Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

ImageRed velvet! What?! I know, red velvet is a little past it’s heyday, but yesterday was February 25th, my grandpa’s birthday. And due to his unwavering devotion to red velvet cake, I can’t get through the last week of this month with out a – dare I say it – craving for red velvet.

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Admittedly, red velvet isn’t the greatest thing on the planet. It has a tiny bit of chocolate in it, which seems to be there just to taunt you into thinking your cake or cookies or what have you will be chocolatey. It always manages to lightly stain your teeth red until you can get your hands on a toothbrush. But still. It’s red velvet. It’s pretty darn good looking, doesn’t taste half bad, and if your grandpa likes it so much, it must be good.

ImageThese whoopie pies aren’t hard to make. You could even make the cookies one day and the frosting the next. They’re wonderfully soft, not too sweet, and the frosting is pretty great too.

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

From Handle the Heat

Makes about 30 pies

Notes: I almost didn’t add the full ounce of food coloring, because that was the entire bottle and it almost felt too unnatural. But only half the bottle didn’t make the batter red, and it will get darker when it bakes. Also, an ounce is two tablespoons, which is kind of a lot of liquid to remove/alter. So I’d definitely recommend using the full ounce. Also the directions say to pipe the batter and frosting. If you don’t have pastry bags, don’t fear! I don’t either. When the batter is ready to bake, just spoon it into one of the bottom corners of a large ziploc bag, squish all the air out, seal it, and cut off the tip of the corner of the bag. Instant pastry bag! This batter is somewhere between a cookie dough and a cake batter, too runny to easily scoop with a spoon and not runny enough to pour, so piping not only makes the batter easier to handle, but makes the whole process go much faster and cleanup much easier.

For the cookies:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick, 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

1 ounce red food coloring

For the frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Make the cookies:

Preheat oven to 375 F and place 2 oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the brown sugar to the butter and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add in the egg. Beat until thoroughly combined. Add in the vanilla. Alternatively beat in the flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the buttermilk. Fold with a spatula a couple times to make sure the flour is incorporated. Mix in the food coloring.

Pipe tablespoonfuls of batter onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about an inch between each round.  Bake until tops are set, about 7-9 minutes. Keep a close eye on them, mine barely needed this much time. Cool completely on the cookie sheets.

Make the frosting:

In the bowl of a stand mixer or with electric beaters, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Gradually add the powdered sugar and vanilla, alternating between them. Beat until smooth.

Assemble the pies:

Pipe the frosting on the flat sides of half the cookies. Place the remaining cookies on top, flat sides down, so the round sides of both cookies will face out.

The whoopie pies can be refrigerated for up to 4 days in an airtight container. Allow them to stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.

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Secret Ingredient Oatmeal Cookies

Image(Not to be confused with Secret Ingredient Chocolate Chip Cookies)

This post has been a loooong time coming. I had my eye on this recipe for a solid week before I actually made it. I’ll tell you that a few long days at work followed by a big snowstorm that prevented me from going grocery shopping were the cause of that delay, but that’s not really true. Procrastination 1, Kaitlin 0. More like Procrastination 5000, Kaitlin 0 but I’m not counting.

IMG_4576Regardless of the reason, I had to make them, because I had some leftover cottage cheese from a recipe I made that’s not going to make it on here because, whoops, I took it to a friend’s house and we ate it before I could get a good picture. (That recipe was these Blood Orange bars, and they are wonderful.) Anyway, I had some leftover cottage cheese, which I’m not going to eat unless it’s baked into something delicious, because, that texture? Ew. I also had a newly purchased container of oats and a bag of chocolate chips staring at me every time I opened the pantry. So I did a little searching a found these delightful oatmeal cookies. Which you should make and share, because you’ll have about 6 dozen. Or just keep them for yourself and eat away at the giant pile of cookies on your counter.

IMG_4635These are nice and soft, and the cottage cheese makes them a little cakey. The cinnamon is a wonderful addition, giving them a little spice. They’re like little oatmeal chocolate chip clouds!

