Sunday, January 31, 2010

Catalina Chicken

This four-ingredient recipe has been a part of my handwritten recipe stash for the past 15 years or so.  It was given to me by a co-worker, Phyllis M. when we worked at an insurance agency together.  A group of us used to get together at lunch time and laugh and laugh, sharing  observations, wild tales, and good humored teasing. The one thing that drew us together was our love of good food; there always seemed to be something delicious in the employee kitchen that someone had brought in to share.

Phyllis shared this simple recipe that she served her family or friends who are like family.   It is made with typical pantry items, it's quick and delicious.  The sauce is sweet-tangy, and it makes a lot.  I think rice might be a better choice to help absorb some of this delicious gravy.  This dish could be put together ahead of time and refrigerated until you wanted to bake it, but really, it only takes minutes to open up several ingredients, combine and stir, then bake.

And the good news...Ole Sweetie-Pi liked this!  I think it's only because he didn't see the can of cranberry sauce, first, though, or otherwise I would have to have endured another long, pained expression, grins.  

Catalina Chicken

4 large chicken breasts, split, or a combination of  10 thighs and legs)
1 packet of Lipton onion soup mix
1 small bottle of Catalina salad dressing **
1 16-ounce can cranberries (whole or sauced, you decide)

Preheat oven to 350*F.  Have ready a baking dish large enough to hold the ingredients, I used a 7 x 11 inch, and it was plenty big enough.

Place the chicken in the baking dish.  In a separate bowl, mix the onion soup, Catalina salad dressing, and can of cranberries together.  Pour over chicken..  Bake for about one hour, or until chicken is done.

**I'm not sure how many ounces a "small bottle" of Catalina dressing is.  My grocer's only had a large bottle labeled  "50% more free".   I measured out 1 cup of the dressing, tasted the mixture (before pouring it on the chicken!) and it was fine.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake with Mousse Filling and Chocolate Frosting

I've posted this Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake once before, but I am posting it again as I have added a mousse filling that brings this cake to an entirely new level.  It is very rich, chocolaty and elegant. If you want a cake that's made to impress, give serious consideration to this beauty. 

The flavor of this cake is over the moon good.  You will think you are riding the tail of a comet, taking you to the place where chocolate dreams are made and come true.  You will not want to come back.

Trust me.
I kid you not.

Ole Sweetie-Pi and I were invited to spend the weekend with his older sister, Susan (who, in her own right, is an excellent cook) and her Significant Other.  I am a little intimated by her.  Susan is the eldest and is accustomed to being In Charge.  I, too, am the oldest sibling in my family and accustomed to being In Charge.  However, as she's had more practice at being the eldest, I am not in charge. Ole Sweetie-Pi and Susan have a family member who was referred to as Fort Gra-Gra.  Apparently, this is a dominant gene that is passed on to the females in the family; this gene does not skip generations.

When this cake was served, and the first forkfuls passed everyone's lips, I waited...and waited for a reaction. Silence...a moment of reverence.  Smiles broke out around the table.

I get to be in charge of making the chocolate cake from now on.

To begin, make the mousse and set aside in the refrigerator.  Bake the cake and mix the frosting.  (Recipes to follow.)  When the cake is baked, let cool thoroughly, and then cut in half horizontally. I think it might be a good idea to slightly freeze the layers for ease in handling.  Place one of the cake layers on your serving plate and pipe a dam of frosting around the circumference of the cake.

Fill inside the inside of the dam with a generous portion of that gorgeous mousse and smooth. 

Do this with the remaining layers, leaving the top of the cake plain as it will be frosted.

Frost the outside and top of the cake with the frosting. Decorate as desired; I don't have any real cake decorating skills, but I have dressed this up with chocolate covered strawberries when strawberries were in season. Refrigerate any extra mousse and frosting.  Finished cake should also be refrigerated and taken out just before serving time. 

Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups Hershey's cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Heat oven to 350* Fahrenheit.  Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.

Combine dry ingredients into large bowl.  Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla.  Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Stir in boiling water.  (Batter will be thin.)  Pour into pans.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks.  Cool completely.

"Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Frosting

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or margarine
2/3 cup Hershey's cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar (confectioners' sugar)
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt butter.  Stir in cocoa.  Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating on medium speed to spreading consistency.  Add more milk if needed.  Stir in vanilla.  About 2 cups frosting.

