Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Whenever I eat a chocolate chip cookie I always think of Gilda Radner and the Saturday Night Live crew from back in “them” days. Saturday night in front of the TV with a freshly baked batch of Toll House cookies ready to handle the munchies, was a weekly tradition. We made the cookies that never failed, from the recipe that was printed right on the Nestle chocolate chip package, Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies. In the old days the recipe was pretty much the same as it is today except an additional 1/2 tsp of water was called for. The one thing we did differently was to change out this ½ tsp of water for ½ tsp of almond extract. To this day I can’t resist the flavours of chocolate and almond when presented together in a sweet confection!

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 lb butter (1 cup) softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (12 oz package)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 375F
  • Mix flour, baking soda and salt together and set aside.
  • In a separate bowl cream the softened butter together with the white sugar and brown sugar. Add the sugar a bit at a time until it is well incorporated with the butter. You can use a mixer for this job or do it by hand (this is the way I usually do it!).
  • Add the vanilla and almond extracts followed by the eggs (one at a time) and beat this mixture until light and fluffy.
  • Do this next step by hand. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture a bit at a time until everything is evenly incorporated. The dough will be stiff by the time all the flour mixture has been added.
  • mix in the chocolate chips
  • Using a teaspoon, drop rounded spoonfuls onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.
  • Bake on the middle oven rack for 8 – 11 minutes. I like to make larger cookies that are soft and chewy when done so usually leave the cookies for around 10 minutes in the oven.
  • Repeat until all the cookie dough is used up.
  • The cookie yield varies. You will get around 60 cookies if you make them using only a rounded teaspoonful of dough. I use more dough per cookie and get about 25 cookies when I use this recipe.

My old recipe book is falling apart now but I still use the the recipes so carefully clipped from magazines or copied by hand when I was younger. Here’s a photo of the old Toll House recipe that I carefully scocth-taped onto a page about 36 years ago!

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Quinoa and Sweet Dumpling Squash

dumpling squash

This side dish is the perfect way to serve quinoa and roasted squash. The sweetness from the squash and the nutty flavour of the quinoa combine beautifully. Add that bit of tang supplied by the fresh lemon juice and you have a quick and easy side dish to complement a variety of entrees. I like to pair this quinoa and squash with pork tenderloin, roast chicken or baked salmon.

Ingredients

Preheat oven to 400 F

  • ½ sweet dumpling squash, peeled and cut into small dice
  • 1 ½ T olive oil
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • Sprinkle of Kosher salt flakes & grinding of pepper
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • ½ cooking onion finely chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • 1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice

Directions

  1. Toss diced sweet dumpling squash (should be about 2 cups) with 1 T of the olive oil, dried thyme, salt and pepper making sure the squash is evenly coated with all the ingredients.
  2. Spread the squash mixture out in a single layer on a baking sheet and place on the middle rack of the pre-heated oven and roast until soft (about 25 – 20 minutes)
  3. Bring 2 cups of broth to boil over high heat.
  4. Add the Quinoa and turn the heat down to medium low and let the quinoa simmer, covered for about 20 minutes or until all the broth has been absorbed and the quinoa is light and fluffy. Remove from heat.
  5. Heat the remaining ½ T in a small skillet set over medium heat. Add the cooking onion and dried thyme to the heated oil and sauté until the onion is soft and golden in colour.
  6. Combine the roasted squash, cooked quinoa, onion/thyme mixture, chopped parsley and lemon juice in a medium sized serving bowl and toss until all the ingredients are evenly mixed together. Correct the seasonings and serve!

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

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Who can resist this most comforting of the comfort foods? Garlic mashed potatoes might take a bit more fussing than simply throwing a few spuds in the oven for an hour so, but the end result is well worth the effort.

Ingredients

  • 4 large potatoes
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1/3 cup heated milk
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Peel potatoes and cut into medium sized chunks.
  2. Place potatoes into medium sized saucepan and cover with lightly salted water over high heat.
  3. When water boils turn heat down to medium high and continue to boil until potatoes soften and are cooked through (about 15 minutes).
  4. While the potatoes are boiling melt the butter in a small skillet over medium high heat and add the minced garlic.
  5. Sauté the garlic in the butter until the garlic and the butter begin to brown slightly. Watch this mixture closely as the garlic and butter can go from slightly brown to burnt and bitter very quickly!
  6. Drain the potatoes, place them back in the pot and add butter/garlic mixture. Mash together until the potatoes, butter and garlic bits are well mixed.
  7. Add the heated milk and continue to mash and mix until everything is light and fluffy.
  8. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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* All photos used on Planet Janet Kitchen belong to the author and photographer, Janet Moore and may not be re-posted without permission.

