September 1, 2014

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Happy Labor Day! I have been on a healthy kick of late, but everyone needs a treat now and again, especially on a holiday! If you have a cheat day coming up (or just want an amazing treat!), put these on your list. (BF and I actually ended up just splitting one cookie and sharing the rest with our co-workers just to satisfy the craving). I think it is hard to beat the original Nestle Tollhouse recipe but these take chocolate chip cookies to a whole new level! Start with disks of Valrhona Dark Chocolate, add it to perfect dough, then use a unique technique to get a cookie soft in the middle and crunchy on the edges…can you say YUM?! These cookies are generous in size, so you may only get a dozen or so out of a batch. We have been searching for this recipe for over a year. The idea came from a mix that has now been discontinued. Be prepared to be patient and prep the dough ahead to allow to cool. These really are worth the wait!

Kelly

 

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups minus 2 Tablespoons of cake flour

1 2/3 cups bread flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon coarse salt (we used kosher)

2 ½ sticks softened butter

2 eggs

1 ¼ cups packed brown sugar

1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons heavy cream or milk

2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Pinch of pink salt

~2 cups dark chocolate disks (we found ours at Whole Foods and used 60% dark and 64% Valrhona disks)

 

  1. Sift together both kinds of flour, baking soda, and baking powder into a small bowl. Stir in coarse salt.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and both kinds of sugar until fluffy.
  3. Blend in eggs, cream and vanilla. Fold in dry ingredients.
  4. Break up some of the chips in a food processor. You will end up with a variety of sizes with lots of whole disks. Think about what you like, but those disks will give you pockets of chocolate and some pretty decoration on the top! It will look like A LOT of chocolate, but ends up being just right.

  5. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let chill in the refrigerator for 1-24 hours. Yes, 24 hours! We actually rushed it by putting this in the freezer for half an hour, but I think it is worth waiting the full 24.
  6. Preheat oven to 375°. Line two cookie sheets with a silpat or parchment paper.

  7. Scoop dough and form into disks (about 2-3″ in diameter). Stack a smaller disk on top of the bottom disk like you are building a snowman…the yummiest snowman ever! This is what really gives you the soft, gooey center with a crispy edge.
  8. Sprinkle each cookie lightly with pink salt. Chill another 10 minutes on the pan before baking.

  9. Bake one sheet at a time on the lowest rack for 13 minutes rotate 180° after 6 minutes.

  10. Look for a light blonde center with brown edges. (See the salt? That might be the biggest key to these!)

Grab a cold glass of milk and enjoy!

August 25, 2014

Cilantro Lime Quinoa

If you are like me, you are always looking for a healthy option you can make ahead for lunch. Quinoa always seems like a good healthy choice, but I haven’t really found a way I liked it…until now! This is light and fresh with lots of healthy additions. Bonus, it holds up really well all week! I like to make this on Sunday and it is just as good on Friday as it is on Monday. I love that I can eat it cold at my desk which makes life so easy. Let me know what you think!

Kelly

Cilantro Lime Quinoa

Ingredients:

2 cups uncooked quinoa

2 cups chicken stock

2 cups water

Juice and zest of 4-5 limes

2 Tablespoons honey

1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Kosher or sea salt

Pepper

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

6 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)

2 red or yellow bell peppers, chopped

3 carrots, chopped

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

2 grilled chicken breasts, chopped

Rinse quinoa 3 times to remove the bitter outside layer. Cook the quinoa with chicken stock and water (I add a little extra liquid because we are at high altitude). Bring the liquid to a boil then reduce to simmer for 30 seconds, bring back to a boil for another 30 seconds then reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes until cooked through and tender. Allow to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk the lime juice with the zest, honey, a pinch or two of salt & pepper, and olive oil, until the dressing comes together. Add the cilantro and mix.

Add the chopped scallions, peppers, carrots, black beans, chicken, and quinoa and gently toss in the dressing.

Garnish with additional cilantro and lime zest, if desired. Eat immediately or pack up for lunches for the week. Great hot or cold!

