Gouda Cheese Butter Cookies (a la Jeff)

Baking, Dessert, Snack

Gouda Cheese Butter Cookies

The snow-covered streets looked beautiful this morning. Snow clump plopped down quietly from the tall evergreen right in front of my apartment window. Peaceful, calm, bright, and sunny. (“Just like on the cover of Christmas cards I saw when I was little,” my mother would always say whenever she’d visit.) Such a different scene from the past two gloomy, windy, and snowy days. When I wrote this post, the AM temperature still read three degrees Fahrenheit tough… It sure has been a cold December in Michigan.

blue sky

Distractions to take the mind off the bitter cold and to stay cheerful are necessary. Mine include: Netflix, good books, movies. Jeff and I also take up my friend Lindsay’s suggestion: baking! Jeff likes the idea very much that this blog post is actually about these delicious and savory cookies he made last night.

Gouda Cheese Butter Cookies

Gouda Cheese Cookies

Gouda Butter Cookies

Here’s Jeff’s creation, inspired by the Dutch-influenced Indonesian holidays cookie: Kaastengels and Nutella butter cookies that we made last week:

Yield: about 100 mini cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 3 egg yolks (2 for the cookie batter and 1 for the wash to brush on top of the cookies)
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 cup of Gouda cheese (shredded)
  • 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
  • A pinch of salt

Steps:

  • Beat butter and two egg yolks with a mixer. Add vanilla extract.
  • Slowly, add flour, beat
  • Add cheese and salt, fold. Use both hands to mix.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Pick up a handful of dough and, on a clean cutting board, roll and shape into a super long and a rather skinny finger (as long as the cutting board). Then cut the long finger dough into one-inch pieces. Repeat and use up all of the dough.
  • Transfer the mini pieces to two large baking sheets (layered with parchment paper)
  • Brush the top of each mini finger with egg yolk wash
  • Bake for 20—25 minutes
Have a great day, folks!

Have a great day, folks!

Nutella Butter Cookies Covered in Powdered Sugar

Baking, Dessert

Nutella Cookies by Tiny Chili Pepper

A conversation with a friend about Christmas season and baking:

Me: “So Lindsay, we always have good conversations about history, tradition, and culture. Question for you. Do you think there’s a traditional connection between Christmas season and baking, cookies especially? Seems like many people get into this intensified baking mode this time of year.”

Lindsay: “I have no idea if the two are traditionally linked, but they were in my family. My mother would often make sugar cookies and almond sugar cookies. Plus, I’ve always lived in a cold climate, so baking gives an excuse to turn on the oven! It’s also a cheerful, indoor activity that can lift your spirits when it gets dark so early. So those are my reasons.”

Fresh from the oven drop cookies

Hmm, makes sense to me. Linked or not linked, holiday or any day, baked treats sound good. But like Lindsay said, these short, cold, winter days do create a perfect and inviting atmosphere for fresh-from-the-oven cookies, or pastries, along with steaming hot coffee or hot chocolate, don’t they? That and for bundling up!

Nutella Cookies

All these talks about baking cookies with Lindsay made me want to do it too! Jeff nodded enthusiastically when I asked if he’d helped last night. I leafed through a cookbook and found a truly very easy cookie recipe: Chocolate Hazelnut Drop Cookies. The recipe called for: butter, flour, powdered sugar, pure vanilla extract, and Nutella. That’s it! All we had to do: beat butter and some sugar with a mixer, added the flour and vanilla extract, formed the dough into tiny balls, dropped them on baking sheets, baked for 12 minutes, and rolled the cookies (after cooling down for a few minutes) in the rest of the powdered sugar. Not too sweet or chocolaty and perfect with coffee! 

Chocolate Hazelnut Drop Cookies

Click here to see the full recipe

Happy baking and have a nice weekend to all!

Warm thoughts to all of us in winter wonderland.

Stuffing Bell Peppers with Leftover Chicken Cutlets and Stir-Fry Tofu and Vegetables

Baking, Poultry Recipes, Vegetable Recipes

I wonder if more people cook at home these days. With a plethora of cooking blogs, books, and TV channel and programs that we have, do you think they attract more people to cooking? Convert cooking non-believers into aficionados? Raise an interest in trying different recipes, maybe?

