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The Five Secrets to our Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

by Vijay on May 15th, 2012

Amazing chocolate chip cookies

The recipe for our Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

It’s no surprise that there’s a day dedicated to the humble but oh-so-versatile chocolate chip…and that day is today! After all, it does seem that there’s a national food holiday for just about everything, from prunes to escargots to something-on-a-stick (March 28th, in case you were wondering).

But today’s all about the tiny teardrop-shaped morsels of chocolatey goodness that can be used in just about anything – muffins, cakes, brownies, pancakes, and, of course, cookies.  And you can even melt chocolate chips to be used in a variety of other dishes.

The most traditional use of the chocolate chip, however, is the quintessential chocolate chip cookie.  In 1930, Ruth Graves Wakefield, owner of the Toll House Inn, in Whitman, Massachusetts, accidentally stumbled upon the chocolate chip cookie when she ran out of baker’s chocolate and used little pieces of semi-sweet chocolate instead in her famous chocolate cookies.  Well, the chocolate chunks didn’t melt and a legend was born. (And wondering how Nestle got into the picture? Well, the brand bought the recipe from Wakefield in exchange for a lifetime supply of chocolate chips.  Not a bad deal if you ask us.)

In our kitchens, we like to take things to the next level.  And did I mention that we’re absolutely obsessed with chocolate chip cookies?  This recipe has been a few years in the making but regardless of whether you like chewy or crispy, thick or thin, we think this is just about as good as it gets.  No frills, no extras, just plain, (relatively) simple, and absolutely delicious. And, although this recipe has been kept secret for quite a while, this is a good as a time as any to share it with you.

There are 5 secrets that make these cookies amazing:

  1. Use great ingredients:  In particular, we like Penzey’s Single Strength Vanilla and Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips.  The little things make the difference.
  2. Brown butter:  By slowly melting and cooking the butter for longer than normal, the milk solids begin to caramelize giving the butter a deep, nutty flavor that is much richer than un-browned butter.  You may not be able to point it out in the cookie, but you’ll definitely notice if it’s gone.  Never browned butter before?  Here’s a video showing you how. And if you want a full primer on butter, check out our post yesterday.
  3. Whisk the batter: By using a whisk attachment on your stand mixer and alternating whisking and resting the wet ingredients, you incorporate air into the batter to make the cookies nice and tender.
  4. Fold in the dry ingredients: Instead of using a machine, gently fold in the dry ingredients to incorporate them.  If you beat them in, you run the risk of creating too much gluten which will make the cookies tough.
  5. Chill out: Especially since this recipe calls for melted butter instead of softened butter, it’s important to let the dough chill in the fridge for 1-2 hours before baking to let everything set up.  Otherwise, the batter might spread too much and you’ll get flat cookies.

If you absolutely must, feel free to add in some chopped toasted nuts, but we like these just the way they are.

Get the recipe:

MyReci’s Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

Want to save this recipe to an online recipe box?  Sign up for MyReci

What are your favorite uses for chocolate chips? 

Do you prefer semi-sweet, milk, or dark chocolate chips?

Do you have any other tricks for making amazing chocolate chip cookies?

 

 

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Butter makes it Better

by Shanna Snider on May 14th, 2012

Mmmm, butter.  It’s one of my favorite ingredients.  I know, I know. I said it’s one of my favorites, I didn’t say it was the healthiest, but when used in moderation and appropriately, there truly is no good substitution for butter.  Not the fake yellow stuff that promises to lower your cholesterol, the real deal made from churning cream until all the fat separates from the liquid (buttermilk) and turns into a semi-solid delicate and delicious state.

Given my deep love for cooking with real butter, I often receive questions about storage, uses, salted vs. unsalted.  Today, I thought I would share some of the most commonly asked questions regarding this magical ingredient that takes any dish from ordinary to extraordinary (yes, I went there.)

When to use salted vs. unsalted butter?

