Oatmeal Cookies

   

Behold oats: one of the most miraculous foods on earth. It has given us granola, oatcakes, my favorite breakfast, and best of all….oatmeal cookies!

The beautiful thing about oatmeal cookies is that they contain several “healthy” ingredients (oats, walnuts, raisins and…um…an egg?) so as you reach surrepticiously for that fifth cookie, you can tell yourself that you are just getting your daily dose of fiber.  It’s not technically a lie!

  

Cookie + bathrobe + coffee on the stove = happiness 🍪💁🏾

Needless to say, I have exceeded my fiber requirement for the day. Now you can too!
You will need…

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/2 cups oats
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • If you’re not a raisins and walnuts sort of person, substitute 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, mix the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Beat the butter and sugars till well-combined. Add the honey, vanilla and egg.

Stir in the flour mixture, then add the oats. Add the raisins and walnuts and mix. 

Plop tablespoon-sized chunks of dough on a cookie pan and bake 10-15 minutes. Enjoy!

 

Berry Muffins

Nothing beats fresh baked goods in the morning (or at any time, really).  It’s a tradition in my house that we bake something for breakfast on weekends, and these muffins are a regular.  They’re quick to assemble and don’t take too long to bake, so they’re perfect if you like to sleep in.

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These muffins can be made using any combination of berries, fresh or frozen. Typically we use blueberries or a mixture of blueberries and strawberries.  Be generous with the berries; they should turn the batter a nice purple color (seeing the batter go purple always gives me a very satisfied feeling, because in my opinion the more things that are purple, the better).

You will need….

  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup white sugar plus a spoonful of sugar in the raw or brown sugar for dusting
  • 4 teaspoons of grated lemon or orange zest (what this means is that you take your citrus fruit and use a zest tool thingy (not sure what the name is, but it looks like a long, thin cheese grater) to gently scrape of the edge of the peel into your batter).
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups of your berries of choice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup sour cream

 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (350 if you have a convection oven).  In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugar and zest.  Add the eggs and vanilla.

In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking soda and salt.  Add half the flour mixture and half the sour cream to the butter mixture.  It is important that you not over-mix muffin batter; stir until just incorporated.  Add the remaining sour cream and flour, then fold in the berries.

Place paper muffin liners in a muffin pan. Using a spoon, fill each liner until all the batter has been used up (you want each liner to be filled almost to the top). Sprinkle the tops with the dusting sugar, then place the muffins in the oven and allow them to bake for 25-ish minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the muffin comes out dry.  Enjoy!

 

New Year’s Day Chocolate Espresso Cake


2017 is finally here! It’s going to be an eventful year for me; I’ll be graduating from high school and starting college. It’s been a little crazy lately, what with college applications and holiday events, but today I had lots of time to experiment with my first cake of 2017.

Lately in Iowa it’s been between twenty and thirty degrees , but my outdoors-y family bundled up and headed out to Lake McBride for a hike today. I love hiking whatever the weather, but I knew from experience that everybody would come home craving a cup of coffee and something chocolaty.

This recipe is quick and so easy that I didn’t even get out a mixer, opting to mix by spatula instead. The cake comes out rich and moist, with lovely hints of espresso. I foresee that I will be making this recipe quite often in the year to come! Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4  cups flour
  • 3/4 cups cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk (you can substitute regular milk,  but buttermilk gives a richer flavor)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (or any flavorless oil–I used avocado oil)
  • 1 cup brewed coffee
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pour in the oil and vanilla, then add the buttermilk and eggs.  When these have been mixed in, add the coffee and mix well (make sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl).  Pour the batter into  a tall 8 inch diameter round pan or a 13 by 9 rectangular pan and bake for around 30 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out dry.  If you wish to dust with powdered sugar, allow the cake to cool first or the sugar will melt (I know from experience) and your cake will be a little bit ugly (but still delicious).

 

Easy Baguettes

As much as I love complex meals, a good sandwich is truly one of life’s joys. My favorite everyday lunch is ham or prosciutto on good bread with avocado, tomato, spinach and aioli (a dip made from egg yolks that is absolutely delicious). 

Of course, important as the filling is, it’s the bread that makes the sandwich. We’ve found that store bread is often dry and flavorless, and prefer to make our own. At my dad’s restaurant, bread is baked fresh on a daily basis, and we lucky Chackalackals get to eat the leftover buns or focaccia.  Otherwise my mom and I provide, making either no-knead bread or baguette.

I have two favorite baguette recipes: one that requires a starter (or poolish) and one that does not. This is my starterless, quick and easy baguette recipe. It makes three loaves, each of which could make about three sandwiches.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups warm water
  • 5 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
  • Oil for coating bowl

Dissolve yeast in warm water. In a large bowl, mix flour and salt. Once the yeast begins to foam, add it to the flour and stir. Knead until dough comes together, then coat the bottom of the bowl with oil and place the dough upon it. Cover with a wet towel and allow to rest at room temperature for two hours.

