Maybe cooking is

Cookies, Monkey Bread & Chili-rubbed Pork

Posted on: April 8, 2011

BAKING

Cookies

Natalie’s bake-off party on March 10 inspired a dig for some delicious cookie recipes.  I tried my hand at five batches of three types of cookies:

  1. Two batches of oatmeal raisin (which Williams-Sonoma says comes from their kiddie cookbook)
  2. Two batches of banana-oatmeal power cookies
  3. One batch of oatmeal-cherry and almond spice cookies (it made around 40 big cookies or so)

At first, I was working with my hand mixer, but since all of these cookies have oatmeal as a base, the dough gave the motor a hard time.  I switched to using a spoon and elbow grease.

I ditched the mixer after this photo opp for these oatmeal-based cookies.

The oatmeal raisin is perfect.  Loved it.  I made one batch with regular raisins and the second batch with golden raisins.  Either one is very good.

The banana-oatmeal power cookie packs a lot – walnuts, banana, coconut, cinnamon, golden raisins, and oatmeal.  It’s a tastier version of a granola bar.  The consistency is more banana-breadlike than oatmeal-cookie like.

My culinary change-up were the main ingredients of the last cookie.  Originally, the recipe calls for dates and walnuts as the main duo, but that’s more a fall cookie taste and I couldn’t find dates (or didn’t really care to find them).  Instead, I substituted in dried cherries and almonds.  I used uniform dried cherries, not dried cherries jubilee, which is a mixture of different type of cherries.  Health flash: Cherries are low in vitamins and minerals, but they’re great sources of antioxidants, act as an anti-inflammatory, and can ease you into sleep with their melatonin content.

Fun fact: Without the word “dried” in front of it, the phrase cherries jubilee refers to this flaming dessert popular in the 1960s.  Is anyone having a Mad Men-themed party?

Monkey Bread

Moving from cookies onto bread, over spring break I tried a new challenge of Monkey Bread.  Since I’m not a morning person, there was no way I was going to get up early enough to make this for breakfast, so I whipped it up before dinner.  It’s a pretty simple recipe, but I couldn’t resist modifying the dipping stage.  After you cut the biscuits into quarters, the recipe says to dip them in butter and then roll them in the brown sugar mixture.  I wanted the final baked good to retain moisture, so I whisked two eggs into the butter mixture.

These eggs and biscuits could be a meal on their own, but I have bigger plans for them.

I also had to make 1.5x the amount of brown sugar mixture because I ran out 3/4 of the way through dipping (or halfway into the second layer of biscuits).  I also used walnuts as opposed to the traditional pecans.  I poured butter-flavored, corn-syrup, bad for your entire well-being syrup on top.

Don't let the biscuit quarters soak too long - they'll return to a soppy dough consistency. Quick dip, then sugar them up!

I baked it at 325 degrees (not 350 as said in the recipe) for about 30 minutes, checking on it at the 15, 20, and 25 minute marks.  The baking pan I used was actually a stove-top pan used for pan-frying.  It doesn’t matter what you use as the container in the oven because once it’s done and has sat for about 5 minutes, you flip it over onto a plate.

Because it has a brown color to begin with, you have to watch it carefully in the oven to make sure it doesn't burn.

This is a great dessert or breakfast food, either warmed up or eaten room-temperature.  You can add more syrup, though it’s not really needed.  Yum!

COOKING

Chili

Racing legend Carroll Shelby developed a cheap, easy, stove-top chili mix in the 1970s – who knew?  Because packaged soups tend to have high sodium content, which is one reason they’re so great when you’re sick, I didn’t throw in the salt packet included in the box.  I sauteed an onion first and then added half the ground meat (turkey not beef).  I would recommend adding chili flakes for those that love spicy foods.

Cooked onions for about 5 minutes before adding meat to brown together.

In the last 5 minutes, I threw in a can of pinto beans.

With all ingredients, just about ready to serve.

For finishing touches, I added shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, and chopped chives.

Although it was good, I’m not sure if I’d make it again just because the high sodium content made my temperature rise – but I’m hyper-sensitive to the effects of food, anyway.

Pasta

Taking advantage of East-coast based gourmet grocery superstore Wegmen’s, I tried out some frozen pesto and five-cheese stuffed ravioli rounds with their vodka blush sauce.  I sauteed some mushrooms in virgin olive oil before adding the sauce to the stove top and then grinding in a lot of fresh pepper.

Wegmen’s, in addition to the recipes provided on its sites like most grocery stores now, even has videos of cooking demonstrations:

Chili-rubbed Pork

This recipe takes prep because it’s a rub.  Similar to a marinade, you have to let the meat sit 2-24 hours – the longer, the more strong the flavor.  I used light brown sugar instead of regular sugar because I didn’t want to disturb the neighbors for a cup.  Brown sugar is just regular sugar with added molasses, light containing less molasses than dark.  I figured molasses wouldn’t change the flavor too much and might add a crystalized component to the pork when it cooks.

STATE COLLEGE

During Spring Break, I visited Frank at State College.  While there, I cooked the above recipes, but we also went around town to a few local favorites. Including the Nittany Lion Shrine!

Frank and me at the Lion Shrine!

Since it was sunny, we walked to the PSU Bekey Creamery.  How cool is it that Pennsylvania’s (state) university has agricultural students that make its own ice cream?  They have over 100+ flavors, but never all at once.  I got a standard five scoops of cookie dough ice cream (they only have one size).  The Department of Food Science currently offers a 7-day short course for ice cream making in January – an extension of the course it originally offered in 1892.  I would totally take it if I was enrolled there!  Except that there’s a closed book final exam, and I don’t think auditing is an option.

Halfway through the week, it got cold and by the end, it was flurrying.  We warmed up at Herwig’s, an Austrian Bistro and one of the top ethnic restaurants in the area, and I tried to pronounce my authentic dish.  We bribed the cashier with a beer to avoid getting yelled at in Austrian fashion for not finishing my dinner.  True fact.  They list threats about it at the tables.

When strolling, I noticed a cupcake boutique – *ndulge cupcakes.  The woman that opened the bakery did so because bakeries make her happy – after spending almost 40 years in advertising, TV, and radio.  Much like Georgetown Cupcake, the bakery has cream-cheese based icing, but it also offers buttercream frosting.  Pretty delicious cupcakes – the peanut butter cup (cream cheese) won me over as opposed to the realli vanilli (buttercream).

Quote of the week: Vegetables are a must on a diet.  I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.” – Jim Davis, cartoonist, (1965-)

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1 Response to "Cookies, Monkey Bread & Chili-rubbed Pork"

I can testify to the tastiness of all above mentioned items.

I wasn’t sure if the banana cookies were meant to be bread-like, but it turned out to be quite pleasant (and I think helped me score a top 20 finish at the Grants’ Tomb crit).

That chili looks delicious, even more so than the two I have tried with the crock pot. I think part of it has to do with the thicker consistency yours achieved, while mine initially remained on the watery level. After a day or two in the fridge, it seemed to thicken a bit. Either way, it was mostly delicious thanks to your suggestion of added chili pepper flakes early in the process.

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