Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Nielsen Massey Chocolate Chip Cookies



And, what better way to celebrate than with . . . chocolate chip cookies.  But, these aren't just any chocolate chip cookies, oh no, these are special.  Wanna know why?  Well, about a month ago, Nielsen Massey contacted me to ask if I would like a sample bottle of their pure vanilla extract.  Considering that I've only ever bought cheap generic imitation vanilla, I was thrilled.  In exchange, all they asked was that I use the vanilla to make some of their awesome chocolate chip cookies and post about it today.  Seriously, quality vanilla and a batch of chocolate chip cookies to boot?  How could I say no?

The only changes I made was to use mini chocolate chips (since I didn't have any regular ones), added some grated milk chocolate, and chilled the dough.  Let me tell you, these chocolate chip cookies impressed me from the moment I saw them baking in my oven.  Unlike a lot of other recipes I've tried, these stayed thick and puffy till the very end.  Then, once I took them out, they turned into these crispy shelled, soft gooey middle-y, crinkled topped circles of buttery, vanilla-y perfection.

I took a bite and I was impressed.  What a cookie!  They had the ideal texture and were so full of flavor that I can only attribute to having used real vanilla to make them.  Thank goodness the recipe made three dozen cookies because one will not be enough for me.  Thank you Nielsen Massey for the opportunity to try your vanilla and your yummy cookie recipe!

Nielsen Massey Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 c. butter (I used salted butter)
1/2 c. + 2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 c. + 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract
1 egg
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
pinch salt  
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 c. mini semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 c. grated milk chocolate 

Cream the butter with the sugars.  Beat in the vanilla and eggs.  Mix in the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and cream of tartar.  Stir in the chocolate chips and grated milk chocolate.  Chill the dough for 1 hour in the fridge or 30 minutes in the freezer.  Roll into small walnut-sized balls and place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  Bake 14 minutes.  Let sit a few minutes on baking sheet before removing to cool completely on a wire rack. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Baked Pears with Feta Cheese

For this month's SRC, I was assigned to Charlotte's blog, Love and Flour.  If you've ever read the intro on herself, you'll find that she's quite a fun person.  Ex:  she used to measure the water to cook the spaghetti.  :)  But, judging from the photos on her blog, you'd think she was a professional.  For instance, she participated in the Willow Bird Baking Challenge, exercised amazing creativity, and came up with mouthwatering delicacies like this Honey Pear & Feta Braid (which I so wanted to make but just didn't have enough time). 


Still, that combo of the pears and feta intrigued me.  Other than eating bananas with mozzarella, my experiences in pairing fruit and cheese have been pretty much non-existent (yeah, I don't even do the apple pie with cheddar thing).  Since Charlotte had another recipe on her blog using the same combo, Baked Pears with Feta Cheese and Honey, I decided it was time to expand my palate and go for it.


This dish is super elegant and classy and will impress anyone that you make it for.  The secret is that they are also very easy and quick to make.  In fact, the hardest part was when they came out of the oven and I couldn't even dig into them yet because . . . I had to take pictures first.  You have no idea how torturous it is to see these succulent pears, golden and dripping with honey, while you stand and take one shot after another.  All I could think about was,

The recipe says that you're supposed to eat these while they're warm.  
"But I can't right now, I have to get my shots first!"  
They're going to get coooold.   (little taunting voice) 
Okay, okay, I'm done.  Gimme a pear!  Mmf mmmff mfff. 

The feta cheese on these was incredible.  The taste of it had mellowed, become sweeter due to the brown sugar, and was like a dessert in and of itself.  The firmness of it was a nice contrast to the softer, juicy pear underneath and together, it was the perfect pear (ahem, I mean pair).  I can definitely see whipping up a batch of these for a lovely appetizer or a light dessert. 

Thanks Charlotte for your sweet recipe!

Baked Pears with Feta and Honey (slightly adapted from Love & Flour)

2 pears, cored and halved
1 Tbsp. butter, quartered
8 tsp. crumbled feta cheese (I used fat-free)
4 tsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. honey

Place the pears in a baking dish with the cut side facing up.  Fill each cored out center with a dollop of butter, then sprinkle with the feta cheese and brown sugar.  Bake 35-40 minutes at 350F till tender.  Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired.