chocolate espresso cookies

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Merrrrry December, my little ones! As I type, there is a Christmas tree…thistle? needle? branch?…I think it’s needle…stuck in my number 8 key. So, please pardon any funky symbols. It’s not secret code or anything.

espresso10espresso11My Christmas season thus far hasn’t been too whirlwindy. The past few weekends have entertained a couple of parades, my city’s tree lighting, and the Lights at the Zoo, which is basically that: our sweet zoo covers the place with lights and it’s sort of a South Carolina tradition to spend an evening there during Christmastime. It’s pretty magical, BUT…I am rather partial/biased. I haven’t found too many nights to sleep under the tree yet, mostly because our tree branches this year are practically touching the ground. I think our trembling-causing Christmas excitement forced our bodies to skip the tree-trimming itself and skip right to fun part of popping on those ornaments. But it’s cool. I’ve still found lots of time for music and cleaning (…weird? Prepping the house reminds me of Christmas) and baking.

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Last week, my kitchen was devoted to testing, baking, and sampling cookies for The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. It’s basically like a cookie swap party (bake cookies, go to party with cookies, swap cookies with other attendees who baked cookies, come home with an assortment of cookies), except it’s worldwide. Each blogger baked a dozen cookies for three other bloggers and, in return, received three different types of cookies for themselves (I received cookies from Beth’s Blue Plate Special, The Cultural Dish, and Princesss Pea. Thanks, y’all!). The whole event is a great connection tool. Plus, 100% of our sign-up costs went directly to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, an organization that supports research of new and improved therapies for pediatric cancer. So, yeah. Basically, this swap is the bomb. I decided to do a chocolate cookie with a vibrant, yet deep, espresso glaze. Why? I like chocolate. Husband likes coffee. BAM. Winning combo.

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chocolate espresso cookies
yield: 3 dozen cookies

cookies
ingredients
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup unrefined cane sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar (made with natural cane sugar), packed
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup brewed espresso
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/8 cup dark cocoa powder
1/4 cup dark chocolate chunks

glaze
ingredients
1/2 cup unrefined powdered sugar
2 tbsp (or so) brewed espresso

create
Preheat oven to 375º. Using a mixer, beat butter, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt together until well combined. Add eggs and beat well. Stir in 1/4 cup brewed espresso until well combined.
Stir the flour, baking soda, and cocoa powders together and gradually add it to the butter mixture. Beat until well combined. Stir in the chocolate chunks.
On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, drop tablespoonfuls of batter a couple of inches apart and bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the middle is set. Allow to cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack.
While the cookies are baking, make the glaze. In a bowl, whisk the powdered sugar and brewed espresso together until smooth. The glaze should thin enough to pipe over the cookies, but not watery. Use more or less brewed espresso to reach the desired consistency.
Transfer the glaze to a piping bag (or a sandwich bag with a very small amount of one of the tips cup off). When the cookies have cooled, quickly pipe the glaze over the cookies in a zig-zag motion.
Tip: Use a wire rack with foil or parchment underneath it. It will prevent mess, help the glaze dry correctly, and save any glaze dripping from the cookies.
Let the glaze dry/harden and store in an air-tight container.

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The espresso I used to bake and glaze these cookies comes from the super-fly (sorry, my 90s is showing), super-knowledgable owner of Loveland Coffee, a coffee company based here in Columbia which focuses on local roasts, ingredients, and the process. The respect of the ingredients and process is the whole idea behind and the whole reason I started Heed the Feed, so I totally appreciate Loveland Coffee’s stance. That being said, I am nowhere close to being a coffee authority (my husband had to make the cookies’ espresso, for Pete’s sake), so I will just let Loveland Coffee describe the espresso to you :

” Our espresso is a blissful union of base, body and aroma that produces an amazingly long lasting crema when extracted properly as espresso. Used in lattes and cappucinos, it offers a strong, smooth chocolate taste. Roasted light, in the Northern Itailian style, as all fine espressos are… it has no flaws to hide by roasting to a crisp.”

