Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies - Classically Delicious

When I was in grad school I worked at this little coffee shop called Cool Beans. Aside from teaching at UNI, it was my favorite job ever - and I've had a few over the years (I'm talking about paid jobs, not being a mom, which I do consider a job!). Anyway, one of the goodies we baked there were these triple chocolate chunk cookies - they had semi-sweet, bittersweet, and milk chocolate in them and they were oh-so-delicious. Granted, they were a frozen dough that we just had to bake, but seriously they were my favorite chocolate chip cookie ever. I was never able to discern what it was that stood out, until I found this recipe in "America's Test Kitchen Television Show 10th Anniversary Best Recipes" magazine. Super long title, amazing recipes. What's different about these cookies is that you brown the butter; it adds almost a nutty flavor to the cookie and really enhances the other flavors of the cookie (vanilla, brown sugar, chocolate). I love these cookies and hope you do, too!

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 3/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
14 Tbls. butter
3/4 c. dark brown sugar (I use light because it's usually all I have on hand)
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 c. chocolate chips (choose your favorite, or mix them together - all are delicious in this dough)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat 10 Tbls. of butter over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling the pan continuously until butter is dark golden brown, 1 to 3 minutes. Transfer butter to large bowl and add remaining 4 Tbls. of butter and stir until melted. Add sugars, salt, soda, and vanilla and whisk until incorporated. Add egg and egg yolk and whisk until smooth. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat this twice more. Stir in flour until just incorporated, then mix in the chocolate chips. Spoon dough onto parchment-lined or greased baking sheets and bake for 10-14 minutes - the cookies should look puffy and golden brown.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Annual Ice Cream Cake!

It was my hubby's birthday on July 29th - his golden birthday, actually. I am so lucky to be with him. Intelligent, funny, kind-hearted, wonderful father, and let's not forget good-lookin'! I'm blessed, and so are our boys.
I forgot to mention he's also the boys' jungle gym!
Anyway, back when Dusty and I first started dating (almost 8 years ago!), we were both in college, and surprise, surprise I didn't have much money. But, Dusty loves ice cream cakes, so for his birthdays I decided to try to make my own instead of buying them. I think this was the 6th birthday I've made an ice cream cake, and I think Dusty's been happy with all of them. The great thing about them is that they're so versatile! I've done them with oreo crusts, actual cake layers with ice cream between, and a variety different flavors . . . although most combinations revolve around chocolate and peanut butter because those are Dusty's favorites. The combinations are endless. This year was a cookie crust, hot fudge Reese's PB cups, ice cream, peanuts, ice cream, and whipped cream on the top. It went over really well, although Dusty and I each probably gained a few pounds since we were the only ones who ate it! (So far, Asher hates ice cream - too cold for the little guy!)

Ice Cream Cake

1st layer
1 pkg. Betty Crocker chocolate with peanut butter chips cookie mix
1/3 c. oil
2 T. water
1 egg
Hot fudge topping
Reese's PB cups

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients and press 2/3 into a greased 9-inch springform pan. Spread remaining dough on greased cookie sheet and bake both for 12 minutes. Allow to cool. Spread crust with hot fudge and chopped PB cups (the amount you use is up to you - I think I used 5 fun size candy bars)

2nd layer
2 1/2 c. vanilla ice cream, softened
1/2 c. caramel ice cream topping
1/3 c. peanut butter
1/3 c. dry roasted peanuts, chopped
Mix caramel and peanut butter, and fold into ice cream. Spread over cooled crust and sprinkle with peanuts. Freeze until solid - at least 2 hours.

3rd layer
2 1/2 c. chocolate ice cream, softened
Crumbled cookie from earlier
Mix ice cream with the chocolate peanut butter cookie baked during the first layer. Spread the chocolate ice cream over the vanilla and freeze again.

Top layer
8 oz. container Cool Whip
3/4 c. powdered sugar
Peanut butter cups
Mix Cool Whip with powdered sugar to stiffen, then spread or pipe on top of ice cream. Sprinkle with peanuts and chopped peanut butter cups. Freeze overnight if possible, or at least 2 hours, and eat up!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Hungry for a good read?

While on vacation with my husband's family, I was able to read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Surprisingly, I didn't hear about this book from anyone (surprising because it's so popular). Instead, I randomly saw on the internet that it was going to be made into a movie, so I searched for the series and decided to purchase the first book of the series. Money well spent! I'm always leery of buying a book unless I know for certain that I'll enjoy it, but this one seemed right up my alley and it was.

For those of you unfamiliar with the book, it's sci-fi and takes place in the future. The protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, ends up partaking in the Capitol's annual Hunger Games. These games require one boy and one girl from each of the 12 districts to participate in these games as a reminder that the Capitol is in control. It serves as a reminder because only one contestant survives the Hunger Games - the others are killed by other contestants, the elements, or various horrors the Capitol sends in to keep the audience interested. Written in the first person, the book follows Katniss on this nightmarish ordeal.

If you haven't read it yet, you should! Collins has a way of making you feel connected to the characters despite your best efforts (it's the nature and necessity of the Hunger Games to be individualistic). It keeps you wanting to read up to the last sentence of the book. I really look forward to reading the next two books in the trilogy, but unfortunately they're only out in hardcover right now. So, I'll probably wait until they come out in paperback . . . bummer. If you're interested, you can read more about Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games, and other books she's written here and/or here.