Things have been crazy busy around here. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. October-November is my least favorite stretch of the year. It’s slow, it’s hard and it seems to never end but once it’s over, the school year gets significantly easier and I am able to do normal people things like…
A few weeks ago, my husband and I were planning to move. I was interviewing for different teaching positions throughout Boston, and although we loved our cozy apartment in Roslindale, we had no idea where I would be working this upcoming fall and did not want to be stuck with a crazy long commute.
So we told our landlords that we were not renewing the lease, packed up our apartment, went on our “last” walk to the Arnold arboretum and “last” dinners to our favorite places to eat. Then three days before the move—U-haul rented, storage secured, friend’s help for moving day requested—I got a job offer at a nearby school!
I was thrilled to accept the job offer, but all of a sudden we had to cancel our move quickly. Thankfully, our landlords had not put our apartment on the market so we were able to renew our current lease for a third year. We were both elated that I got my dream job but also bummed that all of our moving efforts were in vain.
As a result, we had a super messy apartment for the past few weeks: furniture was disassembled, books were packed, cushions and nonessentials were stowed away. This past week, we finally got around to unpacking a little and our apartment is finally starting to look normal.
Because of our moving plans, we’d consumed everything in our pantry and fridge in order to clear both out before move out day. When I found this jar of chipotles deep inside one of our cabinets, I was overjoyed.
Chipotle is probably my favorite pepper to cook with. I love how well it pairs with just about everything, but especially hummus, mayo, and creamy pasta. A quick look through the fridge yielded a barely opened tub of sour cream that had been used once to garnish soup. With these two items, I knew that I would make pollo en crema de chipotle for dinner.
I’ve had a ton of variations of this dish, the most recent in a breakfast buffet in my hotel in Puebla a few months ago, made with media crema but the tastiest was a few years ago in the home of a relative in Mexico City.
This is perhaps the easiest recipe ever as it requires only four ingredients (and salt). Active cooking time is also pretty short if you choose to bake your chicken like I did. Blending chipotle peppers and sour cream together yields a tangy/smoky/subtly spicy sauce that is then poured over chicken and mushrooms and served with rice on the side.
Try this for an easy weeknight dinner and let me know how it goes!
Notes: I have not included the recipe for traditional Mexican rice and stuffed jalapenos featured in the last photo of this post. Stay tuned for that recipe soon!
Chipotle Cream Chicken
Yields 4 servings
Cooking Time: 1 hour
- 8oz tub of Sour Cream
- 3 canned chipotle peppers
- 8 oz of mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- 4 bone-in chicken thighs
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Chicken: Sprinkle salt and pepper all over your chicken thighs, even under the skin, and cook at 350 degrees until juices run clear (about 40 minutes in my oven).
- Sauce: While the chicken is baking, puree the sour cream and chipotle peppers in blender for about one minute or until smooth. Taste. Add more chipotle peppers if you want more spice.
- Next: Saute mushrooms in a pan with butter. When mushrooms are barely cooked, add the chipotle cream to the pan and simmer on low heat for about 15 minutes. Add salt to taste.
- Enjoy! Pour your mushroom chipotle cream sauce over the chicken thighs and pair with your favorite sides.
This past week was my last week of school.
The end of the school year always surprises me. Dates that I’ve been tossing around all year spring up and suddenly finals are upon us. Once final exams are over, there’s one last mad dash to grade everything and then… the last day of school arrives!
There’s always confusion about dress code on the last day of school; ties and belts and shoes are the wrong colors or missing altogether. Students shuffle in, anxious to get their last final exam out of the way, and there’s an excited buzz in the cafeteria that morning.
Once the final exam block ends, our school has an award ceremony. Student growth and achievement are celebrated, and it is during this time that we give out our biggest award of the year. I love seeing how excited students get about their awards. After the ceremony, we have a carnival for the entire high school outside! Students get to soak teachers in the dunk tank; eat cotton candy; shaved ice and burgers; jump in the bouncy house; dance with their friends. Then, all of sudden, they are dismissed.
Most students rush out the door, but there’s always a few who linger to wish teachers well or to inquire if their finals have been graded. Once final hugs and goodbyes are had, only the teachers remain. And just like that, summer begins!
This summer will be my second “teacher summer,” and I’ve been inspired to live it fully by a veteran teacher who I heard speak last summer at a history seminar. She shared that, in the summer, she lives by her alter ego and does all of the the things that her school year self cannot. She says “yes” to all of the events that she is invited to, something that she cannot afford to do during the school year, and she goes out of her way to pursue adventure. I love this outlook! And I am planning on fully embracing it for myself.
