Thursday, May 24, 2012

Slutty Brownies

I first ran across these brownies on Pinterest, and ultimately asked my sister to try making Gaby Dalkin's iteration from her blog What's gaby Cooking for our Easter dessert.  This is what our version (really my sister's, I was busy cooking other things, or studying, one of the two) of Gaby's looked like:

They were, in a word, to-die-for (hyphens totally make it one word).  For interested parties, the platter is a hand-crafted piece from Hawksbill Pottery

A few notes on Gaby's recipe.  My sister forgot that you only needed half the cookie dough.  As stand alone chocolate chip cookies, I didn't find them terribly appetizing (by which I mean when I only have so many calories to blow on sweets, I want every bite to be out-of-this-world, and that they were not), so I would suggest only making half of the chocolate chip cookie dough recipe she includes.  My sister also used double-stuffed Oreos, which I only realized after making my version below, and I think double-stuffed is the better choice.  Finally, Gaby's recipe only makes a 9x9 pan.  These are very rich, but they are very popular, so you may need more than that if you are feeding even a moderately sized crowd.  

Loving these so much, but wanting to shave some time off of them, I decided to substitute boxed brownie mix for the brownies and my Nestle Toll House recipe for the cookie dough, since I know that one by heart and could probably do it while half asleep.  These are what mine looked like when I made them a few weeks ago before finals (note that I only used regular Oreos; I won't be repeating such a mistake in the future):

All in all, if you have the time, I would go ahead and make Gaby's.  If you're looking for something still pretty awesomely tasty but just a little easier, try mine below.

Easier Slutty Brownies (makes one 9x9 and one 9-inch pie pan*)

Brownie Mix
1 box Betty Crocker Fudge Brownie Mix**
1/4 c. water
2/3 c. vegetable oil
2 eggs

2 pkg. Double-Stuffed Oreos

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (Nestle Toll House but with more chips)
1 c. (two sticks) butter, softened
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 c. chocolate chips

* You could probably do both of them in a 9x13 pan.  However, I intended to freeze one of my pans, and I find that splitting the recipe into two pans so that one goes immediately into the freezer once they're cooled leaves me a happier (and skinnier) person. 

** This is my favorite brownie mix of all time.  My mother is vaguely concerned that I can taste the differences between brownie mixes, but there you have it.  Also, I bet these would be amazing if you used the Dark Chocolate Fudge Brownie (my second favorite mix) and dark chocolate chips.

Preheat the oven to 350F.  First things first, do yourself a favor.  Line your two pans with heavy duty aluminum foil and coat with cooking spray.  This will accomplish two things: (1) it makes it easier to cut them when they're done and (2) it makes it easy to freeze them without having to freeze your pan.

Start with the chocolate chip cookie dough.  Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Stir in the vanilla.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition.  In a small separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Gradually add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture (I usually do it in thirds or quarters), beating well after each addition.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Spread your dough in the bottom of your two pans, using your fingers to flatten it out and press it into the edges.

Next, layer your Oreos over the cookie dough, edges slightly touching, and lightly press them into the dough.

Using a fork (or an awesome batter whisk), mix together the brownie mix, water, oil, and eggs until smooth and free of lumps.  Pour over the Oreos in both pans until they are covered.  Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.   

To Freeze: Let cool in pan until both the brownies and the pan are cool.  Place the pan with the brownies in it in the freezer (uncovered is fine) for about 1 hour, just to get the brownies nice and firm.  Lift the foil-wrapped block of brownies out of the pan.  Securely wrap in plastic wrap, followed by another layer of foil, and place in a gallon-sized Ziploc freezer bag.  Freeze until you finish the first pan (or longer if you're a better person than me).

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Vegetable Stir Fry

Some days are rough, as in too exhausted to even think about cooking, yet burdened with guilt over the knowledge that you promised yourself that post-graduation, you would focus on losing weight before you went crazy in July focusing on not failing the bar.  That means delivery is not an option. It's days like these where I'm reminded of a comment Deb Perelman made a few weeks ago in one of her posts over on Smitten Kitchen:
This thing where you can grab anything at random without a shopping list in hand or recipe in mind and transform it effortlessly into a LQLACSD [lightning-quick, lazy, and completely satisfying dinner], this is real cooking. This is what separates those grandmothers that cranked out dinner like clockwork every night for 60 years, that didn’t throw in the towel because they only had canned peas and stale rice in the pantry, from the dilettantes.
I too aspire to be one of those people one day.  Today demanded one such dinner.  I am not a morning person, not by any stretch of the imagination.  Despite not nearly enough sleep, I managed to be semi-cheerful this morning, until I realized that despite my mother's household being one in which 5 out of 5 of the most frequent bodies that inhabit the kitchen drink coffee, there was not a commuter mug to be found, anywhere, dirty or clean.  And so the day started with an hour long commute with a ceramic mug that didn't quite fit into the cupholder of my car and rapidly cooling coffee.  That, combined with a lecture that ran close to five hours instead of the promised three and a half to four and a half, a detour to water my plants again because the last person who watered them did a poor job and they were already wilting after only two days, and another hour-long commute back, and I was ravenous and cranky.  I snacked on some leftover sweet potatoes while hunting through my mother's cabinets for something for dinner.

Fortunately, I had the foresight to grab a few staples from my pantry before making the drive this afternoon.  I had whole grain brown rice.  Mom had mentioned she had purchased some stir fry vegetables from a small neighborhood grocer this week.  Some serious digging and I discovered (shockingly) both soy sauce and sesame oil.  Vegetable stir fry was born.  Quick, filling, and not terribly unhealthy, all the while being incredibly tasty.

