Monday, March 20, 2017

Chocolate Cookie Butter

I really don’t choose to eat or buy many industrial food products. By “industrial food products,” I mean the kind of stuff that is edible, and probably totally delicious, but with ingredient labels that don’t boast many components easily recognized as food. (And many of those recognizable components are some form of sugar.)  That’s why I initially rejected the concept of cookie butter. For goodness sake, how is that not total junk food? Well, I eventually got a hold of a jar of Biscoff spread (many years ago), just to taste. You know, to be fully informed.

Like the occasional bag of delicious, delicious potato chips, cookie butter eventually became a part of worldly culture I could no longer opt out of. Super creamy, extra sweet, semi-liquid cookie I could spread on toasted bagels and homemade bread. I was in trouble.

I didn’t get around to fiddling with the cookie butter concept in any homemade way until recently, however, when more and more recipes began popping up all over the internet and in popular food magazines. They looked so simple, and, even though the store-bought cookies that make up the bulk of these butters are still packaged icons of the scary food industry, I just had to try.

And the chocolate butter I made with Oreo-brand sandwich cookies is wonderful! As deeply chocolatey as the cookies that go into it (how could it not be?), super smooth and spreadable, even right out of the refrigerator, this stuff is the true black gold. I love it!

If you have a food processor, this couldn’t be simpler to make. There’s just a small solution of milk, sugar, butter and cocoa that goes into Oreo crumbs and turns them magically into lusciously creamy and sweet chocolate toast enhancement. It is a little sticky, but you totally won’t mind licking off it of butter knives, plate edges, and fingers.

I felt a little like I was making a kind of illicit purchase when I went out to buy the cookies to make this spread, like I needed to wear a trench coat and oversize fedora. Like I was exposing myself as some sort of whole-food fraud….Like anybody really cares what I buy at the grocery store! For something this fun and delicious, I intend to lighten up! At least a little bit.

Chocolate Cookie Butter

½ cup milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
12 ounces chocolate sandwich cookies, such as Oreos

1. In a small saucepan, combine the milk, butter, sugar and cocoa powder. Warm over medium-low heat, whisking occasionally, until the butter is melted and the sugar and cocoa are dissolved. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Transfer the cooled mixture to a measuring cup with a spout for easier pouring.

2. Place the cookies in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the cookies are coarsely ground.

3. With the food processor running, slowly pour the milk mixture in with the cookie crumbs. Continue processing until very smooth. Transfer to an air-tight container and store in the refrigerator.

Makes about 1 ½ cups cookie butter.

Coming soon: Marmalade Cream Cheese Baked French Toast 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Favorite Recipes for March

I really didn’t mean to be away for months. The short explanation is that things just didn’t get done. The long explanation can best be summed up by the short one, and would not be more interesting. Let’s just carry on, shall we?

Carry on into the month March, that is. It’s been a weird one in my geographical area, with the Winter stepping out for a cup of coffee or something, and then coming back to really destroy the joy that Spring built up while he was gone. With events like a significant thunderstorm sharing the same ten days or so with a significant snow storm, one kind of wants to just go back to bed and have someone wake you when it’s June.

The weather doesn’t quite make me go crazy for spring salads yet, but the hanging on of the winter weather just makes the days amenable to soups, like some of my favorites:


And of course, there’s St. Patrick’s Day. I haven’t made plans for anything special from my own kitchen this year (I’m going out!), but my favorite meals in the past have included Beef and Guinness Pot Pie, which can easily be served as a stew if you leave off the puff pastry top and present it with soda bread (traditional or not) or biscuits instead.

This Reuben Loaf is also fantastic. You can make it with leftover corned beef if you went with a corned-beef-and-cabbage meal on St. Patrick’s Day, or you can use deli corned beef with great results.

And for dessert, there’s this decadent Chocolate Irish Cream Cheesecake


Or, for a quicker pay-off, Irish Cream Brownies

Finally (and heading toward Final Four-ly), the phenomenon that is March Madness is upon us. If, like a certain member of my family (who doesn’t read this blog) you take your vacation days during the NCAA tournament, you might think of March as snack month.

My friends don’t watch basketball, but they do love when I make them Spinach and Artichoke Dip or Hummus. You can also get jump on spring by making the bright Green Pea Hummus.

However you choose to celebrate March, with its sort of bi-polar lion/lamb nature, I hope you’ll always find something appropriately celebratory to eat.

I’ll be back soon with Chocolate Cookie Butter and Marmalade French Toast!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Cranberry Apple Coffee Cake

You know the universe is conspiring against you when, after a month of nothing, you finally pull together a small lump of material for a humble blog post and your internet provider experiences widespread outages. Great.

But I think the waves are rolling, now, so I’ll tell you about the latest version of the simple coffee cake I keep coming back to. This one has cranberries and apples and enough oatmeal to make it feel like it’s part of a complete breakfast.

I love how the pockets of cranberries keep this cake from getting too sweet, especially after the recent Halloween overload. (After it was all over, I found two more bags of candy in the closet that hadn’t even been opened yet!) The cranberries also make this cake kind of pretty, as their jewel-toned juices bubble up through the crumble topping. While I love that crumble topping, you could leave it out and save some time and/or calories, depending on your priorities.

Even when I get a weekend off, I never seem to be able to pull together anything like an elaborate brunch, but this cake is a quick one, so it can help make the weekend special without too much fuss. It’s also good for dessert and stays moist and appetizing for a few days, so leftovers will be welcome.

Someday, maybe my life won’t be quite so messy, with a day-job schedule that makes me feel like a real human being. Until then, let me eat cake! Take that, conspiring universe!

Cranberry Apple Oatmeal Coffee Cake

For the topping
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch fine salt

For the cake
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup rolled oats
1 cup granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon fine salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg
¾ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 medium apple, peeled and diced
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

1. To prepare the topping, combine the 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, cold butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and pinch of salt in a small bowl. Work in the butter pieces with a fork or with your fingers until the mixture is crumbly and forms clumps when squeezed together. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. (This can be made a few days ahead.)

2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan or dish with cooking spray or grease it with butter or oil.

3. To make the cake batter, melt the 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Set aside to cool.

4. In a medium-size bowl, combine the 1 cup flour, rolled oats, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Whisk together to combine well. Set aside.

5. In another medium-size bowl, lightly beat the egg. Slowly whisk in the melted butter. Whisk in the milk and vanilla extract.

6. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir until most of the dry ingredients have been moistened. Stir in the apple and cranberries.

7. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan. Sprinkle the crumble topping evenly over the top.

8. Bake at 350 F for 40-45 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Cool on a wire rack until cool enough to cut and enjoy. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 9-16 servings.