Thursday, July 31, 2008

Peanut Butter dip

Today I decided an apple wasn't good enough. I wanted an apple with dip! Unfortunately, I can't tell you the exact amounts to use (because when I suddenly decide to invent something, I don't measure), but I can tell you the ingredients for a quick, yummy dip:

In a little bowl, whisk with a fork:
-peanut butter
-powdered sugar (not too much if your peanut butter is sweetened)
-a bit of cinnamon (I used cassia)
-a few drops of vanilla extract
-milk, enough to make it creamy

The cinnamon adds just the right warmth. I call it my secret ingredient. :)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Something old and Something new

First of all, leftover cookie dough is delicious! In fact, it is a little too good because instead of baking a second batch of cookies, Christina and I (Peter may have helped too!) ate most of it. I mean, homemade cookie dough is naturally an excellent topping for ice cream, not to mention a great snack. . .

A few days ago we began our search for the perfect chocolate chip cookie. For our first test we made two different kinds. Both were supposed to be a little crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. The favorite recipe can be traced back to 1943, first published in a wartime issue of the Joy of Cooking. Unfortunately, we baked them on a very humid day which affected the consistency of the dough and finished product. True to Kira form, we ended up with very thin cookies for our first batch, although later taste tests proved this minor inconvenience to be a mute point. They were delicious! The vanilla extract added extra flavor to the cookie, and they were still fabulous days after baking.

The second "something new"recipe was good but not great. They were thick and chewy, exactly what we were looking for, however the taste did not meet our expectations. The chocolate flavor did not burst from the cookie and overall something seemed to be missing.

Christina and I highly recommend "something old" and hope you find time to enjoy this delightful, little treat.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cookie recipe #2: Something New

Our "Something New" is a recipe published in 1996 by the magazine Cooks Illustrated in their hunt for a "thick, chewy gourmet shop cookie at home" ( (again, a review/s will follow)

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/8 cups bleached all-purpose flour (about 10 1/2 ounces) (we used unbleached)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted and cooled slightly
1 cup brown sugar (light or dark), 7 ounces (we used dark)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 - 2 cups chocolate chips or chunks (semi or bittersweet) (we used bittersweet chunks from Trader Joes)

1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions. Mix flour, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

2. Either by hand or with electric mixer, mix butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Mix in egg, yolk, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients; mix until just combined. Stir in chips.

3. Following illustrations below, form scant 1/4 cup dough into ball. Holding dough ball using fingertips of both hands, pull into two equal halves. Rotate halves ninety degrees and, with jagged surfaces exposed, join halves together at their base, again forming a single cookie, being careful not to smooth dough’s uneven surface. Place formed dough onto one of two parchment paper-lined 20-by-14-inch lipless cookie sheets, about nine dough balls per sheet. Smaller cookie sheets can be used, but fewer cookies can be baked at one time and baking time may need to be adjusted. (Dough can be refrigerated up to 2 days or frozen up to 1 month—shaped or not.)

NOTE: try as we may, this part was impossible due to the Rochester humidity. Instead, we plopped the same amount right onto the sheet. We knew that it would spread out anyway, so whatever.

4. Bake, reversing cookie sheets’ positions halfway through baking, until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 18 minutes (start checking at 13 minutes). (Frozen dough requires an extra 1 to 2 minutes baking time.) Cool cookies on cookie sheets. Serve or store in airtight container.

Cookie recipe #1: Something Old

Our "Something Old" recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks, Joy of Cooking. This recipe originated in the wartime edition of the cookbook, 1943. (review/s will be posted separately)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease or line 2 cookie sheets.

1 cup plus 2 tbl all-purpose flour (we used unbleached)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips (we added more :) )
3/4 chopped walnuts or pecans (optional; we left out)

1. Whisk together flour and baking soda. Beat in a large bowl until well blended the butter and sugars. Add to this and beat until well blended the egg, salt, and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture until well blended and smooth. Stir in chocolate chips.
2. Drop the dough by heaping teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto the cookie sheets. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until the cookies are just slightly colored on top and the edges are brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Let stand briefly, then remove to a rack to cool.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Steak and Kidney Pie

Reader advisory: below are some rather raw images of my adventure. Beware if you squeamish!

Once upon a time, I decided to get a little adventurous in the kitchen. It all started when I found a list of vitamins and minerals and what foods contain them naturally. Turns out I needed to eat more brown rice, fish, leafy greens, and oh my, kidneys.

Then one day as I was flipping through an old American cookbook, I discovered a recipe for steak and kidney pie. "Perfect!" I thought, "now I can try kidneys, and if I don't like them, at least the beef will be good!" Or so I thought.

Now the process of making this pie ended up being much more time consuming than I anticipated! First, no grocer or butcher in this city carried beef kidney. So I had to make multiple phone calls and then drive 20 miles into another county (those of you in CA will laugh at me). Once in hand, I had to prepare it (a nasty little process), cook it (which was perhaps the worst thing I have ever smelled), make a pie crust, create a sauce, and finally bake it. Did I mention this all took about 4 hours?

In the end, I was skeptical but hopeful. After all, I knew the beef would taste good. Unfortunately, I failed to consider that the entire pie, broth, beef, and all, would be tainted with the flavor of the kidney. What did it taste like, you might ask? Strange. Not bad, just strange. The word foreign also comes to mind. It was one of those things that did not disgust me, but left me without any desire to eat more. And thus, to our great disappointment, or perhaps satisfaction (depending on how you look at it), the fruit of my hours of labor and bravery were soon laying pitifully at the bottom of a trash can.

For the visual learners out there, I decided to post step-by-step pictures of the whole process, including a video of my "first taste":

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

1) prepping the kidney (removing the white stuff):

2) Flouring (then searing) the beef and kidney pieces:

3) Cooking the meat for 2 hours:

4) The pie!

And finally, a video Peter surreptitiously took of me taking my first bite. I didn't know he was doing this!!

So there you have it! Now you all know--next time you feel like being adventurous, don't make a whole steak and kidney pie.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


We (Kira and Christina) set out to find the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. After traversing thousands of miles and enduring the insufferable heat and humidity of Upstate New York, we narrowed the search for the perfect recipe down to four contenders: something old, something new, something borrowed, and something...from a website. Each has it own unique characteristics which we hope will result in the culmination of the perfect chocolate chip cookie. Join us on this journey. Time to tie on our aprons and get to work!