Saturday, November 30, 2013

Shake Shack

I love Instagram. Lately I've started following restaurants known for being very "food porn"-y, with beautiful and delicious photos of their food and behind the scenes in their kitchens. I follow the Gramercy Tavern, Del Posto, Rolf & Daughters, and the Cypress Room most of which aren't even located near me. I follow Waffle House, which surely looks more appetizing in the photos than in their actual restaurants (although at 4am on a road trip Waffle House always looks pretty appetizing). I follow Hash House A Go Go, a restaurant we ate at in Vegas this summer. And I follow Shake Shack.

I can't even tell you how much I have pined for Shake Shack since following them. They're a burger restaurant. Their photos are amazing. I don't eat meat, but no big deal - many of the photos are of their vegetarian portobello burger, their crinkle-cut fries topped in real cheese sauce, their shakes and frozen custards (seasonal flavors, different at each location), and their own brand of beer, Shackmeister Ale, from the Brooklyn Brewery.

Every time I've seen a post, I've thought, "I must have this." The closest ones were in NYC but you know I hate going into the city. Then Shacks just opened up in King of Prussia PA and Paramus NJ, both of which are close enough to go to, but I couldn't justify driving all the way out there just for this food.

And then my mom informed me that there are two (2!) within 45 minutes of my parents' house in CT. While we were in Connecticut, my parents, my gentleman, and I drove over to the Westport CT Shake Shack to realize my dream.


OK. It's pretty and organized and has hand dryers in the bathroom that dry your hands in 4 seconds. But it is, when it comes down to it, fast food. BUT! It's made with quality ingredients - delicious ingredients - that are not horrifically bad for you like its competitors. From what people have told me when I've told them about the Shake Shack, more and more places like this are springing up everywhere. And they're super socially- and environmentally-conscious. This makes me happy about the world.

Anyway, this is what we got from Shake Shack:


*One cheeseburger
*Two portobello mushroom burgers (stuffed with Muenster & cheddar cheeses)
*One standard hot dog
*Two orders of cheese fries, to be shared amongst us all
*One chocolate shake
*One hot cocoa
*One Shackmeister Ale
*One banana frozen custard

My dad enjoyed his burger and my gentleman enjoyed his hot dog. Both felt they had ordered, and received, pretty standard food. My mom and I both really enjoyed our portobello burgers. It's rare to find a vegetarian burger that is creative and delicious without falling apart. The cheese fries were amazing, with real cheese sauce. My dad was not impressed with his hot cocoa, so that's fine. My mom said the milkshake "tastes like the Easter Bunny," which she then clarified meant that she thought it tastes like real chocolate (she was right). We all agreed the Shackmeister Ale tasted oddly like Welch's Grape Soda, which my gentleman attributes to the hops used. The frozen custard was also very good. It had a wonderful texture.

Do I think it was worth driving 45 minutes away to eat at Shake Shack? Well, yes. But would I do it again? No. Would I eat there if one opened up nearby? Of course. It's delicious and I will continue to happily look at their photos.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Early Thanksgiving in Connecticut

Because I couldn't get more time off from work, my gentleman and I visited my parents in Connecticut last weekend to celebrate early Thanksgiving. We did all the traditional things (cheese ball and onion dip), made all the regular foods, tried a few new things, and had a fun time.

Frying the turkey is always the quickest (and really, it's the best) method for cooking turkey, so that's what my family opted to do this year. My gentleman helped my dad with the process.



I obviously didn't eat it, but my dad always does a good job frying the turkey and then everyone is happy.


I made Apple Snickerdoodle Cobbler for dessert and it was disappointing. You can go to that post to read about why.

We also had green bean casserole, canned corn, biscuits, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and sweet potato casserole. To go with the biscuits, my bestie (/brother's girlfriend) Erica made butter.


No seriously. She made butter. She put cream in a kitchenaid mixer, beat it until it became a solid, squeezed it out in some cheesecloth, added some salt, and then formed it in molds.


It was fantastic. I might try it sometime because I would love to make my own butter. It's so much easier than you would expect. Good job, Erica!

