Monday, May 12, 2014

Ranger Cookies

I love cookies. So much so that I'm on a mission to try as many chocolate chip cookie recipes as I can to find the very best one. Of course, this is completely subjective. The best according to me is crispy outside, chewy middle, golden bottoms, and a good dough to chocolate ratio.  Say hello to my third cookie on the blog (be prepared to see more, here's one and two).  It's delicious!  It's the kind of cookie that seems like your typical, boring, yet classic chocolate chip cookie but after having one, you'll be thinking why was that so different? And why was it so good? And then you're reaching for the next one. And maybe one more just to see if you can put your finger why it's so addictive.  Beyond the usual ingredients, it's crammed full of other stuff. FOUR kinds of chocolate chips, oats, coconut, crisp rice cereal.

Thanks to Little Miss C and her active social life, we were at a play date when I tried these cookies fresh outta the oven.  Of course, I had more than one.  Of course, I asked for the recipe.  In my opinion, what makes these cookies are the butterscotch chips.  I have never used this flavour chips for my cookies. I thought about omitting them or substituting them with peanut butter chips (probably a good idea too).  I'm glad I didn't.  Don't skip them.  And since they are quite sweet, don't add more that 1/2 cup.  Just a hint of the butterscotch is perfect.

Ranger Cookies
Source: D. Jackson
Prep Time: 15 mins, Cook Time: 8 mins
Yields about 50 cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp salt
2 cups crisp rice cereal
2 cups oats
1 cup shredded or flaked coconut
½ cup each semi-sweet, milk, white and butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Cream butter and sugar.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, crisp rice cereal, oats and coconut.  Mix well.  Add chips and mix until distributed. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of dough onto greased or parchment lined cookie sheets.  Flatten dough slightly.  

Bake for about 8 mins. Cool on wire rack.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Epic Cheat Day - New York Cheesecake

You know what's hard?  Having a food blog and trying embrace my new lifestyle change.  Sorry but I'm not inspired to blog or share recipes from my unexciting life of Greek yogurt, oatmeal, salad, hummus, and other clean, healthy crappy food I've been forcing myself to eat.  Some have been good, some ok.  Mostly just blah.  It's a long haul, I know.  I'm better for it, I know.  I KNOW!  Thankful for friends (Py, Andy, Super Momma J, Ms. Physio) who are helping me get out and be active.  Thanks for tagging me in this motivating post Andy!

 The good thing about these friends; they let me have an epic cheat day and they joined me in it. :)  Every spring I host a tea party.  I invite my girlfriends (who share my same love of baking and cooking; foodies in general) to come over, bring something delicious to share and to spend a Sunday afternoon eating, chatting, laughing, drinking tea, gift exchanging, oh and eating!  This is the 6th year since I started and it was the best and biggest it has ever been.  I was thrilled that my dear friend (we go waaaaay back to first grade) Nancy from gottagetbaked was able to attend and brought with her a B52 layer cake.

B52 Cake (combo of baileys, kahlua, orange, coffee and chocolate)
I'm sure she'll be blogging about this.  It's ridiculously good.  Go give her some love...I'm constantly drooling over whatever she's whipping up.

Let's take a minute to have a look at the delicious offerings.  Oh my goodness, everyone contributed something amazing.  With the exception of Trader Joe's proof and bake at home croissants, everything was made from scratch!  On the menu: cheese and chive scones, tomato-prosciutto-fresh mozzarella on focaccia (yes, scratch made focaccia), jalapeño popper dip, spinach dip, fig-olive tepenade, turkey-goat cheese-cranberry jelly finger sandwiches, Greek salad, salted caramel/coffee/earl grey French macarons, B52 cake, leche flan chocolate cake, May-the-4th-be-with-you brown butter cake with maple Bourbon buttercream, chocolate peanut butter Darth Vaders, blueberry scones, lemon pie, key lime pie, Vunderbars and ranger cookies.  I told you it was an EPIC cheat day.  Since cheat day eventually ends, I instructed everyone bring tupperware and their party favour was a reusable bag to bring home goodies in.  Sadly, I wanted no leftovers.

I decided my contribution was going to be New York cheesecake.  I have made a cheesecake before but it failed.  It cracked and collapsed.  The cheesecake layer in my Red Velvet Cheesecake Cake is great but not stand alone.  A little research on Pinterest revealed that Chantal's New York Cheesecake recipe was highly rated so I gave it a go.  I followed the recipe exactly but I baked mine in a water bath.  I was rewarded with a beautiful, P-E-R-F-E-C-T cheesecake. Topped it fresh blackberries and strawberries and a sprinkling of powdered sugar.  I also made a strawberry sauce to serve with it.  If you love cheesecake, I highly recommend you try this recipe.

