Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Cookie Jar

If you’re ever in Staten Island and driving on Forest Avenue, make sure you stop by The Cookie Jar. For $10, you can get a pound of cookies, which roughly amounts to 16-20 cookies. There were so many to choose from, but the staff was very patient and understanding while I carefully pointed at that one and this one and oh, that one over there!

In case you're wondering, Christina and I initially intended to share the box of cookies with others, but yes, we bit into every single cookie.

There were a couple of favorites, like the honey comb bar- a very distinct honey flavor, chewy and sticky like caramel, a burst of tartness from the dried berries, and a crumbly bottom cookie layer. And the raspberry pecan bar- toasted pecans combined with tart and sweet raspberries. Then there was the raspberry linzer and the dark chocolate cherry cookie and the chocolate rugelach…Almost everything was delicious. The only disappointments, really, came from the whoopie pies- filling was flavorless, cake was nothing special.

And if the cookies aren’t enough to please you, they sell handmade ceramic cookie jars, one for every kind of personality (i.e. Snoopy, Mr. Peanut, Santa Claus, snowmen, ducks, Pillsbury Dough Boy, teddy bears, Aladdin, just to name a few). They’re not exactly cheap ($50-85 bucks).

On top of all that, there’s an open view of the kitchen on the second floor balcony. While you’re choosing your cookies, browsing the cookie jars, or devouring your cookies, you can also watch the bakers preparing the day’s delights. So, if you’re looking to bring a batch of cookies to that upcoming holiday party or just wanting to have an afternoon cup of coffee/tea/hot chocolate with some friends, head over to The Cookie Jar!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Beef Chili

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely dread winter. Having to come out from the warmth of your bed into the cold air in the morning. Shoveling snow. Cold toilet seats. And just…being cold. Your shoulders start to hunch over. Your muscles become all tense. It hurts and it’s tiring.

Your only refuge becomes your bed. Under the blankets. But the obvious problem is that you’re human-not a bear-and last time I checked, you need to live your life. So, the next best thing to your bed is probably filling your body with something hot and yummy, like this chili!

I love this recipe because it’s a one pot dish-easy cooking, easy clean up. And most of the cooking time takes place without you actually having to be there. Just come back for an occasional stir. Serve with a toasted slice of sandwich bread or crackers. It’s also great on its own, of course. You won’t even remember you had a bed :)

Beef Chili with Beans

Adapted from Grant Achatz’ recipe from

Notes: The original recipe used pure ancho chile powder and pure pasila chile powder, but I just bought this hot Mexican chile powder. If you have cayenne pepper, feel free to put in a teaspoon or two. I might have put too much broth or forgot to not add the juice from the beef, so I tried to reduce the liquid by just letting it simmer past 1 ½ hours. But, next time, to avoid drying it out too much, I’ll just add some tomato sauce to give it that thicker consistency. And, though I didn’t include this in my chili as the original recipe does, I would highly recommend adding some seeded and finely chopped chipotle chiles to give it that extra heat and bolder taste.


. 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

. about 3 pounds ground beef chuck

. 1 large onions, finely chopped

. 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped

. 5 garlic cloves, minced

. 2 tablespoons ground cumin

. 2 tablespoons chili powder

. 1 tablespoon brown sugar

. 2 teaspoons chopped oregano

. 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

. 3 cups low-sodium beef broth

. One 15-ounce can pinto beans

. One 14-ounce can whole tomatoes with the juices

. 1/4 cup tomato paste

. Salt

. Grated cheese for garnish

. Cilantro for garnish


1. In a large, heavy pot or a medium enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil. Add half of the ground beef and cook over high heat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes; transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Brown the remaining ground beef. Return the first batch of browned beef to the pot.

2. Add the onions and pepper to the pot and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, chile powder, cumin, sugar, oregano, black pepper and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Stir in the beef broth, pinto beans, tomatoes, and tomato paste. Simmer the chili over low heat for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and garnish with cheese and/or cilantro.

Servings: 8