Cookie monster

chocolate cookies croppedI’m not going to lie… this recipe is really, really heavy on the chocolate. I find it hard to eat more than one of these cookies in a sitting. But, to my mind, that’s a good thing. I don’t need to eat more than one cookie at a time. I really don’t.

Chocolate Cookies
(adapted from ATK’s gluten-free cookbook)

12oz semi-sweet chocolate (I accidentally used bittersweet)
2T unsalted butter
4oz gluten-free flour
0.75oz unsweetened cocoa powder
0.5t baking soda
0.5t salt
0.25t xanthan gum
5.25oz brown sugar
1.75oz granulated sugar
2 large eggs
5T vegetable oil
1t vanilla extract
0.5t instant espresso powder
9oz bittersweet chocolate chips (accidentally used semi-sweet)

Melt chocolate and butter together in a double-boiler. Mix dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, xanthan gum) together in a bowl. Set aside.

Whisk wet ingredients (both sugars, eggs, oil, vanilla, espresso powder) together in large bowl. Add melted & cooled chocolate-butter mixture. Whisk until smooth. Add dry ingredients, mix till smooth. Fold in chocolate chips. Let rest for 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll generous 2T of dough into balls, place 2″ apart on sheets. Bake cookies, one sheet at a time for 12-14 min, rotating halfway through cooking.

Let cookies cool on sheet for 5 minutes before moving to wire rack. Serve warm or at room temp.

 

 

Light, fluffy, gluten-free muffins

five spice muffins

Gluten-free baking is a pain and I don’t do it very much. It’s just too hard to get right and there are too many opportunities to screw it up.  (Never, ever just sub in gluten-free flour. It will not work.)

These muffins, though. They came from a cookbook I trust, so I gave them a shot. And they are delicious and light and fluffy and amazing. Yum.

Sweet Potato + Five Spice Muffins
(summarized from It’s All Good)

1 large sweet potato
1/2c extra-virgin olive oil
1/2c milk (almond milk if you’re avoiding dairy)
3/4c good quality maple syrup
1t vanilla extract
2c gluten-free flour
1t xanthan gum (if the flour doesn’t already include it)
2t baking powder
2t baking soda
1.5T Chinese five-spice powder
1/2t salt

  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Poke holes in the sweet potato, then bake it for an hour, until soft. Set aside till it’s cool.
  2. Peel the sweet potato and mash the flesh in mixing bowl. Whisk olive oil, milk, maple syrup, and vanilla into sweet potato. In separate bowl mix remaining ingredients. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet.
  3. Line muffin tin with paper liners, distribute batter evenly.
  4. Bake 20-25 minutes, brushing top with extra maple syrup in last 5 minutes (I usually skip this). Let cool before serving.

Cheesy deliciousness

Enchiladas Verdes
I forgot to take the photo until about halfway through dinner. Ooops.

Oh, enchiladas verdes. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways….

  1. You are delicious
  2. Your recipe involves tomatillos, which I don’t cook with enough
  3. Your recipe also involves a green salsa recipe, which I have made without the enchiladas. It is also delicious.
  4. Cheeeeeeeese. Melty, cheesey, chicken-y deliciousness.

Without further ado, here is the recipe (a more complete version can be found in Cooks Illustrated #93):

4t veg oil
1 med onion, chopped
3 med garlic cloves, minced
1/2t cumin
1.5c chicken stock
1lb chicken breasts
1.5 lbs tomatillos
3 med poblano chiles (if you can’t find poblanos, sub 4 jalapeños), halved, stemmed, and seeded
1t sugar
salt & pepper
1/2c chopped fresh cilantro
8oz pepper jack
12-6″ corn tortillas

  1. Heat broiler. Heat 2t oil in saucepan, sauté onions till golden. Add 2t garlic, cumin, cook till fragrant. Add chicken & stock, cover, simmer 15 minutes, flipping halfway through. Remove chicken from broth and let cool. Remove 1/4c liquid, discard the remainder.
  2. Toss tomatillos and chiles with 2t oil. Place on baking sheet, broil until vegetables blacken and soften, ~5 min. Let cool, then remove skin from chiles. Transfer vegetables to food processor. Decrease oven temp to 350.
  3. Add sugar, salt, pepper, and reserved cooking liquid to food processor. Process until sauce is slightly chunky. Taste, seasoning with additional salt, sugar, and pepper to taste.
  4. Dice chicken. Combine with cilantro and all but 1/2c cheese.
  5. Smear bottom of 13″x9″ pan with 3/4c tomatillo sauce. Heat tortillas in oven for 2-3 minutes, until pliable. Increase oven temp to 450. Spread 1/3c of chicken filling mixture down center of each tortilla. Roll each tortilla tightly, place in pan seam side down. Pour remaining sauce over enchiladas, using spoon to spread it evenly over all of them. Sprinkle remaining 1/2c cheese down middle. Cover pan with foil.
  6. Bake enchiladas for 15 minutes, until cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

Revisiting Austen

Death Comes to Pemberley

What’s it about?
Death Comes to Pemberley is about the Darcys from Pride and Prejudice. Lizzie and Darcy are happily married; Jane and Bingley live nearby. Lydia and Wickham are traveling with Denny nearby, and coming through the Pemberley woods when Denny leaps out of the carriage, followed by Wickham. Denny’s body is found later, Wickham is, of course, covered in blood and is the main suspect. And every mystery reader knows that the first main suspect is almost never the person who actually did it. So Lizzie and Darcy must figure out who actually killed Denny.