One way that I am pursuing adventure this summer is by trying and learning about new foods. Today I made a layered cake, caramel sauce, and frosting from scratch (for the first time!). In addition to taking on more baking adventures, I also want to try making more foods that I love from scratch, like pasta and xiaolongbao. This week, I am living into this outlook is by participating in #paletaweek!
Two weeks ago, I bought a stalk of rhubarb at the farmer’s market because seeing all of the rhubarb pies on my instagram feed was making me crazy. I had never tried rhubarb before and I intended to change that. But these past two weeks were the final days of the school year, and they were crazy busy.
So this week when I got home from work, after a long afternoon of packing up in our hot AC-less school building, I had time to think about that sole rhubarb stalk sitting in the dark recesses of my fridge. I found that it was only a little sad looking, so I unceremoniously cut it up and sautéed it with butter and sugar. I was immediately charmed by its tart flavor! Because popsicles were on my mind and it was a balmy day, I thought to combine it with yogurt and freeze it for some quick popsicles. The next day, I had my yogurt rhubarb paleta for breakfast, and one bite in, determined that the recipe was a keeper!
This recipe is a combination of something very familiar to me, paletas, Mexican popsicles, and something entirely new to me- rhubarb! The first time I made these popsicles, I used regular plain ol’ yogurt and milk and they turned out just as delicious as the recipe I am sharing below. This time around I wanted to make them vegan, so I used coconut and almond dairy instead. The paletas turned out creamy but also light! Although the recipe calls for coconut yogurt and almond milk, you can very easily substitute those ingredients for non-vegan dairy if you so desire.
Notes: I reserved some rhubarb pieces to decorate the paletas on the top and bottom and I also processed some of the rhubarb compote into a rhubarb sauce with a thin, jam like, consistency, to create the darker layer you see in the middle of these paletas. The recipe below includes steps on how to replicate the layers if you are interested. If you do not want to replicate the layers, simply blend all of the rhubarb compote with the yogurt and milk. Also, I had a hard time distinguishing between the two rhubarb “sauces” in the recipe below. Therefore, I’ve named the darker, jam-like layer the “rhubarb sauce,” and the lighter, yogurt layer the “rhubarb-yogurt” sauce. Enjoy!
Yields: 36 oz, or 12 popsicles
Total Time: ~3 hours
Prep Time: 10 minutes
- 1 lb of rhubarb (for me about 5 thick stalks)
- ⅓ cup white sugar
- ¼ cup brown sugar, packed
- ½ cup of water
- 2 cups of yogurt
- 1 cup of milk
- 12 popsicle sticks
- 12 plastic cups, 3 oz
- Rhubarb Compote: Wash and cut rhubarb into small pieces. In a medium size pan, cook rhubarb on medium heat with ½ cup of water and sugars for 3-4 mins or until bubbling. Try the rhubarb and adjust sugar to taste.
- Rhubarb Sauce: Reserve ½ cup of rhubarb compote and process into a uniform rhubarb sauce in blender or food processor. Set smooth rhubarb sauce aside for the darker mid popsicle layer.
- Popsicles: Add remaining rhubarb compote, yogurt and milk to blender and process until smooth.Taste and add more sugar if desired.
- Assembly: Fill bottom half of cup with lighter rhubarb-yogurt sauce. Freeze the first layer for 30 minutes.
- Freeze: When rhubarb-yogurt sauce has set, remove from freezer. Add rhubarb sauce on top of first layer. Tap cups gently to spread sauce and ensure that you get a uniform layer of rhubarb sauce for a full layered across the paleta. Clean any smudges from sides of cups. Freeze for 10 minutes.
- Freeze: After ten minutes add yogurt rhubarb sauce on top of the rhubarb sauce layer. Then, freeze for one hour.
- Popsicle Sticks: After an hour, remove popsicles from freezer. Gently insert popsicle sticks into center of cup. Make sure that popsicle is frozen enough to hold the popsicle stick in place.
- Freeze: Freeze for at least three hours or until set!
I stumbled upon this cookie late on a weeknight last year. Although I love cookies and I’d been searching for a crisp and flat cookie that emulated the deliciousness of my favorite local bakery’s chocolate chip cookies, on this particular night I was simply hoping for a generic chocolate chip cookie.
I’d tried this foodnetwork recipe for thin and crispy cookies before, but the cookies hadn’t turned out that much flatter than your typical cookie. Since I was hosting a review session for my history students the next day, I wanted to provide snacks to encourage *cough* bribe *cough* students to attend.