Chicken, Tofu, Vegetable Stuffed Bell Peppers by Tiny Chili Pepper

I won’t lie, cooking takes a lot of time and energy. We all know that it starts WAY before the actual cooking itself, right? Planning a meal, coming up with an idea for a menu, (in my case, it just means asking myself, “What should I cook tonight?”) is the hard part for me. Once I figure it out though, things just seem to happen— almost like moving on an automated-pilot mode. So in my situation, inspiration matters. Hence the collection of cook books, the email subscription to cooking blogs, the food talks with friends and family, and the occasional tune in to cooking programs on TV. I am thankful for the existence of this recipe universe that I have.

Stuffed Bell Pepper with Chicken, Tofu, Vegetables, Breadcrumbs by TCP

Speaking of recipe idea, I came across a good one the other day: Stuffed Bell Pepper by Giada De Laurentiis. In this recipe, she stuffed the peppers with eggplants, olives, capers, and tofu. Tofu! Ha! An idea appeared. I happened to have made stir-fry tofu with broccoli and green peas the previous day. Got some baked chicken cutlets too. (At this point, the tofu and vegetables have absorbed all of the flavors: garlic, soy sauce, fish sauce, and sesame oil). So I decided to combine the two leftovers, pulse slightly in a food processor, add a little bit of a good salsa sauce, stuff it into roasted bell peppers, and add some breadcrumbs on top. Yum! Such a nice way to use up all of my leftovers.

Here’s how I did my Chicken, Tofu, and Vegetables Stuffed Bell Pepper:

For the Stir-Fry Tofu and Vegetables:

  • 1 extra firm tofu (pressed to drain and then cut into squares with ½ inch thickness). I found out later that the tofu bound the stuffing together nicely. It’s pretty great!
  • 2 cups of broccoli (cut into bite size)
  • 1 cup of green peas
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame oil
  • ¼ cup of soy sauce
  • ½ cup of water
  • 1 tablespoon of fish sauce (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon of sweet soy sauce (optional)
  • 4 garlic (chopped)
  • 4 Thai peppers (chopped)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

I cooked the garlic and peppers in sesame oil for two minutes. Then I added soy sauce, fish sauce, peas, broccoli, water, salt, and pepper. Covered the pan with a lid for three to five minutes. Once the sauce started to simmer, I arranged my tofu slices in the pan to make sure that they could absorb the sauce on the bottom of the pan. Covered the pan again and let it cook for another five minutes.

For the chicken cutlet: see Mark Bittman’s recipe here. (I used chicken breast, olive oil, a little bit of dijon mustard, breadcrumbs, and baked for 15 minutes.)

Stuffing the Bell Peppers:

  • 3 red bell peppers (halved and cored)
  • Drizzled with olive oil
  • Roasted for 30 minutes in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Combined chicken cutlets and tofu with vegetables, pulsed very slightly in a food processor, added a good salsa sauce (optional, I wanted to add a little bit of spicy tomato and pepper taste in the stuffing), scooped into the bell peppers, sprinkled breadcrumbs, and broil for 2 minutes. (Might want to move the oven rack down, further from the broiler before starting. My topping was a bit burnt there, oops…Still very good though!).

Hope you like it and thanks for stopping by!

Hazelnut Shortbread with Mascaporne and Blackberries – Venturing into the Baking World

Baking, Dessert

I found and tried another amazing cookie recipe recently. It’s called Hazelnut Shortbread with Mascaporne Frosting and it produces these pretty little cookies with a taste of harmony. The nutty and crumbly hazelnut shortbread is nicely joined by this soft and creamy mascaporne cheese with vanilla beans and sweet and tart blackberries. Simply marvelous.

Beautiful recipes, such as this one, inspire me to get to know baking much better. That and a cookie monster named Jeff.

Thank you, Vegetarian ‘Ventures.

Click here for more baking inspiration

Almond Blackberry Cookies – Venturing into the Baking World

Baking, Dessert

I search for great flavor combinations in meals and also in sweets. I appreciate the creativity of balancing tastes, color, and texture in cooking and baking. Though I still feel more passionate about cooking and savory things, I say, “Why not?” to learning the art of baking. The way I see it: I already cook a lot, I might as well be able to make a few great sweets too :). So here’s my latest baking recipe trial that resulted in another favorite for Jeff and I.