 

Secret Ingredient Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from cooks.com

Makes 5-6 dozen

 

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

1 ½ cups sugar

1 cup cottage cheese (you can strain it if you want, I didn’t even want to think about how gross that would make my strainer, so I just beat it a little longer until the curds were gone)

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups sifted flour

2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups quick-cooking oats (the recipe calls for quick-cooking oats and that’s what I had. If you use regular rolled oats I would decrease this to maybe 1 2/3 cup)

2 cups chocolate chips

You can also add in ½ cup chopped nuts and/or 1 cup seedless raisins in place of or in addition to the chocolate chips.

 

In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the cottage cheese. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat well, until fully incorporated.

Sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter/egg mixture, mixing until just combined. Stir in the oats and chocolate chips/nuts/raisins.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for several hours or overnight, up to 3 days. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 F. Grease 2 cookie sheets. Roll dough into 1 inch balls (I used a tablespoon to measure). Place dough about 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets (I fit 15 on a pan) and bake 15-18 minutes, until tops are golden brown.

These cookies keep well in an airtight container at room temperature. They can also be frozen, just let them thaw for a minute or two before you eat them so they don’t crumble.


Thai Beef Stew with Lemongrass and Rice Noodles

ImageI have a few things to say about this stew that aren’t necessarily related to each other, except for the fact that they’re all relevant to this stew. So I’m just going to list them, not really in any particular order, because lists are the only way to organize un-organizable things.

1. Lemongrass is both far more sturdy than I expected and way more fragrant when you have it at hand than in a smoothie or whatever else you can find it in. Seriously though. I was legitimately worried for the integrity of the blade of my knife while trying to slice the lemongrass. My arms got tired. My hand got a cramp. But the smell…..it smells sooooo gooooood.

2. Cooking rice noodles is really easy. Perfect for lazy people like me who still haven’t figured out how to be woken up by an alarm clock. All you have to do is put the rice noodles in a heat-proof bowl, boil some water, pour the water over the noodles, submerge them, and make sure they don’t get too mushy. The Kitchn has a really helpful tutorial.

Image3. The first step of this recipe calls for the use of a food processor. Something I don’t have. But I remembered the time I made pesto without a food processor, using this great recipe from 101 Cookbooks, where you stand at the counter with a knife for about 40 minutes, chopping and chopping until your wrist feels to weak to keep your hand attached to your arm, until finally what your chopping is almost as finely chopped as it would have been in a Cuisinart. So I figured I could do the same thing for this stew. Yes, it’s a pain, and time consuming, but put some music on and have a dance party and just think of all the stress you’re letting out with all that chopping!

4. I’m not sure this stew qualifies as a Valentine’s Day recipe, given the lack of pink/red/whipped cream/strawberries/chocolate/champagne, but if you’ve got some time and want to impress someone without garlic breath overload, this is the recipe for you.

I’m not going to lie, this recipe takes some work and some time. Though significantly less if you have a food processor and don’t do it the crazy way like I did. Here are the ingredients:

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First, the lemongrass. Chop off the a couple inches at the bottom and about 4 inches at the top. Then, peel away a few outer layers.

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Then we’ll chop it up with some garlic, ginger, and peppers. And process until we get a paste or something close enough to a paste.

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Next we’ll brown the meat. I only have a picture of the end result because of all the boiling, jumping-out-of-the-pan oil involved. (And I now realize those silver tongs are a little menacing.)

ImageNow, that pepper-lemongrass paste? We’re going to cook it with a cinnamon stick and a couple anise pods.

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Then we’ll add the beef and some water and let it simmer for a couple hours. Meanwhile, we toast some coconut to put on top.

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When the meat is tender, we’ll add in some carrots and shallots and let it cook a bit longer.

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You’ll know it’s done when the meat starts falling apart. Then you’ll add in some scallions and it’s done! Sprinkle some coconut flakes on top and serve with rice noodles and a lime wedge.

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This stew is perfectly spiced and the meat literally falls apart. The coconut and cinnamon add just a touch of sweetness, and the anise a little licorice-y flavor that’s just what the stew needs. It’s worth taking Friday afternoon off. Promise.