As I set out my ingredients, I encountered a big problem: I only had one cup of brown sugar, while the recipe called for almost twice that amount. It was getting late, so I quickly decided to sub the brown sugar for white sugar and left the rest of the recipe intact. Eight minutes later, the flattest cookies I’d ever seen emerged from the oven. I was initially distraught. The cookies looked weird! They were flat, oblong, almost translucent and coated with a fine mist of butter when I picked one up from the tray.
However, once I bit into a cookie, I was immediately overjoyed. I had found the perfect cookie for me! If you’ve been around me for any amount of time, you’ll know that I LOVE crispy things but I especially love crispy cookies. These treats were my idea of the perfect cookie- subtly chewy on the inside with a crispy edge. I excitedly shared one with my husband who initially scoffed at their appearance but then remarked, “These are the best cookies I’ve ever had!” This was high praise from the man who begins dinner by giving me a critique on the the taste of our food every night. (“I like the cumin in here but you could definitely have used more salt.”)
Although I thought they were perfection in cookie form, I knew that my students would comment on the odd appearance of the cookies. I hoped that the taste would compensate for their looks, so I packed them up and went to sleep.
The next day, when I put the cookies out during our study session, my students remarked, “Ms.Cho! What’s wrong with these cookies?! Did you forget to add baking powder?” (10th grade baking logic). However, as soon as they tried them, they all remarked on how delicious the cookies were. One student even asked me if I could bake some for her birthday party!
My students still talk about the cookies at least once a week: “Ms.Cho, are you bringing cookies to the MLK potluck?” And I am in fact bringing some to our last review session of the year this week. Apart from being wildly popular with tenth graders, relatives and church friends have also received them with the same warm remarks and have asked for the recipe. After experimenting with the recipe probably a dozen times trying to recreate that randomly perfect first batch of cookies, I finally feel like the recipe is ready to share. Please look at the notes below since there are a few important steps to yielding the perfect cookie! Let me know how they turn out in the comments!
Although I’ve been advertising these cookies as crispy, they were described by a non-crispy- loving friend as “a good kind of crispy.” Meaning that there’s plenty of chewiness in the center of the cookie. If crispy is not your thing, feel free to keep the baking time closer to 7 minutes to keep the cookie chewier. I strongly recommend that you use a cookie scoop for these cookies since they can turn out oddly shaped otherwise. If possible, use chocolate wafers(flat chocolate chips) like these CHOCODROPS instead of normal chocolate chips since the regular chocolate chips tend to stay in the center while the rest of the cookie batter spreads out, and they stick up above the otherwise flat cookie- kind of weird. Also, you want to get chocolate chips that aren’t overly sweet, these cookies are pretty sweet so semi-sweet to bitter-sweet chips work well. Chilling the dough is essential. I used to skip this step when recipes called for it, but with these cookies in particular–due to the high butter content–it is very important to chill after making the dough and to keep it cool in between batches (I stick my dough in the freezer while the other cookies are baking to keep the dough nice and cool). Finally, knowing when the cookies are done can be a little tricky, so I’ve included some pictures below to show you when I pull mine out of the oven.
The BEST Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yields: ~2 dozen cookies using small cookie scoop
Total Time: 1 hour and 12 minutes
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 7-9 minutes
- 1 stick butter, room temperature
- 1 egg
- ¾ cup all purpose flour
- ¾ cup white sugar
- ⅓ cup packed brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 2 teaspoons water
- 1 cup chocolate chips (semi sweet to dark chocolate work well)
- Parchment paper (trust me)
- Wet ingredients: Cream butter and sugars for a few minutes until light and fluffy. Add egg, water, and vanilla. Mix until combined.
- Dry ingredients: Add flour, salt, and baking soda. Mix until fully incorporated. Then stir in chocolate chips.
- Chill: Cool dough in the refrigerator for a minimum of one hour.
- Pre-heat: Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees once the dough has been chilled for an hour.
- Scoop: Using a small cookie scoop or a tablespoon, scoop dough onto cookie sheet covered with parchment paper leaving plenty of room for cookies to spread. You should scoop no more than six cookies per sheet (Refer to images above).
- Chill: Keep remaining dough refrigerated in between batches in order to avoid overspreading.
- Bake: Bake the cookies for 4 minutes in the center rack of the oven, rotate the tray, and bake for another 3-4 minutes or until your cookies resemble the cookies in the photos above. Remove tray from oven.
- Cool: Take parchment paper and cookies off the tray and allow to cool for 2-3 minutes before eating.