Salted and unsalted can be used interchangeably in most recipes. Using unsalted butter allows more control over the flavor of the dish.  I’ve definitely ruined a few meals by tossing in a cube of salted butter at the end (monter au beurre) without taking into consideration how salty it would make the dish!  Unless the recipe calls for it, use unsalted butter for baking.

How can I soften butter quickly?

There are different techniques for different purposes.  For spreading on bread or other simple uses, just pop it in the microwave on low for about 10 seconds.  For baking and finicky recipes, don’t do that!

Set the butter out for 45 min – 1 hour before it’s needed.  I place mine close to the preheating stove to speed the process along.  Keep an eye on it, those sticks go from soft to melted in no time!

For a faster option, cut the butter into small chunks and set out for about 15 minutes.  Even faster still, smash the butter between two pieces of wax paper with a rolling pin and it’ll be ready to go in under 5 minutes.

My softened butter is actually melted, can it still be used?

Not for baking!  Use that melted butter in some other way such as sauteeing vegetables or tossing with popcorn for movie night.  Once the butter is melted it will not coat the flour the same way softened butter does.  Grandma’s cookie recipe just won’t be the same!  It’s best to pull out another stick and smash it between wax paper (because who doesn’t think that sounds like fun?).

Is it okay to freeze butter?

Sure!  And makes me feel better buying TWO boxes of butter (salted and unsalted) knowing half of each is going straight into the freezer.  Just wrap the butter in foil or place in an airtight bag to keep it fresh.  Use within 30 days of removing from the freezer.

What’s the best way to measure butter?

Using the wrapping on the sticks of butter is easiest!  It’s printed up all nice and neat right on the side.

2 cups = 4 sticks = 1 pound

1 cup = 2 sticks = 1/2 pound

1/2 cup = 1 stick = 1/4 pound

1/4 cup = 1/2 stick = 4 tablespoons

Is margarine better for you than butter?

NO!  Absolutely not.  This my friends, is a tragic myth.  Butter, especially raw, organic butter, is a completely natural food full of essential fatty acids.  According to BodyEcology.com, adding a healthy amount into your diet promotes “longevity, hormone balance, heart health, sharp vision, glowing moist skin and energy.”  The website also provides a long, comprehensive list of the benefits of including butter into your diet.

Margarine on the other hand is a processed, stuffed full of chemicals “food” which is more detrimental to your health than consuming natural fats.

Can I make my own butter at home?

I don’t see why not!  It’s actually much easier than you think, especially if you have a food processor! Check out this recipe with step by step instructions on how to churn your cream into that delicious kitchen staple we all love so dearly: butter.

http://www.webexhibits.org/butter/doityourself.html

 

I love love love a little goat butter spread on a piece of warm bread. How do you butter up?

 

User Spotlight: Pam Spier

by Shanna Snider on May 10th, 2012

Meet this week’s Spotlight User, Pam Spier, a woman who’s beautiful cakes will literally bring tears to your eyes.  Who would have thought a move to Oklahoma would produce such an amazing baker!?  Her recipe box includes dishes ranging from chocolate chip cookies to shrimp scampi.  Read on to learn more about this baker’s love of the kitchen (did I mention her “Last Meal on Earth” is tantalizingly delicious?! Whatever you do, don’t skip over that answer!)

1.    What is in your refrigerator right now?

Mangos, avocados, tomato, onions, cilantro and limes!  QFC had a super sale on avocados and mangos ($.88/each!) so I stocked up and have been making guacamole and salsa creations in anticipation of Cinco de Mayo.  I also have a bit of an obsession with Sumo Oranges.  Given that they are running nearly $4/lb I haven’t done much cooking with them.

