Monday, November 7, 2011

Halloween 2011

The kids got good use of their costumes this year with three days of Halloween fun. Friday was the parties at school. The kids got to dress up and parade for each other and for parents that came to watch.  Tristan and Laura got to dress up too.


Saturday we had the trunk-or-treat at church. It was cold, but the little trunk-or-treaters didn't notice the temperature since they were busy filling their buckets.


 On Halloween the kids went trick or treating with Emily and Tommy, our next door neighbors. They filled their bags with more candy than we could eat in a year.

Tristan wore his Lighting McQueen racecar driver suit every day the week before Halloween. If you push a button on the front of his suit, it makes a noise like a car revving up and there are little lights that flash. And isn't this the cutest little pink butterfly? Both of their costumes came from Once Upon a Child. What a find!


Cooper is a ninja and Ethan is Harry Potter.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

CI'S TRIPLE CHOCOLATE BROWNIES

CHEWY, FUDGY TRIPLE CHOCOLATE BROWNIES

Published May 1, 2000.  
Why this recipe works:
TO DEVELOP A RICH, DEEP CHOCOLATE FLAVOR FOR OUR FUDGY BROWNIE RECIPE, WE ULTIMATELY FOUND IT NECESSARY TO USE THREE TYPES OF CHOCOLATE: UNSWEETENED CHOCOLATE LAID A SOLID, INTENSE FOUNDATION; SEMISWEET CHOCOLATE PROVIDED A MELLOW, EVEN, SOMEWHAT SWEET FLAVOR; AND COCOA SMOOTHED OUT ANY ROUGH EDGES INTRODUCED BY THE UNSWEETENED CHOCOLATE (WHICH CAN CONTRIBUTE A SOUR, ACRID FLAVOR) AND ADDED COMPLEXITY TO WHAT CAN BE THE BLAND FLAVOR OF SEMISWEET CHOCOLATE. WE FOCUSED ON FLOUR, BUTTER, AND EGGS TO A...(more)

MAKES SIXTY-FOUR 1-INCH BROWNIES

Either Dutch-processed or natural cocoa works well in this recipe. These brownies are very rich, so we prefer to cut them into small squares for serving.

INGREDIENTS

5ounces semisweet chocolate or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2ounces unsweetened chocolate , chopped
8tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into quarters
3tablespoons cocoa powder
3large eggs
1 1/4cups granulated sugar
2teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2teaspoon table salt
1cup unbleached all-purpose flour

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. 1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick vegetable cooking spray. Fold two 12-inch pieces of foil lengthwise so that they measure 7 inches wide. Fit one sheet in bottom of greased pan, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; overhang will help in removal of baked brownies. Following illustration 1 below, fit second sheet in pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet. Spray foil with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. 2. In medium heatproof bowl set over a pan of almost-simmering water, melt chocolates and butter, stirring occasionally until mixture is smooth. Whisk in cocoa until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. 3. Whisk together eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt in medium bowl until combined, about 15 seconds. Whisk warm chocolate mixture into egg mixture; then stir in flour with wooden spoon until just combined. Pour mixture into prepared pan, spread into corners, and level surface with rubber spatula; bake until slightly puffed and toothpick inserted in center comes out with a small amount of sticky crumbs clinging to it, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, then remove brownies from pan using foil handles (see illustration 2, below). Cut into 1-inch squares and serve. (Do not cut brownies until ready to serve; brownies can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated up to 5 days.) 

CI'S CLASSIC BROWNIES

CLASSIC BROWNIES

Published March 1, 2004.  
Why this recipe works:
WHEN DEVELOPING AN OLD-FASHIONED, CHEWY CHOCOLATE BROWNIE RECIPE, WE FOUND THAT SUCCESS LAY IN THE DETAILS. SUBSTITUTING CAKE FLOUR FOR ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR MADE OUR BROWNIES TENDER, WITH A DELICATE CHEW. PLENTY OF UNSWEETENED CHOCOLATE GAVE OUR BROWNIE RECIPE GREAT FLAVOR WITHOUT MAKING THEM OVERLY SWEET. DETERMINING THE PROPER BAKING TIME WAS ALSO IMPORTANT: TOO SHORT A TIME IN THE OVEN, AND THE BROWNIES WERE GUMMY; TOO LONG, AND THEY DRIED OUT. FINALLY, TOASTING THE NUTS BEFORE SPRINKLING THEM OVER...(more)

MAKES TWENTY-FOUR 2-INCH-SQUARE BROWNIES

Be sure to test for doneness before removing the brownies from the oven. If underbaked (the toothpick has batter clinging to it), the texture of the brownies will be dense and gummy; if overbaked (the toothpick comes out completely clean), the brownies will be dry and cakey.