Why should you read it?
Don’t. This was a did-not-finish for me. Pride and Prejudice is full of charm but Death Comes to Pemberley wasn’t. Austen was a great master of her characters, but that delicacy and complexity doesn’t come through in this book. PD James is a great mystery author, and the plot is, I’m sure, quite good. But I missed the familiar characters, so put it aside.

A cute distraction

Let It Snow

What’s it about?
Let It Snow is three stories/novellas that focus on different characters that are all tangentially related to each other. The through-line of all three stories is that there is a snowstorm. A train gets stuck in a snowdrift. A teenaged girl, a teenaged boy, and a group of cheerleaders all leave the train to go to the nearby Waffle House. The first story is about the teenaged girl (written by Maureen Johnson), the second story is about friends of the  Waffle House employees (written by John Green), and the last story is about the teenaged boy (written by Lauren Myracle).

Why Should You Read It?
Because you need brain candy. I tossed this one off quickly while I had a cold and only a little brainpower. My tween-aged daughter enjoyed it, but I don’t think will be re-reading it like she does her favorite books. Still: an adorable distraction.

A basic roast bird

Roast Chicken

I am a fan of a good roast chicken. Done right, it’s delicious and moist and a great, easy way to feed a few people. It takes about an hour, but most of that hour involves you doing something else while the oven cooks the bird. The hardest bit is carving it, I swear.

Roast Chicken
2T butter, melted
salt & pepper
4lb-ish chicken, preferably kosher

Heat the oven to 375. Brush chicken with butter, sprinkle with salt & pepper.

Place chicken in pan with roasting rack, wing side up. Roast 20 minutes. Flip chicken over, so the other wing side is up. Roast another 20 minutes. Flip the bird so the breast is up, and roast until a thermometer inserted in the breast reads 160 and in the thigh reads 165 (this should take about another 20 minutes). Take chicken from oven, place on a cutting board for 10 minutes. Carve & serve.

Who are you?

The Man in the Rockefeller Suit

What’s it about?
The Man in the Rockefeller Suit is a true crime novel about a German man who didn’t like who he was. So he pretended to be a series of other people, including a man called Clark Rockefeller. He implied that he was an illegitimate Rockefeller cousin, deceived a many, and conned a lot of others out of their money. He was caught when he tried to kidnap his daughter (after he lost custody of her in a divorce).

Why should you read it?
Because it’s a fascinating story, to think that someone could get away with impersonating American royalty for more than a decade without getting caught. It’s a news-y account – Walter Kirn also has a book about Clark Rockefeller, but his is more memoir-ish. This is a report of who Clark Rockefeller was and how he spent his adult life. I’m surprised that I hadn’t heard about him before reading this book, honestly. It seems like it would be right up American’s true-crime alley. It’s a good, light read.

Wuv. Tru wuv….

Landline

What’s it about?
Landline is an adult fiction book about marriage. It uses the story of a woman whose marriage is falling apart to talk about the emotional connection that two people make in a long-term relationship. It also uses the impossible: a landline to talk to the past. Georgie’s husband and children have gone to Nebraska for Christmas; Georgie has had to stay back in LA for work, an incredible opportunity that came up at the very last minute. When Georgie calls them via her cell phone, it’s the present-time husband. When she calls via an old rotary phone connected to the wall, she talks to her husband from their college years. It’s a magic trick the author uses to get the two of them to talk honestly about all the issues that a married couple has.

Why should you read it?
Landline is cute. I like that it’s about a long-term relationship, in a real way. It’s not about falling apart, not really, and it’s not about falling in love. It’s about the ties that come from a life spent together. You don’t see much fiction that concentrates on that, much less that compares it to a friendship of similar length. (I wish that friendship had been a bit more fleshed out.) Also, I was grumpy that the conflict in the marriage came from a woman putting her career first. Can we please stop that trope? But overall: cute. Fun. Not life-changing.

Science and Ethics

Henrietta Lacks

What’s it about?
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is two stories, really. One story is the history of cell cultures and how medicine uses them to research disease. The other story is about Henrietta Lacks’ family. Her cells revolutionized medical research, yet her family continues to be downtrodden and not compensated. They didn’t even know her cells had been taken for many years. It shows how institutionalized racism was (and is?) still in the US, and how that exists side by side with science.

Why should you read it?
Aside from the fact that everyone else already has? Because it’s an interesting story, particularly in conjunction with Ta-Nehisi Coates’ article on The Case for Reparations. The law around who owns your cells that have been taken for medical samples was non-existent for a long time. It’s still very, very young. It’s not just Henrietta Lacks and her family. There are other cases involving other people. Should they be compensated for the cells that would not exist without their bodies? Legally and ethically, it’s interesting. Would it be justice to start compensating the Lacks family? The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks both teaches you science and raises ethical questions. It’s worth your time.

Be yourself

A Wrinkle in Time

What’s it about?
A Wrinkle in Time is a YA classic. If you need a refresher: Meg O’Keefe’s father has gone missing. Her mother and father are both scientists, she is the oldest of four, including twins, Sandy and Dennys, and the youngest, Charles Wallace. Events start one night during a late fall New England thunderstorm, when Mrs Whatsit visits to tell them all there is such a thing as a tesseract. Meg and Charles Wallace and their friend Calvin head off on an adventure with Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which to rescue Meg’s father.

Why should you read it?
It really is a classic. It’s wonderful for any scientifically inclined kids to see how their smarts can make a difference, it also illustrates how being different can make you uncomfortable, stand out in a crowd that you maybe don’t want to stand out of. But it ultimately leads you down the path that being different is what makes you you. It’s what makes us all wonderful and individual and worthy of love. And love is the most important thing. It’s a wonderful book.