Vegetable Stir Fry (makes 4 servings)

1 c. whole grain brown rice
2 1/4 c. water
2 tsp. butter
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 1/4 lbs. stir fry vegetables*
1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 tsp. soy sauce, divided
1/2 tsp. sesame oil

*Mom had a Stir Fry Medley from Tom Leonard's that included broccoli, asparagus, yellow squash, green squash, red onions, orange peppers, yellow peppers, and green peppers. While not listed, I'm also 95% sure there were radishes in there, because I definitely tried a bite of one. 

Combine the rice, water, and butter in a medium saucepan and bring to boil.  Once the mixture is boiling, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes, or until the water is fully absorbed but before the rice starts to stick to the pan.  Let cool, transfer to a container, and let chill in the fridge or freezer, depending on your time constraints.  I know this step is not quick.  I have heard there are faster ways to make rice, and yet I still prefer it the long way.  The good thing about rice (like bread) is that it doesn't require much attention.  I made the rice while studying, put it in the fridge, and then took the puppies for a long walk.

Drizzle the olive oil in a wok.  Heat the oil over medium high until a drop of water crackles and pops.  Add the stir fry vegetables and the onion, and let cook about 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the onions are starting to look translucent.  Add the garlic, 2 tsp. of soy sauce, and the sesame oil, and continue to cook for another 5-10 minutes, or until the vegetables are the consistency at which you like them (I prefer mine on the crisp side of crisp-tender).

Once the vegetables are done, add the chilled rice to the wok, as well as the remaining 2 tsp. soy sauce.  Cook, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes, or until the rice is warmed through.  Serve and enjoy.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Roasted Tomato and Onion Rice Medley

I wanted something to go with my Butternut Squash Rounds, and I was a little tired of pasta after all of the pasta I've been eating lately.  Whole grain brown rice is one of my favorite foods.  Yes, it takes a while to cook, but it also keeps me feeling very full after I eat it, and that means I'm less cranky.  You really could substitute any sort of vegetable in with the rice, but I feel like the tomato and onion gives it a light, summery feel. 

Roasted Tomato and Onion Rice Medley

1 c. whole grain brown rice
2 c. water
2 tsp. butter
2 c. grape tomatoes, halved
2 medium sweet onions, diced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper
Parmesan for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450 F.  Combine the rice, water, and butter in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Once the rice is boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and cover, simmering about 30 minutes, until all of the water is absorbed.  It is better if you don't burn the rice such that it sticks to the bottom of the pan, but I've never quite been able to master that, and so I usually just scoop out the nonstuck parts and then set the pan to soak overnight and it works out just fine. 

While the rice is cooking, spread the tomatoes and onions in a shallow cookie pan/jellyroll pan.  I just picked up these pans a few weeks ago (after my favorite pan for roasting from college started banging around in the oven by itself it was so warped), and so far I absolutely love them.  Drizzle the onions and tomatoes with the olive oil and sprinkle liberally with the salt and pepper.  Mix them together so that the vegetables are evenly coated.  Roast at 450 F for 20-25 minutes, stirring every 10 or so, until the onions have started to turn golden, the tomatoes are looking a little blistered, and there is a fair amount of juice in the pan. 

Once the rice is done, combine it with the tomato-onion mixture, tossing to let the juices/olive oil evenly coat the rice (if you burn the bottom of the rice pan like me, this is best done in a separate bowl).  I don't like to mix parmesan in with the rice, because then it gets melty and stringy and sticks something awful to the spoon, but rather to grate a little over each individual portion once it's on the plate.  This works really well as a side dish, or topped with the Butternut Squash Rounds as a complete meal.

Butternut Squash Rounds

Apologies for the blog hiatus.  Law school finals kind of consumed my life.  I was still cooking (because I needed to eat), but not all of what I was eating is suitable for sharing (Honey Nut Cheerios and/or bread and cheese is a meal right?). I did try to take photos of some of the good stuff, so the next few posts will be "catch-up" so to speak. 

I keep picking up butternut squash at the store.  I know it's not in season, at least not anywhere nearby, but it's so delicious, even out of season, that I can't resist.  I actually got the idea for these rounds from Pinterest, my latest online obsession.  I was wondering what to do with the butternut squash that had been in my fridge for a week after my latest round of hunger-induced impulse buying, and then I saw this post for zucchini parmesan crisps and the idea was born.  These are great as a side dish (Mom and I had the leftovers with burgers one night) or as part of the main meal (toss over a salad or some brown rice and you have a tasty vegetarian light dinner). 

Butternut Squash Rounds

1 medium butternut squash
1/3 c. olive oil
1 c. Italian-style breadcrumbs
1/2 c. grated Parmesan
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Peel and slice the butternut squash into 1/2 inch thick rounds.  For the bottom part of the squash, I just cut meal-sized chunks and used them as best I could.  They weren't as pretty, but they sure were tasty.  Pour the olive oil into a shallow bowl.  Similarly, combine the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl as well, mixing thoroughly.  Next, dip each  round in the olive oil (both sides), and then dip in the breadcrumb mixture.  Place on a greased cookie sheet (I used my silicone cookie sheet over a regular cookie sheet rather than greasing), and bake at 400 for about 20-30 minutes, flipping every 10 minutes, until golden and crispy on the outside.