What I Did During the DC Snowpocalypse: Molasses Cookies and Oatmeal-Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies

The East Coast is getting pounded by a massive snowstorm today - near my house in Arlington, VA the snow measured 17 inches deep at 3:45 pm and it is still going strong now that night has fallen. Most of the region is shut down (even the malls!), the Metro is running only underground, my car has morphed into a snowdrift (see picture at right), but I spent the day indoors in my PJs, watching Anne of Green Gables and baking cookies. Although I doubt anyone will show up for the party I'm hosting this evening, I'm sure that the cookies will still go to good use at the office and for Christmas celebrations in the coming days. In the meantime, I have a great DVD collection, hot cocoa, eggnog, and 9 or 10 dozen cookies to sustain me through the remainder of the storm.

Molasses Cookies (~4-5 dozen)
3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup molasses
2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
granulated sugar or colored sugar [since it is Christmas-time, I used a mixture of red and green decorating sugar]

1. Using an electric mixer, cream butter and brown sugar together. Continue to mix at low speed, adding egg then molasses.

2. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Add to wet ingredients in several stages, mixing after each.

3. Cover and chill dough in the refrigerator for an hour.

4. Preheat oven to 350F. Shape dough into balls about 1 or 1 1/2 inch in diameter, roll in granulated sugar, and place on a greased cookie sheet or cookie sheet with a silicone liner. If desired, press lightly with a fork to flatten slightly and form a grid pattern on each cookie.

5. Bake at 350F for 9-10 minutes, until edges of cookies begin to set. Remove from oven, allow to cool on pan for a few minutes, then move cookies to a wire rack to continue cooling.

Oatmeal-Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies (~ 4-5 dozen)
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

1. Using an electric mixer, beat together butter and peanut butter until blended, about 30 seconds.

2. Add granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, and baking soda and beat until combined. Add eggs and vanilla, beat well. Add flour in a few batches, mixing well after each. You may need to switch to mixing by hand as the dough thickens.

3. Stir in oats and chocolate chips.

4. Preheat oven to 350F. Drop dough by rounded teaspoons onto a greased cookie sheet or cookie sheet with a silicone liner.

5. Bake at 350F for 10 minutes, until edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven, allow to cool on pan for a few minutes, then move cookies to a wire rack to continue cooling.


Carrot Cake (in a Bundt pan)

My favorite cake of all time is my grandmother's aeblekage (Danish apple cake). However, aeblekage isn't a "cake" in the sense that most people think of cake (it's more wet than dry, since the primary ingredient is applesauce), so when it comes to more traditional cakes, my favorites are carrot and spice.* I've had many good versions of these cakes (even some that have come out of a box - such as quick caramel apple cake), but I've had just as many that have been dry and forgettable. When a really great one comes along - moist, carroty, raisiny, with a cream cheese icing that is delicious without being overpowering - well, that makes me sit up and take notice. I'd like to think that this cake fits that bill - but I'll let you decide for yourself.

* For those who are wondering, chocolate cake is at the bottom of my list - in general, I would to go dessert-less than spend my calories on chocolate cake. However, there are two chocolate cakes that I have had that I think are worth repeating - one is the recipe my roommate uses as the base for her peanut butter-filled cupcakes, the other is the base that Curbside Cupcakes uses for their chocolate cupcake creations (I've tried their peanut butter cup and peppermint varieties so far - both were good).

Carrot Cake (in a Bundt pan)
1 cup golden raisins
1/2 tsp. orange zest (if desired)
boiling water (enough to cover raisins)
3 cups finely shredded carrots (use a food processor for best results)
4 eggs
1 cup applesauce
2 cups sugar (I used 1 cup white, 1 cup brown)
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup walnuts (if desired)

Glaze Icing
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 oz. cream cheese or Neufchâtel cheese
1 T. light corn syrup

1. Place raisins and orange zest in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to stand while shredding carrots and preparing wet and dry ingredients so that raisins become plump, about 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 350F and spray a Bundt pan with cooking spray or cooking spray with flour.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, applesauce, and sugar. In large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

3. Drain raisins and add to dry ingredients, along with carrots and walnuts. Fold in wet ingredients and stir until batter is well mixed. Pour batter into prepared pan.

4. Bake at 350F for 50-55 minutes; test with a toothpick to determine if the cake is done. Allow cake to cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then turn cake out of pan and allow cake to continue cooling (at least 30 minutes).

5. While cake is cooling, prepare the glaze icing. Combine powdered sugar, vanilla extract, cream cheese, and corn syrup using a hand mixer at low speed, mixing until icing is smooth.