Chocolate Mousse

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups cold, heavy cream, plus an additional 1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, combine the confectioners' sugar and 1/2 cup heavy cream.  Stir over low heat. 

Add the semisweet chocolate chips, stirring frequently as they melt and the mixture becomes well blended.

Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla and set this mixture aside.

In a separate, large bowl, beat the remaining 1 1/2 cup heavy cream on medium speed and gradually add the granulated sugar.  When all the sugar has been incorporated, beat the mixture on high speed until stiff peaks form.

Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture, taking care not to overmix.  Refrigerate for at least one hour before using on your cake.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Egg Drop Soup

Ordinarily I work my 40 hours from my home office, but occasionally have to attend a mandatory meeting at the facility that issues my paycheck, grins. So, it happened this past Wednesday, I had to schlep through snow and ice, and ended up being an hour late due to multiple car accidents that were scattered along the interstate.  Even in the beautiful Twin State Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire we haven't learned that the posted speed limits are for that one perfect day in July when the roads are bone dry,  the sun is out and is in perfect alignment with the rest of the cosmos, and you are the only vehicle in miles and the deer and the moose are in some  distant hidden green pasture or bog (As an aside, even though there is much criticism  and derision of the driving habits of our "flatlander" brethren,  I did not see one out-of-state vehicle off the road).

Anyway, as I was running breathlessly down the hallowed halls  trying to find an obscure conference room, I ran in a dear co-worker Betty D.  Betty is blond, lithe, ethereal , a delight to the eyes and to the heart.  As she is often wont to do, she sprinted along with me and  asked me how my blog was going and what was new . In between gasps of air, I mentioned I had made an egg drop soup but wasn't going to post it, as it was very simple and quick, good, but not restaurant quality. It is one, however,  that I would certainly make again, as both Ole Sweetie-Pi and I ate big bowls of it.

"Oh, I would love that," she exclaimed.  "This would be perfect for me right now."  I gave her a hug. My friend is recovering from an extended illness and is slowly regaining her appetite.  Yes, of course, I would happy share.

This is my first try at egg drop soup. The recipe not very specific as to quantities so I guessed.  I think I added too much spinach (I used spinach from a frozen package, took out a hunk, defrosted in the microwave), and perhaps three stems of scallions (also known as green onions, depending on where you live).  I could have added more chicken broth to (obviously) make it more brothy and less spinach-y, but we like spinach, so it was fine with us.

In the time it takes to open up a couple of cans of broth, add fresh or defrosted spinach, chop up a couple of scallions, stir in some beaten egg, you have a delicious, nurturing, nourishing soup.

Egg Drop Soup

5 cups low fat, low sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup julienned fresh spinach (or a small bit of frozen spinach, defrosted)
2-3 scallions (green onions) sliced

In a large saucepan, bring the broth and sugar to a boil over medium heat and then reduce the heat to low.

With a whisk or chopsticks, stir the broth in one direction only (you are trying to make the desired egg threads) and add the egg in a steady stream.

Remove from the heat and add the spinach and  scallions.

Serves 4

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sunday Roast Chicken

One of the traditions of childhood was the frequent visits to Grandma's house on Sundays.  We'd be welcomed by her many hugs and kisses; my grandfather would stand stoically in the background, grim-faced, resigned to the high energy of his only three grandchildren.  Occasionally, if he were overcome by a flash of affection he might pat us on the head and then he and my father would disappear to talk about manly things,  the Saturday night boxing match or hunting.

When the family gathered again, it was often to a chicken dinner, fried, fricasseed, or roasted.  There would always be mountains of fluffy mashed potatoes, and because I loved it, creamed corn.  It has been years since I've roasted a whole chicken, mostly because Ole Sweetie-Pi doesn't care for meat on the bone (I had to slice it before serving him, grins.)

However, I was visiting my friend Carrie of  Carrie's Cooking and Recipes and she had posted a roasted chicken and gravy recipe that I just couldn't get out of my mind.  She made it look and sound so good that I actually went back and posted comments on two separate occasions, telling her how much I wanted to make it.  Have you visited with Carrie?  She's got some good cooking going on at her blog!