So that was Thanksgiving in Connecticut. It was nice and traditional and made me happy.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Apple Snickerdoodle Cobbler

This recipe was rounding on Pinterest and I was so excited because a) I love apple cobbler, and b) I love snickerdoodles. It looked so awesome in the photos. We decided to make it for Early Thanksgiving at my parents' house (which I will post about at another time when I am not feeling lazy). I whipped it all together and voila! It looks awesome.


But then I baked it. And it did not look good anymore. And the apples were very dry and not cobbler-like. And the cookies didn't really taste much like a snickerdoodle.


It was edible, but not impressive. Blah. Not a make-again. Foiled again, Pinterest :(

Apple Snickerdoodle Cobbler
Baked By Rachel

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup flour
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar, plus 1/2 cup
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Apple Ingredients:
8 cups apples (roughly 6-8 apples depending on size)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1. In a small bowl, combine the first four dry ingredients for the cookies. In a separate bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter and 1/3 cup sugar. Add egg, followed by premixed ingredients. Mix until dry ingredients are incorporated into the dough. Chill dough until easy to handle, at least several hours.

2. When ready, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3. In a small bowl, combine 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 cup sugar. Set aside.

4. In a large bowl, add 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Peel, core, and slice apples. Add to brown sugar and cinnamon mixture, tossing to coat. Transfer apples to an 8x8 baking dish.

5. Form 1-inch balls of dough and roll in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place coated dough balls on top of apples, pressing down slightly to flatten.

6. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until apples are tender and cookie topping is lightly golden.

7. Allow to cool prior to serving. Serve with optional whipped cream or ice cream. May be chilled to store for several days.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ruth's Chris Steakhouse Barbecue Shrimp Orleans

I've had this recipe printed out for over a month and kept meaning to make it, only to find out that we were out of one ingredient or another. Finally! Finally I made it! And it was worth it! This is excellent! With the amount of butter in it, is it any surprise? Don't be put off by the 1 pound of butter. That's to make a huge batch of the barbecue butter, of which you only use 1 cup. (I actually only used about 1/3 of a cup.) I understand that's still a lot, but I don't care. It was lovely. I would definitely make this again. Super quick and yummy.

I don't know how it compares to the actual restaurant dish (it's supposedly a copycat from Ruth's Chris Steakhouse) but I don't really care because it's tasty.


Ruth's Chris Steak House Barbecue Shrimp Orleans

1 pound butter
2 teaspoons black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped dried rosemary leaves
2 ounces garlic, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 pound shrimp, 16-20 count, cleaned, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1/2 cup dry white wine

1. For Barbecue Butter -- Soften butter at room temperature to 70-80 degrees F. Place butter in mixing bowl; add pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt, rosemary, garlic, Worcestershire, Tabasco, and water. Whip on high speed 3 minutes or until thoroughly blended. Refrigerate to 40 degrees F. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

2. For Shrimp -- Pour olive oil in a hot sauté pan. Add shrimp to the sauté pan and cook on one side for 1 to 2 minutes. (Don't crowd; if necessary, use 2 pans. A 12-inch pan will accommodate 1 pound of shrimp.) Reduce heat to medium, turn shrimp, and add the chopped green onion. Cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes.

3. Add white wine and cook until reduced to 1/4 cup. Stir in 1 cup cold Barbecue Butter (reserve the remainder for another use), reduce heat to low and cook and stir frequently until shrimp are just done (white throughout, moist and tender), approximately 1 1/2 minutes. Take care not to overcook the shrimp.

4. Serve immediately in a bowl preheated to 160 degrees F.

Servings: 3

Monday, November 18, 2013

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies

I don't know, guys. This one just sounded good. They turned out puffier than I thought they would be, and the caramel didn't soften as much as I'd hoped, but they were very delicious and fairly popular. I'm pretty happy.


Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies
Zesty Cook via Pinterest

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup salted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
16 wrapped caramels, cut into 4 or 5 pieces each
Sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

2. Mix the flour and baking soda in a bowl and set aside.

3. With an electric mixer or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and mix well. Gradually add the flour mixture and stir until a dough forms (may take a couple minutes of stirring). Fold in the chocolate chips (do not add the caramels yet). Do not overmix the dough at any point in this process.