Here's the link for Chantal's New York Cheesecake recipe.  Note:  Make sure all your non-dry ingredients are at room temperature to ensure a smooth texture.  For a water bath, wrap the spring form pan in foil to prevent water from seeping into the spring form.  Place in a roasting pan.  Pour boiling water into the roasting pan until it comes up about 1 inch along the sides.

Strawberry Sauce
2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
4 tbsp of sugar
1 tsp of lemon zest
A splash of water
Bring all ingredients to a simmer until thickened, about 8 minutes.

Fresh out of the oven, after leaving in there to cool down
Ta da!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Black Bean Brownies (Gluten free, Sugar free)

Lifestyle change.  Sounds better than saying I'm on a diet right?  Many will argue, it's not a diet!  So, that is what I'm doing.  A lifestyle change.  WHY? It's well overdue.  But I still needed a push... okay a big shove.  I got it.  My bongga cousin S is finally engaged and I'm thrilled and honoured she asked me to be co-MoH (along with the other bongga cousin Ice) at her bongga wedding. THE PROBLEM?  The total dress size for the other four in the bridal party will still be less than my own ( 0+1+2+3 < Me ).  Unless I do something about it, I will literally (figuratively and physically) be the elephant in the room.  I have one year.  Help me.

A cousin (I have 53 first cousins #truth) from T dot gave me this recipe about a year ago but I never tried to make it.  One of my main problems was I don't have a food processor.  Super Momma J kindly let me borrow her Cuisinart during spring break and I fell in love with the machine!  I made many things: brownies, muffins, dressings, even quinoa chocolate cake.  One success was these shockingly delicious and fudgy brownies.  It's not shocking for brownies to be delicious or fudgy but when they are made with black beans and are sugar free, yes, it's shocking.  The key was to make sure you process them until very smooth.  Scrape the sides down as needed.  Also, make sure you let them cool completely in the pan.  I love fresh outta the oven baking.  I made the mistake of trying these then and they were um... pastey, beany, gummy...not good. So, just wait.  Cool them completely before trying.  I promise they will have a soft, fudgy texture like you would expect from brownies.

Black Bean Brownies
Prep Time: 10 min Cook Time: 15 min
Yields: 24-30 mini brownies
Created by: Sonja Secker


1 can (14 fl oz) black beans, rinsed, drained
⅓ cup coconut oil, melted (I used Canola oil)
⅓  cup cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
15 pitted dates (if too hard, soak in water first to soften)
3 eggs (lightly beaten)
⅓ cup walnuts (chopped – these are optional)
½ cup chocolate chips (get real chocolate chips – again choose organic)
⅛ tsp sea salt (I used Trader Joe's pink Himalayan salt crystals because it's pink)


Preheat oven to 350°F.
Place all ingredients in a food processor except for the choc chips and walnuts and blend until smooth
Fold in chocolate chips (and nuts)
Drop by the spoonful into a mini muffin tray (greased) and sprinkle sparingly with sea salt
Bake for 15 minutes
Allow to cool completely before removing form pan

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Papa's Beef Kaldereta (Beef Stew)

Kaldereta and a glass of red wine
I'm blessed with amazing cooks in my family.  I've been surround by delicious food all my life.  The best of the best...My dad's cooking.  I can't think of one single thing he makes that I don't love.  Of course he specializes in Filipino food although he makes a legendary roast beef with gravy.  For so long I've tried to make my Filipino dishes taste like his and I couldn't!  Even though he gave me the recipe.  The problem is...he (and all my aunties who are all great cooks) don't measure anything.  They do everything to taste and trying to get an actual recipe with specific measurements is like having soup with a slotted spoon.  Well, in last couple of years, I've started to become successful in replicating some of my favourite dishes...carefully taking note of my measurements for future reference.  Hubby loves Kaldereta.  It's probably his favourite Filipino dish.  This and mechado (a future blog post I'm sure).  And my Little Miss L loves rice.  She asks for it everyday.  So what is Kaldereta? (pronounced CUL - da - reh - tah)  Beef stew!  Beef and a variety of veggies in a savoury tomato sauce.  It's a hearty meal served with hot steamed rice.  This recipe is great when you're having company over because it serves 6-8 adults.  If not, leftovers are great the following day or two or can even be frozen.  Or you could half the recipe.