When Carrie  roasted her chicken she did a long and slow roast, 250*F for four hours; I opted to roast mine at 350* for just under two.   I also massaged olive oil onto the entire outside of the chicken before applying the rub, and basted the chicken  while it was was roasting.  I just brushed some of the pan drippings over the chicken, nothing fancy..

The result?  This chicken is  so good., easily the best I have ever made.  The meat was moist and fork tender.  The spices and herbs in the rub perfectly seasoned the chicken and the gravy.  This recipe is a keeper.  Thanks, Carrie, we loved this roasted chicken!

The chicken needs to marinate overnight or at least 4-6 hours before roasting so you'll  need to plan ahead.

Sunday Roast Chicken
(adapted from Carrie's Cooking and Recipes)

1 (4 pound) whole chicken (my roaster chicken was closer to 5 lbs)

4 teaspoons salt (I would reduce this to 2-3 teaspoons the next time)
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 onion, cut into 4 pieces
5 cloves garlic

Chicken drippings
2 tablespoons flour (I use cornstarch) plus water to make a slurry
1 14-ounce can chicken broth, low sodium, fat free

Start preparations the night before, or at least 4-6 hours before roasting.  Remove packet of giblets (keep to flavor gravy or discard, as desired), rinse chicken,use a clean paper towel to pat dry.  Massage oil onto outside of chicken.

Combine all spice and herb ingredients to make the rub and then liberally sprinkle and rub mixture outside and inside of the chicken.  Stuff the quartered onion and garlic cloves into the cavity.  Either place chicken in a large resealable plastic bag or place chicken on dish and wrap in plastic.  Place in refrigerator.

There are any number of roasting timetables for chicken, but this is the one that I use.  For my five pound roaster, it took 1 hour 45 minutes to reach 180*F on my meat thermometer.   If you don't have a meat thermometer, you can test for doneness a couple of different ways:  pierce the thickest part of the thigh; the juices should run clear.  Or, wiggle the drumstick; it should wiggle easily. 

When the chicken is done, remove it to a platter and let it rest (resting allows the juices to settle into the meat and will help your chicken stay moister).  Reserve the contents that remain in the roasting pan.

While the chicken is roasting, I start the gravy, typically using the giblets to add a little extra flavor, though if you have an aversion, you certainly don't have to, grins. Open up the little bag and toss the contents in a small saucepan with the chicken broth,  a quartered onion, a roughly chopped carrot and a celery stalk, and let it all gently boil until the giblets are done. Strain to remove the solids and reserve the broth.

To make the gravy, the contents left in the roasting pan into a glass measuring cup.  After a minute or so, the fat will rise to the top and should be removed.  You can try pouring off most of it, and use spooning out any remainder; you can also use a slice of bread to sop up any remaining fat, discarding the bread after use.

There will be gorgeous brown bits in the bottom of your roasting dish and those should be scraped up as they are full of flavor.  Because I use a glass roasting pan and am afraid that direct heat will shatter it, I pour a little of the chicken broth into the pan and use a flat whisk to scrape up as much of that concentrated roasted goodness as I can and then return all to the saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, make a slurry with two tablespoons of cornstarch and a quarter cup of water.  Stir out any lumps.  Holding the slurry in one hand and a whisk in the other, continuously whisk the gently boiling gravy mixture and add the slurry in a slow steady stream, stopping intermittently to give the cornstarch enough time to cook and  thicken in between additions. You may not need all the slurry.  If, however,  the gravy becomes too thick, add water and stir; if the gravy is not thick enough, make another batch of slurry and do as before.  Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly, though I found it perfect as it was.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Apple Butternut Squash Soup

I had been reading on your blogs about Greek yogurt, and when I finally saw organic Greek yogurt at my little city's grocery store this past spring, I was inspired and encouraged to try it.

I was going through the checkout, and a portly gentleman of early middle years was eying the foods  as I placed them on the  conveyor belt.

No point in pretending I didn't know he was standing there so I acknowledged him with a smile.

"I see you bought Greek yogurt," he said. " How do you like it?"

"This is my first purchase, but I like yogurt, so I'm sure I'll like this."  

"See you bought Oikos. I've tried the others, but theirs is the best.  My refrigerator is stacked with it.  Look, see, I bought even more today.   I don't want to run out."