Balsamic Mushrooms

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I often use these sautéed mushrooms as a tasty garnish for main course dishes like beef stew, meat loaf and baked salmon. The rich deep flavour of the mushrooms is heightened by the sweet and acidic tang of good quality balsamic vinegar.

Here’s another tip worth paying attention to. If you want the mushrooms to sauté properly and not become rubbery make sure to use a skillet that is large enough to hold all the mushrooms in a single layer. If you crowd them into a skillet that is too small, the mushrooms will tend to steam in the juices that they release when heated. The end result will be somewhat rubbery mushrooms that are less than stellar!

Ingredients

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 T butter
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1/2 lb mushrooms chopped into coarse chunks (white button mushrooms or Portobello mushrooms)
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 3 T balsamic vinegar

Directions

  • Heat olive oil and butter in a skillet over medium high heat until the butter has melted.
  • Add the shallots and sauté for 2 minutes until the shallots soften and are beginning to become translucent.
  • Turn the heat down to medium and add the coarsely chopped mushrooms and dried thyme to the hot skillet and continue to sauté until the mushrooms are beginning to soften and darken in colour.
  • Drizzle the balsamic vinegar around in the pan and continue to sauté the mushroom mixture until the vinegar has been absorbed into the mushrooms.
  • salt and pepper to taste and remove from heat.

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* All photos used on Planet Janet Kitchen belong to the author and photographer, Janet Moore and may not be re-posted without permission.

Meat Loaf

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Meat Loaf Photo by Janet Moore

Humble though it may be, meat loaf is a regular item on our dining-room table mid-week. We will often serve it topped with sautéed balsamic mushrooms and a side of garlic mashed potatoes. Add a vegetable and dinner is done in no time. Even better, left-over meat loaf makes a spectacular sandwich the next day when lunchtime rolls around!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1/2 large cooking onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup panko bread grumbs
  • 1 T garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup ketchup (or BBQ sauce)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F

  1. Mix all of the ingredients (except the ketchup) together. Although it’s kind of squishy, getting your hands right in there and massaging the mixture until it’s thoroughly blended is probably the best way to get the job done!
  2. Place the meat mixture in an appropriately sized bread pan and press along the top to form a shallow dent that runs from end to end.
  3. Fill this shallow dent up with the ketchup, spreading the ketchup evenly over the top of the loaf.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes or until done.
  5. Meat loaf is done when a meat thermometer inserted into the middle of the loaf reaches 160 F

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Low Carb, Sugar-free, Gluten-free Cheesecake

Photo by Janet Moore

How’s that for a mouthful! Our local Arts Council hosts a yearly variety show to raise funds for the Peter Oliver Scholarship. This scholarship, named for a man who was famous for mentoring young actors in our small town, helps young people embarking on studies in the arts. This year I am one of the organizers. We serve a variety of cakes, sweet squares and cookies during the intermission. People, in our community, flock to the United Church basement to enjoy the entertainment and to savour the half-time treats. Today I baked a low carb, gluten-free, sugar-free cheesecake for the event.

For those of you who can’t eat sugar and are trying to be gluten-free this easy to make cheesecake just might fit the bill when you get a craving for something sweet. The crust, made with a mixture of ground almonds and ground pecans adds rich flavour and the creamy smooth texture of the cheesecake filling won’t disappoint!

You may be wondering why I have used a number of different sugar substitutes in this recipe. I have found that the end result is simply better when doing so. Each sugar substitute has a slightly different flavour. The stevia can sometimes have a bitter after-taste, the xylitol feels almost cool as it dissolves in the mouth and the sucralose can be almost overwhelmingly sweet on it’s own. I’ve discovered that when I mix them altogether in one recipe the end result is simply better flavour!

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • one cup ground pecans
  • 1 cup ground almonds
  • 1/4 cup stevia blend (I used Sugar Twin brand)
  • 2 T melted butter

For the Filling:

  • 3 – 8 oz packages of cream cheese
  • 1 cup 18% coffee cream
  • 1/2 cup sucralose
  • 1/2 cup xylitol
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 2 large eggs

For the Topping:

  • 1/2 cup thick plain yogurt
  • 2 T sucralose
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cup fresh raspberries

Directions

For the crust:

Preheat oven to 350

  1. In a bowl combine the ground almonds, ground pecans and the stevia blend.
  2. Add the melted butter and mix together.
  3. Place this mixture into an 8”, non-stick, spring-form cake pan.
  4. Pack the mixture firmly and evenly around the bottom of the pan letting it rise slightly up the sides.
  5. Place in the preheated oven for 5 minutes only. Remove from oven and set aside. Do not turn the oven off!

