. Also, please watch the baking times. I have received a few comments that other cupcakes from this site were not as moist as the ones they tasted from me. Whenever I hear that I always ask if the person has a gas oven and 9.9 times out of 10, the answer is yes. Please remember that I have an electric oven which tends to cook slower than a gas oven. If you have a gas oven, check the cupcakes with a toothpick after 15 minutes to see how they are coming along. When the toothpick comes out clean, take them out immediately. Enjoy!

Chocolate cupcake recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home, by Ina Garten. Filling recipe adapted from Annie's Eats.

For the filling:

1 cup confectioners’ sugar
¾ cup creamy peanut butter
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup sour cream

To make the filling, combine the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter, sour cream and vanilla extract in a bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined. Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls (at least 24) and set aside on a baking sheet.

For the cupcakes:

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 tablespoons brewed coffee
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Peanut Butter Icing, recipe follows
Peanut butter cups or peanut M&M's, to decorate, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. On low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it's completely blended.

Spoon a tablespoon or two of batter into the bottom of each cupcake liner. Place a ball of the peanut butter filling in each cupcake well and top with the remaining batter so that all the cups are filled. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting:

8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3¼ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and add the heavy whipping cream and whip until stiff peaks form. Add in the vanilla extract and mix until blended. Switch to a paddle attachment and add the cream cheese, sour cream, butter and peanut butter and whip until smooth and shiny. Slowly mix in the confectioners’ sugar, beating until smooth and well blended.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Candied Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies

Time to get serious. There comes a point in your life when the tinker toys are put away, the training wheels come off and we become adults. Granted, being an adult is an action item that I try not to take too seriously. However, like doctor's appointments and root canal, once in a while I have to dip my feet into that end of the swimming pool but I am sure not happy about it. That said, there is one adult thing I do very happily and that is raising my son. As such, I felt a need to post a man's man recipe and bacon cookies seemed like something that I would find on Paul Bunyan's plate and therefore, very manly. As you can see from the photos, my little man is a man in training with my apron on and practicing his phenomenal skills as a sifter of magnet letters. No, this little sous-chef is not available for hire, he is all mine.

Oddly, there were mixed reviews on these cookies but they mostly came from the traditionalist sect of my friends. The real adventurous types gobbled these bad boys up like little kids tasting chocolate for the first time. They are a mix of salty and sweet, very moist with huge hits of deep chocolate that provide a nice contrast to the bacon. They are not as sweet as plain chocolate chip cookies and have a more hearty and robust feel to them.

Finally, to answer the question I was asked most from family and friends as to how I would come up with such a concoction; the answer is a friend recently turned me on to chocolate covered bacon. The more I tasted it the more I thought of the endless possibilities that fantastic combination had. In addition, I recently had breakfast at a charming little restaurant in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago called Nightwood. What really stuck out on their menu was the amazing warm bacon butterscotch donut. How good were they? Let's just say that the waiter came over when there was a quarter of the donut left, asked if he could take it away and I went a little overboard and shouted, "NO!" Yep, I succeeded in scaring the ever-living daylights out of a young kid just trying to make a buck. What was I supposed to do? Those donuts melted in my my mouth and had a mixture of warm salty sweetness that made me swoon with delight. Take it away? Was he nuts? He should know better than to try and part a woman from her sweets. He's young though, he'll learn...hopefully. xoxo - AJ



1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
4 oz semisweet chocolate bar, diced
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chopped
3 tablespoons milk chocolate, grated
1 cup bacon that's been brushed with maple syrup, fried until crispy and diced into roughly 1/4" pieces
1 cup pecans chopped, toasted and tossed with 1/4 cup light brown sugar


Adjust your oven rack to the middle position. Pre-heat to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk flour and baking soda together in a medium bowl and set aside.

Heat 10 tablespoons of butter in a 10 inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly. Watch this carefully - butter can go from brown to burned very quickly. When butter is dark-golden brown and has a nutty aroma, remove from heat and immediately transfer to a heatproof bowl. Stir the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter into hot butter until melted.

