Monday, February 28, 2011

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I finally have an outlet for baking. Isn't that fantastic?

It's my work.

Unlike family, my work does not criticize cookies and/or baked goods. They welcome the sugary goodness to get through the long haul that is a dinner rush.

I have been looking to try oatmeal raisin cookies for a while now. They are an American icon as well as a classic combination. Spices, oats, raisins, sugar? Need I say more. 

These cookies are the perfect combination of sweet and spicy. I searched a while for an oatmeal raisin cookie that was worthy enough, but most of them were the same standard. So I took a few recipes and smushed them all together to make one I thought would work best. 

I believe in butter in cookies. Sorry, but the flavor and texture that butter gives to cookies is unlike anything else and it simply cannot be substituted. I even looked at "healthy" oatmeal raisin cookies (I know, please don't scorn me). I believe that some baked goods can be made healthy, but cookies simply cannot. I knew that if I tried to make these cookies healthy, I would be paying a price and they would probably be like a dried oatmeal muffin top. And that is not a cookie. 

Spiced Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Makes about 3 1/2 dozen
1 C. Butter at room temperature
1 1/2 C. Brown Sugar
1/2 C. White sugar
1 2/3 C. Flour
3 C. Oats (not quick cooking)
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
dash of allspice
dash of clove
dash of ground ginger
1 scant teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 C. Raisins (dredged in flour)
1 Tteaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

Begin by creaming the butter and sugars together. If you have stand mixer, this needs to be done for about 5 minutes. This step is crucial as the butter and sugar need to be completely incorporated before  you can move on. 

Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking soda, spices, and baking powder.

Add in the eggs one at a time to the mixture of butter and sugar, taking care to incorperate fully. Next, add in the vanilla extract. Finally add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture in two additions. 

Finally, fold in the oats and raisins. It is important to dredge the raisins in flour so they do not all clump together in a large mass. Scoop out  dough onto cookie sheets in about 1 1/2 inch balls. Chill the dough for about thirty minutes. This step is extremely important for these cookies. Chilling the dough allows the center to remain soft and gooey and the outside to become crispy. 

Bake for about 8-12 minutes until edges are golden brown. Remove and allow to cool on cookie sheet for at least 3 minutes before moving to a cooling rack.

Look at all those lovely nooks and crannies. MMMMM cookies. 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Chicken Cacciatore

I love one pot meals. It is so easy, everything cooks together and develops a fantastic flavor. I am particularly partial to making meals like this because of this enormous dutch oven. 
Isn't she a beauty? I think so. 

Anyways, onto chicken. How many different ways are there to make chicken? Ten thousand? Ten million? Whatever the number the possibilities are endless for what you can do with it. You can make soups, stews, stir fries, casseroles; its incredible how versatile it is. 

I had been wanting to make chicken cacciatore for a while now, mostly because of the flavor profile. I love the anise flavor of fennel and the complexity it adds to the dish. Combined with the sweetness of the tomatoes, this dish is definitely a winner. My family gobbled it up so fast I didn't even get to take a finished product picture! 

Traditionally, this dish is supposed to be served over pasta, but I decided to pass on this just because I am not that big a fan of pasta. However, I'm sure it would be delicious. 

Chicken Cacciatore 
Serves 4-6
1 Whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1 bulb fennel
3 garlic cloves 
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Zucchini
1 Yellow squash
6 oz. cremini mushrooms
1/2 lb. Asparagus
1/2 yellow onion
1/4 C. Flour
1/2 C. Dry red wine*
2 tbs. tomato paste
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes, low sodium
1 tbs. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 C. fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat a large dutch oven to medium heat. Add in some olive oil and allow to get hot. Dredge the chicken in flour and begin browning the chicken in the dutch oven. You do not want to cook the chicken yet, just get a nice, brown crust on both sides. The chicken finishes cooking later. This process should take about two batches with the chicken cooking about 2-3 minutes on each side. 

When you have finished browning the chicken, remove and set aside. In the same dutch oven, begin by sautéing your onion on medium low heat. Take care not to burn the onion. After about five minutes add in the fennel and continue to cook for about 5 more minutes. Once the fennel and onion have sufficiently softened, add the rest of the vegetables: zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, and asparagus. Cook for about 10-15 minutes to soften up the vegetables. 

Once the vegetables have softened up nicely, you are ready to deglaze the pan with the wine. (Traditionally, cacciatore is deglazed with white wine, I personally like the robust flavor that red wine gives to this dish but you can use whatever) Cook for about 3 minutes before adding the tomatoes, chicken, and herbs into the mix. 

 Put the lid on and allow to simmer for 30 minutes. 

After 30 minutes, remove the chicken and cover. 

Simmer the sauce for an additional five minutes to allow it to thicken.

Serve the sauce over the chicken with a nice piece of crusty bread or on a bed of pasta. Enjoy! I wish I had a finished product picture but it was so good It was gobbled up so fast.