Friday, February 19, 2010

A Salty and Sweet Treat

So sometimes in February you need a walk, but sometimes you also need cookies. Ever since Jamie at A Desert Fete made these babies I was hankering for some chocolate chip cookies myself, but more than just that...with the salty protein of peanut butter. I like my cookies with lots of nutty crunch, so I used crunchy peanut butter and added chopped peanuts, but to each her own. Inspired by Heather at 101 Cookbooks, I also replaced half the sugar with maple syrup.

In keeping with the spirit of balance between comforting indulgence and exercise necessary this time of year, I employed the glorious freezer trick: only baked off a few and stored the rest as a log of dough wrapped in a plastic bag in the freezer, ready to be sliced and baked next time I'm craving a salty and sweet treat.

Note: When I have baked these directly after mixing the batter, I have noticed them puffing up. However, I usually refrigerate or freeze them first and achieve perfectly flat cookies. Simply Recipes does advise chilling peanut butter cookie dough in the refrigerator for at least three hours to eliminate spreading or puffing. Chilling the dough also makes it easier to handle.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 egg
1 1/2 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped peanuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter and sugar, beat in peanut butter, then syrup, then egg. Dump flour, baking soda, powder, chips, and nuts, and stir until combined. If time allows, chill in the refrigerator for three hours. Then, drop teaspoon sized balls of dough onto a greased cookie sheet. Alternately, form into logs after chilling and freeze for 30 minutes or up to a few months to slice and bake as desired. Bake for approximately 10 - 15 minutes. Makes about 30-40 cookies depending on the size.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Snow and Sunshine

January was a dark time for me. It's not the cold weather getting me down this winter, as usual, but the state of my life. All those New Years reflections snowballed, and it hit me that 2009 was not a good year: unachieved resolutions and aspirations, a total lack of exercise, a summer of stress, the realization that I've been living in an isolated dirty hovel of an apartment for six months, and the fear that I will trapped in this rut for six months more.

In February, things started looking up, little by little, or I am at least more hopeful that they are. It helps that February is all snow and sunshine. What winter should be. The kind of crisp air that is perfect for long walks and bundled jogs around Prospect Park. With the puppy in tow, for snow and the outdoors are his natural environment. Spying lots of snowmen and sledding. Hoping for ice skating next weekend. Still working on putting my 2010 resolutions and plans to paper. Only one month of winter left, and I think I can make it. How is February treating you?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

On- and Off-line Friends, and Crockpot Soup

I think we all agree that blogging gives us a warm sense of friendship and community, to a greater degree than expected when we began putting our words on the internet for the world to see. I value the connections I've made through blogging, hearing your feedback, reading your wise thoughts, gaining inspiration from your projects, and having the chance to share experiences with people all over the world. I would love to get together for drinks with all of the friends I've made online, but thus far, I've only had a few chances to meet fellow bloggers in real life.

Most recently, I met up last month with Jay of Mystic Domestica, who happens to live in the same lovely neighborhood as me, and with Amber of the (sadly defunct!) All That You Have is Your Soul back during her fabulous trip to New York in November. Both times, as we filled each other in on our lives and discovered commonalities, it felt like catching up with an old friend, or making a fast new friend. These experiences happily confirmed that on the whole, my online relationships are grounded in reality, and are not just superficial exchanges that exist in the ether. What about you, readers, have you had the chance to meet any of your blogger friends?

Jay very generously brought a gift with her, a jar of her mother's homegrown "magic" beans, a beautiful assortment of colored limas and black-eyed peas. I was excited to cook them, but couldn't decide on the right preparation. I found my inspiration about a week later during dinner at The Farm on Adderley in Ditmas Park. My appetizer was a luscious kale-lentil soup topped off with a poached egg.

So I subbed beans for lentils, added in the rest of my farro stash, didn't bother with chicken or vegetable stock in order to keep things simple, and used a stale hunk of parmesan rind that was sitting in the fridge as a flavor enhancer instead. Making soup in the crockpot is so easy, especially since I try to prep as much as possible the night before. And there is nothing better on a January day than coming home to a warm soup waiting for you. My egg poaching skills could still use some work. But the rich yolks, salty parmesan flavor, and creamy beans made a delicious meal out of a soup that sounds too crunchy-granola-healthy to be true. Thanks Jay!

Crockpot Farro, Kale, and Bean Soup with Poached Egg
1 cup farro
1 cup beans
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
1 bunch kale
1 rind of parmesan or other hard cheese
crushed red pepper or other spices (optional)
fresh eggs

The night before:
Place farro and beans in separate containers each amply covered in water to soak overnight.
Dice onion and garlic, and chop kale into chiffonade. Place chopped vegetables and cheese rind into crockpot stoneware and store in fridge overnight.
The next morning:
Remove crockpot from fridge. Drain and rinse beans in a colander. Drain farro. Add beans and farro to crockpot, along with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper and other spices such as oregano or rosemary, to taste. Stir to thoroughly combine. Add water, filling to about one inch above ingredients. Cook on low for 7-10 hours while you are out at work or living life.
Just before dinner:
Ladle soup into bowls to let cool.
Meanwhile, poach one egg per person and add egg to top of each bowl to serve.
Makes four or five servings.