Food

In the Kitchen: Chocolate Chip M&M Cookies

A few weeks back I decided to revisit (and use) my old Tumblr account. I decided to give it a whole new look and tagging system so I could find things much easier. I use it as kind of visual collection of things that inspire me, things I want to try, and just funny things. I have had this Tumblr since 2009 and it has thousands of posts. While tagging I realized there were SO many images of m&m chocolate chip cookies. Like…..maybe too many? 

Since taking on that incredibly type-A task, I’ve been thinking about these cookies for days. One afternoon I took a break and thought why not make some? Using my handy tagging system I began looking at recipes, but then it dawned on me: I’m just going to add M&Ms to the regular Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe. Cause with chocolate chip cookies, if ain’t broke don’t fix it. Plus I have the recipe memorized and my favorite adjustments on lock already. Easy enough…

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In the Kitchen: More Pizza!

I’ve been really slacking when it comes to cooking. I’ve tried to make plenty of new things, but nothing really turned out right. I guess my heart just wasn’t in it. But then I decided I really wanted to make pizza (again).

This time I made a homemade thin crust dough rather than just beating the system with store bought mix. I’ve made plenty of pizza dough in my youth with my family, but never on my own despite hearing how “easy” it is from pretty much everyone. The recipe calls for proofing the dough although typically that’s really only done with thicker dough. Proofing this thin dough makes it much more crispy and crumbly rather than airy and fluffy. Proofing dough is super easy because it can be done by room temperature, leaving the bowl on a hot surface (like the stove while the oven is on), or leaving it outside like my grandmother used to.

I chose to split one recipe of dough in half and make two really small pizzas to try different things, so really it makes one regular sized thin pizza ideally. Splitting the dough made it very, very thin and crispy. The first one I made was roasted red pepper and basil while the second was prosciutto and arugula.

I wish I had better photos of the final result. 

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What I Want To Eat

Sharing what I usually buy at the grocery store and realizing how often I do eat like a bird got me thinking about cooking meals. I do love to cook, but the last recipe I really put a ton of effort into making went terribly so I’ve felt a bit uninspired. Not to mention I’ve accidentally cut my fingers on every knife and vegetable peeler I touch recently. Uninspired, accident prone, and terrible seem to be the adjectives that best define me lately.

So I did what anyone feeling uninspired in the kitchen does: check their email! Okay, maybe not everyone checks their email but as someone who gets quite a few food newsletters, it was definitely feeling like time to clean them out. Now here we are with a special list of everything I currently want to eat.

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Pork Lo Mein

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Food Trends

Just like with most things in life there are trends and food is another one of those things. I hadn’t even considered it before until there were thousands of avocado toast Instagrams and fancy mixology cocktail bars began appearing. There are plenty of things that will rise in popularity of the course of this year and many things that should disappear this year too. Don’t believe me? Just ask Bon Appetit the omnipotent source for all things food.

I’m no expert on food. I can cook it. I eat it quite a bit. I always like to try new things. But a few of the things on their list I just can’t get behind.

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  • Nutritional Yeast – A condiment that is most commonly sprinkled on popcorn and is quickly becoming a substitute for parmesan cheese. I just can’t get behind giving up delicious parmesan cheese for a sprinkle of yeast.
  • Adventurous Yogurt – Yogurt made from sheep’s milk, coconut milk, and even water buffalo milk is just a little too adventurous for me. I think I’ll stick to granola and plain ol’ Greek yogurt.
  • Charcoal – Charcoal may be a great remedy for food poisoning and stomach ailments, but I think it’s better suited for giving my pizza that perfect charred crust.

How about those 2016 food trends that need to go? 

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  • La Croix – Okay, I get the cult following, but it just all tastes the same to me. What am I missing?
  • Smoothie Bowls – So you put some fruit in a bowl? Did you just make a smoothie and not have a cup around? They sure are colorful, but what is the purpose?
  • Zoodles – No. I’m a big fan of noodles. If I’m gonna eat pasta, I’m gonna eat pasta. I’m not gonna trick myself into eating veggies in place of noodles to be healthy.

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How to Assemble the Perfect Holiday Cookie Tin

Holiday cookie tins were the best things ever when I was a kid. They were always produced with love and care by the person who gave them to us, and my sister and I loved decorating cookies to give to our family and friends. Now as an adult I completely get the appeal of producing cookie tins for hostess gifts, cookie exchanges, and still family and friends.

I am a stress baker. I love being able to stop my over thinking for a little while by focusing on something that requires full concentration and makes people happy once it is finished. The holiday season is notoriously stressful with gifts, parties, work, and finals so it’s the time where I bake the most. In fact I got overboard and can’t possibly eat this many baked goods so my savior is the cookie tin.