For the filling:

  1. Cut the softened cream cheese into smaller pieces and place into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add the 18% coffee cream, sucralose, xylitol and vanilla. Beat, using a hand mixer on high speed until everything is well blended, light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time and continue to beat on high speed until the eggs are well incorporated into the mixture.
  4. Turn the cream cheese filling into the crust lined spring-form cake pan.
  5. Bake in the oven for 30 – 35 minutes until done.

For the Topping:

  1. Let the cheesecake cool completely inside the spring-form cake pan.
  2. Mix yogurt, sucralose and vanilla together until well blended.
  3. Spread evenly on top of the cooled cheesecake.
  4. Arrange fresh raspberries on top of the yogurt mixture. The thin layer of yogurt will keep the raspberries in place!

The cake can be covered with plastic wrap right inside the cake pan and stored in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve it. Run a breadknife carefully around the outside edge to loosen the cake before releasing the spring.

Cheesecake: Photo by Janet Moore

* All photos on this website by Janet Moore

Parmesan Poppy Seed Crackers (Gluten-Free)

Homemade Crackers

You don’t have to be following a gluten-free diet to love these crackers. They are a staple in my home and are often requested when I am invited out to dinner.

Ingredients    

  • 1 cup almond meal (also known as almond flour)
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 3 T poppy seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1  egg white
  • 1 T softened butter

Directions    

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

  1. Mix together the almond meal, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, salt and poppy seeds
  2. Add the egg white, Dijon mustard and soft butter to the dry ingredients mixing everything together using a flat spatula
  3. Place small mounds, about 1 tsp each, of the mixture onto two small parchment lined cookie sheets
  4. Flatten each mound by placing a small piece of parchment paper that has been sprayed with cooking oil over top the mound
  5. Press down on the mound with a flat-bottomed glass to create a flat round cracker-sized disc
  6. Repeat with each mound until all the mixture has been used
  7. Place cookie sheets on the middle rack of the pre-heated oven and bake for 8 minutes until the crackers begin to brown around their outer edge
  8. Cool on a wire rack and store in an air-tight container

Homemade Crackers

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Roasted Garlic Aioli

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I love the mellow flavour of roasted garlic in this aioli. The roasted garlic aioli makes a great dip with fresh veggies or, it can be slathered on the bun when making turkey sliders or ground sirloin burgers. I often perk up a tuna melt or egg salad by substituting roasted garlic aioli for regular mayonnaise. No doubt you will find your own uses for this versatile sauce! Read the Quick Tip below for an easier and less time consuming version of this yummy roasted garlic aioli.

Ingredients

  • 1 whole garlic bulb
  • 1T olive oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 large egg yolk (or two small yokes)
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2/3 cup oil

Directions Preheat oven to 425 degrees F

  1. Brush off any loose bits of the paper-like outer coating of the whole garlic bulb. Cut the top off the whole bulb.
  2. Place the bulb on a piece of aluminum foil 6” x 6” square and drizzle 1 T olive oil down into the bulb so the oil surrounds the individual garlic cloves in the bulb.
  3. Wrap the foil around the garlic bulb, put the foil packet on a cookie sheet and place on the middle rack of the preheated oven. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and open up the foil packet to let the garlic bulb cool. When you can handle it easily, separate into individual cloves and then squeeze the cloves out of their paper-like covers into a small bowl. Season with a pinch of salt and mash into a paste with the back of a metal table spoon. Set aside.
  4. Place egg yolk in the blender container with the lemon juice and Dijon mustard. Process on high speed while slowly drizzling the oil through the opening in the top of the blender cover. The oil will blend with the yolk mixture and will emulsify as you slowly drizzle it, drop by drop into the blender. You can tell the oil is emulsifying as it will turn the yolk mixture an opaque whitish colour (just like mayonnaise). Take your time with this process … it can’t be rushed!
  5. When all the oil has been incorporated into the aioli stop the blender and add the mashed garlic. Process on a high speed until the roasted garlic is completely blended into the aioli sauce.