   

Now form the ball into thirds and roll and stretch each third into a baguette shape. If you have a baguette pan place the dough on this to rest; otherwise use a cookie pan. Rest for another hour, then bake for ten to fifteen minutes at 425 degrees. Enjoy!

   

Forming lines on top of the bread with a knife will allow heat to escape. 
 

Potato Dumpling Soup

There’s something wonderfully comforting about a hot soup for dinner. Whether you’re sipping it slowly or soaking up the liquid with bread, soup warms you up from head to toe. The other reason I love soup is that it’s usually quite quick and easy; you can whip it up for lunch or dinner in under an hour.

My mom  discovered the recipe for this delicious German dish in an issue of Food and Wine several  months ago, and since then it has become a favorite at the Chackalackal house. Because the soup is made with dumplings, additional bread is not necessary, but it does add a nice touch.

Ingredients

For the dumplings

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of pepper

For the soup

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 celery ribs
  • 2 large garlic  cloves
  • 7 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 to 4 potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 cup cream

In a medium sized bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper.  Add 6 tablespoons of water and knead till smooth.  Set aside.

In a soup pan on the stove, over medium heat, melt the butter.  Chop the onions, carrots and celery finely and add to the soup pan.  Cook ten minutes, then add the garlic.  Stir in the stock, bay leaves, and potatoes and bring to a boil.

On a floured work surface, roll the dough into a longish log shape and slice into small pieces.  Add these to the soup; the dumplings will cook in the broth.  Allow the soup to cook for another thirty minutes, then add the cream.  Stir, cook a few minutes more, then serve.  Enjoy!

 

Crete

Hello all! It’s been too long since my last post, but I’ve been travelling and the internet has not always been strong (or existent) enough to access my blog.  My family started off our trip this summer in Kerala, India, visiting my dad’s family.

After a little over than a week, we packed up our bags and flew to Athens, Greece, and from there to the beautiful island of Crete where we have spent the last few days.  We’ve been visiting ruins, beaches and vineyards, taking twelve-mile hikes through the Samaria Gorge, hanging out in the pool and (of course) eating.

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So far my impression of Cretan food is that nothing is extremely striking or life-changing, but most things are hearty and flavorful.

This is Dakos, one of my favorite Cretan specialties.  It consists of a rusk topped with tomatoes, herbs and goat cheese.  And like everything on Crete, it is positively saturated  in olive oil!

 

Sea bass from a beach-side restaurant

Seafood risotto

One of the highlights of the trip for me was visiting a traditional olive oil farm, Biolea.  The process of making olive oil was fascinating, the tasting delicious, and the experience was also enlightening.  We learned that so-called “pure” olive oil is actually refined, meaning that unsavory chemicals are used in the making of it.  Most of “pure” olive oil is actually made using the waste products, the unsuitable leftovers that respectable olive oil companies would never use.  The three things you want to look for when purchasing olive oil are that it is (most importantly) extra-virgin, cold-press and stone-ground (this last requirement is the least important and most difficult to find.  The olive oil we use regularly is extra-virgin and cold-press).

Gemista, tomatoes stuffed with rice and herbs.

At the bottom of the Samaria Gorge–nine miles down, three to go!

The view from our villa 🙂

The temple of Hephaestus in Athens

  

 

 

Tortillas

Back when I posted my recipe for pita, I raved about how easy it was to make, and how quick.  But tortillas are even more simple, and just as delicious. The dough is wonderful to work with and perfect for rolling out.  Like pita, I like to make tortillas in bulk, freeze what I don’t eat, and then pull out tortillas to use for quesadillas, tacos, sandwiches, even Indian food (tortillas are extremely similar to chapati, a south Indian flatbread)!

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 5 1/2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup water

In a large bowl, combine the flour and oil, working with your fingers.  Dissolve the salt in the water, then pour this into the bowl and begin to knead.  When the dough has come together, divide it into twelve balls, then cover the bowl with a damp rag and let it rest for 25 to 30 minutes (longer is okay, but unnecessary).

Dust a work surface with flour (I like to use a cutting board), making sure to keep flour on hand.  Turn the stove to medium heat and place a pan on it.  Roll out the dough into circular shapes roughly seven inches in diameter.  Once the pan is hot, place the rolled out tortillas on it one at a time.  Flip the tortilla when the dough starts to puff up and allow the other side to cook.  This should take very little time, so be watching constantly.  For a richer flavor, brush the tortillas with oil or butter once they are finished.  Enjoy!