Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tasty Tuesday! (With A Twist)

I have a problem. I can't for the life of me follow a recipe. I know that sounds odd, but I just can't do it. No matter what I'm making, I will tweak the recipe here or there or just something different about it. I don't consciously do it, but by the time I finish making something, it's been altered.

The perfect example is comparing my husband to me: when I had him make tomato sauce for me one day, he freaked because I only had whole tomatoes in the pantry, and the recipe called for diced tomatoes. My solution would have been to simply crush or cut the tomatoes and then approximate what I need. He had to go to the store to buy diced tomatoes then proceeded to actually measure all the spices and ingredients. Granted, what I make may not taste exactly the same every time, but it works out well.

Case in point was the cookies that I made for a potluck lunch last Friday. I had originally signed up to make oatmeal raisin cookies from The Earthbound Cook cookbook.

By the time the cookies were out of the oven, I'd made a different recipe of the cookie - accidentally - added ingredients to make it closer to an oatmeal raisin cookie, and decided that the recipe in the cookbook was wrong (it called for a half cup of flour compared to a stick of butter and 3 eggs with no oatmeal or other dry ingredient than sugar) and just started messing with it. And of course I left out the nuts because I simply don't like nuts.

The good news is that the cookies turned out great, I think. They are like a chocolate bar with raisins. And making them again, I'd probably change them a little more to have less chocolate in them as it's overwhelming to me and drowns out some of the other flavors. But that's really not a surprise if you know me. Amazingly, I still have a few left, and they are delicious and still soft - definitely the mark of a good cookie!

The rest of the potluck? Oh it was wonderful. Emily, Melanie, and I met at Serena's house with our children in tow where we proceeded to all enjoy items from the cookbook.

I've never been a fan of fennel since a bad experience with it shortly after graduating college, but the sausage and fennel dish that Serena made was really good. Little Miss loved it, too. Apparently I'll need to add that to the rotation. Emily made a wonderful green salad with apples and pomegranate seeds and all sorts of great stuff, which is probably the only way I'll ever eat cabbage outside a cabbage roll. The hands down best dish of the day was the cous cous that Melanie made. Both Little Miss and I had multiple servings, and I don't think we were the only ones. The lemon and herb flavor was delicious, and it reminded me again how much I love cous cous.

It was unusual to be able to simply open a cookbook and have recipes that everyone there enjoys. Serena also used the pizza dough recipe in the cook book to make pizzas for the kids that turned out beautifully. Over the past few weeks, we've been hearing great things about the recipes that members of Left to Write have been making from the cook book, and I know I'm inspired. But first...

Chunky Chocolate Raisin Cookies - from The Earthbound Cook but altered

8 T butter
1 1/2 c chocolate chips, separated (originally 2 c)
1/4 c cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1/4 c sugar (originally 1/2 c)
1/4 c brown sugar (not in the initial recipe)
2 t vanilla extract
1 c whole wheat pastry flour (originally 1/2 c - this made for cake batter consistency, not what you're looking for)
1 1/2 c oatmeal (not in the initial recipe)
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
2 1/2 c raisins (originally 1 c)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line two pans with sil pats or parchment paper.

Combine the butter and 1/2 c of the chocolate chips (not all of them!), and cocoa powder in a heavy saucepan. Cook on medium low until the mixture is melted, stirring occasionally. It doesn't need to be completely smooth. Remove from the heat.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, sugars, and vanilla together. Slowly add the chocolate mixture and combine thoroughly.

Add the baking powder and salt to the mixture, and combine again. Add the oats in two batches, stirring to mix thoroughly. Add the flour and stir until just combined - you do not want to overmix this.

Gently stir in the remaining 1 c of chocolate chips and the raisins. Again, do not overmix.

Drop heaping tablespoons of dough (or use my absolute favorite tool ever - the cookie scoop!) onto the baking sheets, spacing them about an inch apart. Bake until the cookies have just set and look shiny, 14 to 16 minutes (my oven that generally underbakes things turned them out perfectly at the fifteen minute mark.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for ten minutes before transferring them to a wire rack. I generally don't do this when making cookies, but it is critical to both let them cool for the ten minutes and to then have them on the wire rack.

