Decadent White Chocolate Chip Cookies

This week I visited Jonathan in Waterloo.  He was doing research for his M.A thesis and I did some baking! When these cookies came out of the oven Jonathan said they were like a white chocolate version of the President’s Choice “The Decadent” Chocolate Chip Cookies (which is a good thing).  Cookies are wonderful brain food for writers.  Many famous and brilliant thinkers would not have accomplished their great works had it not been for nourishing food and delicious cookies, I’m sure!

The texture of these cookies is similar to shortbread with a rich buttery flavour.   The brown sugar added depth and richness and the white chocolate chips gave a sense of fun.  My younger Sarah sister claims that white chocolate is a waste of time and not real chocolate, however, I think even she would enjoy these cookies.

In other news, Jonathan and I went to a restaurant yesterday for a date night in Kitchener and were very disappointed.  It was a new Italian restaurant that boasted in-house made pasta.  Unfortunately, just because it’s made in house, doesn’t mean it’s going to be good – the pasta was chewy and dry.  I will not even post a picture of the dinner or name the restaurant.  What I will tell you is that the Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill in Waterloo continues to be my favourite restaurant for pasta and pizza.  Below see a photo of my favourite dish from Oliver and Bonacini.  It is a scrumptious smoked salmon penne alla vodka.  This dish is seriously heavenly and I hope to recreate it in my kitchen sometime soon!

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups white chocolate chips

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

2. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended.

3. Beat in the vanilla until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended.

4. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time (for giant cookies) or a tablespoon at a time (for smaller cookies) onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.

5. Bake larger cookies for 15 to 17 minutes, or 10 to 12 minutes for smaller ones (check your cookies before they’re done; depending on your scoop size, your baking time will vary) in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Meeting Margaret Atwood + Oatmeal, Cranberry & White Chocolate Cookies

I have always wanted to meet Margaret Atwood.  Yesterday, my wonderful fiancé Jonathan made that possible!  He took me to her lecture at the University of Waterloo and I was in awe of how accomplished, well spoken, and wonderful she is in person.

When Jonathan and I first started to become close friends he was living in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood.  I always joked with him how maybe walking down the street we might meet her (Ms. Atwood lives in the Annex).  In fact, “The Year of the Flood” was the first book that I lent to Jonathan.  He took great care of the book and returned it to me in perfect condition – so I knew he was a keeper.

Ms. Atwood gave her lecture yesterday as part of the 2012 Congress of the Humanities & Social Sciences, one of North America’s largest academic gatherings.  She outlined her history as an author starting out, but then moved forward to discuss how narrative is an innate human quality.  Then she explained how powerful narrative can be, and how in the digital age more people are self-publishing and writing.  Narrative of course can be political – the stories we tell our children and ourselves about power, empathy and justice have an impact.  Ms. Atwood truly is an advocate for a just society with transparent government – a society that cares about its fellow citizens.  The ability to think beyond ourselves – that is our strength as human beings.  Margaret Atwood is a phenomenal woman, who actively voices her opinions and works towards a better society.  For these reasons I admire her greatly.

When it came to looking for a recipe – I wanted to make something that was elegant, complex and delicious – just like Margaret Atwood’s writing.  The result was oatmeal, cranberry, white chocolate cookies. There are many variations on oatmeal cookies, but these are truly a winner.  These cookies would also be wonderful with the Margaret Atwood blend coffee from Balzac’s.  Enjoy!


Oatmeal, Cranberry, White Chocolate Cookies

Ingredients:
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup white chocolate chips

Instructions:
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, rolled oats, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon, set aside.

3.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip together butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy about 3-4 minutes.

4.  Stir in eggs one at a time and vanilla extract.

5.  Add in flour mixture and mix until incorporated.

6.  Add in dried cranberries, white chocolate chips.

7.  Roll cookie dough into balls, about 2 tbsp per ball, and drop onto buttered cookie sheets.

8.  Bake 9 – 10 minutes until lightly golden.

9.  Cool several minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool.  Store cookies in an airtight container.

10.  Enjoy!

Cake Pops, Dahlias and Chicken Parmesan

This week I went with Laura to have our bridesmaids dresses fitted.  There has been so much going on, including the planning of the bachelorette party in Toronto.  One of Laura’s oldest and dearest friends had a wonderful bridal shower for Laura this weekend.  There were plenty of games, little sandwiches with the crusts cut off, and a huge cake.  Everything was just beautiful.  My favourite activity was one where everyone wrote down “Advice from the Heart.”  Sometimes the advice was practical and sometimes rather humorous, but it was definitely from the heart.  Laura enjoyed getting advice from her wonderful friends and family.  I would love to have this activity at a bridal shower next year.

My Mom has been working diligently at planning out colours and different flowers for the garden this summer.  Beautiful pink dahlias were Mom’s final decision.  She has never grown them before – but so far the plants love the sun in our backyard.  I couldn’t resist sharing pictures of these vibrant blooms.  In the side garden the lupins are in bloom with their eccentric shape and alluring colour.  Lupins always remind me of the beautiful children’s book ‘Miss Rumphius’ by Barbara Cooney.  The illustrations in this book are gorgeous and stick in my mind to this day.  Also in the backyard the peonies are budding and we are hoping they can hold off for as long as possible.  Mom and Laura would love to have fresh peonies for the house on Laura’s wedding day.  Peonies are the flower Laura has chosen for her wedding bouquets.  I am extremely excited to see all of the careful wedding planning come together.  The dresses and flowers will truly be spectacular.

