May 27, 2014

Oatmeal Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies


In his book, In Defense of Food, writer Michael Pollan offers a response to the question "What should we eat?" His simple and straightforward answer: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." But three sentences does not a book make. So Pollan spends the next 200+ pages (plus his follow-up book, Food Rules) explaining how to live by those rules. 

For example, he says, "Eat as much junk food as you want. As long as you cook it yourself." See what he does there? He gives you permission to eat with abandon. But he makes you work for it. I Anyone would be tempted to eat potato chips by the bagful if all it involved was a trip to the grocery store. But what if you had to peel and slice the potatoes yourself? And then deep fry them every time you wanted to indulge? Suddenly I bet you're not having potato chips more than a couple of times a year.

The same is true (though less so) when it comes to cookies. Baking cookies isn't nearly as time-consuming as making potato chips or french fries. But it's also not as easy as grabbing a package of Oreos or Chips Ahoy on the way to the dairy aisle.

Still, baking cookies at home makes them a healthier (and probably less frequent) treat. For one thing, you control the ingredients and the quality of those ingredients. And you can modify the recipe to suit your needs. I don't know about you, but I don't have a lot of willpower when it comes to cookies. So my strategy is to make them healthier.

Take these oatmeal walnut chocolate chip cookies, for example. They contain 2 1/2 cups of rolled oats, which makes them healthier than the average chocolate chip cookie to begin with. I used whole wheat flour in place of half the white flour. I halved the chocolate chips. And I doubled the walnuts. 

Are they health food? No. But are they healthier (and tastier) than anything I could have bought at the store? You bet they are.

Cream together butter and sugars until mixture is light and fluffy.

Mix in eggs, milk and vanilla extract.

Stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Mix flour mixture into the butter mixture until just incorporated.

Stir in the oats.

Then the chocolate chips and walnuts.

Drop 1-inch balls on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake 13-16 minutes, until the cookies are light brown around the edges and not longer look wet on top.


Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from BakingBites

1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour (I used 1 cup white and 1 cup white whole wheat)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups oats (rolled or “quick,” but not “instant”)
1 cup chocolate chips
2 cups chopped walnuts

1.    Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.    In a large bowl, cream together the butter and the sugars until mixture is light in color. Beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the milk and the vanilla extract.

3.    In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Either by hand or with the mixer on low speed, gradually beat the flour in to the sugar mixture until just incorporated.

4.    Stir in the oats. Then add the chocolate chips and walnuts and stir until just combined.

5.    Drop 1-inch balls of dough onto the cookie sheet, placing about 1 1/2 inches apart so they have room to spread.

6.    Bake at 350F for 13-16 minutes, until golden brown at the edges and light golden at the center.

7.    Cool on baking sheet for at least 1-2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Note: These cookies freeze beautifully. 

May 6, 2014

Garlic Confit

Everyone has a kitchen chore they can't stand. For some it's chopping onions. For others it's doing the dishes. Some people hate peeling potatoes, pitting cherries, or hulling strawberries.

For me, there's nothing more onerous than peeling garlic. I don't like the sticky feel of cut garlic on my knife. I hate the strong smell that clings to my fingers for days. And it drives me nuts when the papery skins flutter off my cutting board and onto the kitchen floor. Life would be a lot easier if I didn't love garlic so much. Sigh.

That's why I waste spend money on peeled garlic. Not the stuff in jars immersed in a strange preservative. Just peeled garlic cloves.

Peeled garlic stays fresh in the fridge for a couple of weeks. But it won't last forever. And the other day I found myself with nearly half a container nearing its sell by date. I thought about making Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic. But I decided to go a different route.

I gently simmered the garlic cloves in olive oil for almost an hour. The olive oil took on the flavor of the garlic. And the cloves softened while their flavor mellowed.

I had some good, crusty bread that I dipped straight into the oil. But the possibilities are endless. Spread on roast chicken. Drizzle over a caprese salad. Brush onto grilled vegetables. Blend with white beans to make a dip. Stir into mashed potatoes. Or toss with pasta.

Place garlic cloves and olive oil in a small saucepan.

Heat over medium heat until first small bubbles appear.

Simmer gently over low heat until garlic is tender and golden brown and the oil is fragrant.


Garlic Confit

Recipe from The Garlic Press

1 cup garlic cloves
1 1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper, optional

1.    Place garlic cloves and oil in a small saucepan. The oil should completely cover the garlic cloves.

2.    Heat oil over medium heat.

3.    When the first bubbles appear in the oil, turn heat down as low as possible. Heat for 45 to 55 minutes, until the oil is fragrant and the garlic cloves are light brown and can be easily pierced with a knife.

4.    Remove some oil and cloves and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

5.    If you're not going to use it right away, wait for the confit to cool. Then transfer it to an airtight container. Refrigerate. 

Makes 1 1/2 cups garlic confit. 

Note: The garlic confit will keep in the fridge for about two weeks. Remove from the fridge about 30 minutes before you want to use it to give the oil a chance to come to room temperature. You can also reheat it gently.