Chocolate Chip Cookies

How is it that I have been blogging almost three years now and I have yet to post a chocolate chip cookie recipe?  Maybe because I'm usually sharing Sunday dinner desserts and other sweet treats?  Well, I'm not going to worry with the why, I'll just get to it.

School is back in session and I wanted the kids to have an old school after school snack as they worked on their homework.  There is nothing like the smell of freshly baked cookies when you walk in the door after a day in the grade school/middle school/high school trenches.

There are countless recipes and methods of madness to achieve the perfect chocolate chip cookie.  Some like them cakey, some chewy, some soft, some crispy, etc... Me-- I am somewhere in between all of them (well, except for the cakey).  I like them with crunchy edges, but still soft in the center with a chewy pull when you take a bite.  I use melted butter instead of softened butter for a non-cakey like texture. This step also helps break down the sugar faster.  For the chewy and tender texture element, I use two whole eggs and one egg yolk.  I also like to use more brown sugar than granulated sugar because it has more moisture and more flavor.  A mixture of semisweet and milk chocolate gives a nice balance of chocolate sweetness.  Once the dough is made, I scoop them into individual dough balls and refrigerate them for at least 24 hours.  This sets up the butter and really helps develop a deeper flavor.  As far as temperature, I set the oven at 325º F. This lower temperature ensures that the cookies cook evenly from the outside in.  I like freshly baked cookies, so once firm, I place the dough balls into a freezer safe plastic bag.  It's  always nice to have a bag in the freezer for that odd cookie craving or if a gaggle of kids show up at your door after school.

I know, I know... Enough with the chemistry cooking class. How do they taste? Quote from the kids,"These are the best. Thanks Mom!"  Welcome☺.


Southern Cobb Salad

Just the other week I was talking about how cool the weather was.  Fast forward to this week and it is H-O-T (with no rain)!  So the last thing I want to do is turn on the oven and crank up the heat in the kitchen.  Also, when it is that hot outside, I want something light and refreshing for lunch or dinner.  

I think most of us are familiar with Cobb salad.  The classic version features chicken, bacon, egg, veggies, avocado and blue cheese with a lemon vinaigrette.  It's a great salad, but since my family and I are also big shrimp lovers, I like to put a Southern spin on it.  I swap out the chicken for shrimp and the blue cheese for Feta cheese, then I dress it with the Pimento dressing.  I use the standard veggies, but I have been known to throw in some left over roasted beets from a previous meal.  I find that the beets make a good addition.  As I have said countless times, "make it for you, make it your own".

Sweet shrimp, smoky bacon, salty feta, crunchy veggies, creamy eggs and avocado all dressed with a sweet and sour vinaigrette...y'all gotta try this salad. It's so good!


Sunday Dinner

Glazed Turkey Meatloaf
Baked Cheese Grits
Fordhook Lima Beans

Wow, do I have a busy week ahead of me!  School starts for my three kiddos, my youngest has a travel soccer tournament this weekend, and I am catering a large BBQ party.  I need to do some major advanced planning and cooking.  So a Sunday dinner that will help supply needed leftovers for dinner throughout the week is in order.

I've shared a meatloaf recipe before (and it's a good one☺), but this is my standard, go-to meatloaf recipe.  It is delicious warm from the oven, at room temperature, cold in a sandwich with a good slathering of mayo.

Glazed Turkey Meatloaf
serves 10-12

1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
2 large yellow onions (about 3 cups), diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste
5 pounds ground turkey thigh
1 1/2 cups plain dried bread crumbs
3 extra-large eggs
3/4 cup ketchup

Preheat the oven to 325º F.

In a large sauté pan, heat the oil and butter over medium-high heat.  Add the onions, salt, pepper, and thyme and sauté until the onions are soft and translucent, but not browned, about 15 minutes.  Add the Worcestershire, chicken stock and tomato paste, stirring until well combined.  Allow to cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of a food processor, add half of the ground turkey and half of the bread crumbs and process until well-combined, about 10 (1-second) pulses. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and repeat with the remaining turkey and bread crumbs.  Transfer meat mixture to the bowl.  Add the cooled onion mixture and eggs; mix with hands until thoroughly combined. Shape the meat mixture into a large rectangular loaf on an ungreased baking sheet.  Spread the ketchup evenly over the entire loaf.  Bake for 1 1/2 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 160º F.  (A pan of hot water in the oven under the meat loaf pan will keep the top from cracking).  Serve hot, room temperature, or cold in a sandwich.

