October 24, 2014

Ten Bean Soup with Kale Chips


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Soup satisfies on every level, especially this Ten Bean Soup – the savory aroma fills the house, the flavor warms the soul, the temperature soothes, it looks beautiful, the texture of the various beans and vegetables is satisfying and the best sound is the ladle filling a soup bowl.  I never found inspiration in the packages of bean soup mix.  As I searched out my favorite lentil, I would give a passing glance until I started shopping the bulk bins at Sprouts.  I saw the gorgeous bean mixture which is more than 10 beans, and, often offers different varieties.  After controlling my urge to dive my hand deep down into the dried beans, I thought I just have to try to make this into a soup.  The flavor is a traditional vegetable soup with loads of beans.  The best part about this recipe is you use your crock pot and cook the soup all day long!

Ten Bean Soup
Serves 4-6

1 cup of a ten bean or multi bean mixture
4 stalks of celery
3 carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
1 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes or 2 big vine tomatoes
1 green bell pepper
1 small or ½ big red or white onion
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley or a small bunch of fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth or water
Salt to taste

Rinse the beans picking over for small stones.
Soak them in water overnight around 12 hours in a large bowl.
Drain the water and rinse.
Chop all the vegetables to 1 inch pieces.
Place all the ingredients, i.e. the beans, vegetables, spices, salt and stock in a crock pot. Let it cook slow and nice for the next 10 hours on low.

Sometimes, I use the high setting if I don’t soak my beans for the full 12 hours.  I have cooked the soup for the full 10 hours with an 8 hour bean soak and still end up with some of the beans not as soft as I would have liked. 


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Kale Chips  

Tear washed and dried kale into medium to small pieces.
Toss with olive oil until well coated.
Toss with salt and pepper, of your choice.

Fry in a small pan on the stove top if you are doing a small amount.
Large amount - bake in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, turning at least once, and check frequently as they can go black quickly.

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Golden Glow

July 19, 2014

Light and Airy Cheesecake

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birthday cheesecake

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Cheesecake – a divine cake – how many times have I reminisced over, thought about, and made cheesecake - at least 5 documented here on this blog.  I love cheesecake and I am always willing to try a new version of cheesecake for different flavor profiles to textures.  This time I wanted a light and airy cheesecake that was tall, creamy and so light that it defied its principal ingredient, cream cheese.  This cheesecake not only met my requirements but exceeded them.  It is light and airy but maintains the classic flavor of cheesecake.

If light and creamy doesn't inspire, you may be interested in my other versions of cheesecake:

Light and Creamy Cream Cheese Cheesecake
16 servings,

Crust
1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ stick (4 tablespoons) butter, melted

Butter a 9-inch spring form pan and wrap the bottom of the pan in a double layer of aluminum foil.
Stir the crumbs, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl (I crush in the food processor).
Pour over the melted butter and stir until all of the dry ingredients are uniformly moist. Empty the ingredients into the buttered spring form pan and pat an even layer of crumbs along the bottom of the pan using a flat bottomed measuring cup going about halfway up the sides.
Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven.
Center a rack in the oven, preheat the oven to 350°F and place the spring form on a baking sheet.
Bake for 10 minutes.
Set the crust aside to cool on a rack while you make the cheesecake.

Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

Cheesecake
2 pounds (four 8-ounce boxes) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups heavy cream

Put a kettle of water on to boil.
Working in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until it is soft and creamy about 4 minutes.
With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt and continue to beat another 4 minutes or so, until the cream cheese is light.
Beat in the vanilla.
Add the eggs one by one, beating for a full minute after each addition to aerate batter. Reduce the mixer speed to low and stir in the heavy cream.

Put the foil-wrapped spring form pan in a roaster pan.
Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula, just to make sure that nothing has been left unmixed at the bottom of the bowl, and scrape the batter into the spring form pan. The batter will reach the brim of the pan.
Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water into the roaster to come halfway up the sides of the spring form pan.
Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, at which point the top will be browned (and perhaps cracked) and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan. Turn off the oven's heat and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon.
Let the cheesecake stand in the water bath for another hour.
Remove pan from oven without upsetting water too much.
Remove foil carefully.
Place cheesecake on wire rack until at room temperature.
Cover the top loosely with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 5 hours.