2.    What was your inspiration to start cooking?

I didn’t really pick up baking until I lived in Oklahoma and was looking for a new hobby.  My interest in baking really took off when I moved to NYC and started taking cake decorating classes.  I quickly learned that there was a great market for selling delicious cakes that looked as good as they tasted.  My favorite caking moment was when I brought a custom cake (rolled white fondant with 20 hand-made yellow fondant roses, two layered butter cake with butter cream frosting) to my friend’s engagement party and she was so overwhelmed with emotion she started crying.

3.    In the MyReci User Profile, we ask you to share with us what your “last meal on Earth” would be.  Why and what did you choose?

For this question I decided to go with a combination of my favorite foods.  I love fresh berries, so I would start with a bowl of raspberries, strawberries and blueberries.  For the main course I would have thick-cut high-quality bacon and homemade guacamole wrapped in butter lettuce.  It’s a light meal but still feels decadent.  To wrap up the meal I would go with my favorite raspberry buttermilk cake and a chunk of dark chocolate.  I think I may need to go food shopping tonight and make all this tomorrow.

4.    You know I have to ask, how do you use MyReci?

I use MyReci in a few different ways.  I use it on my iPad when I am cooking as my portable cookbook.  I log in at work if I want to share a recipe with a friend or coworker.  And every few days I scan the latest recipes to see if anything catches my eye to fork.

I also follow MyReci on Twitter and on Facebook to stay up to date on the latest creations coming out of the MyReci kitchen.


Thanks for sharing, Pam.

If you want easy access to her inspiring and delicious recipes then Follow Pam!

Introducing the New MyReci!

by Vijay on May 9th, 2012

Over the past few weeks, some of you might have discovered that we’ve been making a lot of great new changes to MyReci.  Our goal with all of these new features is to foster a much stronger sense of community, where we cooks have a place to call our own.  A place where we can collect and share our recipes with others, see what our friends and family are cooking, and perhaps even make a few new friends along the way!

OK, enough mushy talk, let’s see what it’s all about!

If you just want to check it out, login to MyReci

 

New design

We’ve re-designed the entire interface to be bright, clean, and sleek, so you can easily find all of your favorite recipes from the MyReci community.  To see a recipe, just click on one of the cards.  Or, click on someone’s name to view their profile and recipe box.

Beautiful, delicious interface

 

4 Ways to Add Recipes

Now, there are 4 ways to add in recipes to your MyReci account.  Type in your own, copy and paste a link (if you don’t want to install our bookmark button), and even submit a photo of a recipe for us to convert!  And, as always, you can use our bookmark button (now called the “Fork It” button) to save recipes from across the web with one easy click.  Even though the name of the button has changed, if you already have the “Add to MyReci” button installed, you won’t have to do a thing.  It’s now faster and you no longer have to type in the recipe name for certain sites.  We figure it out automagically for you!

So what’s this about submitting a photo?  If you find recipes in magazines or cookbooks, or perhaps even have a collection of your family’s hand-written recipes, we’ll add them to your MyReci account for you…for free!  Using your phone, just snap a photo of the printed recipe and email it to us at photos@myreci.com (using the email account you use with MyReci) and we’ll add it to your recipe box within 48 hours.  Give it a shot!

 

See what others are saving

By clicking on another member’s name, you can view their profile and see their recipes and cookbooks.  If you like what you see, follow them!

 

“Fork” It + Comments

When you click on a recipe you like, you’ll see a preview of the recipe and a button to “Fork It,” which means a copy of the recipe will be saved to your recipe box (like grabbing the last bite off of someone’s plate).  Then, you can edit it and share your version with the community.  And, if you like what you see, leave a comment for the other member!

 

Find, follow, and invite your friends

Click on the black “Follow Friends” button to see all of your Facebook friends who are currently using MyReci.  You can follow them with one click and invite more to join our community.  Even if you log-in with Google, you’ll be prompted to connect your Facebook account so you can find others as well.

 

Get a customized stream of recipes you’ll love

Once you’ve followed a bunch of people, click on the “Cooks I Follow” button on the Discover page to see a stream of recipes from your new connections.