Ehh, ehh (with a little elbow nudge)? Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? Heck yeah, it does. Well, here’s your chance to get your hands on some of those carefully-prepared beans. That’s right, Bob, it’s time for Heed the Feed’s very first giveaway! Come on down! (GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED)

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The Prize: (GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED)
1. One Pound Whole Bean Northern Italian Style Espresso
AND
2. One Pound Whole Bean Ethiopian Yirgacheffe

How to Enter: (GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED)
1. Like Loveland Coffee on Facebook and let me know you’ve Liked it in the comments below this post
and/or
2. Subscribe to Heed the Feed!
(You will receive one entry for each task. For example, if you like Loveland Coffee on Facebook and tell me in the comments below, you will receive one entry. If you subscribe to Heed the Feed, you will receive on entry. If you do both, you will receive two entries.)
That’s it!

A Few Other Things I Should Mention: (GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED)
1. Open to U.S. residents only. Frown. Sorry, international friends.
2. The giveaway will open at 12:00am EST 12/12/12 (cool) and close at 12:00am EST 12/19/12.
3. Winner will be chosen at random and contacted after 12:00am EST on 12/19/12.

Good luck and happy cookie baking!

Loveland Coffee will soon open at a brand new location: 7001 St. Andrews Rd. Columbia, SC 29212. Visit the website at www.lovelandcoffee.com

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eggnog streusel muffins


It IS officially Christmas. 12:21 AM. Santa’s around here somewhere. But before we go to sleep, I wanted to leave you guys with a little festive breakfast recipe to fit the, well, festive spirit.


I hope you all have a very merry Christmas and it’s filled with joy and happiness.



eggnog streusel muffins
ingredients
1/2 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup natural cane sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups egg nog

create
Preheat oven to 425º. Butter and flour a 12 count muffin pan.
In a mixing bowl, combine the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat for several minutes until smooth. Beat in the baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla. Add the flour and egg nog alternately to the butter mixture, starting and ending with the flour and making sure everything is combined in between additions.  Spoon the batter evenly in the greased muffin pan.

streusel topping
ingredients
1/2 cup natural brown sugar
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
2 tsp egg nog
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

create
Stir together all ingredients until just crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over unbaked muffins.


Bake the muffins for 20 minutes until light golden brown. Serve warm.


“…radiant beams from Thy holy face with the dawn of redeeming grace…”

turkey with lemon-sage butter


It’s almost Christmas! Butttttt in the meantime, let’s talk about blog contests! Blog contests, you say? Oh, yes. Blog contests. You see, Stonyfield and Organic Valley are hosting a national organic food blogger contest and, somehow, they picked me as a finalist! I would absolutely LOVE you forever if you would vote for me! I’ll love ya, anyway, but I’d really love it if you could vote.

Here are the rules: Click on the link below and enter your e-mail address under “Your Email” and click “Vote Now.” You can only vote once a day, but if you have multiple e-mail addresses, by all means, use them all! Voting is over January 31st and every day and every vote does count! Lordy, this has turned into RocktheVote2012.

Here is the link: http://celebratewithorganic.com/vote/3

Phew, love you guys. Now! Onto the cooking.

So, like I said, it’s almost Christmas! We had a little gathering here in the tiny Columbia kitchen for Christmas, with a miniature feast and a festive gift exchange and, of course, plenty of music and random dancing. I also made my first, dum dum dee dum, turkey! Yes! It’s true. I’ve roasted plenty of whole chickens, but turkeys are so durn big that I’ve never done it for just my husband and myself. I mean, we eat, we certainly do EAT, but…again. Turkeys are just so durn big. But this time it was CHRISTMAS. And CHRISTMAS is just about as good an excuse as any other time, including Thanksgiving, for anything that is good and plentiful. The bird turned out well! Thank you for your concern and awe. Smile.