Thai Beef Stew with Lemongrass and Rice Noodles

Adapted slightly from Bon Appetit, February 2014, original recipe is also here

Serves 6 (and makes great leftovers)

4 lemongrass stalks, trimmed, tough outer layers removed, thinly sliced

4 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped peeled ginger

2 red Thai chiles, with seeds, sliced (I couldn’t find any 😦 so I used serranos which are too tame for this stew, I think)

3 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 2-inch pieces

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 whole star anise pods

1 cinnamon stick

1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

4 medium shallots, quartered

1 pound carrots, peeled, cut into 2-inch lengths, halved if large

4 scallions, cut into 1-inch lengths

8 oz wide rice noodles (I could only find skinny ones, wide ones will have to sit a little longer in the hot water)

lime wedges for serving

Place the lemongrass, garlic, ginger, and chiles in a food processor and process until a fine paste forms.

Season the beef with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. In batches, brown the beef on all sides, about 10-15 minutes. (I used my cast iron pot for this recipe and did not leave the beef in there for that long – once the pan got hot the beef browned in about 30 seconds per side. And since it’s going to cook for 3+ hours there’s no need to worry about it being undercooked.) Transfer the browned meat to a bowl.

In the same pot, cook the lemongrass paste until the lemongrass begins to soften, 5-8 minutes. (How you’re supposed to tell when the lemongrass is softening when it’s a paste, I have no idea, but that’s what the recipe says.) Add the star anise, cinnamon, soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, beef with any juices, and 10 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer partially covered for 2 1/2-3 hours, until beef is tender and the liquid slightly thickened. Skim occasionally.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 F. Toast the coconut flakes on a baking sheet until golden around the edges, about 4 minutes. If you can smell it, it’s done!

When the beef is fork-tender, add the shallots and carrots to the stew. Cook partially covered another 35-45 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and the beef is falling apart. (Mine took a little less time than that.) Add the scallions at the last minute; they will wilt slightly.

While the stew cooks for its last 10 or so minutes, cook the rice noodles according to package directions.

Divide the noodles between bowls and ladle the stew over them. Top with toasted coconut and more scallions and serve with lime wedges.

Can be made 3 days ahead without the noodles. Let cool, cover, and chill.


Lemon Chickpea Risotto

ImageThis week was an odd one. Schedules got switched around a lot. Rush projects got started at work. We scrambled to get them started and keep them on track until later the next day, suddenly they weren’t rush anymore. Another project that we thought had been cancelled actually shouldn’t have been canceled, and I’d spent most of the day before working on the one that should have been canceled, staying a little later into the evening than I want to talk about. All day Wednesday I thought it was Thursday. By Friday, the week had gone on way. too. long.

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Even though I couldn’t shake the weirdness of this week there were some good things too. Wednesday evening saw a much-needed venting session with coworkers over pizza and beer. Thursday, we woke up to snow! A good 6 inches of it. For the second time this winter, which is about as rare in the Northwest as sunny days are in winter. Friday the snow continued and now we have a foot and half and it’s glorious. That night included getting stuck in a snowy parking lot, crockpot chili, chocolate chip cookies right from the oven, and too many rounds of the endlessly agonizing game Set (the ease of which, if you’re wondering, has an inverse relationship to the amount of gin you’ve had).

So, a weird week, but not a bad one. If I’d had a batch of this risotto sitting in my fridge to comfort me all week, it would have been better. If you’ve never made risotto before, the effort to result ratio is pretty great. No, you don’t get to step away from the pan, but it’s not a difficult thing to make, and the risotto is hearty and filling and warming and just cheesy and rich enough to really feel like an indulgence.

Risotto starts with arborio rice (buy it cheap in the bulk section!), onion, lemon zest, fresh thyme, chili flakes, salt, and pepper in a big skillet. And butter, of course.

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Everything gets stirred around a bit until the butter melts and rice is translucent. (It’s not quite translucent status in this picture.)

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Then, we add broth to the risotto, let the rice absorb it, stir, and repeat! Simple.