Yuuuuuummmmmmm! Enjoy this and more at Tempt My Tummy Tuesday with Blessed With Grace!

And yes, I think we are going to attempt to do a potluck lunch like this again soon. Great company and great fun - oh yeah, and great food, too!

In the interest of full disclosure, I was provided with a copy of The Earthbound Cook as part of the book club From Left to Write where we don't review books but instead write posts inspired by them. There is no compensation involved, and it's all in good fun!

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Susie November 16, 2010 at 11:13 AM  

You know, I do the same thing. That's the beauty of cooking. It doesn't have to be exact!

Nicole Pelton November 16, 2010 at 12:01 PM  

Those sound so good. I am the same way, always have to alter something...my sister, an amazing cook, is just the opposite. She had a pampered chef cookbook and one of the recipes called for a "pampered chef italian spice mix" - I had to convince her she could just add a few different spices usually found in italian food :) Her dishes do come out more consistent and delicious than mine, but mine are less stressful :)

Anonymous November 16, 2010 at 12:15 PM  

You got me at the words: chunky chocolate! Yum....

Unknown Mami November 16, 2010 at 2:20 PM  

I think it's great that you don't follow recipes. I'm the same way.

I have issues with fennel. I'd be willing to give it another chance, but I do not have fond memories of it.

Laural Out Loud November 16, 2010 at 7:45 PM  

Cooking I do freehand (I can handle dicing my own tomatoes), but baking I have to follow a recipe! I love to bake, too, so I have a ton of recipes that are splattered in oil and flour, and I don't know what I'll do if they ever get too dirty to read.

I love your napkins! Any chance you got them recently and can tell me where to get them?

Hyacynth November 16, 2010 at 8:57 PM  

What a super fun potluck idea!! Going to have to do that with some of my closeby girlfriends sometime really soon. {And check out that cookbook.}

Cindy Fey November 16, 2010 at 9:29 PM  

Lovely! Your pictures are wonderful. Sorry I had to miss the fun!

Sue November 17, 2010 at 3:48 AM  

Oh my! I am definitely trying those cookies. They look delish!

Thanks for visiting me today!

Michelle November 17, 2010 at 10:34 AM  

Susie - Amen! Now if only I could get my husband to believe that, too :)

Nicole - Too funny! I think the alterations are nice though. It shows personality, right?

Lady Fi - No kidding. I bet next time it would be even better with some milk chocolate in there.

Unknown Mami - Somehow I figured that about you! I was a little worried about the fennel, but it was NOTHING like I remembered it in that horrible dish.

Laural - I mostly follow it, but I definitely usually mostly use a recipe of some sort for a base. Napkins are Serena's - I'll forward your question.

Hyacynth - Wasn't it? I think we need to do that again. It was a hoot!

Cindy - So sorry you weren't there, too. I think we are going to make another one though. It was great company and food and so nice and not stressful. We all need that!

Sue - They ARE delish. In fact, I might need to go eat another one right now?

septembermom November 17, 2010 at 1:05 PM  

That's a fun way to get together. I love the tweaking of cooking. Baking is so exact. Those chocolate chunk cookies need to hit my plate (but not my waist!)

melissa November 17, 2010 at 2:27 PM  

I admire this skill. I often slavishly adhere to recipes for fear of screwing it up. The cookies look delish. I'll give it a shot.

Emily November 17, 2010 at 8:20 PM  

I think you are brave. With cooking, I use recipes as guides and feel confident enough to go out on my own, but with baking, I usually stick pretty faithfully to the recipe. But your cookies were delish so I am not complaining. I agree with you on the cous-cous too. That was yum. Let's do it again soon!

Joy November 18, 2010 at 7:36 PM  

All of it looks good and I love that cover of that book. Would make me want to read it.
♥ Joy

Michelle November 19, 2010 at 9:31 PM  

Kelly - It was so much fun! And c'mon, raisins and oatmeal? It can't be that bad, right?

Melissa - Hey, if it gets messed up, you can always fix it. That's what's great about cookies - you bake in batches :)

Emily - Definitely again soon. Baking isn't as scary as people make it out to be. Just start small. And failures aren't failures... they're just learning experiences.

Joy - The cover of the book is awesome, as are all the little hints and tips throughout the book. Go read it :)

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