6. Spread icing over the cake while it is still slightly warm. Allow cake to cool completely, then slice and serve.


Chicken Curry Meatballs

With the holiday season upon us, it is time to think about whipping up fancy dishes for parties and potlucks. Here is an Indian twist on a party-standby: meatballs. Since these are made with chicken instead of beef and require some additional ingredients as a part of the meat mixture, you can't skimp on time and use frozen - but I was able to whip up a batch in about half an hour and then turn the cooking duties over to the crock pot for a few hours of simmering.

The secret to easy preparation is using an already-made simmer or cooking sauce as the base for the sauce. I used Patak's Mild Curry Cooking Sauce, although there are many options available in the international aisle of your grocery store. Select a sauce and adjust the amount of curry powder below based on your own (or your guests') tolerance for curry and spiciness. The version I made came out fairly mild - acceptable to those who aren't big fans of curry or spicy foods, but with enough flavor to stimulate the taste buds of those who are.

If you aren't serving these up on toothpicks for a party, try ladling a few meatballs and some sauce over rice (I used Lotus Foods Bhutanese Red Rice, a whole grain rice with a lovely reddish tint and good texture). I also included green beans and rose sharbat for my meal.

Chicken Curry Meatballs (~ 30-35 meatballs)
1/4 cup canola or olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped (~ 3/4 cup)
3 medium gloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp. curry powder [or more, depending on taste]
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 lb. ground chicken
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 jar (12 - 15 oz.) curry simmer sauce [select mild, medium, or hot to suit your taste]
1 can (14 oz.) light or low-fat coconut milk
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock

1. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook about 5 minutes, until onion is soft and lightly colored. Add garlic, curry powder, salt, and pepper, cook about 30 seconds (until curry is fragrant). Remove from heat (pour into a small bowl, if desired) and allow to cool for a few minutes.

2. Position an oven rack so that it is 4-6 inches from the broiling unit in your oven and preheat the broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray foil with nonstick cooking spray.

3. Combine the ground chicken, bread crumbs, egg, cilantro, and onion mixture in a large bowl and mix well (use your hands if necessary - they are going to get dirty in just a minute anyway). Form the mixture into 30-35 walnut-sized meatballs (I used the tablespoon from my silverware drawer to scoop out just about the right amount of mixture for a meatball) and place these on the baking sheet.

4. Broil about 7 minutes. The meatballs will be more solid - but not cooked through.

5. In a large saucepan [or a crock pot], stir together the simmer sauce, coconut milk, and stock. Add the meatballs and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium low and cook gently for 30 minutes, until meatballs are cooked through. [If using a crock pot, simmer four hours on low heat.]

काला चना मसाला (Kala Chana Masala - Black Chickpea Masala)

While white chickpeas are fairly easy to find here in the United States, the black chickpeas used in this dish are harder to find - unless you go into an Indian grocery. काला चना (black chana) tends to be a bit firmer and nuttier than the white variety and I was very happy with how this dish turned out. This recipe requires the use of a pressure cooker - if you don't have one, change the cooking time in step 1 to approximately 2 hours.

काला चना मसाला (black chickpea masala)
1 1/2 cups dried black chickpeas, washed in 3-4 changes of water
5 cups water
3-4 T. chana masala spice mix
3/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/2 cup finely chopped tomatoes
4 scallions (white parts only), finely chopped
1/4 cup cilantro (including stems), finely chopped
2 T. peanut oil
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 T. fresh ginger, minced (or paste)
1-3 fresh green chile peppers (e.g., serrano), split lengthwise or minced
1 T. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground paprika

1. Soak the chickpeas overnight (or at least 6 hours) in enough water to cover them by 2 inches. Drain and place in pressure cooker with 4 1/2 cups water and salt. Secure lid and cook over high heat until high pressure is reached, then cook 1 minute more. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook another 3 minutes. Remove from from heat and allow the pot to depressurize on its own (approx. 15 minutes). Open the lid and check to see if beans are soft. [If beans are not soft, add additional water, cover, and bring to high pressure and cook another 1 minutes - or cover and simmer for about 45 minutes.]

2. Transfer chickpeas and remaining water to a deep-sided saute pan and cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking (stirring occasionally) until all of the water evaporates, about 40 minutes.

3. Mix in half of the chana masala spice mix, then add tomatoes, scallions, and cilantro. Cook 2 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle remaining spice mix over the top.

4. Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, add the cumin seeds. Quickly add the ginger and green chile peppers and cook 1 minutes. Mix in coriander and paprika and immediately pour over chickpea mixture in serving dish. Stir lightly and serve.