July 13, 2014

Tangerine Beef

I am a huge fan of stir fry; you can prep ahead of time (or even freeze in the marinade), it is a great way to clean out the fridge, it is usually healthy and everything goes in one pot! This is one that BF has been loving lately. This is a take-out-at-home kind of meal that will leave you satisfied for Chinese without all the extra fat. I usually add peppers to this, but it would be a great beef and broccoli substitute also. The sauce is sweet and salty and the cornstarch help to reduce everything to nicely cover the beef. I have not tried it with other types of meat, but I am sure that would be great too. As a freezer meal, I usually freeze it with the soy and cornstarch and freeze the sauce in a separate bag to be added at the right point. Flank steak is a great cut of meat that tends to be relatively inexpensive. It can be tough, so marinading it really helps. I have also found that the cornstarch really gives this a bit of extra help making it super tender. I like to cook the meat on pretty high heat (even though it can cause a bit of smoke and splatter) but I think it helps to sear the meat and keep it juicy on the inside. I did find a great tip last week: if you cut the steak when it is partially frozen, you can get super thin slices. A really good knife is on my wish list, but that is how I make due with what I have! This originally came from Guy’s Big Bite on the food network and I have tweaked it a bit over time. Try it out for an easy week night meal!

Kelly

 

Tangerine Beef

 

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 pound flank steak or tri-tip, cut in thin strips on the bias

1 bell pepper cleaned and sliced

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons chili sauce

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/4 cup freshly squeezed tangerine juice (sometimes I cheat and use tangerine juice from Whole Foods)

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

3 scallions, chopped

1/4 tangerine, zested

 

In a plastic bag combine the soy sauce and cornstarch and mix well. Add beef, cover, and let marinate for 20 minutes in the refrigerator.

Mix the sherry, hoisin, honey, chili sauce, soy sauce, and tangerine juice in a container and shake until combined.

In large pan or wok, heat oil on high. Add the ginger and beef and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. I like to do this in batches to get a really good sear, but you can do it all together if you have a great big pan!

Then add the veggies followed by the sauce mixture.

 

…and cook for another 2-5 minutes on medium heat until sauce thickens. See the bubbles?? J

Serve over brown rice and garnish with scallions and tangerine zest. Enjoy!

May 31, 2014

Mise En Place

As I was making our Saturday morning eggs today, I got to thinking about learning to cook. More specifically, about what I think may be one of the most important things to learn in cooking, something that can take you from being a novice, to being a great cook. Three words: Mise En Place. All mise en place means is “to put in place.” In other words, gather and prepare everything you need. Have you ever started in on a recipe to get part way through and realize you needed to marinate something first or maybe peel the potatoes or maybe you are missing a key ingredient. So now you are stuck hurrying to clean them while you hope whatever you have in the pan doesn’t burn. By prepping ahead of time, you can be much more efficient. Why do you think cooking shows make things look so easy? When you have done all the tedious work ahead of time, you can make any recipe look easy!

I realized this morning that this is something I do now for things as simple as scrambled eggs. It has become a natural step for me. When you have a complicated recipe like beef bourguignon, or an elaborate layer cake, it makes sense to gather all your ingredients, but for eggs? Well, if you have all of your veggies chopped, garlic minced, eggs beaten, when you heat your pan, all you have to do is throw things in. You won’t be running to the fridge (or the store) to grab one more thing you desperately need. I even set up my kitchen in a way that some of my mise en place is always accessible. Things like olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and spices are always close at hand so I can grab them whenever I need them.

This concept also translates really well to prepping for your week. Remember when we talked about menu planning? I often go one step further and prep parts of my dinner recipes for the week. For example, I might slice and marinate my beef for stir fry, cook chicken ahead to throw in salad or tacos, blanch green beans. It is a way of putting parts of your mise en place together before you even need it, making you weeknight cooking much easier! I know when I walk in the door after a long day; I can usually still find a way to pull together a great meal when all I have to do is finish everything. If I don’t prep ahead there is a good chance I will just be grabbing take out on the way home.

Mary has always done this, especially when we know we need to make a bunch of things at once. You can always lay out dry ingredients separate from wet ingredients ahead of time and come back to them later. This is just one more way to make cooking much easier!

Do you have shortcuts that help you in the kitchen?