Add granulated sugar, dark brown sugar, salt and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until completely mixed. Add egg and egg yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth and there are no lumps of sugar remaining.

Let sugar/egg/butter mixture stand for a few minutes. Then whisk again for 30 seconds. Do this several times - you want to make sure that the sugar has "melted" into the liquid. When ready, mixture will be smooth, thick and shiny.

Using wooden spoon, stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Stir in grated chocolate, chocolate chunks, chocolate chips and bacon pieces. Don't overmix but make sure no flour pockets remain.

Using a teaspoon, place a heaping teaspoon of cookie dough on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10-14 minutes until cookies are golden-brown and set along the edges but the middle is still soft. Remove from oven and set baking sheet on a wire rack and let cool for at least 10 minutes.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Hungarian Beef Goulash

First off, before you do anything, check your supply of paprika and make sure that it has not been idling away since the ice age and that you have enough of it to feed a small army. I am clearly not Hungarian as I would have known about the massive amounts of paprika Hungarians enjoy putting into their dishes. Up to this point, I thought this rusted colored spice served only as a garnish for deviled eggs. Nope, that is absolutely an important flavor and does not exist to simply throw a hint of color into dishes. On that note, since paprika plays such a prominent role in this particular dish, I would also advise that only the best Hungarian sweet paprika be used. If you have a Penzey's in your area, that really is your best bet to stock up for this recipe.

The second item that I think I should bring to your attention is the incredibly robust taste of this dish. Go ahead and have this dish without the props but for my purposes, I had to put this with pasta and peas to ease the strong flavor. I also was using this as dinner for my little guy and he was happy with it as long as it was ground up and mixed with the peas and pasta. Anything else was met with stiff resistance.

One final note is that the size of this recipe obviously was meant to feed the masses. Since I just live with my little guy, I had to freeze a huge portion of it for about three months. This dish froze and thawed beautifully and I would even say the flavor was even better after the ingredients had a chance to bond doing hard time together in the ice box. Make some now, save it for later and it can be a nice dish that you forgot about and pleasantly rediscover after months of being ignored. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from The Best Slow and Easy Recipes, from the Editor's of Cook's Illustrated


2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 medium onions, minced
1/4 cup sweet paprika
1/4 cup tomato paste
6 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
Kosher salt
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup minute tapioca
2 bay leaves
5 pounds boneless beef chuck eye roast, cubed
Ground black pepper
1/2 cup sour cream


Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onions, paprika, tomato paste, garlic, caraway seeds and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring often, until the onions are softened and highly browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, scraping up any browned bits.

Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker and stir in the soy sauce, tapioca, and bay leaves until evenly combined. Season the meat with salt and pepper and nestle it in the slow cooker. Cover and cook, either on low or high, until the meat is tender, 9 to 11 hours on low or 5 to 7 hours on high.

Let the cooking liquid settle for 5 minutes and remove as much fat as possible from the surface using a large spoon. Remove the bay leaves. Stir the sour cream into the stew, season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over noodles and peas. Enjoy! AJ

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Cheesy Baked Fries

This is what you do with food that is about to go to the dark side and you have major starch cravings. I had beautiful golden potatoes, three lonely cloves of garlic and one little onion that almost looked like a shallot in size all screaming out to me, use us to make your carb cravings right! I also had a fridge full of rosemary, thyme, parsley and cheese. It would be absolutely uncivilized and wasteful to not bring those ingredients together to create the masterpiece that you see in the picture. Note to self, turning a year older in a month, many running events entered and must not balloon out to Dumbo size before the birthday arrives. I will be on water and salads for the next month, I swear! Or at least I will really, really try. xoxo - AJ



8 golden potatoes cut into fry wedges
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, minced
1 tablespoon thyme, minced
1 teaspoon rosemary, minced
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss all of the ingredients above together on a rimmed baking sheet. Place the mixture in the oven and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Take the sheet out twice during baking to toss the potato mixture. Bake until the edges of the potatoes are golden brown.