October 9, 2016

Somewhat Healthier Cakey Chocolate Chip Cookies

Fat is good. Sugar is bad. That's the latest from the nutritional experts who also brought us, "Fat is bad. Let's not talk about sugar right now." We've recently found out this was because they were paid by big sugar to say it. Reading about this naturally made me crave something sweet, and fatty. Either way dairy farmers and sugar growers win in my house.

It also leads me to the conclusion that many thoughtful eaters have reached that when it comes to good nutrition you should let common sense and your body lead the way.  I definitely have a wicked sweet tooth but when I eat too much cheesecake or cupcakes or a big bag of red licorice nibs,  I feel a little sick and crashed and see it on bumps that crop up on my face and a poochy belly. So I know. Too much sugar is bad. 

But I gotta have it. And I love to bake. So I amended my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe to cut down on sugar and, while I'm at it, cut down a little on the fat. Oatmeal and walnuts add gravitas and nutritional bragging rights while white flour and brown sugar keep it real. I browned the butter to make it more assertive and subbed bananas for half the butter which means I can also use less sugar because super ripe bananas are so sweet. These are thick and cakey—that's how I like them. Hope you agree. 

Healthier (?) Cakey Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 20-26 depending on cookie size (I use a big scoop)

1 stick brown butter*, chilled and broken into chunks
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 very ripe bananas**
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup oatmeal (not quick cooking)
1 cup chocolate chips (dark, semi sweet and butterscotch or any combination you like)
1 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350º.
2. Beat butter and sugars with an electric mixer until combined. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until blended.

3. Sift in dry ingredients and mix with mixer until blended (will be thick).
4. Stir in oatmeal, nuts and chocolate chips. Dough will be stiff.
5. Scoop up golf ball size spoonfuls of dough and put on ungreased sheet pans. Bake for approximately 15-18 minutes until lightly browned. Transfer to wire racks — they'll set up as they cool.

* melt a stick (1/2 cup) of unsalted butter over medium heat and bubble until browned with dark bits on the bottom. Transfer to heat-proof container and chill until solid. 

** I keep a stash of super ripe bananas in the freezer. Defrosted, they look disgusting but are perfect for baking. 

March 3, 2016

Pork Chops and Not Too Sauerkraut

My mom used to make the best pork chops and sauerkraut—it was my favorite dinner although I was kind of embarrassed to admit it. Sauerkraut was one of those foods like beans or egg salad or onions that made kids go ewww....

Once she sent me into the grocery store to pick up a can of kraut and I ran into a foxy boy from my high school who worked there. He asked me what I was looking for and when I told him he raised his cute little Scandinavian eyebrow ever so slightly and in that gesture I saw my attractiveness stock plummet.  My ardor for fermented cabbage remained but I had to take it underground for awhile surreptitiously tucking it in along the side of my bratwurst bun at barbecues. 


So I was so happy when I saw my beloved pork and kraut in Amy Thielen's cookbook (which I've raved about here before). She elevates it by adding white wine and spice. Those additions just make a good thing better. A key element in the dish is the sauerkraut and in this case, the can won't cut it. You want to look for fresher, crisper versions often sold in bags or refrigerated jars. The only ingredients should be cabbage and salt. It's milder, less sour and better tasting. You cook it all until the pork is fork tender and infused with the flavors of the cabbage, onions, wine and stock. You could probably add another chop without adding more sauerkraut but that's my favorite part so I like to make sure I have plenty. 

Homey and satisfying with a baked potato. 

Pork Chops and Sauerkraut

2 bone-in pork chops
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pat butter
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 cups sauerkraut with liquid
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 bay leaf
Pinch thyme

Preheat oven to 325º. 
Heat oil in oven proof saucepan over high heat. Generously salt and pepper chops and sear both sides, about 3 minutes per side until brown. Remove chops and set aside, then drain fat from pan. Put butter in hot pan, turn heat down to low and add onions and brown sugar. Cook until onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and wine. Boil for 3-5 minutes until reduced by half. Add pork chops back in along with cabbage, bay leaf and thyme. Cover partially and put in oven for 3 hours until pork chops are fork tender and sauce is thick. 

February 17, 2016

Broiling in Palm Springs

I've always maintained that Californians have a culinary and health edge with the produce they can snag year-round. Spending the last month in Palm Springs with my daughter while she pursues her equestrian dreams has made me realize I'm right. Take, for example, the grapefruit trees that line the busy street where I run. One after the other, heavy with gold orbs of citrus. At first I just furtively picked up the ones that had fallen on the ground and jogged with one in each hand like they were weights. Then, a few days ago, I saw guy with a bike and a basket picking them off the trees. He said it was OK and isn't it funny that they still sell them in the grocery store down the street? Yes, it is. Now I pick them straight from the tree too, sans cute basket because we're staying in a rental house that is lacking charming portable vessels of that sort. I use my tee-shirt as a hammock instead.

Today I picked more than usual. After cutting one into quarters and eating it right after my run, I decided to broil another for dessert. I love warm, cooked fruit and never tried citrus. Easy and fast. Cutting the segments for easy removal is the most time-consuming part. 

Broiled Grapefruit

Serves 1-2

1 grapefruit
2 heaping tablespoons total of sugar; white, turbinado, brown or a blend
1/4 teaspoon ginger or cinnamon, optional
Pinch of kosher salt

Preheat broiler to high. Take a small slice off the rounder end of grapefruit so it sits level. Cut the whole fruit into two halves and cut the grapefruit carefully around the circumference and around each little wedge so they release easily when finished. Place in shallow baking dish. Mix sugars and salt together with spice, if using, in a small bowl. Divide mixture between the two grapefruit and spread out. Broil for about 10 minutes until slightly colored. Cool a bit and serve warm with vanilla ice cream. 

It looks like paradise and it is beautiful here, but this sport is not for wimps, equine or human. It's 90 degrees and she's wearing a long sleeved shirt, coat, breeches, tall leather boots and a hat that doesn't even shield her from the sun. But they both love to compete and make it look easy.

February 3, 2016

Crunchy Garlic Lemon Chicken Cutlets

Lemon garlic sauce

Last Friday night my friend Lynn and I made this for 35 people. It was kind of hideous. The final product was terrific as was the game party it was served at but, man, it was a lot of work three-step breading and frying all those cutlets. My house had that cooking smell for days. And yet, I had to make it again tonight because it's so dang good. That and I ended up with about 16 extra pounds of chicken. I'm such an amateur. 
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