He had indeed bought maybe a dozen single-serve containers, making a pyramid with them.  I smiled politely, feeling a little possessive of my Greek yogurt.  "I used to eat mostly cold cereal and canned soup; you certainly are making much better choices than I did."

He slightly shook his head disapprovingly and tut-tutted me.  "Well, it's never to late to start," he admonished. 

Then my youngest niece, Laura, graduated from UNH (University of New Hampshire), double major with a GPA that even now makes her Dad swell with pride.  The keynote speaker was Gary Hirshberg, CEO (he calls himself CE-Yo, grins) of Stonyfield Farm, the producers of Oikos Greek Yogurt. He is down to earth,  committed, takes pride in his company and product, is progressive,  and supportive of those students who are interested in agriculture, is a  friend to the Earth.  His parting message to the graduating class, "Do good work."   Aaah, a businessman whose philosophy reflects my own and who walks the talk.  Now I am impressed with the man as well as the product.

As it happens, a representative of Stonyfield Farms contacted me and offered to send me  some coupons to try their product and to mention them on my blog. I generally have their yogurt in my refrigerator so did not need the added incentive of coupons to give them a nod on my blog.  Their generous offer, however, did pique my curiosity about recipes they had on their site and that's when I found their Apple Butternut Squash Soup.  

I've discovered that I love pureed vegetable soups (Ole Sweetie-Pi still thinks he'd prefer to forgo the pleasure).  I grew up on chowders and stews, with lots of chunky goodness in thickened gravies and broths.  I still enjoy them.  However, there's something velvety, satisfying, genteel,  about pureed vegetable soups. Perhaps it's because there is one dominant ingredient and the rest are back notes, perhaps it's because I make use of vegetables are customarily only served as a side dish at my table.  Perhaps it's just because I feel righteous and healthier.  Perhaps it's simply because they are darned good.

Apple Butternut Squash Soup
(from Stonyfield Farm)

1 medium-size butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
3 medium apples, peeled,  cored and chopped coarsley
2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/4 cups Oikos Organic Plain Greek Yogurt, divided

In a large pot, combine all ingredients except the yogurt.. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes.

Let cool, then put in blender and pulse until smooth. (Or use an immersion blender or food processor.)

Add 1 cup of yogurt and pulse to combine.

Return soup to large pot and reheat slowly being careful not to boil. Add more salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer to serving bowl and garnish with remaining yogurt.

My Notes:   I'm not sure how big a "medium" squash is, but I bought the smallest one I could  find and used three McIntosh apples. The flavor of the squash shines through; the apples add a nice touch of sweetness.  I think the next time I make this, I'll use an additional apple, and perhaps one that is sweeter, such as Red Delicious.  The addition of the yogurt adds a delicious creaminess and mouth feel, but I found the yogurt to be particularly tangy, so I might cut back on that a bit.  And definitely use fresh herbs if you can. The soup was excellent reheated the next day, and if possible, even better.  I'm already looking forward to another bowl of this!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Orange Pinwheel Biscuits

I've made these biscuits before, recipe here, as a glazed cinnamon pinwheel biscuit.  I'm on a bit of a citrus kick right now (with reported cases of the flu everywhere, I figure I need as much Vitamin C as I can get), so I  decided to make these into a orange pinwheel biscuit. These are a delightful little breakfast biscuit; no advanced kitchen skills or exotic ingredients required.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Generously butter and have ready a muffin pan (though I used a 9 inch x 9 inch baking dish)

Make the biscuits as directed as for the cinnamon pinwheel biscuits recipe.

Then make the Orange Butter.

Orange Butter

Cream 1/4 cup butter with 1/2 cup sugar.
Add 1/2 cup of orange juice and 2 tablespoons grated orange peel.  Mix, but the mixture will probably look curdled.  That's okay.  The butter will melt as the biscuits are cooking.