Kelly

 

 

 

 

April 18, 2014

Easter Quiche

Looking for a quick idea for Easter brunch? Look no further than a classic quiche! I think quiche is the perfect thing for brunch; you can make it ahead, put anything in it and it transports easily. Start with a great crust (or a premade one if you are really in a hurry!) add your favorite combination of ingredients, whip up your eggs and cream, pour into the shell and bake…that is it! We often make one with meat and one vegetarian. You will notice that we used a tart pan below, but a regular pie pan works great. I like the tart pan because you get a thinner piece of quiche (and I don’t really love eggs). Make sure to wrap the pan in aluminum foil so you don’t get a leaky quiche or get ready for a smoky kitchen! Below is one of our favorites but get creative with yours.

Take it to your brunch for a guaranteed hit! Happy Easter!

Kelly

Classic Quiche

1 pie crust

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained

8 oz sliced mushrooms, sautéed until tender

1 cup cream

3 eggs

Salt & pepper

Make a pie crust add pie weights to keep the crust from bubbling up and prebake at 425° for 20 minutes.

Allow the crust to cool a few minutes and then layer the ingredients into the crust.

Blend the eggs and cream with salt and pepper until combined. Pour the egg mixture into the crust.

Bake for 35-45 minutes at 375° until golden and cooked through.

Enjoy warm or room temperature.

February 23, 2014

Welcome to Boulder Joe’s!

Trader Joe’s opened over the weekend in Boulder. I’ve been waiting SO long. Since 1993, in fact. When I lived in Redondo Beach, I worked two doors down from TJ’s. Unfortunately, I was in San Francisco during the Boulder opening so I did my due diligence and asked everyone what they like to shop for at Trader Joe’s.

Here’s the consensus:

 
 

Sweets:

·      Soy Chocolate Ice cream

·      Biscotti

·      Chocolate Chip Cookies

·      Chocolate Bars

·      Cookie Butter (this is not one of ours, but I do not stop hearing about it)

 
 

Packaged foods:

·      Almonds (how are they so much better than other Almonds?)

·      Trail Mix

·      Fancy Crackers

·      Corn Salsa

 
 

Frozen:

·      Orange Chicken

·      Teriyaki Chicken

·      Brown Rice

·      Mac & Cheese

·      Edamame

·      Green Beans

In general, we think the frozen veggies and fruit are good

 
 

Toiletries:

·      Tea Tree products

·      Shaving Cream

·      Sponges

·      Vitamins

 
 

 Others:

·      Fresh Basil

·      Fresh Flowers

·      Bread

·      Broccoli Slaw with Carolina BBQ Sauce

·      Marinated Steak

·      Pesto Chicken

·      3 buck chuck (formerly two buck chuck) the couple I was sitting next to had people bring it to their wedding in Colorado. Not sure I’d put this on my own list.

 

Anything we missed?? Everyone finds their own Joe’s Gems. J

Mary

 

Boulder Trader Joe’s Post Opening Day Craziness

February 10, 2014

Work Lunches

Continuing our healthy eating theme of late, I thought I would share my Sunday routine for making 5 days of lunches in one afternoon. Being well prepared makes life SO much easier for the rest of the week. With BF needing the equivalent of two full lunches every day, it is much easier to have them all done before we get wrapped up in the week. In order to easily accomplish this, I start by making the carbs…usually brown rice, quinoa, and sweet potatoes. All of those things can cook while I work on the other things. Next comes chicken breasts (seasoned and baked for 45min at 375°), flank steak (marinated and grilled or stir fried), and chicken muffins. Finally the veggies…I usually just steam tons of broccoli and green beans. I try to mix things up, but these are the staples for sure! I also love that if I have leftovers, I can use it for easy dinners or freeze things for later. Next, I pull out the trusty food scale and lots of Tupperware. An assembly line makes things super easy and I can do exactly what is right for each of us.

Usually I start with the carbs so it cools while I do others and then add protein and veggies.

By the time I am done all we have to do is grab and go in the morning!

Between this and the egg muffins, you can have most of your day covered. A couple hours of work really pays off later in the week. Do you have ideas you use to make your healthy habits stick? We always need new ideas!

Kelly

PS- You can see my little lunches in the back row. Measuring also helps me to stay on track with what I need to be eating while looking at all that food!

