Chocolate & Molasses Chip Cookies

There is a never ending quest of the perfect chocolate chip cookie. The trick though, is that this distinction purely depends on personal tastes. Do you prefer chewy, crunchy, soft, hard, bite size, cake like, semi-sweet, or dark chocolate? With or without nuts?

Each recipe has it’s own slight variation, so here’s another one to add to the books.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 8 ounces molasses chips, crushed

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 375º F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy.
  4. Add in the eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating one egg before adding the other.
  5. Mix in the vanilla extra.
  6. Add the flour mixture from Step 1 and mix to combine.
  7. Stir in the chocolate chips and molasses chips.
  8. Using a one-inch cookie scoop, portion out the cookie dough on a baking sheet, ensuring that there is at least one inch of space between each cookie.
  9. Bake for 15 – 18 minutes, until golden brown.

Notes:

  • Most cookies, including this one, benefits from a quick chill in the fridge. Why? Adding the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mixing/kneading it causes the creation of gluten. Over-mixing flour can make more gluten which, in turn, can make the cookie tough. Letting the cookie dough rest for an hour or two before baking gives the protein structure a chance to break down, creating a softer cookie.
  • Additionally, letting the cookie dough rest allows the flavors to meld  together. Think of it like marinating a steak. Letting the spices set into the meat is beneficial to adding flavor. Why should a cookie be any different?
  • The molasses chips melt upon baking, but the flavor it leaves behind is noteworthy. For some, however, this may make the cookie too sweet. Try using half a box of molasses chips instead if you want something lighter.

Seafood Pasta with Garlic and Oil

Seafood Pasta with Garlic and Oil

Cooking seafood can seem daunting at times, especially when a recipe calls for a mixture of sea critters. In practice, however, seafood dishes are easy to prepare and typically requires a short cooking time.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds mixed seafood
  • 1 pound of long pasta like spaghetti or linguine
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • salt to taste
  • crushed red pepper

Steps:

  • Cook the noodles according to package directions and set aside. Reserve a cup of the pasta water for the sauce.
  • In a pan over medium/low heat, add the oil, garlic, crushed red pepper, and salt. Let the mixture combine for about a minute.
  • Add in the mixed seafood, making sure there’s plenty of room in the pan so there’s no overlapping. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, or until the shrimp is pink on both sides.
  • Combine the noodles with the sauce. Add more olive oil or water (i.e. the pasta water reserved above) if necessary to make a creamier sauce. This step can be done off the stove. The pan should still be warm; it’s best to control the heat element as much as possible to avoid overcooking the seafood.
  • Toss with parsley and serve.

Notes:

  • One of the harder parts about making a mixed seafood dish is that each type of seafood cooks at a different rate. It may be easier to cook each type separately if you’re not familiar with the indicators of readiness or not game to pick out the done pieces.

  • Some indicators of readiness are: shrimp turning from sickly grey when raw to a vibrant pink when ready; shellfish will open up; scallops will turn slightly opaque and feel more firm. In the recipe above, shrimp is used as the guide as this would take the longest to cook (and the assumption is that shrimp is included in the seafood mix).

Green Tea Shortbread Cookies

Green Tea Shortbread Cookies

This Martha Stewart cookie has been on my radar for some time, but for whatever reason I lagged in giving the recipe a try. Anything green tea usually catches my attention- pocky, kit kats, ice cream, tea lattes, etc.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons green tea powder (matcha powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (confectioners’ sugar)
  • 1 bag mini white chocolate chips

Steps:

  • Using the mixer’s paddle attachment, cream the butter until fluffy.
  • Add sugar and continue to beat until the mixture turns lighter in color.
  • Add in flour, green tea powder, and salt. Combine on low until the flour is just incorporated.
  • Add in the white chocolate chips and mixed until combined.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Portion out the dough into ping pong sized balls on to a baking sheet. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, until firm.

Notes:

  • Finished cookies are still soft out of the oven. If you’re the type that likes to transfer the cookies right away to a wire rack for cooling, it may be worth it to wait a few minutes for the cookies to settle a bit. I had trouble transferring some pieces, but after 5-10 minutes of cooling on the baking sheet, the cookies were more firm and easier to transfer.
  • As typical with shortbread, this cookie is crumbly. You could say that it melts in your mouth (and sometimes in your hands too).
  • Feeling fancy? The dough can be rolled out and used to cut shapes. The original recipe suggests using leaf shaped cutters. Admittedly, my own final product isn’t the most visually appealing, but sometimes rolling out dough is more trouble than it’s worth.
  • The original recipe can be found here.

Red Wine Braised Oxtail

Red Wine Braised Oxtail

Oxtail seems to be getting more love nowadays, even making an appearance in the refrigerated section of Costco. The meat of an oxtail bone is succulent when cooked correctly – meat falling off the bone tender. Braising is the best cooking method as it allows time for the oxtail to cook and become tender and infuse itself with whatever flavors your heart desires.

Ingredients:

  • 2 750 ml bottles dry red wine
  • 12 oxtail pieces (approximately 6 pounds)
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of unsalted butter
  • 5 shallots, coarsely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch of parsley stems
  • 4 cups beef broth

Steps:

  • Preheat oven to 325ºF.
  • In a saucepan , boil the wine until reduced by about half.
  • Season the oxtails with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a pot that’s large enough to hold all the oxtail over high heat and brown the oxtail on all sides. Set the browned oxtail to the side.
  • Add the vegetables and 1 tablespoon of butter to the pot and still until softened.
  • Add the oxtails back into the pot and pour in the reduced wine, herbs, and enough broth to just cover the oxtails. Bring to a boil and braise the oxtails in the oven for 3 to 3.5 hours until meat is tender.
  • Remove oxtails with a slotted spoon on to a serving dish and keep warm.
  • Strain the sauce through a sieve and discard the solids. Boil the remaining liquid until thick and reduced. Stir in the remaining butter and use as a sauce.

Notes:

  • Most red wine recipes call for dry red wines such as  Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Shiraz/Syrah, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, and Cabernet Franc.
  • Though the recipe calls for a specific amount of oxtail, the goal here is to just cover the oxtail with the sauce base. Depending on the size of the oxtail, it may take more or less pieces.
  • I usually skip any parts of the recipe that call for additional work that wouldn’t compromise the final product. For example, the original recipe calls for roasting the oxtail in the oven prior to cooking it on the stove. This is a move that’s primarily seen in Europe an style cooking. The claim is that the heat extracts more flavor from the bones than just dumping it into a pot of boiling water, but my guesstimate is that the difference between the two method is subtle.
  • A problem with oxtail recipes is that the caveat of cook until done is more important than with most recipes. A perfect oxtail is one where the meat falls off the bone.