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Monday, November 11, 2013

A Little Love From Home

The care package:  Ready to go, complete with a postcard note.
Kate loves being away at college.  She loves living in the dorms.  She loves going to her classes (most of the time), and she loves all her new friends.  She even loves eating in Commons.  So far as I can tell, the only thing she misses is our dog Pebbles and my cooking.  Hey, I'll take what I get.

The other day we were talking and she mentioned how much she missed her favorite muffins.   All I needed was that little bit of encouragement.  Before long, I was hard at work in the kitchen whipping up a care package to feed Kate plus anyone she happened to pass on her way back to her dorm room.

I included all her homemade favorites:  Frank's Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies, Banana Bread, and "Crack" Muffins.  There were enough baked goods to sink a ship, or in this case, to fill a large Priority Mail box.

I even threw in a pound of Kate's favorite rugulah from Corky & Lenny's.  I had picked up a pound when I was last in Cleveland thinking that I would have them waiting for her when she returned at Thanksgiving.   I even included some of her favorite sour gummy worms.  (Yuck!)

Anyway, I shipped off a big box of goodies.  Two days later, the box arrived to great reviews from Kate and all her friends.

Just a little something from home.

Recipe:  Frank's Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
(adapted from Cooks Illustrated)


2 1/8 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
12 tbl. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus one egg yolk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups chips (chocolate, Mini M & M's -- whatever you like)
3/4 cup toasted walnuts (optional)


Preheat the oven to 325. Line a couple of cookie sheets with parchment paper. Mix the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl and set aside.

Mix the melted butter and the sugars until blended. (I do this by hand.) Mix in the egg, yolk, and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Stir in the chips and nuts, if using.

Using a small scoop, (about 1 1/2 inches) scoop the dough on to the prepared cookie sheets. I usually put 9 cookies on each sheet.

Bake, reversing the cookie sheets' positions halfway through the baking, until the cookies are golden brown around the edges, about 15-18 minutes. Cook on the cookie sheets for a few minutes and then transfer to wire racks.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

Recipe:  Banana Mocha Muffins aka "Crack" Muffins
(Baking for Friends, Kathleen King, 2012)


2 1/2 C unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. instant coffee (or 1 1/2 tsp. instant espresso powder)
1 Tbsp. boiling water
1 1/3 C mashed fully ripe bananas (about 3 bananas)
1 1/4 C sugar
2 sticks salted butter, at room temperature
1 egg
1 C semisweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees (I did 350 degrees); grease a muffin tin tray.

Cream together the sugar and butter until fluffy.  Add the egg, mix again then set aside.   In another bowl add the coffee to the hot water; stir to dissolve.  Stir the mashed bananas into the coffee.  Add to the butter/sugar mixture and stir until incorporated; set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together.  By hand, slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Divide the batter evenly into the prepared muffin tin tray.

Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes, remove from pan then cool completely on a wire rack.

Recipe:  Banana Bread
(M.S. Milliken & S. Feniger)


1 cup granulated sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
3 ripe bananas
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan.

Cream the sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a small bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Mix in the milk and cinnamon. In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Add the banana mixture to the creamed mixture and stir until combined. Add dry ingredients, mixing just until flour disappears.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Remove bread from pan, invert onto rack and cool completely before slicing.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The High and Low of Cooking

I fancy myself a cooking purist, but sometimes real life gets in the way.

Such is the case with chicken stock.  The stuff in the box is fine, but homemade chicken stock is so much better.  And it's not that hard to make.  What's difficult is finding the time to wait around for a couple of hours while the stock is simmering away on the stove.  And that's why I resort to boxed stock so often.  In a perfect world, I would only use homemade chicken stock in my cooking, but there's that nasty real world again.

My go-to chicken stock recipe is this one from Fine Cooking Magazine.  It produces an incredibly rich chicken broth, but it also has a fairly hefty hands on cooking time.  Delicious, but not a project for a busy day.