If using the muffin pans, divide the orange butter between the 12 buttered muffin cups (otherwise just pour into your baking dish).  Arrange the sliced biscuit pieces in the muffin cups (or place 3 x 4 in your baking dish).  Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.  While still warm, carefully scoop the biscuits out of the muffin tin or pan, turning upside down so that you can see all that gorgeous orange butter on top.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Grape Nuts Pudding

My brother, Grant, gave me a beautiful set of Le Creuset  custard/pudding/baking cups, good from freezer to oven, for Christmas.  When he presented the package, all bedecked in a golden foil wrap, with iridescent snowflakes and a red bow, he was legless with laughter.  He told me that there was a story that went with them, and of course, I,  (being his older, cynical, but not ungracious sister)  assumed that he (ever frugal and pragmatic but still thoughtful in an irascible way) was regifting or bought the gift at a yardsale.  By that time he he was laughing so hard he was gasping for breath, and left me with a package that sat, unopened until Christmas day.  I loved them as soon as I saw them; and when he called to see how much I liked my gift, he was still laughing.  It seems that only one of his daughters wanted this set, and for whatever reason, both his daughters and I received these, plus he bought them at a reduced price.  I guess that makes up for all the times I used to buy both brothers identical (but in different colors) gifts, whether it was clothes or calculators, grins. 

Sooo....since I have these really great baking cups, I needed to put them to use right away, and decided on a recipe I haven't had in ages, Grape Nuts Pudding.  It's an old timey recipe, one often associated with New England (though I'm under the assumption that it is enjoyed across this great continent of ours), and one that my grandmother used to make.  I looked in her tattered recipe book; and she had a handwritten recipe for it, but without a comment.  Usually she'd notate that "the family loved this" or some such thought to bring her back to it.  There was no notation, but I tried the recipe and was disappointed.  Guess my sainted grandmother thought if she couldn't find something nice to say, she wouldn't say anything.

One of the best Grape Nuts puddings I ever had was at a little family style restaurant on Court Street in Plymouth, Massachusetts. For the life of me I can't remember the name of the restaurant, probably Pilgrim something or other, but they had just the right Grape Nuts to custard ratio and a sprinkling of cinnamon. And the Grape Nuts were suspended in the custard, not like other recipes I've tried where they all sank to the bottom.

Well, I'll tell you what.  I think I've found as near a perfect recipe as I'm going to.  It's a little gem I discovered on and I'm loving it.  The ratio of Grape Nuts to custard is a little too much for my taste (the next time I will reduce the Grape Nuts to probably one-half cup instead of the three-quarters) and  I definitely do not use raisins.  Gads, that would be like adding raisins to Indian Pudding.

This recipe is a snap to put together, economical,  and is just a delightful little dessert that's warm and comforting.

Here's the recipe. 

Grape Nuts Pudding

3/4 cup Grape Nuts cereal (not the flakes)
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Dash of cinnamon and nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Have ready a pan that is larger than your casserole (cassoulets) to hold the dish as hot water is going to be added to the pan.  The pudding will bake in a hot water bath.

In a small bowl, melt the butter and add the Grape Nuts cereal; set aside.

In a one-quart casserole, mix together the sugar, eggs, and vanilla  (I used individual cassoulets so mixed my wet ingredients in a large measuring cup).  Add the Grape Nut mixture.  Add milk, spices, and vanilla.

Place casserole in the pan of hot water, making sure that the water is about 2/3 of the way up the side of the dish.

Carefully place the dish in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.  Stir.  (This is important if you want your Grape Nuts throughout the custard.)

Bake 20 minutes more. Exercise caution because the water the pudding was baked in is going to be hot, remove the pan from the oven.  Remove the casserole dish from the pan of hot water.  Sprinkle pudding with a little additional cinnamon and nutmeg, if desired.  Serve warm or cold.  Whipped cream on top is a very nice touch.

Friday, January 1, 2010

USDA Peanut Butter Cookies and King Arthur Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies

Happy 2010!   I  hope that every day is a celebration for you.

It's a new year, and also my one year blog anniversary.  Gosh, I've had fun and learned a lot these past twelve months.  Like so many of you, I started out wanting to write a family history of recipes, sharing the old and the new, remembering, staying connected through our food history.

And like so many things, this blog grew to something I never dreamed of, a way to meet new friends who share my love of good food, who express love and creativity in its preparation and and presentation.  Through your writings and your food, I have come to know you and to cherish your visits here and to love visiting you at your place.  And your place could be anywhere on this magnificent globe of ours, the United States, Canada, Brazil, India, Singapore, England, The Netherlands, The Philippines, Portugal.  I wish I could remember who said it and exactly how they said it because it was so eloquent and expressed my feelings so perfectly, so let me say this in my own words:  Come, let me feed you, let's eat together and share the bounty, however humble it may be, that is before us.  Let us be grateful in our own way.  Let us create peace, kitchen to kitchen.

