Monday, September 19, 2011

m&m Chocolate Chip Cookies

My little girl is off to her first day of preschool. I'm kind of sad just sitting here alone (well, my baby is upstairs napping...), but at the same time I'm so excited for her! She is going to absolutely love it and I'm going to love the extra bit of free time I'll have while she's gone.

So today I thought I'd post a simple recipe, but one that I love making with my little girl. She loves m&ms, and they help to make this cookie extra special just for her. So if you have kids, maybe you could whip up a batch when they get home from school and bring a little smile to their faces.

m&m Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Baking Illustrated
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2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (10 5/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup packed (7 ounces) light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup plain m&ms

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.

Either by hand or with an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined. Stir in the chips to taste.

Using a medium cookie scoop, scoop dough onto prepared baking sheet about 1-inch apart. Press m&m's into the balls of cookie dough. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the cookies are light golden brown and the outer edges start to harden yet the centers are still soft and puffy. Let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Simple Stovetop Rice Pudding

I just spent the week in the Poconos Mountains in Northeastern PA. When we planned the trip we envisioned hiking through the mountains, canoeing on the Delaware, and enjoying the great outdoors. And then we got rained on. A lot. There was major flooding in the region, and we had to drive through 2 feet of water on the road to get to our destination. Let me tell you, all of that rain and cold weather made me wish for some warm comfort food. And rice pudding is just the ticket!

Thick. Rich. Creamy. Delicious. These are words that describe this simple rice pudding. The recipe is from my trusty America's Test Kitchen, and they have not failed me. I was a bit skeptical as to whether or not it would end up creamy and rich without the addition of an egg, but was it ever. The flavors were spot on, with the rice coming out as the star.

The finished product took me about an hour and 45 minutes, and we ate it when it was still pretty warm. With that amount of time invested, it had better be worth it. And I actually think it was. I've had many different rice puddings in my day, but this one is definitely at the top. I honestly don't think I would change anything about the recipe. Oh, and just a tip - when they say to use a 3 quart pan or larger, listen. I was amazed at how large the batch was, especially considering that you only use one cup of rice. My 5 quart Le Creuset worked perfectly for me.

Simple Stovetop Rice Pudding
from America's Test Kitchen
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2 cups water
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup medium-grain rice
2 1/2 cups whole milk *
2 1/2 cups half-and-half *
2/3 c sugar
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup raisins
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan (at least 3 quarts). Stir in the salt and rice; cover and simmer over low heat, stirring once or twice, until the water is almost fully absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes.

Add the milk, half-and-half, and sugar. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook, uncovered and stirring frequently, until the mixture starts to thicken, about 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook, stirring every couple of minutes to prevent sticking and scorching, until a spoon is just able to stand up in the pudding, about 15 minutes longer.

Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla, 1/2 cup raisins, and 1 tsp ground cinnamon. Cool and serve at room temperature or chilled. (To store, press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding and refrigerate for up to 2 days.)

* When a recipe calls for varying amounts of dairy products, rather than making a trip to the store, I use what I have on hand and mix until I have the right consistency. For instance, I only had 1% milk and heavy cream on hand for this recipe, so I used 3 cups of 1% milk and 2 cups of heavy cream to get the right mix. I just kind of do what makes sense in my head.