Papa's Beef Kaldereta
Prep Time: 15 min Cook Time: 1 hour
Serves 6-8

2 kilos chuck roast, cubed into 1 x 2 inches chunks (don't buy too lean)
2 onions, chopped
½ head of garlic, chopped
1 can 28 oz or 796 ml tomato sauce
2 bay leaves
½ cup soy sauce
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
12-15  baby potatoes
2 cups water
1 cup baby carrots
1 small jar of stuffed green olives
2 bell peppers (I like red), cut into large pieces
2 cups green peas
Brown beef in batches in a large pot and set aside.  Saute garlic and onions in the same pan and add oil if necessary.  Add tomato sauce, soy sauce, bay leaf, black pepper and diced red peppers.  And beef back into the pot.  Saute for about 10 minutes then add  2 cups of water.  Simmer until meat is tender about 45 minutes.  Add  potatoes, carrots and olives.  When the potatoes and carrots are cooked add red and green pepper and green peas, simmer for about 5 mins.  Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Serve over steamed rice.

oops!  I forgot the olives this time.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A lot of chocolate cake

Chocolate cake...I've been on a mission to find chocolate cake that's like what I remember from growing up in the Philippines.  Chocolate so dark, it's black.  Not brown, not dark brown, not even black/brown.  It's black.  Well, last summer my mission accomplished!  My parents came home from their visit to the motherland with this:
Caro & Marie Black Cocoa Powder
I promptly whipped up a pure black chocolate cake using my favourite chocolate cake recipe from Sweetapolita.  It was so black, I had a terrible time taking it's picture.

It was good and not super sweet and very, very black.  But, I found that it lost "chocolatey-ness".  

I made another attempt when my friend, Ms. Physio specifically requested a dark chocolate cake for her birthday.  This one was perfection. Probably the best cake I've ever made so far.  It was SO good.  The cake was rich, very dark, moist, chocolatey and not overly sweet.  The frosting was light, mousse-like and the perfect sweetness to compliment such a rich cake.  I used the exact same recipe but instead used half Dutch processed cocoa and half black cocoa for the cake.  For the frosting, I used Dutch processed because I wanted to see contrast between the cake and frosting.  My favourite part about this recipe is you get to throw all the ingredients in one bowl and mix.  Even if you don't have black cocoa, make this cake and you'll love it too.

Rich Dark Chocolate Cake with Malted Belgian Chocolate Frosting
Yields: 8" 3 layer cake
Recipe adapted from Sweetapolita

For Chocolate Cake:
2-1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon (330 g) all-purpose flour
3 cups (600 g) granulated sugar
1 cup + 1 tablespoon (135 g) dark cocoa powder (I used 1/2 cup black cocoa)
1 tablespoon (15 g) baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons (7.5 g) baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons (12 g) salt
3 eggs, at room temperature
1-1/2 cups (360 mL) buttermilk, room temperature
1-1/2 cups (360 mL) strong black coffee, hot
3/4 cup (180 mL) vegetable oil
1-1/2 tablespoons (22.5 mL) pure vanilla extract

For the Malted Belgian Chocolate Frosting:
1 lb butter (4 sticks)(2 cups)(454 g), at room temperature
4 cups (500 g) icing sugar (confectioners' or powdered), sifted
3/4 cup (75 g) Ovaltine Classic (brown in colour)
1 tablespoon (15 mL) pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
8 oz (250 g) quality Belgian chocolate, chopped, melted and cooled
1/2 cup (120 mL) whipping (35% fat) cream


For the Chocolate Layer Cake:
Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare three 8" round cake pans (line bottom with parchment paper and spray sides with non-stick spray).
In bowl of electric mixer, sift all dry ingredients. Combine eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla in a measuring cup and beat lightly with a fork. Add milk mixture to the dry ingredients mix for 2 minutes on medium speed (you may need the plastic splash-guard that comes with mixer). Divide batter evenly among prepared pans. (Batter will be thin.) Bake for 20 minutes and rotate pans in oven. Continue to bake until toothpick or skewer comes almost clean (a few crumbs), about 12 more minutes. Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes then gently invert onto racks until completely cool.
Black vs Dutch Processed Cocoa

For the Malted Belgian Chocolate Frosting:
In a bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine the icing sugar and butter and beat on low speed for about 1 minute.
Add malt powder, vanilla and salt, and beat on low until well combined. Add the melted chocolate and beat on medium speed until smooth (about 2 minutes).
Add whipping cream and beat on med-high speed for another minute.

Once the cakes have cooled completely, I wrap it up in plastic wrap and pop it in the freezer for about 30 mins.  Alternate layers of frosting and cake and make sure you have a good amount between the layers.  Cover the top of the cake and sides with more frosting.  Chill for at least a hour to let the cake set then allow to come to room temperature before serving.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Soup and A Cookie (Chicken Kale and Quinoa Soup / Toffee Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies)

Here's a double recipe post for you.  One savoury and one sweet.  A healthy, hearty, delicious Chicken Kale and Quinoa soup and a chewy, nutty, sweet Toffee Chocolate Chip Oatmeal cookie.  Yup, I made both today and ate both today, just so I blog this for you.  You're welcome.