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan,

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July 7, 2014

Soft Pretzels

soft pretzels

soft pretzels with mustard and red pepper hummus

I fell in love with soft pretzels when I was a teenager and saw and smelled the warm and salty pretzels being sold by vendors on the streets of New York City.  Between the drive to the train station and riding the train into the city I was always a little motion sick and the smell of the pretzels as we exited Grand Central was wonderful.  This was when New York street food was mainly hot dogs, pretzels, knishes, chestnuts, and falafel.  It was an instant love affair.  I could not wait to eat those salty treats.  I had a particular love affair with salt and bread as a teenager as I could not get enough soft pretzels.  I started a tradition of making soft pretzels on the last day of school with my kids that fell away as they have grown into teenagers but my daughter no longer will let me forget and now we make them together around the last day of school.  She loves these treats especially with mustard and hummus.

Soft Pretzels

1½ cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
4 ½ cups (22 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Coarse salt for sprinkling

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.
Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined.
Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.
Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in a large pot or Dutch oven.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope.
Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel.
Place onto the parchment-lined sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, (I boil two at a time) for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula.

Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture.
Sprinkle with the salt.
Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes.
Rotate pans in oven halfway through baking. 
Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.


Adapted from Alton Brown

ace and I made pretzels
My daughter making pretzels
2006-7-11 ace
Enjoying a pretzel on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
passing clouds

June 21, 2014

Sugar Cookies


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sugar cookies

Sugar cookies are beautiful with their delicate flavor, sweet crispness and their ability to take on any shape you can imagine.  I marvel at the holy trinity of flour, butter and sugar and all the wonderful things that can be created with such a simple base.  The sugar cookie is the ultimate example of simplicity.  A few ingredients mixed together to create a cookie that can be delicate and elegant or playful and commonplace.  Whether you dress your sugar cookie up with icing or glaze in fancy designs or simply sprinkle them with sugar, the sugar cookie warms the heart.

I use a lovely glaze that stays flexible while firming up and does not impart the same dry quality of royal icing.  This icing stands up to the dam and flood method of icing the sugar cookies (see below).

Sugar Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen depending on cookie size

1 cup butter, softened
1 cups white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light in color.
Add egg, milk and vanilla and beat to combine.
With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture and beat until mixture pulls away from bowl.
Divide dough in half, pat into disk and wrap in plastic wrap.
Refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight
Preheat oven to 375 °F
Roll out dough on surface lightly dusted with powdered sugar and roll to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.
I roll my dough out on parchment paper.  I sprinkle the powdered sugar on the paper and add more to the top of the dough then I cover the top of the disk with a wide piece of plastic wrap and roll to the desired thickness.  I avoid adding extra ingredients to the dough this way whether it is flour or powdered sugar.
Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter.
Remove excess dough and re roll chilling the dough as needed.
Note:  I re-roll all of my dough regardless of how “tough” the last roll is.  I change the shape of the cookie cutter so I know which cookies are best for dipping into tea.
Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake for 6 to 9 minutes until the edges are just beginning to brown. 
I always err on the side of under done for a tender cookie.
Let the cookies cool on the pan for 1 to 2 minutes then move to cooling racks.

Sugar Cookie Glaze

5 cups confectioners' sugar
½ cup milk
½ cup light corn syrup
½ teaspoon vanilla and almond extract or flavor as desired

In a mixing bowl, mix the sugar and milk first.
Add corn syrup just until combined.
Divide to flavor.
Add paste color if desired.
Important to always add the same amount of corn syrup as you added milk.
Move a portion of glaze to another bowl and add more powdered sugar until thick enough to pipe a dam of icing around the edge of the sugar cookie.
Fill piping bag set up with a coupler and #4 or 5 round tip.
Let the piped dam set then flood the cookie with the thinner glaze.
Note: I use a spoon unless the work is finer and a piping bag is required.
Decorate as desired with sanding sugar, sprinkles etc. 

Icing may be layered on top as long as the icing sets before a new layer is added.

Adapted from Toba Garrett

sugar cookies with glaze type icing

yellow rose of texas

church doors


May 18, 2014

Deviled Eggs

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    As a child, nearly every summer picnic table was graced with deviled eggs.  They were such a treat and so easy to eat.  They are the perfect finger food for children and adults alike.  One of the first times I made deviled eggs, my kids were overcome with what I call, “egg madness,” and they cleared the plate of deviled eggs leaving 1 whole egg for their father and ½ for myself.  
    I plan ahead for boiled eggs in general by holding a dozen eggs in the fridge for 1 to 2 weeks after I purchase them.  I have better luck with peeling older boiled eggs.