February 4, 2014

Happy Homemade Soup Day!

Happy Homemade Soup day! A great day for soup in Boulder since we’ll have a high of 16 degrees today.

It makes me sad if I don’t have some homemade chicken stock around. There’s so much you can do with it. Adding to sauces, a base for other sauces, chicken noodle soup.

Of course there are a million recipes for this, but you don’t really need one. Whenever you trim vegies or bone a rotisserie chicken freeze these things in a container or zip lock bag. Then when you get enough trimmings, rinse with water and put in a pot with more quartered onion, a couple cloves of garlic, a bay leave and some black peppercorns add a few cloves if you like that depth.

Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer. Skim off the foam and keep doing this for a while. The more you do this the clearer looking the stock and the cleaner tasting. If you move the pot a little off the burner, it’ll make it easier. Sometimes I forget and if you do…it’s still better than the canned!

Strain and cool. When the stock is cooled put in the fridge.

The next day, you can skim the fat off the top and use in Chicken & Sausage Bites or Risotto. For a quick and easy dinner get some store bought tortellini and simmer in your stock for Tortellini Soup!

Mary

 
 

February 1, 2014

Super Bowl Party!

Here in Colorado, people have gone Super Bowl crazy! We have some die-hard fans in our state and they have been decked out in their orange and blue for weeks now. From the TV news anchors to my office, everyone has Bronco fever. If you are planning your own Super Celebration, here are some of our best ideas to impress your guests!

First, get the grill warmed up and get a smokey twist on Chicken Wings to start things off! While you have that grill all ready, fancy up some Burgers starting with homemade buns. The perfect side for burgers is potato salad, in our family we do it German Style. For an easy main dish that will keep all day, just throw some Chili
together and let guests eat at their leisure. What is a Super Bowl party without Guacamole? Try it Traditional or with a Sweet Twist! Try BBQ in wontons for something different. If you are looking to lighten things up a bit make a colorful Veggie Display or some Baked Chicken Fingers with tons of flavor sure to be a hit. Or bring stadium food home with Soft Pretzels.

 

GO BRONCOS!

January 29, 2014

Cooking Staples

We started talking earlier this week about healthy eating and how to make it easier. When you live with someone who eats roughly 4,000 calories a day…all clean…you have to do some prep work to make things practical. On the weekend, we sit down together and make a menu for the week for dinner, but that doesn’t always help with breakfast and lunch. I am getting better at planning leftovers in for lunches, but it is much easier to just pack everything at the beginning of the week and be able to grab and go. I start by cooking about egg muffins, 2 cups of brown rice, 6 organic chicken breasts, 4 sweet potatoes and steaming a bunch of veggies. With these staples always in the fridge, you can make a lot of things happen. Sometimes chicken becomes Chicken Tinga, or enchiladas. Often it gets chopped and sent in lunches. By having a bit of an assembly line with the food scale, I can get through things pretty quickly with already cooked foods. Bonus, whatever we don’t get to, I just freeze and use that in meals down the road. Shredded chicken is awesome to have in the freezer…a great time saver! I try to mix in something I haven’t tried before once a week. It doesn’t always happen (read: the lentils I meant to make still in my pantry) but I try for variety. We usually mix in one fish meal and one lean red meat meal each week. I swear all of this is much easier than it sounds! It really does make the rest of the week go much smoother. Here is an example of a dinner I made from our staples in the fridge. You can see our fully stocked fridge is how we make it without take out for every meal! Chicken and Brussels sprouts with brown rice. MMMM. This was great too because it saved well and became the perfect lunch later in the week. Gotta love multitasking!

Chicken with Brussels Sprouts

2 Chicken breasts cooked and cubed

12-15 Brussels Sprouts, shredded

3 T Dried Cranberries

2 T Sliced Almonds

2 T Honey

2 T Butter

Crushed red peppers

Salt and pepper

Melt butter in a sauté pan over medium heat add Brussels sprouts and sauté about 2 minutes. Add chicken, cranberries, and almonds. Season with salt, pepper, crushed red peppers and drizzle with honey. Cook another 2-3 minutes.

Serve over brown rice.

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