4. Chill dough for at least 30 minutes (or up to 5 days) in the refrigerator. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet. Press a few pieces of caramel onto the tops of the cookies. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges are slightly browned. The centers should appear very soft and puffy. Sprinkle each cookie with sea salt while they are warm. Let cool completely and enjoy!

Yield: 3 dozen

Make sure to keep dough cold at all times while the batches are baking.

Game Day / Texas Trash

One of the fun things about having a gentleman who likes football is that when he invites his friends over to watch the game, I get to make fun food, like dips and stuff. This week our friend brought some buffalo chicken dip (a recipe I do not have, but imagine is pretty close to THIS ONE), another friend brought moonshine, and I got to use my brand new football-shaped crockpot to make dinner.


If you decide you simply must have one as well, you MIGHT be able to get one on Amazon. I got mine from the "unwanted gifts" section of an online marketplace. WHO WOULD NOT WANT THIS?! A crazy person, that's who.

I had a container of frozen barbecue pulled turkey (like pork, only with turkey) from a local turkey farm when I went there to buy our Thanksgiving turkey (yes, you read that right!). I dumped out the barbecue into the little crockpot and cooked it on low for several hours. The boys really liked it, which surprised me because it's barbecue turkey.


Because I didn't get to eat the turkey OR the chicken dip, I made myself a new dip recipe found via Pinterest for "Texas Trash," touted as one of the best bean dips ever created. It was not. I wished I had made my Rotel Super Dip instead. This is really just a creamy bean dip. It's good, and it tastes good left over as well, but I still missed the Rotel. I do not think this is a winner. I look forward to trying new dips in the future!


Texas Trash (Hot Mexican Bean Dip)

8 ounces cream cheese
8 ounces sour cream
30 ounces refried beans
1 1/4 ounces dry taco seasoning mix
1 jalapeno pepper -- diced, or more to taste
2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

2. Mix cream cheese, sour cream, refried beans, and taco seasoning in a bowl. Fold jalapeno pepper into the dip; spread into a 9x13-inch baking dish.

3. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Top with shredded cheese and continue cooking until the cheese has melted, about 5 more minutes.

Servings: 10

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Bloomin' Onion Bread

This recipe is *everywhere* on Pinterest. Everyone has it. It took me forever to figure out where it originated, but I finally discovered that it came from The Changeable Table. Everyone on the planet seems to have made it and raved about it on their blogs.

I hated it. I think it's a really, really cool idea and it has a neat presentation. I did not like the cheese - I felt like the monterey jack just sort of pooled into goopiness and didn't add a nice cheesy flavor. The poppy seeds were weird. I wished that there was garlic. I feel like it would be better with some garlic, a different kind of cheese, and nix the poppy seeds.

But see? It looks cool!


Bloomin' Onion Bread
The Changeable Table

1 unsliced loaf of (round is preferable) sourdough bread
1 pound Monterey Jack cheese, thinly sliced
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup green onions, finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons poppy seeds

Using a sharp bread knife cut the bread going both directions. Do not cut through the bottom crust. Places slices of cheese between cuts. Mix together butter, onion, and poppy seeds. Pour over bread. Wrap in foil the entire thing in foil and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Unwrap. Bake 10 more minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Chocolate Chai Snickerdoodles

I almost didn't take these today for Cookie Monday because I felt like they were inferior to most of the cookies I bring. They weren't chocolatey, and I didn't like their texture. The spice mixture is good, but it wasn't good enough to me. But I used the last of my eggs making these, so I didn't really have another choice.

While I was disappointed by them, my coworkers had mixed feelings. A few of them scored them as a "3 out of 5," but several said it's one of their favorites that I've made. I don't understand that, honestly. It just goes to show what a variety of tastes people have and why I make so many different types of cookies. Eventually there's something for everyone.


Chocolate Chai Snickerdoodles
Dierbergs' Everybody Cooks, September 2006
as posted on Cooking Light forums

2 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

In a large mixer bowl, combine sugar and spices; reserve 1/2 cup of mixture in shallow bowl. Add cocoa powder to mixer bowl; stir to blend. Add butter; beat at medium speed until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat at low speed until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat at low speed until combined. Stir in flour and baking powder.

