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My name is Crystal, and I’m a recipe-aholic.

March 20, 2005

Recipes are my life. I’ve stopped counting my cookbooks. I have several years worth of recipes clipped from Gourmet, Cooking Light, Bon Appetit, and Martha Stewart Living, plus Everyday Food and the occasional Vegetarian Times. I have photocopies of recipes I’ve found at the library, and slips of paper with handwritten recipes from friends, doctor’s offices, or television shows. I have printouts of recipes from the Food Network, and word documents with hundreds of recipes pulled from websites, bulletin boards, and emails.

I have tried organizing my recipes many times. I have a huge 3-ring binder filled with neatly-typed favorite recipes placed into plastic sleeves and organized by recipe type (main dish, sides, salads…). I have computerized files with lists of recipes I’ve tried and old menus I’ve put together. I have little post-it notes sticking out of cookbooks and magazines reminding me of recipes to try.

Unfortunately, none of these organization systems seem to stick, and I end up sitting on the couch every weekend, surrounded by open cookbooks and magazines, clipped recipes and printouts, trying to pick the perfect seven recipes to make for dinners that week. I get out one of my notebooks (my notebook collection is another blog topic in itself), and dream up menus and lunches and breakfasts and snacks and “projects” (homemade bread, cookies, food gifts), then narrow them down to the fabulous seven for that week. I then begin the process of making…the Grocery List. The Grocery List is a highly specialized tool that brings together all the needed ingredients and toiletries in a very useful manner…I organize the Grocery List according to location in the grocery store. Yes, I am aware that I have issues.

Anyway, I just wanted to share with you my newest form of organization. I was lucky enough to receive Giada de Laurentis’s new cookbook as an early birthday present (thank you, Leti!), and quickly tore off the hideous book cover (I never keep those covers on…books are so much prettier without them!) and scarfed down the recipes, logging them somewhere in my cranial rolodex. I realized that there were a few of her recipes I liked from the Food Network website that did not appear in the book, and I was a little upset that I would have her recipes spread out throughout my home, in various forms. So, I printed out 4 x 6-inch recipe cards for the online recipes, and attached a little cardstock pocket at the front of the book to hold them. Voila! All of Giada’s recipes in one spot.

The real question is: Will I remember where these recipes are during my menu planning madness next weekend? Probably not.

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Mmmmm…chocolate

March 20, 2005

These cookies are the bomb. I am pretty picky about my cookies, and I searched long and hard before finding the perfect recipe for a thick, chewy chocolate chip cookie. (I’m not a fan of crunchy cookies, and I prefer big, plump cookies loaded with chocolate chips). I am willing to share this recipe with all of you, as long as you promise to make them someday!

A few notes: I only use one brand of chocolate chips for these cookies…the only brand worthy of this recipe, Guittard semi-sweet chocolate chips. Sure, you could get away with another brand, or with milk chocolate chips, but they just won’t be the same. I also use a full 12-ounce bag of the chips, because I prefer three or four chocolate chips in each bite. Finally, it’s really worth it to watch the cooking time and turn the sheets in the middle of baking…it results in a perfect, chewy cookie. If they’re browned on the bottom, they’re overcooked. As long as the tops are not mushy, and the edges are even slightly golden, take them out of that oven! (Unless, of course, you’re one of those people who like crunchy cookies.)

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
  • 1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.

Either by hand or with an electric mixer, mix butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined. Stir in chips to taste.

Roll scant 1/4 cup dough into a ball. Holding dough ball in fingertips of both hands, pull into two equal halves. Rotate halves 90 degrees and, with jagged surfaces facing up, join halves together at their base, again forming a single ball, being careful not to smooth dough’s uneven surface. Place formed dough onto cookie sheet, leaving 2 1/2 inches between each ball.

Bake, reversing position of cookie sheets halfway through baking (from top to bottom and front to back), until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft and puffy, 15 o 18 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets. When cooled, peel cookies from parchment.

Makes about 20 cookies.

Source: America’s Test Kitchen

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Strawberry Fields Forever

March 18, 2005

It’s almost time for strawberries! Last night at our family gathering Mom Esquivel made a strawberry dessert that was super-wow, and it reminded me that we haven’t been strawberry picking in a couple of years (which is why my hair is miraculously different in the above picture–wasn’t it pretty two years ago?).

We like to visit Sweet Berry Farm in Marble Falls for warm, ripe, off-the-vine berries. The berries should be ready for picking by the end of March (just in time for my birthday!), and I can’t wait. Last time we visited, we made spinach-strawberry salads, strawberry popsicles, strawberry smoothies, strawberry waffles, strawberries with balsamic vinegar with creme anglaise…you can never have too many sweet berries.

Hopefully the strawberries in grocery stores will be of better quality within the coming weeks, and you can try out a few strawberry recipes of your own. If we make it to the farm this year, I’ll post more pictures. Until then, here’s an idea to start your strawberry adventures.

Strawberry Pops

  • 1 1/2 pints strawberries, rinsed and hulled
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup water

Pulse strawberries, sugar, and water in a food processor until pureed, with some chunks of berries remaining. Pour half of mixture into a bowl. Pulse remainder until smooth. Stir puree into mixture in bowl. Pour into 3-ounce popsicle molds or plastic cups, insert sticks or wooden spoons, and freeze until solid, at least 8 hours.

Makes 8 popsicles.

Source: Everyday Food, May/June 2003

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Butterscotch Bars

March 15, 2005

I found this recipe in an old Cooking Light magazine, and it’s one of Justin’s favorites. All of the ingredients are usually just sitting in my kitchen, except for the butterscotch morsels, which last a long time anyway since you only need 1/2 cup of them. It’s an easy, non-chocolate dessert for you strange people out there who don’t like chocolate. Heck, I’ll even eat a few of these. Or most of them. Whatever.

Butterscotch Bars

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter or stick margarine, softened
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup butterscotch morsels

Preheat oven to 350.

Beat sugars and butter at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended. Add egg whites and vanilla; beat well. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl; stir well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture; beat at low speed just until blended.

Spread batter evenly into an 8-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray; sprinkle evenly with morsels. Bake for 25 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

Makes 16 bars.

Source: Cooking Light, January 2000

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Real beauty

March 15, 2005

I’ve really been enjoying my time off from work. It’s only been a few days, but I feel so much more relaxed, so much more in tune with my little world. Why is it that we allow life to happen around us, and often are too busy to notice? Already, the trees are starting to bloom, there are bluebonnets along the highways, and Easter is fast approaching. Did I really take part in the winter we have just lived through? I didn’t play in the snow when I visited my family at Christmas. I didn’t make an apple pie or drink canela tea. I didn’t carve any jack-o-lanterns or listen to Christmas songs. I didn’t buy anyone a Valentine, and I missed several winter birthdays. Was my life that busy? Was I so consumed with work or homekeeping or cooking or worrying that I forgot to live, to be a part of the world?

So now spring is coming, and I am ready to take part in it. We fully immersed ourselves in nature and life this past weekend (see previous post), and I intend to continue. When I think of spring, I think of gardens and flowers, Easter eggs and chocolates, picnics and bike rides, sitting on the patio reading a book, taking walks and noticing the beauty of the world.

It’s funny how it takes something so drastic as the loss of a job to make us realize how precious life is. That the most enchanting smell is my husband’s cologne, that the prettiest sound is birds chirping in the morning, that the best feeling is a breeze brushing across my skin, and that one of the most beautiful things I can think of is the sight of my mom feeding her birds.

Life is too short not to live it.

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