Sometimes, you just need chocolate chips cookies, but sometimes, you need them to be in ooey gooey bar form. Then, sometimes, you need them to be in ooey gooey bar form for a lot of people because, really, isn’t it best to share the love? That’s where I was when I baked up with this mass of goodness. We have this wonderful organization in our town, http://www.arlingtoneats.org/
They provide food and meals and support for our neighbors who are experiencing food insecurity. I am lucky enough to have them allow me to be involved by providing desserts for their meals and some special occasions. One such occasion, their annual fundraising party, had me needing to bake up even more goodies than usual, thus my efforts turned to sheet pan baking. I have often made them my chocolate chip cookies, which are met with lip smacking appreciation, so decided to streamline the process by turning them into sheets of bars. While they are quite the same as the cookies, they are their own entity. While cookies are soft-crisp, the bars are mainly just soft and gooey – in the very best way, of course. I made up several of these sheet pans, but if you are treating a crowd but not a CROWD, one will do. I say that you get 60 servings, but those are fairly small squares. These could also make a nice base for a generous bar/ice cream concoction for 18 of your closest friends. Feel free to cut as it suits your need.
Serves 60 (or…)
Chocolate Chip Sheet Pan Bars
3 sticks of butter, softened
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 scant tsps salt
3 12 oz bags of semi sweet chocolate chips
Heat oven to 375. Beat the softened butter with the 2 sugars for a minute or two. Mix in the eggs and the vanilla. Next, mix in the flour, baking soda and salt until just combined. Last, mix in the chocolate chips. Line an 18×13 baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat. Spread the cookie dough evenly into the pan. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until the middle is mostly but not totally set. I understand this next bit is hard but it is best to let them cool completely, or mostly so, before cutting.
Has Spring finally sprung where you are? It hasn’t really here in New England, but it’s very close! It has teased us, poking a toe out here and there, calling a little “yoohoo!” from around a corner. I am optimistic, though, that it will come on out for real very soon.
While we wait, we eat.
This week I tried out some dishes that are new to me – one that I have wanted to tackle for a long time. Avgolemono is a Greek chicken soup that I have long wanted to explore but somehow had the impression would be difficult and challenging. Wrong. This was so simple and is definitely a come-together-quickly weeknight meal. It is tops for chicken soup comfort but has a twist of lightness from the lemon, just what a springtime transitional soup should be. It might seem tricky with the egg but, honestly, this was not an issue at all and the result is smooth and bright and rich. If you want to squeeze in one last soup of the season, this should be it.
1 ½ lb chicken breast, pounded or cut to minimize thickness.
6 cups chicken broth
1 cup orzo or rice
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cups baby spinach
Heat a soup pot over medium with a bit of olive oil. Salt the chicken and place it into the pan. Cook on one side for 5-7 minutes then flip, cover the pan, and cook another 5-7. Remove the chicken to a plate or cutting board then pour in a few tbsps of the chicken broth to deglaze the tasty cooked bits from the bottom of the pan. Pout in the rest of the broth and bring it all to a low boil. Add the orzo. Cook this for 8-9 minutes, until tender. While it is cooking, put the two eggs and the lemon juice into a blender. Spoon in a little of the broth then blend it all together. Slowly add about a half cup of the broth and don’t be concerned if some of the orzo slips in – it will help thicken the soup. Turn the heat on the soup down to medium low then slowly pour in the egg and lemon mixture, stirring all the while. Cut or shred the chicken. Add it and the spinach to the soup to warm and wilt. Season with salt and pepper before serving.
What do you crave? What treat do you go for regularly and wouldn’t want to give up? For many the choice would be something sweet – ooey gooey chocolate chip cookies, a rich cake or piled high ice cream sundae. While I like a good dessert, I could go on ok with my life if I never had one again. Cheese, however? Bread? Step back and hands off. That is my happy place. Add butter to that bread and make the cheese melty? Hello. Now we’re talking. This month, April, aka National Grilled Cheese Month, was made for me. Whomever it was who came up with this homage is brilliant. I bet if we met we would be fast friends. And a month is full of days – 30, in fact – so there are plenty of chances to enjoy all manor of grilled cheese variations. Since you will be looking for ideas in order to do the month justice, I am here for you. How about adding some sweet, smokey, tangy bbq chicken to your melted handful of joy? Sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, then, hit that kitchen and get it going.