 

New Weekly Email

Starting this week, we’ll be sending out a weekly email highlighting the best of what’s going on in the MyReci kitchens, including new blog posts, our favorite recipes, and spotlights on our members.  If there’s anything you’d like to see, just let us know!

 

That’s all for now!

We really hope you enjoy the new updates to the site and find it to be much more useful.  We would love to hear what you think - please reach out to me, Vijay, or any of the rest of the team with feedback (positive or negative), questions, or just to say hello!

Login to MyReci to see the new changes

 

MyReci User Spotlight – Tim Bolle

by Shanna Snider on May 4th, 2012

Here at MyReci, we quickly fall in love with our users.  How could we not?  We have so much in common: food and cooking!  We recently realized that if we love you guys so much, you might like to get to know each another, too.  So here we go!

Please allow us to introduce the first of this new weekly user spotlighting series: MyReci User, Tim Bolle!  Tim has been an active part of MyReci from the very beginning.  He has 15 cookbooks full of recipes ranging from peanut butter cup ice cream to Grilled Paella Mixta.  From Manayuk, PA, Tim knows how to flip a burger or two:

1.     What’s in your refrigerator right now?

I keep my fridge pretty streamlined. Each weekend my fiancée and I go grocery shopping for the entire week so we do not have a lot of stragglers in there. We have tons of condiments and homemade sauces along with normal stuff. We always have a big bag of shredded cheese, tortillas and eggs, those are our staples. I am planning on a Cinco De Mayo party this weekend so right now I have tons of avocados, and stuff to make guaq as well as lots of peppers, onions and flank steak for grilling up fajitas.

2.     Who/What was your inspiration to start cooking?

My mom always cooked for my brother and i so that is where I got my start from. In my house you either had to help make the dinner or clean up after it and for some reason my mom was able to use 12 pots and pans to just make something simple like spaghetti and sauce. I got really sick of cleaning up after all that so I started to take over the cooking which also helped her out because she sometimes worked late. To be able to take over the cooking from a Jewish mother is definitely an achievement. Now I cook dinner pretty much every night, but I don’t bake.

3.     Tell us about your last meal.  What do you love about it?

I just made jerk burgers with grilled pineapple and grilled sweet potato fries. I love sandwiches and a burger to me is just another type of meat sandwich. Whenever we are making them at home my fiancée always makes me go first because if she makes hers first I will always put together a better combination that she thinks sounds better. Now she gets to go after so that way she can steal my ideas.

I would say I love working with sweet potatoes. They defiantly have to be one of the most versatile ingredients that you can cook with and add to a dish. I mean how many things can you do either whole or diced, sweet or savory, and either mashed, crispy, grilled or as a soup? Not only that but they are really good for you so its an extra bonus that they are tasty and good. I think most people kill them because they don’t need extra butter, sugar, syrup or anything like that.

4.     You know I have to ask, how do you use MyReci?

I use it to organize all my recipes and help me figure out what I am going to eat for the week. Before going to the grocery store I will go through the recipes I have on there and see what looks interesting or what I can get an idea off of. I feel that it is just the natural progression of being organized. Our parents had recipe boxes with cards in them and now we have them digitally.

5.     Which recipe from your recipe box do you want to share with our readers? 

This is is by far the most genius thing ever for leftovers.

o   Thanksgiving Leftover Pie

Follow Tim for more fantastic recipes like Thanksgiving Leftover Pie!

 

What’s in your refrigerator right now?

 

Happy 150th Cinco de Mayo Anniversary (margaritas included)

by Shanna Snider on May 2nd, 2012

With colorful parades dancing down the streets, mariachi bands filling the air with music and as many feasts as fiestas, Cinco de Mayo is certainly one of my favorite celebrations!