Shape 1 tablespoon of dough into ball; roll in reserved sugar-spice mixture. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, placing balls 2 inches apart. Bake in 350 F oven until edges are firm, about 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Yield: 3 1/2 dozen

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Roasted Autumn Vegetable Pasta with Sage Browned Butter

I love roasted vegetables, especially brussels sprouts. But I'd never seen a recipe involving roasted radicchio so this was appealing to me. Instead of bothering with a sugar pie pumpkin, I used some pre-diced butternut squash instead. It worked just fine. I also read in the comments of the OP blog that this is good with some fresh spinach thrown in at the end. I didn't feel the need to do that, but I do think it would go nicely. I used fresh sage instead of dried, which I think is wonderful. I really liked this a lot. It also has reheated very well over the past couple of days.


Roasted Autumn Vegetable Pasta with Sage Browned Butter
Foodtastic Mom via Pinterest

1 2-pound sugar pie pumpkin
20 brussels sprouts
1 small head radicchio
3 tablespoons olive or grapeseed oil, divided
8 ounce small pasta
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
Fresh Gruyere cheese for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Halve, seed and peel the pumpkin and cut into approximately 1/2-inch cubes. Peel the outer leaves from the brussels sprouts, trim off the stalky ends and halve. Toss the pumpkin cubes and halved brussels sprouts with 2 T. of olive oil, salt, nutmeg and chipotle pepper. Spread evenly on a sheet pan and roast for 25 minutes, stirring/flipping the vegetables once during cooking time.

2. Peel the outer leaves from the raddichio, quarter, remove the hard core and chop into roughly 1-inch pieces. Toss with remaining 1 T. olive oil. Evenly spread the raddichio over the roasted pumpkin and brussels sprouts, and return to the 400 degree oven. Continue roasting for 8 minutes more.

3. Meanwhile, heat water to cook the pasta. While veggies are roasting and water is heating, heat a skillet over medium heat and toast the walnuts, about 8 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to evenly toast. Remove the walnuts to a bowl to cool, lower the heat to medium-low, and add the 6 T. of butter to pan. Melt, swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter is a deep golden brown color (being careful not to burn it). Once butter is browned, stir in sage and season with salt.

4. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to pot. Toss the pasta with the roasted vegetables and the sage browned butter. Serve with toasted walnuts and Gruyère cheese.

Yield: 6 servings

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Cookie Monday: Chewy Oatmeal Cookies with Cinnamon and Butterscotch Chips

Oops, I forgot to post this sooner. I really wanted to make an autumny cookie while we're still outside the Christmas season, and I felt like the combination of butterscotch and cinnamon would accomplish that. And it did! These were very simple and very good. My partner at work deemed them to be her favorite, so that's cool. I just wish they had been more oatmealy. Somehow the oatmeal just blends into the batter. I had been hoping for the consistency of a traditional oatmeal cookie, and these do not really have that. But they're still so good!


Chewy Oatmeal Cookies with Cinnamon and Butterscotch Chips
A Spicy Perspective via Pinterest

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup cinnamon chips
1/2 cup butterscotch chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line several cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. Set aside.

3. Using an electric mixer and a separate bowl, cream the butter and both sugars together until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. *Don't cut the time short here.

4. Add the vanilla and eggs to the butter mixture and beat to combine. Then slowly add the flour mixture until just combined.

5. Scrape the bowl and beat on low, adding the oats and baking chips.

6. Using a tablespoon, drop the cookie dough in 1 1/2 tablespoon portions onto the cookie sheets. Make sure they are spaced 2-3 inches apart for spreading.

7. Bake the cookies for 10-11 minutes, until the edges are golden, but the centers still seem soft. Cool completely on the baking sheets before moving.

Yield: 3 dozen

Buffalo Chicken Taquitos

My gentleman had friends over to watch football in his newly-furnished "man cave" this weekend and, in typical Lauren fashion, I felt the need to provide food. They ordered pizza and ate some of the cookies I was baking for Monday, but I wanted to be a little bit more adventurous. While this is a meaty appetizer, I was able to just shred a storebought rotisserie chicken. Super easy. I didn't have any Mrs. Dash and don't really know what it entails, so I used a bit of Penzeys Old World Seasoning, a little bit of lemon pepper, and then went a little extra on the Cajun seasoning.