INGREDIENTS

1cup pecans or walnuts (4 ounces), chopped medium (optional)
1 1/4cups plain cake flour (5 ounces)
1/2teaspoon table salt
3/4teaspoon baking powder
6ounces unsweetened chocolate , chopped fine
12tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into six 1-inch pieces
2 1/4cups sugar (15 3/4 ounces)
4large eggs
1tablespoon vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. 1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 325 degrees. Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width. Fit foil into length of 13- by 9-inch baking dish, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhang pan edges. Cut 14-inch length foil and, if using extra-wide foil, fold lengthwise to 12-inch width; fit into width of baking pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet. Spray foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. 2. If using nuts, spread nuts evenly on rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant, 5 to 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. 3. Whisk to combine flour, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl; set aside.
  4. 4. Melt chocolate and butter in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan of almost-simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. (Alternatively, in microwave, heat butter and chocolate in large microwave-safe bowl on high for 45 seconds, then stir and heat for 30 seconds more. Stir again, and, if necessary, repeat in 15-second increments; do not let chocolate burn.) When chocolate mixture is completely smooth, remove bowl from saucepan and gradually whisk in sugar. Add eggs one at time, whisking after each addition until thoroughly combined. Whisk in vanilla. Add flour mixture in three additions, folding with rubber spatula until batter is completely smooth and homogeneous.
  5. 5. Transfer batter to prepared pan; using spatula, spread batter into corners of pan and smooth surface. Sprinkle toasted nuts (if using) evenly over batter and bake until toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of brownies comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, then remove brownies from pan by lifting foil overhang. Cut brownies into 2-inch squares and serve. (Store leftovers in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.)

TECHNIQUE

LINING AND LIFTING
  •  1. Line the baking pan with two sheets of foil placed perpendicular.
  •  2. Use the foil handles to lift the cooked brownies or bar cookies from the pan.

CI'S CHEWEY BROWNIES

CHEWY BROWNIES

Published March 1, 2010.   From Cook's Illustrated.
Why this recipe works:
TO DEVISE A PROPERLY CHEWY BROWNIE RECIPE, WE FIRST HAD TO DISCOVER THE PERFECT RATIO OF OIL TO BUTTER. WE THEN COMBATED GREASINESS BY REPLACING SOME OF THE OIL WITH EGG YOLKS, WHOSE EMULSIFIERS PREVENT FAT FROM SEPARATING AND LEAKING OUT DURING BAKING. WE FOUND THAT UNSWEETENED CHOCOLATE PROVIDES THE STRONGEST CHOCOLATE FLAVOR. FINALLY, FOLDING IN BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE CHUNKS JUST BEFORE BAKING GAVE OUR CHEWY BROWNIES GOOEY POCKETS OF MELTED CHOCOLATE AND ROUNDED OUT THEIR COMPLEX FLAVOR.

MAKES TWENTY-FOUR 2-INCH BROWNIES

For the chewiest texture, it is important to let the brownies cool thoroughly before cutting. If your baking dish is glass, cool the brownies 10 minutes, then remove them promptly from the pan (otherwise, the superior heat retention of glass can lead to overbaking). While any high-quality chocolate can be used in this recipe, our preferred brands of bittersweet chocolate are Callebaut Intense Dark Chocolate L-60-40NV and Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar. Our preferred brand of unsweetened chocolate is Scharffen Berger. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