This is a classic roasted turkey recipe from Bon Appétit. The page in my magazine that has this recipe printed on it is absolutely covered in splattered butter. And I see some more butter. Butter. Butter. Turkey juice. And oh, yes, more butter. I’m sure you have guessed that this recipe is already going to be GLORIOUS based on my dried up magazine page.


turkey with lemon-sage butter
ingredients
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, plus 1/2 stick, melted, for basting
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh sage
2 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
1 tsp paprika
1 12-14 lb hormone-free, all-natural turkey, patted dry
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 lemons, quartered

create
Set a rack inside a large, heavy roasting pan. Mash 1 stick butter, sage (I also added a bit of thyme because I was a little short on sage, heh, note the picture), lemon zest, and paprika in a bowl to combine.
Starting at neck end of turkey (Oh, make sure all of those goodies are taken out of the cavity of the turkey. I did that for the first time, too! It really wasn’t so bad. I’m a wuss.), loosen the skin of the breast by gently sliding your fingers underneath. Work half of lemon-sage butter under skin. Loosen skin around legs and thighs; work remaining lemon-sage butter under skin. Season turkey inside and out with salt and pepper and stuff with lemons. Transfer turkey, breast side down, to prepared pan and refrigerate, uncovered, overnight.
Let turkey stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 375º. Pour hot water into pan to a depth of 1/4″. Roast turkey, basting occasionally, with remaining 1/2 stick melted butter, for 1 hour. Using paper towels, flip turkey; roast, basting occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 165º, 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours longer. Transfer to a platter. Let rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.


Ahh, Christmas! I can’t contain my excitement. Eat some turkey! Hug your family! Love your neighbor! Give your all! And celebrate all the good goodness in your life! Since it’s Christmas, let’s be glad, even if your life’s been bad!

Again, Merry Christmas, y’all. Thanks for voting. Thanks for reading.

mommy’s ranch dressing


I’m writing this post in the passenger seat of a vehicle that’s in a caravan on the way to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains for a celebration of Christmas. That has nothing to do with this post, really. Just wanted to let y’all know.

But aren’t y’all excited about Christmas? Geez. I am. I’m still a child, though. I guess I should finally admit to the world that I still watch cartoons and jump up and down when I’m excited and absolutely adore musicals, sing-a-longs, and anything else that has a singing character in it. The other night my dog slept on my side of the bed while I slept under the Christmas tree because it was too beautiful to leave. Charlie Brown makes me cry. The Grinch warms my heart. And y’all know baby Jesus was the cutest baby ever.

This recipe isn’t really a Christmas recipe by tradition, but you know what people serve at parties? Crudités (I can picture people jumping up from their chairs, “Crew dytes?” It’s really just a fancy French word for raw veggies and dip, pronounced crew-deh-tay). And you know what holiday hosts lots of parties? Christmas. So, there ya go.

I kind of grew up with my mom making this ranch dressing and every time she did I remember being so impressed. I guess when I was seven I thought there were trees that had ranch dressing siphoned out of them like maple trees. Who knows. But this stuff is delicious. She used to make this, like, 16 layer salad with tons of random things in it and it was topped with her ranch dressing. It was the bomb. Mother, if you are reading, make this salad? Hmm?

And, man, y’all know I love making stuff that’s chemical free for our little ol’ bodies.

mommy’s ranch dressing
ingredients
1 garlic clove
2 tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped
1/3 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
~1 cup mayonnaise
~1/2 cup sour cream
pinch of salt
pinch of white pepper
pinch of onion powder
buttermilk, to desired consistency

create
Mince the garlic clove and sprinkle a little salt over the top. Mash the garlic and salt together with a fork until well combined. Put in a bowl with the chopped parsley and chives.
Add the mayonnaise, sour cream, pepper, and a little more salt. Mix together.
Add as much buttermilk as you’d like. If you like your dressing thicker, just add a little. If you like it thin, add a little more. Keep tasting it along the way and adjust the flavors based on what you think it needs. Keep in the fridge in a jar (and remember that spices will get stronger as they sit).

That’s it! You’re done! The thing about this dressing is that everything in it is crazy adjustable to personal taste. Don’t like as much mayo? Psh, add less. Want more garlic? Add it. I almost listed the ingredients as “some of this” or “some of that.” You can even get crazy, people. Add hot sauce, or other spices, or whatever your heart fancies. And then, dadgummit, get some raw veggies and crudité it up!

Update on the trip: we’re currently driving up a mountain near Asheville, my husband’s ears are popping, my brother-in-law and his fiancé are sleeping, and we’re listening to the glorious sounds of a very She & Him Christmas. Really, was there ever a more beautiful place than the mountains? I’m in love with them. Thank you, Jesus, for a beautiful earth.

Merry Christmas, y’all.