Despite the fact that I forgot to get blue cheese OR ranch dressing, all of these little taquitos disappeared by the end of the game. I am told they are very good. They seemed to be good football food!


Buffalo Chicken Taquitos
Betty Crocker via Pinterest

4 cups cooked shredded chicken
12 soft taco flour tortillas
2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
4 ounces Philadelphia cream cheese
1/3 cup Frank's Red hot sauce
1/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon Mrs. Dash
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning (if you want more spice)

Preheat oven to 425.

In a small sauce pot over medium low heat, melt butter. Add Mrs. dash, garlic powder and Cajun seasoning. Stir to combine and cook for 1 minute. Add cream cheese and stir until melted and completely combined with butter and spices. Whisk in hot sauce and milk. Simmer for 5-8 minutes. Add salt to taste.

Combine chicken and sauce.

Lay out a tortilla; fill with about 1/4-1/3 cup chicken and 2 tbs of mozzarella cheese. Tightly roll up taquito and place on a greased baking sheet; repeat until chicken is gone.

Brush taquitos with vegetable oil on all sides. Bake for 15-18 minutes; rotate them every 5 minutes, until golden brown.

Serve with blue cheese dressing and celery sticks.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Pumpkin Blondies

I made these for my friend's Halloween party last night. I have an abundance of butterscotch chips (they will appear in this week's Cookie Monday, as well) so it was a nice way to use them, along with the stockpile of pumpkin. I really liked them but had kind of hoped they would be closer to these Butterscotch Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies that I made several years ago, but these were much more dense. I'm not sure why I had this expectation, though now I want to try those brownies again. I really liked them but I feel like there are superior recipes for similar things out there to try.


Pumpkin Blondies
Brown Eyed Baker via Pinterest

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 15 oz. can pumpkin (about 2 cups)
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper, with enough to hang over the sides; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and both sugars until completely smooth and no lumps remain. Add the egg and vanilla and whisk to incorporate, making sure the egg has been completely mixed in. Add the pumpkin and again whisk to fully incorporate. Add the flour mixture to the batter and, using a rubber spatula, fold the mixtur until combined and no pockets of flour remain. Fold in the butterscotch chips, white chocolate chips and pecans. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth into an even layer.

Bake until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool completely, then use the parchment handles to lift the bars out of the pan and cut into squares. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Yield: 24 bars

Huevos Rancheros Breakfast Sandwiches

I love breakfast food. I love Huevos Rancheros, especially. So many things going on. It's wonderful. I happened to have all of these ingredients in my kitchen yesterday (I had the guacamole left over from Chipotle Sweet Potato & Black Bean Tacos earlier in the week, so I used that. I did not feel like making my own. I also added some shredded cheddar cheese, because why isn't there cheese in the recipe? I really liked this a lot. It was a nice little breakfast. I would make this again if I had everything available.


Huevos Rancheros Breakfast Sandwich
I Wash You Dry via Pinterest

2 English muffins, split and toasted
1/3 cup refried beans
2 eggs
1 ripe avocado
Salt and pepper

While the english muffins are toasting, peel and pit the avocado and use a fork to mash it. Add salt to taste. Heat up refried beans till warm and spreadable in microwave. Spread half of the bean mixture on the bottom of each english muffin, then spread half of the avocado on the top of each english muffin.

Heat a small non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Spray with olive oil. Crack eggs into pan, one at a time, making sure the egg whites don't touch. Sprinkle with salt and pepper according to taste preferences. Let cook for 1-2 minutes, longer if desired, then carefully use a spatula to flip the eggs over. Season again with salt and pepper. Let cook for an additional 1-2 minutes, or longer if desired. Place the cooked egg on top of the english muffin that is covered in beans. Repeat with the other egg.

Add your desired amount of salsa on top of the egg, then place the avocado smeared half of the english muffin on top. Enjoy!

Servings: 2