Source: Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa, by Ina Garten


Chilled Cucumber Gazpacho

For those of you still sweltering in the heat of Summer (to my local readers, "What's with the Fall-like temperatures??"), I give you this chilled bowl of light and creamy goodness with a little kick.

If you are a longtime follower, you may recall the Tomato-Based Gazpacho that I posted over two years ago.  I like to think of this "white" gazpacho as the flip-flop version.  The base of this soup is a combination of cucumbers and yogurt and the garnish is the tomato-based salsa.  

I use plain low-fat yogurt; not greek, and regular garden cucumbers; not English.  I use 1-2 jalapeños depending on the heat.  (Jalapeños can be as mild as a green pepper or hot as blazes.)  The salsa calls for white wine vinegar rather than the lime juice in a more traditional salsa.  I also use a large shallot in lieu of a yellow onion.  It has a milder flavor and I think the flavor marries nicely with the vinegar and cucumber flavors.

A bowl of this gazpacho is like the contents of your harvest basket after a stroll through your late Summer garden.  The flavors and aromatics present offer a new experience with each spoonful, so make some and get veggie with it! 


Southwest Grilled Chicken Tortilla Salad

Before I started this blog, I had sheets of white paper with favorite meals and menus under several categories.  This one fell under "Crowd Pleaser".  If you are the cook of the household, you know that it is hard to please everyone's palate (especially when there are kids' palates involved).  So it's a big bonus when everyone can agree and get excited about a meal. 

I wrote the recipe to serve as individual plates, but I actually like to serve it buffet style.  My son likes more meat, one of my daughters likes more veggies and avocado, everyone loves the tortilla strips, and I just eat what's leftover (if there is any)☺.  Everyone's happy, right?

The chicken is marinated in some Southwest Chipotle Ranch Dressing before it is grilled to perfection.  The veggies are also grilled and then diced and tossed with black beans for a veggie salsa to dress the salad.  Some creamy avocado and crunchy fried tortilla strips garnish the plate.  A sprinkle of chopped fresh cilantro, a drizzle of dressing, and a squeeze of a lime wedge round out the flavors. Give this salad a try, and I bet you'll be adding this one to your "crowd pleaser" list.


Southwest Chipotle Ranch Dressing

Raise your hand if you are one of those people that could eat a salad everyday?  My hand is raised high!  And during the warmer months, that couldn't be more true.

This is the Texas cousin of my regular ranch dressing.  To kick up the flavors, I use a bit of the fire-roasted tomato salsa.  Yes, you can use your favorite jarred salsa, but try to find one that has a fire-roasted flavor to it.  It really adds a nice smoky flavor.  Speaking of smoky flavor... I also use a good tablespoon of adobo sauce from canned chipotle peppers. (See my tip on storing the peppers and sauce once the can is opened).  A little cumin and cilantro keep the fiesta flavors going.

Use it as a dip, dressing, sauce, or anything you want.  Want to know one of my family's favorite salads using this dressing?  Stay tuned for the recipe...


Sunday Dinner

Hickory Smoked Pork Roast
White Barbecue Sauce
Grilled Kale and Potato Salad
Buttermilk Biscuits
Sliced Tomatoes

Icebox Strawberry Pie

When I was a schoolgirl, the flipping of the calendar to August pretty much signaled the end of Summer in my mind.  How could I fully enjoy the rest of my freedom with a new school year looming at the other end of the month?  I can sense it in my kids now.  I figured I'd give them some sweet Summer flavor in the form of Icebox Strawberry Pie.  It might help them focus on what they have left of the season while it helps me focus on a much needed Sunday dinner after another road trip.