Part 1: Chicken Kale and Quinoa Soup

It snowed this weekend.  Like a lot.  I was happy because I really wanted one last blast of the white stuff before spring.  When the snow started I doubted that it would last but the flakes kept coming.  I love snow covered trees and watching snow fall.  The girls were happy...I already fed them, bathe them, coloured, played games and watched some Disney Jr.  I was even willing to play outside again (we played Sunday afternoon) but Little Miss C said no thanks.  So, on a very snowy Monday, I let them entertain each other and while I spent the afternoon sitting on the couch reading (Insurgent, book 2 of the Divergent series) and watching the winter wonderland outside my window.


I felt guilty about my lazy Monday so I told myself to be more productive today (Tuesday)...I digress. My point is: it's snowy, it's super cold and I wanted to make soup for dinner.  I found this recipe because I liked the ingredients in it but I didn't really follow it.  I made my own version.

Chicken Kale and Quinoa Soup
Prep Time: 10 mins Cook Time: About 45 mins
Serves 6

  • 4 pieces of bacon, chopped
  • Ground chicken (or use boneless, skinless chicken thighs)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 cups of chicken stock (low sodium)
  • 1 Knorr homestyle chicken stock concentrate (no water needed)
  • 1 cup of baby carrots
  • 2/3 cup of quinoa, rinsed
  • A bunch of kale
  • Salt and pepper to taste
In large soup pot, pan fry the bacon until crisp. Drain on a plate covered with paper towel, set aside. Remove all but about one tablespoon of bacon fat in pot. Cook the chicken until no longer pink. Remove from pot. Add onion, garlic and bay leaves and sauté until fragrant. Deglaze the pot with some chicken stock. Be sure to scrape all the brown bits from the pot. Add the rest of the chicken stock and Knorr concentrate. Return the chicken to the pot. Add carrots, quinoa and kale. Stir and simmer for about 15 mins until quinoa is cooked. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve in bowls and garnish with bacon bits.

Classic: soup and a sandwich

Part 2: Toffee Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Really, these should be called Toffee Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Maple Cinnamon Oatmeal cookies but that's just ridiculous.  They also taste ridiculous.  In a great way.  I don't have much else to say.  The name says it all.  This is my adaptation of monster cookies found from this recipe and this recipe.  My house smelled scrumptious while these were baking.  They're great warm and still chewy when completely cooled.  So good.  So, so good!

Toffee Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen large cookies

3 1/2 cups oats
1 cup almond flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1tsp cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
½ cup butter (1 stick), at room temperature
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups peanut butter
1 tbsp maple extract (I used maple syrup)
1 package of Heath toffee bits
1 package of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.

Mix together oats, almond flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt, set aside.

Using the paddle attachment on your stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated.  Add peanut butter and maple and beat for about 2 minutes.  Scrape down the bowl then add dry ingredients.  

Mix on low until all ingredients are combined.  

Add toffee and chocolate chips and mix until distributed.  

Use a large cookie scoop or form about ¼ cup balls.  

Bake for 8-9, until edges are starting to brown.  

Remove from oven and leave on cookie sheet for about 5 mins then transfer to cooling rack.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip Cookies

Hubby is anti-Valentines so I didn't have any big plans for V-day.  This is exactly his opinion of it.

Lucky for me, I have 2 little girls so no matter how he feels, I still get to make a semi-big deal about it.  First, I decided I wanted to do a mini photo shoot with the girls.  Thanks a lot Pinterest.  I buy a couple of Valentine banners, blow up some balloons and make some tissue puffs.  Luckily it was a gorgeously sunny-but-freezing-cold-super-windy day. I bundled up my girls and thankfully, they were happy and cooperative.  Here are a few favourite shots.  

Then I decide I wanted to make a sweet treat for the girls and to give away with Valentines. When my long-time friend Nancy from gottagetbaked posted this recipe, the cream cheese caught my attention.  I thought V-day would be great to time to try because who doesn't like chocolate chip cookies? The only thing I modified is I added the Valentine m&ms.  These damn m&ms!  While Little Miss C was at preschool, I dragged Little Miss L to Walmart, Target, Superstore and Save On with no luck finding them.  Yes, pink and red Smarties were available but I'm an m&m girl.  Thankfully, CJB was heading to America and imported the goods for me.  Yup, that's right folks.  Had to leave the country for ingredients just to make these perfect little cookies.  I don't think you can taste the cream cheese, but it gave it a different texture.  The cookies were cakey, soft and chewy.  I don't like crisp, hard chocolate chip cookies so I loved the texture of these.  But I did feel that it needed more salt (it calls for a pinch) so next time I make them I will modify it to 1 teaspoon of salt.  

Hope you had a great Valentine's Day or Galentine's Day or regular Feb. 14th day!