But in a moment of total kismet,  I came across this recipe for a rich chicken stock made entirely in the slow cooker.  Yes, the stock has to cook away for 8-10 hours on low.  But that's it.  It has just four simple ingredients (plus water, which isn't really an ingredient at all) and virtually no prep, unless you considering dicing an onion and smashing a garlic clove prep, which I do not.  It's barely a recipe at all.  And the prep is so quick that you can make a couple of quarts to squirrel away in the freezer for use at the holidays... and beyond. This chicken stock is the ultimate in low-effort-high-reward cooking, which I love, love, love.

Recipe:  Perfect, Uncluttered Chicken Stock
Smitten Kitchen / Barely adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

You Little Tarte's Note:  You might feel like you want to add more "stuff" to the slow cooker, like carrots and celery.  Wait and add that stuff later if you're going to serve this as chicken noodle soup, etc.  This is a perfect multi-purpose stock just as it is.  Trust me.

Yield: 3 quarts

3 pounds uncooked chicken wings
3 quarts water
1 large onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 teaspoon table salt, or more to taste*

Place all ingredients in a slow-cooker. Cook on LOW for 8 to 10 hours or HIGH for 4 to 5.  (I urge you to go the low for 8-10 hours route.)

Strain out chicken parts, onion and garlic. The stock is now ready to use, or, you might prefer to do as we do, and put it in the fridge to chill until any fat solidifies on the top. (Though, there is really very little here, and some might prefer to leave it.) Once defatted, you can now use it or freeze it until needed.

It's me again...

This time I froze the stock in 1 quart containers, but you can also store it flat by pouring 1 quart of the cooled stock into a gallon sized freezer bag.  I've done this in the past and it works great.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Maximum Crunch

As I'm writing this entry, I'm enjoying a bowl of soggy Grape Nuts and a banana.  No, I didn't forget to eat my cereal while it was still crunchy.  I like my Grape Nuts (and all cereal)  soggy.  I pour on the milk and then let it sit for five or ten minutes -- marinating.  The cereal still has a just little, but not too much, crunch.  Cereal perfection.

Soggy cereal was almost the end of my relationship with Ted.  You see, Ted is a crunchy cereal guy.  I'm pretty sure that Ted would eat the cereal dry and follow it up with a glass of milk if it didn't look weird.  He likes 100% crunch-ability.

I do not.

But I digress.  Back before we were married, I once poured the milk on Ted's cereal before he was seated with his spoon poised to eat.  Honestly, I was just trying to be nice.  It's not like I had ever poured the milk on his cereal before (or since, for that matter).  I guess I just thought it would be a nice thing to do.  Obviously I was mistaken.

You would have thought I had suggested eating wallpaper paste for breakfast.  Well, in Ted's the-cereal-has-to-be-crunchy mind, I had in fact served him wallpaper paste for breakfast.  Needless to say, I have never again even removed the milk from the refrigerator lest the milk and his cereal comingle prematurely.

So, having established that cereal is a somewhat problematic breakfast food in my house, I'm passing along a recipe for the most delicious pumpkin waffles.  Ted made them for us on Sunday morning.  True to my soggy is better mentality, I let the syrup soak into the waffle before I ate it.  Ted, on the other hand, barely let the syrup touch the waffle before cutting into it, therefore insuring maximum crunch-ability.

Recipe:  Sugar-and-Spice Pumpkin Waffles 
Williams-Sonoma Breakfast Comforts cookbook


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, chilled
1 & 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
2 large eggs


In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and salt together until combined.  Add the 5 tablespoons butter and pulse about 10 times, until the mixture looks like coarse bread crumbs with small pea-size pieces of butter.  Transfer to a large bowl.  (Or, alternatively, in a large bowl,  sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and salt.  Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture just until the mixture looks like coarse bread crumbs with some small pea-size pieces of butter.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, pumpkin puree, and eggs.  Add to the flour mixture and whisk just until combined, but still a little lumpy.

If your waffle iron is not nonstick, lightly oil the grid.  Ladle some of the batter over the grid, close the lid, and cook until the waffle is golden brown, about 4 minutes.  Repeat with the remaining batter.