INGREDIENTS

1/3cup Dutch-processed cocoa
1 1/2teaspoons instant espresso (optional)
1/2cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
2ounces unsweetened chocolate , finely chopped (see note and related illustration)
4tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter , melted
1/2cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2large eggs
2large egg yolks
2teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2cups (17 1/2 ounces) sugar
1 3/4cups (8 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4teaspoon table salt
6ounces bittersweet chocolate , cut into 1/2-inch pieces (see note)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. 1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Referring to directions in Making a Foil Sling (related), make sling using the following steps: Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width. Fit foil into length of 13 by 9-inch baking pan, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhang pan edges. Cut 14-inch length foil and fit into width of pan in the same manner, perpendicular to the first sheet (if using extra-wide foil, fold second sheet lengthwise to 12-inch width). Spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. 2. Whisk cocoa, espresso powder (if using), and boiling water together in large bowl until smooth. Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted. Whisk in melted butter and oil. (Mixture may look curdled.) Add eggs, yolks, and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth and homogeneous. Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated. Add flour and salt and mix with rubber spatula until combined. Fold in bittersweet chocolate pieces.
  3. 3. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted halfway between edge and center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and cool 1½ hours.
  4. 4. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Return brownies to wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.

CI'S GUACAMOLE

Cook's Illustrated

CHUNKY GUACAMOLE

Makes 2 1/2 to 3 cups.   Published May 1, 1999.  
To minimize the risk of discoloration, prepare the minced ingredients first so they are ready to mix with the avocados as soon as they are cut.

3medium avocados , ripe, (preferably Hass)
2tablespoons minced onion
1medium clove garlic , minced
1small jalapeño chile , minced (1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons)
1/4cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
1/4teaspoon table salt
1/2teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
2tablespoons lime juice

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. 1. Halve one avocado, remove pit, and scoop flesh into medium bowl. Mash flesh lightly with onion, garlic, jalapeño, cilantro, salt, and cumin (if using) with tines of a fork until just combined.
  2. 2. Halve and pit remaining two avocados, and prepare. Gently scoop out avocado into bowl with mashed avocado mixture.
  3. 3. Sprinkle lime juice over diced avocado and mix entire contents of bowl lightly with fork until combined but still chunky. Adjust seasoning with salt, if necessary, and serve. (Can be covered with plastic wrap, pressed directly onto surface of mixture, and refrigerated up to one day. Return guacamole to room temperature, removing plastic wrap at the last moment, before serving).

STEP-BY-STEP

Dicing the Avocado
1. Use dish towel to hold avocado steady. Make 1/2-inch cross-hatch incisions in flesh with a dinner knife, cutting down to but not through skin.
2. Separate diced flesh from skin using spoon inserted between skin and flesh, gently scooping out avocado cubes.
America's Test Kitchen
America’s Test Kitchen is a 2,500-square-foot kitchen located just outside of Boston. It is the home of Cook’s Country and Cook’s Illustrated magazines and is the workday destination for more than three dozen test cooks, editors, and cookware specialists. Our mission is to test recipes until we understand how and why they work and arrive at the best version. We also test kitchen equipment and supermarket ingredients in search of brands that offer the best value and performance. You can watch us work by tuning in to America’s Test Kitchen (www.americastestkitchen.com) on public television.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

CI'S CLASSIC GRANOLA

Cook's Illustrated

CLASSIC GRANOLA

Makes 7-8 cups.   Published July 1, 1994.  

1cup walnuts , broken into 1/4-1/2-inch pieces
3cups rolled oats
1/2cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2cup blanched almonds , halved
1/4cup sesame seeds
1/4cup sunflower seeds
1/4cup maple syrup
1/4cup honey
1/3cup canola oil
1cup raisins

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. 1. Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Mix first 6 ingredients together in large bowl.
  2. 2. Heat maple syrup and honey together with oil in small saucepan, whisking occasionally until warm. Pour mixture over dry ingredients; stir with spatula until mixture is thoroughly coated. Turn mixture onto an 11-by-7-inch jelly roll pan, spreading mixture in an even layer.
  3. 3. Bake, stirring and respreading mixture into an even layer every 5 minutes, until granola is light golden brown, about 15 minutes. Immediately turn granola onto another jelly roll pan to stop cooking process. Stir in raisins, then spread granola evely in pan; set on a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Loosen dried granola with a spatula; store in airtight container.
America's Test Kitchen
America’s Test Kitchen is a 2,500-square-foot kitchen located just outside of Boston. It is the home of Cook’s Country and Cook’s Illustrated magazines and is the workday destination for more than three dozen test cooks, editors, and cookware specialists. Our mission is to test recipes until we understand how and why they work and arrive at the best version. We also test kitchen equipment and supermarket ingredients in search of brands that offer the best value and performance. You can watch us work by tuning in to America’s Test Kitchen (www.americastestkitchen.com) on public television.