Deviled Eggs

8 or 9 eggs
4 tablespoons of mayonnaise
1 ½ teaspoons of apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon of mustard – grainy or Dijon
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
paprika

Put eggs in saucepan large enough that the eggs are not piled on top of one another. Cover with cool water and place on stove and bring to a boil.  Once the eggs come to a boil remove from heat and place a lid on pan and let sit for 13 minutes. 
After 13 minutes, run cold water in pan then add ice and let eggs cool for 5 minutes.
Peel and slice eggs in half lengthwise.
Remove whites to serving plate discarding two of the worst looking egg white halves.
Remove yolk to small bowl and mash with a fork until finely smashed.
Mix in the remainder of the ingredients.
Prepare a pastry bag with a star tip or a plastic baggy with corner snipped off.
Load bag with the deviled egg mixture and pipe into the egg white halves.

If you don’t desire to use the bag carefully spoon the yolk mixture into the egg white halves.
Sprinkle with paprika if desired.

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red hot poker in front of wall

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April 26, 2014

Strawberry Shortcake

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    In springtime, one of my favorite desserts is strawberry shortcake.  I love the freshness of strawberries in season, their acidic juicy sweetness combined with biscuit style shortcakes, strawberry sauce and fresh whipped cream.  The shortcake maintains its form as a cake without dissolving with the additional liquid of strawberry sauce, macerated strawberries and the whipped cream. The combination of textures is wonderful – crumbly lightly sweetened cake, sweet and acidic strawberries and the soft mellow pillow of whipped cream. 
    As a teenager I can remember my Mom hulling and slicing strawberries and placing them in big yellow Pyrex bowl.  She would mix in sugar and let them sit and after they gave off all their juice, Mom would then smash them with a potato masher with gusto.  The shortcake was served on Sara Lee pound with fresh whipped cream.  I never heard of making strawberry shortcake with biscuits until I was married and watching Jeff Smith’s cooking show on PBS.  I serve strawberry shortcake often and the addition of the Strawberry Sauce adds an extra intensity of flavor but it isn’t necessary.

Strawberry Shortcake

Shortcakes
Makes 20 two inch biscuits

2 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter cut into ½ inch squares or pieces
¾ cup milk

Preheat oven to 450 F
Grease a cast iron pan or a baking sheet.
In a large bowl add flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt, mix with wire whisk or the butter cutting in tool.
Add butter pieces and cut in with a pastry blender or two knives until the butter resembles cornmeal.
Add milk and mix until comes together in a shaggy mixture, careful not over mix.
On a floured surface, scrape out dough and knead a few times then flatten out into a rectangle and fold edges in like a letter. Do this twice (this adds flakiness to your biscuit shortcakes).
Flatten again to about 1 to 1 ½ high and cut with a small round biscuit cutter.
Place biscuits in pan close together and bake for 12 minutes or until done.

Strawberry Maceration

2 quarts fresh strawberries
1/8 to ¼ cup of sugar depending on your strawberries’ sweetness.

Wash and hull strawberries.
Quarter strawberries then cut each quarter again.
Squeeze of lemon about a teaspoon

Place in bowl and mix in sugar to begin the maceration (release of juices).
Let sit at room temperature for about 1 hour or until you have your desired juiciness.  This can be done overnight with a loss of firmness of the strawberries.  I prefer mine to have some firmness. 

Strawberry Sauce
2 cups of frozen strawberries or fresh (I only use my strawberries that I put up in the summer and freeze in 2 cup portions).
Sugar to taste
Squeeze of fresh lemon

Whiz the sauce around in a food processor until smooth.

Fresh Whipped Cream
1 ½ cups heavy cream
1 to 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar
½ teaspoon of vanilla if desired

Put bowl and whisk in freezer 1 hour before whipping.
Add ingredients to ice cold bowl and whip to firm peaks or as desired.

Strawberry Shortcake Assembly
Open faced or stacked

Cut shortcake in half
Spoon sauce on bottom halves,
Pile on strawberries and juice,
Spoon on whipped cream,
If serving stacked, add the top at this point
Add small amount of whipped cream
Add a few more strawberries
Serve with a side of sauce.