In addition to flowers Mom brought home a basil plant – that will hopefully be watered this year.  Somehow, the basil plant always dries up in our backyard.  Perhaps it is a plant that needs a great deal of care and water.  At the bridal shower the family was given two garlic chive plants – so we will be sure to take care of them.  I love using fresh herbs in recipes; the difference it makes is huge.

In terms of recipes – I have had a few baking projects this week.  However, none of the recipes turned out exactly the way I’d like, so I did not post about them.  I made cake pops, but I am not 100% happy with the consistency.   So, I will try another recipe sometime and keep everyone posted.  A few of the pictures turned out well – but I will not share any recipe before its time.  Stay posted for cake pops round two!

The following recipe is a tried and true recipe for Chicken Parmesan.  My Mom has been making this recipe since we were very small.  It’s an easy meal that is great for all the picky eaters in my family.  As young adults this recipe has become a comfort food favourite.  The freshly grated Parmesan is what truly makes this recipe great.  It is easy to make and perfect for weeknights.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

4-6 pieces of chicken breast

¾ cup of breadcrumbs

¼ cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

½ cup melted butter

Instructions

  1. Melt butter in a saucepan and then dip the chicken cutlets in the butter.
  2. Stir together the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.
  3. Dip the chicken in the breadcrumb mixture and then place in casserole dish.
  4. Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken.
  5. Serve with roasted potatoes and green beans.

White Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Icing

Some people have hobbies like fishing or jogging, my hobby is baking!  Today I made these cute cupcakes and played around with the new set of piping bag accessories that I bought.  Overall I was very impressed with the way the cupcakes turned out – raspberry and white chocolate are a killer combination.  Seriously, these cupcakes are delicious!

Now, in the pictures the cupcakes look a little crumbly, the white chocolate and the sugar makes these cupcakes a bit stickier and thus, they stuck to the pan.  I also don’t have cupcake liners with me in Waterloo, where I am visiting Jonathan.

While making these cupcakes I was wondering why Martha Stewart doesn’t have a version of this cupcake on her website or in her cookbook.  I suppose white chocolate was overlooked with all the recipes for devil’s food cake cupcakes and triple chocolate cupcake recipes.

The recipe I ended up using was from this website.  I used it because it makes 12 cupcakes, which seemed better than having 24 extra cupcakes in the freezer.  The white chocolate cupcake recipe that I used had a subtle and yet decadent flavour.  The raspberry icing made the cupcakes delicious – who can resist such a pretty cupcake?

Ingredients

  • 3 oz. White Chocolate (I used Baker’s White Chocolate, 2 of the prepackaged cubes)
  • 1/2 cup Light Cream or Milk (I used milk)
  • 3/4 cup Flour
  • 1 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/8 tsp. Salt
  • 2 Eggs, Large
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup Butter, Softened

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place twelve cupcake holders in a muffin pan.
  2. Melt the chocolate with cream over a double broiler (or in the microwave, but be sure not to burn it) and let cool.
  3. Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  4. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, cream-chocolate mixture, and butter.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and continue to beat at a low speed until blended.
  6. Pour the batter into the cupcake holders about 3/4 full.
  7. Put the pan in the oven and let bake for 25-30 minutes.  (Found my cupcakes only took 18 minutes.)
  8. After the cupcakes are firm on top, let them cool on a muffin rack for 30 minutes and ice them with your favorite frosting.

Icing

Cream together 1/2 cup of softened butter, 1 1/2 cups of icing sugar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon of milk and 1-2 tablespoons of seedless raspberry preserve or jam.  Add the raspberry preserve in last and use your judgement with the consistency of the icing.

Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Muffins

Jonathan and I were at COBS Bread before Easter buying hot cross buns and I decided to buy a cranberry white chocolate chip scone.  The scone was very tasty and I held the flavour combination in the back of my head – and added it to my baking to-do list.  While I was at the grocery store yesterday, I thought I should pick up some cranberries and white chocolate chips to make a muffin version.

Usually my stomach is sensitive to cocoa and milk chocolate, however some brands of white chocolate don’t cause any stomach pain.  I did some reading on Wikipedia about why this might be and the answer seemed to be because white chocolate doesn’t contain cocoa solids.  I am also very cautious about if nuts are processed in the same factory.  The Chipits brand doesn’t seem to aggravate any stomach sensitivity or allergies, so I used them for this recipe – hooray!

I love cranberry and the sweet and tart combination was definitely a winner.  I enjoy baking my own sweet treats and muffins are a splendid treat.  Making my own baked goods is really the only way to know they are allergy safe.  I made them in a mini version so that I can eat more of them and not gain ten pounds.    It probably wouldn’t be the best idea to eat these every day, but every once in a while they are great.  The mini muffins are rich and decadent, sweet and tart – simply yummy!

Some of these muffins are in the freezer for when I see Jonathan next.  I am sure he will enjoy them just as much as I do.

Ingredients

2 cups all purpose flour

½ cup brown sugar

½ tsp salt

1 tbsp baking powder

½ cup milk

¾ cup sour cream

¼ cup canola oil

2 eggs, beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup frozen cranberries – dusted with 1 tsp of flour

¾ cup white chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Mix together in a large bowl the flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt.
  3. Add in the milk, sour cream, canola oil, eggs and vanilla extract.  Stir until thoroughly combined, but do not over stir.
  4. Dust the frozen cranberries with a teaspoon of flour and then fold them into the muffin batter.  Add in the white chocolate chips until they are evenly distributed.
  5. Grease the mini muffin pans with margarine or cooking spray.
  6. Fill the muffin batter ¾ of the way full.
  7. Bake for 18-20 minutes.  If you want regular sized muffins the cook time will be longer 20-25 minutes.
  8. This recipe makes 3 dozen mini muffins.
  9. Enjoy!