CI'S HUMMUS

Cook's Illustrated

HUMMUS

Makes about 2 cups, serving 8 to 10. Published February 1, 2005.

Tahini can be found in Middle Eastern markets as well as the international foods aisles of many supermarkets.


(15 ounce) can chickpeas , drained and rinsed
1medium clove garlic ,minced or pressed through a garlic press
3/4teaspoon table salt
pinch cayenne pepper
3tablespoons lemon juice , from 1 large lemon
1/4cup tahini
1/4cup virgin olive oil
1/4cup water

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Process all of the ingredients in a food processor until smooth, about 40 seconds. Transfer the hummus to a serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill until the flavors meld, at least 30 minutes; serve cold. (The hummus can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

America's Test Kitchen

America’s Test Kitchen is a 2,500-square-foot kitchen located just outside of Boston. It is the home of Cook’s Country and Cook’s Illustrated magazines and is the workday destination for more than three dozen test cooks, editors, and cookware specialists. Our mission is to test recipes until we understand how and why they work and arrive at the best version. We also test kitchen equipment and supermarket ingredients in search of brands that offer the best value and performance. You can watch us work by tuning in to America’s Test Kitchen (www.americastestkitchen.com) on public television.

CI'S SLOW-COOKER BLACK BEAN SOUP

Cook's Illustrated

SLOW-COOKER BLACK BEAN SOUP

Serves 6 to 8. From The Best Make-Ahead Recipe.

Serve this soup with minced red onion, sour cream, and hot sauce, if desired. If the soup becomes too thick as it sits, thin to the desired consistency with either water or broth.


PREP-AHEAD TRIPS: You can store the following ingredients together:
1. Cook the vegetables as described in step 1, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerator.
2. Pick over and rinse the black beans and refrigerate.

2tablespoons vegetable oil
3medium onions , minced
3celery ribs , chopped medium
2medium carrots , chopped medium
6medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
5teaspoons ground cumin
1/2teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt
3cups water
3cups low-sodium chicken broth
1pound dried black beans (about 2 1/4 cups), picked over and rinsed
2medium smoked ham hocks
2bay leaves
1/4cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
Ground black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. 1. Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the onions, celery, carrots, garlic, cumin, pepper flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook until the vegetables are softened and lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes.

  2. 2. Transfer the vegetables to the slow cooker insert and stir in the water, broth, black beans, ham hocks, and bay leaves until evenly combined. Cover and cook on low until the soup has thickened and the beans are tender, 8 to 10 hours. (Alternatively, cover and cook on high for 6 to 7 hours.)

  3. 3. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Remove the ham hocks and transfer them to a plate to cool. Meanwhile, puree 2 cups of the soup in a blender until smooth, then stir back into the slow cooker insert. When the hocks are cool enough to handle, remove any meat, discarding the skin, fat, and bones, and add the meat back to the soup. Stir in the cilantro, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

America's Test Kitchen

America’s Test Kitchen is a 2,500-square-foot kitchen located just outside of Boston. It is the home of Cook’s Country and Cook’s Illustrated magazines and is the workday destination for more than three dozen test cooks, editors, and cookware specialists. Our mission is to test recipes until we understand how and why they work and arrive at the best version. We also test kitchen equipment and supermarket ingredients in search of brands that offer the best value and performance. You can watch us work by tuning in to America’s Test Kitchen (www.americastestkitchen.com) on public television.

CI'S SLOW-COOKER SPLIT PEA SOUP

Cook's Illustrated

SLOW-COOKER SPLIT PEA SOUP

Serves 6 to 8. From The Best Make-Ahead Recipe.

Dried green peas can often contain small stones, so make sure to pick them over carefully.


PREP-AHEAD TIPS: You can store the following ingredients together:
1. Cook the vegetables as described in step 1, then transfer them to an airtight container and refrigerate.
2. Pick over and rinse the split peas and refrigerate.

2tablespoons vegetable oil
2medium onions , minced
2medium carrots , chopped medium
2celery ribs , chopped medium
Salt
4cups water
4cups low-sodium chicken broth
1pound green split peas (2 1/2 cups), picked over and rinsed
2medium smoked ham hocks
3bay leaves
1tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves , or 1 teaspoon dried
1/4teaspoon red pepper flakes
2tablespoons juice from 1 lemon
Ground black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. 1. Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the onions, carrots, celery, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook until softened and lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes.