Yield: ¾ cup Quick Tip If you are in a hurry you can do steps 1 through 3 and then simply combine the mashed roasted garlic with 2/3 cup of prepared mayonnaise and 1 tsp of Dijon mustard. This makes a fine version of roasted garlic aioli. If you want the sauce to be a bit thinner, just add 1 or 2 T of milk and mix well.

roasted garlic aioli

Turkey Slider

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Turkey Sliders photo by: Janet Moore

Today a cool wind blows off the Atlantic and the autumn leaves are crunchy underfoot. The days may be getting shorter but the BBQ season isn’t quite over yet! We’re eating less red meat in our household these days so turkey sliders fit the bill when a burger craving hits. Grilled onions, fresh tomato slices and Roasted Garlic Aioli add pizzazz to our sliders and the home-made Pretzel Slider Buns make these turkey burgers irresistible.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • ½ medium cooking onion, finely diced
  • 3 tsp seasoned salt (Montreal Steak Spice works nicely!)
  • ½ tsp ground pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 T dried parsley
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 T to 3T of panko breadcrumbs (the amount you use will depend on the moisture content of your ground turkey. If it’s too moist it will be sticky and difficult to form into patties.

Directions

  1. Mix all the ingredients together making sure the onions, garlic and spices are distributed evenly throughout the ground turkey.
  2. Form meat mixture into patties that are just slightly larger in diameter than your slider buns. The patties will shrink on the grill, but not a lot as there is little fat in the ground turkey. Make the patties about a half inch thick.
  3. Coat the BBQ grill rack with some oil before cooking the patties as they may have a tendency to stick. Grill on medium high heat, about 4 – 5 minutes per side.
  4. You can also use a well-oiled grill pan on top of the stove, grilling on each side for the same amount of time.

Serve the turkey sliders on a pretzel bun with tomato slices, grilled onions and roasted garlic aioli.

Slider Sized Pretzel Buns

DSC_0040This is a Saturday morning hanging-around-the-house kind of endeavor. You can throw the seven ingredient dough together pretty quickly then tend to other chores while the dough rises. There’s a bit of fiddling with the boiling water bath but that gets done pretty quickly too. The baking soda in the boiling water is what imparts that rich brown colour we love on our pretzel buns. After that just brush with egg wash, sprinkle on the salt and pop them in the oven. Twenty minutes later you have a batch of rich golden brown pretzel buns … slightly chewy on the outside and tender soft in the middle. We love using these buns when we make Sirloin Sliders or Turkey Sliders. They make a mighty fine little sandwich as well!

Ingredients for the Buns

  • 6½ – 8 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 T instant yeast (one small packet)
  • 3 ½ cups warm water
  • 2 T melted butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Kosher salt flakes

Ingredients for the Pre-bake Water Bath

  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 T salt
  • 1/4 cup baking soda

Directions

  1. Combine 6 cups of the unbleached flour, salt and instant yeast together in a large bowl. Reserve the rest of flour for later use.
  2. Pour the warm water into a measuring cup. The water should not feel hot – just slightly warm against the inside of your wrist. Add the melted butter into the warm water and then combine this mixture with the dry ingredients. The combined dry and wet ingredients will form a shaggy dough.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough becomes elastic and the surface of the dough develops a nice shine. You will slowly add the last of the flour during the kneading process. This will take about 8 minutes.
  4. Form into a nice ball and place inside a clean, lightly oiled bowl. Swirl the dough ball around inside the bowl to get it nicely coated with the oil on all sides. Make sure the bowl is large enough to accommodate the dough when it rises, as its bulk will double in size.
  5. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and let the dough rise. It will take about 1 –1 ½ hours to double. I usually put the rising dough inside my oven with the light on. The heat from the oven light creates a perfect temperature for rising dough.
  6. Punch the dough down and lightly knead to remove most of the air from the dough. Divide the dough in half and make 10 small evenly sized pieces from each half (twenty altogether). Form these pieces into rounded balls and place on parchment covered baking sheets. Each ball will make a perfect, slider-sized pretzel bun. Cover loosely using plastic wrap and set aside for about 15 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 400°F
  8. Prepare the pre-bake water bath by combining the water, salt and baking soda in a large pot and bring this mixture to a boil over high heat.
  9. Drop 5 or six balls into the boiling bath for 6 seconds, flip them all over and boil for another 6 seconds then remove from the bath using a large slotted spoon. Place dough balls back on the baking sheets leaving enough room around each ball so it can rise while baking without touching the other balls. Continue until all the dough balls have been processed in the boiling bath.
  10. Using sharp pointed scissors nip the top of each ball in a cross pattern.
  11. Brush the top of each dough ball with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the kosher salt flakes.
  12. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 20 – 25 minutes. The buns will turn a rich brown colour when done.

Yield 18 slider sized pretzel buns