Remembering the past, looking forward to the future,  Something old, something new.  When I decided to make these cookies, I thought about the symbolism in making them together (my English teachers would be so proud of me right now).

Growing up, my father who insisted on being the sole breadwinner, ironically, was not inspired or elevated by work. He expended a lot of imagination creating illness and injury, feeling put upon, and entitled. At this point, my brother Grant and I can laugh about it.  We understand the value of having a really good bad example in our lives.  We learned what not to be, what not to do. To this day, I have to thank him for some of the values I hold dear.  Have a life, have a clue, show up, do good work, accept and offer help when it's needed  Practice self reliance.Believe in God. Keep the best and move forward. I don't remember who said it, but we are greater than the sum total of our experiences.  I think that's because we have the added value of choice.

So what does that have to do with cookies.  Every couple of weeks (or was it every month, I don't recall) my father used to show up at the selectman's office.  There was (is there still?) a program where the county, via a government program,  handed out surplus foods to families that were living at or near the poverty level.  He'd go there (with a hangdog, beleaguered look) and bring home a cardboard box full of powdered milk, pounds of butter, oatmeal, cornmeal, whole wheat flour, canned meats, and tin buckets of peanut butter.

Peanut butter cookies are one of my all time favorites, on equal footing with oatmeal.  As you can see from the recipe, it uses products that could typically be found in a surplus foods box and a simple pantry.  No vanilla, no shortening.  These simple, humble cookies are crumbly, peanut buttery.  Good, but not great.

Makes 4-5 dozen.

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup butter
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup white sugar
2 cup brown sugar (packed)
2 eggs
(little extra white sugar  in a plate or bowl, for decoration)

Mix flour, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, combine the butter, peanut butter, white and brown sugars; mix well.  Add the two eggs and mix well.

Add the dry ingredients to the peanut butter mixture, and mix well.

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Slightly flatten the dough by dipping the tines of a fork into a little sugar and make the traditional criss cross pattern.

Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-15 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Chaya, my blogging friend, of Sweet and Savory Says it All and Chaya's Comfy Cook asked me a while back to bake up a batch of her favorite chocolate chip cookies, a recipe by King Arthur Flour. Impossible to refuse because I trust Chaya's cooking, and plus I own three of the King Arthur cookbooks and share Chaya's enthusiasm for their recipes.

Chocolate is not a favorite of mine so it took me a while to round back to keeping my promise.  Ole Sweetie-Pi, however, loves chocolate, often buying himself candy bars and stashing them away (must be a holdover from childhood because he wouldn't have to worry about me snitching them, grins).  So when I said I was making chocolate chip, he was all big smiles, and as soon as the first batch came out of the oven, and he could eat one without burning his tongue on the hot melting chips, he poured himself a glass of milk and grabbed two off the cooling rack.  His verdict?  These are good!  More big smiles. I broke one in half to try, and these are indeed good!

I found this cookie to be crunchy, crumbly (KAF also describes them as crunchy) not like the "traditional" Tollhouse cookie which I would describe as more chewy (plus to ensure the chewiness factor  I take the Tollhouse cookie out of the oven part way during baking, slap the cookie sheet sharply on the counter or stove to deflate them, a trick I learned from a girlfriend who worked in one of those shopping mall cookie shops).   I think if you love a crunchy chocolate chip cookie, you'll look a long time to find one better than this. 

(The Cookie Companion, King Arthur Flour)

1/2 cup (one stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cider vinegar or white vinegar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all purpose flour
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, shortening, the white and brown sugars, vanilla, salt, and vinegar.

Beat in the egg, then the baking soda and flour. Stir in the chips.

Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets

Bake 12-14 minutes until they're golden brown.  Remove them from the oven and transfer to cooling rack.

So that is my something old, something new.  Keep the good stuff, learn from the past, create a better future, if not for yourself, then for others.

Wishing you a bountiful and blessed 2010, my friends, always, all ways.