Before we plan a menu, let’s talk about the history (food really does taste better when you can appreciate where it came from!).  Cinco de Mayo literally translates into the 5th of May and here in the US we celebrate Mexican heritage and pride on this day.  Down south, the date commemorates not just heritage and pride, but the amazing and unlikely victory over French forces in the Battle of Puebla that took place on May 5, 1862.  As the French army forced the small country into defeat, Mexico started to give in to the heavy weight of the war.  But when 8,000 French soldiers approached Puebla, a determined Mexican army of half the size stood their ground and crushed the world’s strongest army of the time on that legendary day 150 years ago.  That day, the Mexican people regained their unity, hope and strength and eventually won the war.

Creating a menu worthy of such a hearty feat is no easy task, but I’ve managed to round up some of the best Cinco de Mayo dishes out there:

From my recipe box to yours:  The Perfect Margarita

So as you eat your guacamole and sizzle up those fajitas this year, be proud of your neighbors to the South.  Let’s raise our salted rims and toast the 4,000 men that brought unity and pride to an entire nation.  Happy 150th anniversary!

What will you add to your Cinco de Mayo menu this year?

 

 

“That’s some Pig!” in a Blanket

by Shanna Snider on April 24th, 2012

That’s right folks, it’s Pigs In A Blanket Day!  And isn’t that wrapped up little piggie as cute as can be?!  This popular bite-sized finger food is a cinch to make and perfect for a quick after school snack, easy appetizer, game day goodies or my personal favorite, Mummy Dogs on Halloween!

All you need is  1 package of crescent rolls and 1 pack of cocktail sausages or hot dogs cut in half.

First, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Next, roll out and separate the crescent dough triangles, then cut them into two triangles.  Place a cocktail sausage at the wide end of the triangle and roll it up.  Put the rolled up little piggies on a greased baking sheet with the tip of the crescent underneath (this keeps the pig snuggly tucked inside).  Pop the pan into the oven for 10-12 minutes or until the dough is golden brown and crispy on top.

The best part of eating Pigs in a Blanket is the dipping sauces!  I love honey mustard with mine, but cheese sauce works, too!  What’s your favorite way to eat these tasty treats?

 

PS – Who knows the book referenced in the title??

 

CSA Delivery Day (and it feels so good!)

by Shanna Snider on April 20th, 2012

I’ve been feeling a bit uninspired the past few days…alright, more than a bit.  You should see the pile of clothes in my closet just waiting for me to find the energy to wash them.  Needless to say, my fridge has also been feeling empty and neglected after such an indulgent birthday weekend.

In order to continue with the avoidance of chores, I decided it was a perfect day for a stroll around the neighborhood.  Along the way I took in the smells of blooming flowers, the green of budding trees, sniffled my nose and scratched my eyes as pollen irritated my allergies.  Bah humbug.  Even Spring couldn’t get my energy flowing today!

After a quick stop at my local food shop, I walked home with a demi-baguette and port wine cheese ready to throw in the towel and call it a day.  As I approached my cute little house with the little white porch, I noticed something sitting outside my front door.  A big green box!  IT’S CSA DELIVERY DAY!  I had completely forgotten!!  I literally bounced up the steps to see what was in this week’s green box of goodness.

Kale, mixed greens, cucumber, mushrooms, zucchini, grapefruit, avocado, bell peppers and the list goes on and on.  What a fantastic surprise!  Instead of settling down with a loaf of bread, cheese and a very lackadaisical mood, I’m happily munching of fresh, organic vegetables in a very chipper (and apparently inspired) way.  I even threw a load of dirty clothes in the washer!  Thanks, Boston Organics, yet again, for perking up my spirits.

In case you’re wondering what in the world I’m talking about, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  It’s a movement that brings farmers and customers one step closer together.  In most cases, members pay at the beginning of growing season for a share of the anticipated harvest.  Once harvesting begins, boxes of produce are delivered weekly (or bi-weekly).   If sheer joy and inspiration isn’t enough to get you thinking about participating in a CSA, supporting local farms and producers should seal the deal.