Recently, I found this Peanut Butter Cookies with Blackberry Jam recipe from Giada De Laurentiis. The recipe is also included in her latest book, Weeknights with Giada (pg. 215).

I did a few little tweaks to this recipe to fit my preference:

  1. Instead of using ¾ cup of peanut butter, as suggested on the ingredient list, I used ¾ cup of ground raw almonds (that I ran through the food processor with 1/8 cup of olive oil). I blended the raw almonds and olive oil in a food processor until it became as grainy as possible. The almonds mixture did not have the same consistency as peanut butter of course, but I actually liked the chunky and grainy texture better.
  2. I also opted out of the step of rolling the dough in ¼ cup of sugar and went directly to form the doughs into little balls ready for the blackberry filling in the middle. (I also made the dough balls smaller than the ones in the recipe.)
  3. I used blackberry preserves, which I already had in my fridge, instead of jam.

Such delightful little cookies! I love the soft crunch, the subtle nutty almonds, and the sweet and tangy tastes of the blackberry preserves. I see them disappear quickly from our cookie box 🙂

Dark Chocolate Banana Bread – Venturing into the Baking World

Baking, Dessert

I used to avoid baking. It just seemed very complicated. The attitude changed when I found Baker Bettie. She bakes and writes fantastic recipes I actually want to try. Her creativity in flavor combination and in presentation makes baking look like fun. Now, I am inspired!

A novice in the baking world, I appreciate friendly recipes. In the past I’ve tried and written about one of Baker Bettie’s recipes: Soft and Fluffy Blueberry Lemon Cookie . Recently, I tried her recipe on Dark Chocolate Banana Bread with Cayenne…with cayenne! A girl after my own heart! The fine blend of dark chocolate, bananas, cinnamon, and cayenne worked wonderfully. Though quite subtle, the cayenne and cinnamon definitely gave a very nice spice hint to this classic bread. Simply delightful.

Pictures of my recipe trial result:

The Softest Lemon Cookies with Blueberries – Venturing Into the Baking World

Baking, Dessert

For a newcomer in the baking world, a successful recipe trial makes a positive reinforcement. It feels really good to open the oven, see the wonderful baking result, and take that first sweet bite. I’d always tell myself to bake more after that one great bite.

I found this wonderful recipe called Soft and Fluffy Blueberry Lemon Cookies by a fellow blogger, Baker Bettie. As the name suggest, the cookies come out soft, lemony, and blueberry sweet. I love the light and fruity taste of these cookies.

Another great recipe discovery. I hope to find more to try. Thanks, Baker Bettie!

Sharp Cheddar Baked Banana

Baking, Dessert

I think most people may have strong preferences over what food to eat. They may also have some reluctance to eat certain things. For an example, a good friend of mine is not crazy about cooked onion at all. But as long as it is finely mashed with the dish, she’d be fine. Another good friend is perfectly happy not eating eggs, especially hard-boiled eggs, while one other friend is content with not eating tomatoes. In my case, I love to eat done-up bananas, but not the plain fruit. Weird, right? I see all these disinclination toward certain food as one of many commonalities my friends and I share.

One of the street food I love back home in Indonesia is Fried Banana (pisang goreng). What these street vendors do with the bananas is basically cut them up into two or four pieces, dip them in a batter made of all-purpose flour, sugar, and egg, and then…deep-fry them. It is insanely good!  I’ve made fried bananas many times and though they’re really good, I wanted to try something else.

So here’s a very simple and good baked banana recipe that I made:

  • Cut four ripe bananas in the middle and halve lengthwise. I usually try to get bananas that still have a little green color on the end of the peel. They tend to be firmer and don’t get too soft after being cooked
  • Preheat the oven to 400 F
  • Place the sliced bananas on an oven dish and bake for 12 minutes
  • Add shredded sharp cheddar on the sliced bananas right after taking them out of the oven
  • Return to bake for another one minute until the cheese is melted

My husband, Jeff, says that the contrasting tastes of the sweet banana and the savory cheddar work so well together. I think this might be our favorite dessert (or even breakfast) yet!

(For JN, thanks for the inspiration)