  2. 2. Transfer the vegetables to the slow cooker insert and stir in the water, broth, split peas, ham hocks, bay leaves, thyme, and pepper flakes until evenly combined. Cover and cook on low until the soup has thickened and the peas are tender, 10 to 11 hours. (Alternatively, cover and cook on high for 6 to 7 hours.)

  3. 3. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Remove the ham hocks and transfer them to a plate to cool; when cool enough to handle, remove any meat, discarding the skin, fat, and bones, and add the meat back to the soup. Stir in the lemon juice, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

America's Test Kitchen

America’s Test Kitchen is a 2,500-square-foot kitchen located just outside of Boston. It is the home of Cook’s Country and Cook’s Illustrated magazines and is the workday destination for more than three dozen test cooks, editors, and cookware specialists. Our mission is to test recipes until we understand how and why they work and arrive at the best version. We also test kitchen equipment and supermarket ingredients in search of brands that offer the best value and performance. You can watch us work by tuning in to America’s Test Kitchen (www.americastestkitchen.com) on public television.

CI'S SOFT PRETZELS

Cook's Illustrated

SOFT PRETZELS

Makes 12. From Baking Illustrated.

A 12-inch skillet is the best pan for blanching the pretzels. The pan is wide enough to fit 3 or 4 pretzels at a time, and the shallow sides make it easy to add and remove the pretzels from the water. Any wide pot or Dutch oven may be substituted if a skillet is not handy. Coarse salt is best (as well as traditional), but if it is unavailable, kosher salt may be substituted. The pretzels are best eaten the day they are baked but will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for 2 days or in the freezer, wrapped well, for 2 weeks.


1teaspoon instant yeast
1/4cup honey
1teaspoon Salt
3cups (16 1/2 ounces) bread flour , plus more for dusting the work surface
1cup warm water , (about 110 degrees)
3tablespoons baking soda
2tablespoons coarse salt, poppy seeds, or sesame seeds , (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. 1. Mix together the yeast, honey, salt, flour, and water in the bowl of a standing mixer. Using the dough hook, knead at low speed until a smooth, elastic ball of dough forms (the dough will be quite stiff), 5 to 7 minutes.

  2. Place the dough in a lightly oiled large bowl and turn the dough to coat with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at warm room temperature until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Deflate the dough, cover, and let rise until nearly doubled in size again, 30 to 40 minutes.

  3. Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to themiddle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Pour 6 cups water into a 12-inch skillet add the baking soda, stir, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray generously with vegetable cooking spray. Set aside.

  4. 4. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces (about 2 ounces each). Roll each piece into a 20-inch-long, 1/2-inch-wide rope. Following the illustrations below, shape each rope into a pretzel and place on the prepared baking sheet.

  5. Using a wire skimmer or slotted spoon, gently place the pretzels into the boilling water, top-side down (you should be able to fit 3 or 4 pretzels at a time), for 30 seconds. Using tongs, carefully flip the pretzels over and boil for 30 seconds longer. Remove the pretzels with a slotted spoon, drain well, and place back onto the prepared baking sheet (because the pretzels will not rise much in the oven, you should be able to fit all 12 pretzels on one baking sheet). Sprinkle with coarse salt or sesame or poppy seeds (if using) and bake for 12 to 16 minutes, or until the pretzels are well-browned, turning the baking sheet halfway through the baking time. Remove the pretzels from the baking sheet to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

TECHNIQUE

Shaping Pretzels

Twist the top end of the overlapping end over the bottom end and bring the ends down to form a pretzel shape. Lightly moisten the ends with water and firmly press the ends onto the dough at about the 5 o'clock position and the 7 o' clock position.

Working one at a time, pick the ends of the 20-inch dough rope and cross them over to form an oval with about 1 1/2 inches of the ends overlapping.

America's Test Kitchen

America’s Test Kitchen is a 2,500-square-foot kitchen located just outside of Boston. It is the home of Cook’s Country and Cook’s Illustrated magazines and is the workday destination for more than three dozen test cooks, editors, and cookware specialists. Our mission is to test recipes until we understand how and why they work and arrive at the best version. We also test kitchen equipment and supermarket ingredients in search of brands that offer the best value and performance. You can watch us work by tuning in to America’s Test Kitchen (www.americastestkitchen.com) on public television.