It’s the easiest way to spread happiness, cheer, and love because you don’t even need to be an expert baker to produce a cookie tin. There are so many boxed mixes for cookies and brownies which can be made by the directions or altered to create unique tasty treats. But there is a formula for putting together the perfect holiday tin. Here are a few tips, tricks, and actual recipes I use when putting together my tasty gift tins.

Tips:

  • Don’t be afraid of messy textures and frosted cookies. Even a couple frosted cookies can be included as long as the icing has dried (it’s best to use royal icing).
  • When in doubt stick with chocolate chip. Unsure about your skills or trying something new? Go with chocolate chip. It’s a classic and a crowd pleaser. Add M&Ms or nuts to spice them up a little bit.
  • Never skip the gingerbread. You don’t have to roll and cut them. There are plenty of other options for the cookie, but it’s a staple because it includes the tastes of the season: nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger.
  • Separate the contents of the tray/tin with festive cupcake liners or by using twine to tie cookies together.
  • Butter. Butter. Butter. Invest in a lot of butter. Butter cookies are the best cookies and everyone knows it. Make sure to always use real butter for all baked goods. It keeps the flavor and calories don’t count at Christmas.

What is in my holiday cookie tin (aka assembly):

  • Raspberry Almond Shortbread Thumbprints – Include a jam cookie for a change of texture.
  • Brown Butter Pecan Shortbread – Try to include a nut cookie of some kind. Pecan Sandies are iconic cookies. Be aware of nut allergies depending on the nut cookie you choose.
  • Gooey Brownies – Brownies meets two requirements of a cookie tin: a bar of some kind and chocolate. There is no dessert without chocolate. Never leave it out.
  • Russian Tea Cakes – Anything with powdered sugar is essential. It’s white and powdery like snow. Russian tea cakes are one of the easiest and most popular cookies I’ve ever made.
  • Gingerbread People – See above plus they are just fun to decorate
  • Sugar Cookies – If you aren’t confident with gingerbread, go for the classic sugar or both. This NY Times guide to sugar cookies is a life saver and gives you tips and tricks for getting the perfect shape, icing, and bake. They are by far the funnest cookie to do because the possibilities are endless.
  • Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip – Remember to under bake and let rest for the perfect gooey cookie

Other Recipes: 

 

 

In the Kitchen: Spinato’s Litaliana Pizza

I haven’t made homemade pizza since I was a kid. It was a twice a year family tradition that took an army to make. I made an attempt a couple of years ago during the summer, but it just turned out to be a time-consuming mess. Wow, I’m really selling this idea aren’t I?

When my best friend mentioned she wanted homemade pizza (by mention I mean asked nearly every day), I decided to give it another go. One of my favorite pizzas is from a local pizzeria, Spinato’s, so I tried to make it at home. I went, got a pizza pan, and gave it my best shot.

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Homemade pizza is relatively easy especially when you embrace “lazy” girl hacks (like I did). Here are my tips and tricks followed by the recipe.

  • Use the easiest dough recipe you can, but don’t use premade pizza crusts from the grocery (the only exception is Trader Joe’s). Use just-add-water packets if you have to, but avoid the premade.
  • Using canned tomatoes in the sauce will make it thinner than a pizzeria style sauce. Use tomato sauce or add more tomatoes to achieve the desired thickness.
  • Add your desired amount of parmesan cheese to the sauce as you like. Cheese is always a good idea.
  • Speaking of cheese, use Galbani mozzarella, and shred it yourself. It melts the best.
  • Preheat the oven at least 15 minutes before cooking the pizza to allow the heat to fill the oven completely.
  • Par-bake the crust before applying toppings if you plan to use “wet” toppings. “Wet” toppings are things that create excess liquid while they cook such as vegetables or meat (which produces grease). Par-baking the crust will make it stronger and able to withstand the extra weight of numerous toppings or “wet” toppings.

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Expanding my Cookbook Collection

When I was growing up there were two staple cookbooks in my mom’s kitchen. The first was a Disneyland cookbook which contained recipes inspired by Disney characters and their worlds and from food served in the various parks. The other was a 80’s Better Homes and Gardens binder featuring recipes for Pineapple Upside Down cake and other food we no longer eat. I’m positive this cookbook was gifted to her when she attempted to make a Thanksgiving turkey with the bag of unmentionable gross parts still inside. It was her first try, to be fair.

I have no idea where these cookbooks are anymore, but that is probably for the best. As I continue to explore cooking I’ve turned to cookbooks for inspiration and help. I’ve already fallen in love with Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook, Cravings, and I hope to add more to my collection soon. As for the cookbooks my mom owned…I never saw her use them for anything which is a shame. Mickey Mouse pancakes would have been pretty chill to have for breakfast.

Shop Cookbooks: Food52 Genius Recipes, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, Cravings: Recipes For All the Food You Want to Eat, It’s All Easy: Delicious Weekday Recipes for the Super-Busy Home Cook