Another alternative is to pool sauce on bottom of plate

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pick your own strawberries!

April 19, 2014

Chicken Stock

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    Chicken stock is a staple in my house.  It is a base for flavorful gravies, the beginning point of soup, an all around flavor booster, and pan deglazer.  For many years I purchased canned broth but I always needed more.  At one point, after stripping as much of the meat off a roasted chicken as my patience would allow, and then throwing the carcass away, I looked at those sad bones in the trash, I wondered if they had something left to give and decided I would make a stock.  I had previously tried unsuccessfully to make a turkey stock from the Thanksgiving turkey carcass but it was so weak in flavor that I gave up on stock making thinking that it wasn't as good as the canned variety until I had to find a use for my weekly roasted chicken.  If I don’t make a stock right away, I put the carcass in the freezer and make it as time permits.  I love the gelatinous quality of the chilled stock knowing that the marrow from the bones has infused the stock with nutrients and minerals (versus thin bodied canned broth).
    The first time I witnessed gelatinous broth was the year my father raised chickens for meat and his mom, my Slovakian granny, came to help him with his butchering and she put a big pot on the stove and boiled up the chicken feet.  The soup was solid after being refrigerated.  I wish I had her recipe for that soup that was thick with gelatin, though, at the time, I would not eat it being a picky and snooty teenager, but now I wish the old world recipe was not lost.  As a family, we did not need to survive on nutrient rich soups any longer.  It was and now the time of the grocery store and plenty.  I find it interesting mass food production is yielding food that is nutrient depleted in both the chemical processing and in the genetically engineered foods.  I take heart in my homemade broth knowing that I am not wasting and in some small way honoring the animal and my ancestors who knew how to survive.

Part 2 of the Chicken that Keeps on Giving series

Chicken Stock 
from a roasted chicken carcass

1 five pound chicken carcass or 2 smaller chicken carcasses
2 quarts of water or enough water to cover chicken
1 carrot cut into chunks
1 stalk of celery cut into chunks
1 medium onion quartered
2 bay leaves

Remove skin and discard, and remove remaining meat and set aside for soup, chicken salad, chicken pot pie, etc. (of course this depends on how much chicken was served at your chicken dinner).
In a stock pot or Dutch oven, place chicken carcass skin and the rest of the ingredients, cover with water.
Bring to a boil and simmer for 1- 2 hours until the carcass breaks up easily.
Strain broth through a fine mesh strainer. 
If you like it extra clear, line your strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth. 

Portion off for freezing or use for a soup.

Golden Girls

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chickens in the perennial garden

April 13, 2014

Italian Style Meatballs

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    Meatballs are the kind of food that brings happiness.  Daily I am asked “What’s for dinner?” and when I reply meatballs and…….it doesn’t matter what the second part is -- the questioner is instantly happy on the word meatballs – “yummmm.” 
    As a child, commercially pressed hamburgers were more common than hand formed meatballs.  Meatballs were part of our special homemade spaghetti sauce dinners where the sauce bubbled all day on the stove top.  Dad would fry them on the stove top versus baking in the oven. My sister reminded me of our father’s perfectly shaped meatballs and his penchant for frying the meatballs, as with many things he cooked, on high and the grease spattering. 
     While I love a tasty meatball, I do not favor all the handwork involved so I have a method that reduces the hand rolling time by using my graduated size cookie scoop to begin the molding process.  I have three sizes of scoops and I most often use the 1 ½ tablespoon middle size but sometimes I like the small (2 teaspoons) size for fun marble size meatballs and rarely do I make the larger size.
     Meatball recipes have many variations – my ideal Italian style meatball is moist, mildly spiced, and compliments mainly a red sauce and must be cooked in the oven.   

Meatballs
Makes around 20 meatballs

1 pound of ground beef
2/3 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup of fresh bread crumbs
¼ cup milk
1/3 cup of finely chopped onions (optional)
1 celery stick finely chopped (optional)
Grated fresh parsley (optional)
1 teaspoon Italian blend spices or spice mix of your choice – basil is nice
1 egg slightly beaten
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F°.
Combine the ingredients with your hands being careful not to overmix.
Shape into walnut size or larger balls.
Place in baking dish.
Bake for 20 minutes or until done. 