BBQ Chicken Grilled Cheese
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, pounded to a uniform thickness
8 slices of sharp cheddar cheese
8 slices of hearty bread – I prefer sourdough
1 cup ketchup
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1-2 tbsp brown sugar or maple syrup (adjust to your preferred sweetness)
2 tsp apple cider or white vinegar
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
2 tsp mustard
1 ½ tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp cracked pepper
To make the bbq sauce, mix together all ingredients from ketchup down to pepper. Adjust flavors as necessary to your liking. Heat oven to 375. Lightly oil the bottom of a baking dish and place chicken breasts in it. Spoon a few tbsp of the sauce over the chicken ad flip it around to coat it all over. Cover the pan and cook for 20-25 minutes, until there is no hint of pink left. Remove the chicken to a bowl and use two forks to shred it. Pour on the remaining sauce and mix well. To assemble the sandwiches, lay out the pieces of bread and place a slice of cheese on each one. Pile some of the bbq chicken on 4 of the pieces. Top with another of the bread/cheese combos. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Place whatever number of the sandwiches you can comfortable fit into the pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes per side, until golden brown and full of melty cheese. Repeat with any you couldn’t fit in the first round.
For vegetarian: bbq sauce works very nicely with mushrooms – as does cheese.
3.14 3/14 The day that people go nuts for pi and pie. No exception in my house, and I have no issue with any excuse for talking, baking, enjoying pie, so if that excuse has to be math, I’m down. I have baked many pies in my life, more than I could possibly count, and obviously, each one has math involved. Baking has a large math component, as we all know, as well as science and art. It is the most delicious STEAM project (but please do not steam your pie – gross). On occasion when this day rolls around, I have tossed around trying to incorporate pi into the pie recipes – 3.14 tbsps of sugar or bake until you reach roughly the 2700th number while reciting pi, or some such ridiculousness. But, don’t mess with perfection, right? What follows is my recipe for my Award Winning Apple Pie. It’s tastiness is hard to quantify, but can always be counted on.
2 sticks of butter, cold and cut into small chunks
2 and ⅓ c flour
1 tbsp sugar
½ tsp salt
1/4ish ice cold water
5-6 apples, peeled and sliced
1 cup sugar (or more or less to taste, depending on the sweetness of the apples)
¼ cup flour
1 tbsp cinnamon
Juice from ½ lemon
1 egg mixed with ½ tsp water for egg wash
Preheat oven to 425
For the crust, combine butter, flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Using fingers or a pastry blender, quickly blend butter into dry ingredients until it all comes together into a coarse crumb. In dribbles add just enough water to have it almost come together, with no powderiness. Divide into two equal parts, pat each into a disk and refrigerate.
To make the filling, simply combine all ingredients.
Remove the dough from the fridge and, on a lightly floured surface, roll into a circle and place into a pie pan. Pour in filling. Roll second disc out and place on top of the filled pie. Trim excess and pinch and crimp the edge. Cut vents or decorations into the top. Brush with an egg wash and sprinkle with finishing sugar.
Place into preheated oven and bake for 15 mins. After 15 mins reduce the heat to 375 and bake another 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.
4 lbs bone in beef short ribs
1 onion, cut into thick slices
3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 ½ cups beef stock
2 tbsps tomato paste
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsps flour
Optional hot sauce
Line the bottom of a slower cooker with the onion slices. Salt the ribs then layer them on top of the onion. In a bowl, stir together the stock, tomato paste, brown sugar, vinegar, worcestershire, soy sauce, paprika and flour. Pour this over the ribs and turn the cooker on to low for 6-7 hours or high for 4-5. When the meat is tender and falling off the bone, remove it to a plate. Remove the bones, cut off any remaining fat, then shred the meat. Carefully spoon out as much fat on top of the sauce in the crock pot as possible. If you have a large bulb syringe or fat separator to help with this task, all the better. Transfer the remaining sauce, including the onions, to a bowl or sauce pan and, using a stick blender, blend until smooth. Alternately, you can use a stand blender. Add the hot sauce here, if you are using (or serve with sauce on the table for each diner to add as he or she wishes). Mix the meat into this. This finishing process should be relatively quick so the meat and sauce shouldn’t need reheating, but do so if it has cooled too much. If it is thicker than you like, feel free to stir in a bit more broth. Serve over biscuits, noodles, rice, potatoes, or favorite sauce-sopping food.
Note: If you want to keep this gluten free, swap 1 tbsp of cornstarch for the flour. For totally grain free, simple leave it out. You sauce will be thinner but equally delicious. Also, you you eat gluten free you likely already know this, but always check you worcestershire sauce, as some are not gf. I like Lea and Perrins and that is gf. Same goes for your soy sauce – I like to use tamari, instead.