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Then because risotto requires cheese, some grated parmesan gets tossed into the mix.

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And finally, to add some actual nutrition and protein to this wonderful cheesy mess, we add in some chickpeas.

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Give it another stir, a few more minutes on the stove, and your risotto is done!

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Top your risotto with some more grated parmesan, a little pepper, and your weird week just got a little better.

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This risotto is good. Really good.

Lemon Chickpea Risotto

Adapted from The Vegetable Life and Joy the Baker

Serves 6-8

12 ounces arborio rice

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large onion, chopped

1 tablespoon lemon zest

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

pinch salt (go light on the salt or omit it if you want – the parmesan is plenty salty on its own)

4 cups vegetable or chicken broth (I recommend low-sodium, again because of the parmesan)

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

more parmesan, pepper, lemon, and thyme for topping

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the rice, butter, onion, lemon zest, pepper flakes, pepper, and salt to the hot pan. Cook until the butter has melted and the rice and onion are translucent.

Stir one cup of the broth into the rice mixture and allow to simmer until all the liquid is absorbed, then give it a stir. Repeat with the remaining three cups of broth, until all liquid is absorbed, the rice is tender, and 18-20 minutes have gone by.

Add the parmesan to the rice and stir until completely combined. Add in the chickpeas, stir, and cook for another 3-5 minutes, until heated through.

Top with pepper/lemon zest/cheese and enjoy immediately while it’s warm! This keeps well in the fridge for about 5 days, and is equally delicious eaten cold or reheated.


Sriracha Caramel Corn

ImageI wasn’t going to post a recipe for the Super Bowl. Even though I get way too enthusiastic about college football (but still don’t really know much about it – how do people learn all the names and statistics and referee hand signals anyway?), professional football isn’t really my thing. But I have to admit, I did feel a little guilty not doing something Super Bowl-y when it’s the team from my hometown (go Broncos!) and the team most people root for where I live now. Which is the first reason I decided I should make something for the Super Bowl. Although I still haven’t decided if I’m actually going to watch it (sshhhhh, don’t tell!).

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The second reason I decided to make something that would be appropriate at the Super Bowl was this recipe from I Am a Food Blog. Popcorn is something I eat so often and in such large quantities that it’s basically its own food group. Add caramel to that? Even better. And SRIRACHA?! I’m sold. It’s pretty much a meetup of all my favorite things and it’s perfect. Perfectly crunchy, perfectly balanced between sweet and spicy. So, true to my procrastinating, do-everything-last-minute form, (just like my day-before-the-big-day Thanksgiving and Christmas recipes), I made a Super Bowl recipe the day before the Super Bowl.

This recipe starts of with popcorn, brown sugar, vanilla, butter, Sriracha, salt, and baking soda.

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The butter gets melted, and the sugar gets added in. Cook this for a little bit and it will turn into caramel. This part is a bit tricky – not gonna lie, I totally burned it the first time and had to start over.

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The finished caramel is poured over the popcorn. This is pre-baking.

ImagePost-bake close-up.

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Sriracha Caramel Corn

from i am a food blog via The Kitchn

5-6 cups of popped corn

6 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons Sriracha

Preheat the oven to 250 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat and set aside. Put the popcorn in a large heatproof bowl.

In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in the sugar until it’s completely moistened. Increase the heat to medium high and boil the butter/sugar mixture for 3 minutes, while using a spatula to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan. The second time I made the caramel, the time it didn’t burn, I cooked it for a total of 3 minutes after adding the sugar to the butter. So it probably boiled for a little less than 3 minutes.

Remove the saucepan from the heat – put it on a different burner. In a small bowl, mix together the vanilla, salt, baking soda, and sriracha. Add the sriracha mixture to the butter mixture. It will bubble up pretty violently. Stir until the caramel is thick and shiny.

Slowly pour the caramel over the popcorn and stir until all the kernels are evenly coated.

Spread the popcorn on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for one hour, stirring and breaking up any clumps that form every 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Eat immediately, or store in an airtight container for up to a week.