Check out a CSA in your area so you too can enjoy the happiness a box of fresh produce delivers!  Now, what to do with cucumbers and grapefruit?

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The Power of Birthday Cake(s)

by Shanna Snider on April 18th, 2012

Birthdays are the best!!!  Birthday cakes are even better.  And this past weekend I was lucky enough to celebrate all three.  That’s right, all three: my birthday and two birthday cakes.  How lucky am I?  Can’t help but smile about a weekend full of wonderful friends, the inaugural lighting of a grill on a sunny afternoon, and not just one, but two decadent, made from scratch birthday cakes (with candles!).

This delightful Lemonade Layer Cake was made with love by one of my dearest friends, Sarah.  The moist, slightly dense glass of lemonade in a cake is full of tart lemon flavor and absolutely refreshing on any sunny day!

 

A Perfect Cheesecake was graciously presented by the lovely Kat.  The title is right on with this cheesecake!  It is perfectly light, fluffy and decadent beyond belief.  Everything you want in a cheesecake.   Kat brought a fantastic strawberry sauce that paired deliciously with both cakes!

 

You might recognize those fabulous photos from the MyReci discover page and I’m telling you right now from personal experience, these cakes are definitely worth forking!  Thank you Sarah, Kat, and all my friends and family for making this year’s birthday celebration incredibly memorable and very delicious!  When I closed my eyes to blow out my candles this year, I realized all my wishes are already coming true.

With love and appreciation,

 

Shanna

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A 20 year Ramps Reunion

by Shanna Snider on April 13th, 2012

Ramps are all the craze nowadays!  Naturally, I decided it was time to embrace this popular ingredient and try something new.  To my great surprise, it turns out ramps and I go way back.  It’s been 20 years but I could never forget that smell.  Let’s start at the beginning, long before I learned to stir…just imagine…

Rays of sunshine fall from the sky warming chubby cheeks.  A crisp, cool breeze rustles the sprouting leaves as winter finally comes to an end.  The grass is turning green and flowers are in bloom all around.  After months of being locked inside, my short legs run with enthusiasm as I sprint through the fields in search of a familiar, long awaited spring time smell.

Sweet honeysuckle emanates from my neighbor’s yard.

Wet soil after an afternoon shower promises new growth and green.

Bright floral scents drift down from colorful trees, bringing everything to life.

But those aren’t the scents I’m searching for.  My spring time smell was not so easy to find.  Digging through the soft soil, I pluck the leafy green plants out of the ground, rub the sturdy white bulb through my fingertips and inhale the smell of tangy garlic and onion.  I’ve been waiting all year for this mystery plant to grow and while my friends run by in a flash, I stoop down to the ground to take in the aroma of ramps.

“Shannie Bananie” running through the grass in search of ramps!

I left the small ramps growing region when I was 8 years old and have not been back since.  But that smell, that long awaited mouth watering smell, never left my memory.  I have finally returned to the east and this time as a knife wielding food enthusiast ready to put those ramps to good use!

Ramps are mild and sweet with a garlicky onion flavor.  The white bulb is ideal for sautéing because unlike scallions, ramps maintain that crisp snap giving the delicious flavor some fun texture too.  The best way to enjoy ramps year-round is, of course, to pickle them.  From mid-April to May you can find these “wild leeks” sprouting from Alabama all the way up the east coast.  You won’t find them in your normal grocery store so check out specialty food stores like Whole Foods or Farmers Markets.

For the first time in 20 years, I am going to rub that delicious plant through my fingers, take in the familiar scent and smile.  Spring is officially here.

Like I said, the season doesn’t last long so hurry to your local grocer or Farmers Market for some spring time flavor before they’re gone!!  Here’s some great recipes to get you ramped up for ramps:

I’m making wild ramp pesto to stash away in the freezer.  Take that long winter days!  You can’t get me down when I have Spring ready at any time!  What will you do with your ramps?

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