Loosen meatballs and drain off accumulated oil.  

Serve with spaghetti and red sauce:
quick and easy red sauce

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My sister's photo from Northern Italy - a view she saw eating lasagne from a cafe in Brunate.

April 1, 2014

Beer Can Chicken

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the waterfall

One of my favorite ways to roast chicken is on the grill with the chicken poked onto a beer can.  Beer can chicken makes a wonderfully moist and delicious chicken every time without the need for a spit or rotisserie. I always associate a roasted chicken dinner with taking time and being a special dinner.  The smell of roasted chicken evokes thoughts of comfort, warmth and caring.  When a chicken is roasting I often hear “it smells so good!” It is little wonder that grocery stores churn out hundreds of rotisserie chickens every day and are at their peak smelling point when the work day is done. By making beer can chicken at home you can control your flavor profile and have a delicious home cooked meal to share with your family and friends.

Part 1 of 3 of the Chicken that Keeps on Giving

Beer Can Chicken

1 roasting chicken - about 5 pounds
2 carrots peeled and chopped into pieces
1 stalk of celery chopped in medium pieces
1 small onion quartered
3 to 4 garlic cloves peeled and left whole
1 cup chicken stock, approximately
1 tablespoon oil of your preference
½ teaspoon sage
½ teaspoon thyme
¼ teaspoon paprika*
Salt and Pepper

Preheat grill with a lid that can accommodate an upright chicken – gas, charcoal, or smoker. I use a gas grill.
Place beer can chicken holder in a 9-inch foil pan.
Scatter the chopped vegetables across the bottom of the foil pan and holder.
Rinse chicken and pat dry.
Empty about half of the beer out of can and widen the opening.
Put beer can in the holder and place chicken on top, legs down and inserting can into the chicken cavity.
Brush chicken with oil and sprinkle with spices, salt and pepper over the entire skin surface. I do this with the chicken on the stand.
Tuck in wings.
Place chicken on the grill.
Turn the burner to low that the chicken is over and lower the other side to medium high. 
Add the chicken broth to pan a little over halfway up leaving room for drippings.
Cook until an instant read thermometer reads 165°F about 1 to 1 ½ hours. 
Depending on your grill you may turn off the burner under the chicken.  Mine goes low enough. 
Remove chicken to plate without spilling the beer in the pan juices or splashing onto the chicken unless you want that flavor in you final product.

*Other spice combinations:
rosemary and lemon zest
granulated garlic and oregano
savory and garlic

any barbecue rub

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March 17, 2014

Simple Chocolate Cookies

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Simplicity is beautiful.  Sometimes I like to bake a cookie that is straightforward with standard pantry ingredients.  While I recognize the trend to layer in special ingredients to deepen and enhance flavors, I appreciate the subtle enhancements - perhaps a special cocoa powder or Tahitian vanilla.   More does not always mean better - I went to a fancy restaurant owned by a famous chef and ordered a dish that sounded delicious seasoned with rosemary, special olive oils, specific cheeses, etc. and it tasted like a rosemary branch.  Another time it was a basil extravaganza and then I thought these chefs are big names over quality and started doing my research more carefully.  Meanwhile the major food companies are flavor "blasting" with flavors boosted in a chemistry lab, frozen yogurt shops encourage one to load in sprinkles, fruit, cookies, granola and twenty other options into your bowl, and then there is the candy bars in everything trend.  If the options become overwhelming out there.  Stay home and keep it simple with these cookies. Dress these cookies up or dress them down, it is your choice.

Simple Chocolate Cookies
makes about 4 dozen

2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup cocoa powder
½ cup chopped chocolate or mini chocolate chips
1 teaspoon baking soda 
½  teaspoon salt
1 ¼  cups unsalted butter
2 cups sugar 
1/4 cup sugar for rolling or dipping cookie balls into (optional)
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 ¼  teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit 
Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl, set aside.
Cream the butter and 2 cups sugar add vanilla and eggs and mix until light and fluffy.
Add dry ingredients, and mix well. 
Add chopped chocolate. 
Chill the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes until the cookie dough is somewhat firm.
Use a 1 tablespoon cookie dough scoop to form dough balls and then roll or dip the balls in sugar.
Bake 10 -12 minutes . 
Cool on a wire rack.  

johnny jump ups

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