Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cookies and Old Adages

As the old adage goes you get what you pay for. Sometimes though, when things are just a dollar you don't even get your money's worth. I  I had been perusing around for a really good Easter celebration flourless cake when I happened to stumble upon these little guys. These cookies were simple, flourless, and pretty light in calories (toting only 55 calories a cookie! I know!) So I got sidetracked on the Easter recipe hunting and decided to get my whisk and bowl out for these cookies.  I went to the store and got the remaining ingredients I needed on the list to make these immediately. It wasn't until I got home that I realized I had forgotten to get parchment paper! I was so overjoyed to see that I had happened to pick up a box of it a couple weeks ago. I recently purchased some parchment paper for a dollar at a store that will remain nameless (Although, I am sure you can guess the name).  Little did I know what would ensue...

Everything was going well until.....that darn parchment paper. These suckers stuck like nobody's business. So I apologize for the ugliness of the photos, but I can tell you that even though a few curse words got thrown around (ok a lot got thrown around) and I had to finally give up on the last cookie on the sheet they still taste pretty amazing.  They will remind you of the top of a brownie pan. If you cut off the crunchy top of a pan of brownies so you still got some gooeyness underneath, you would have these cookies. Let's just say even though they did not win best in show that did not stop anyone from scarfing them down.

I adapted the recipe I found from Smitten Kitchen by reducing the amount of walnuts from 2 3/4 cups to 2 cups. I used chopped walnuts, which probably results in a lot more walnuts since I measured them that already chopped. I decided to save myself the step of having to chop them later.  I also then added in 3/4 cup of miniature chocolate chips for some extra chocolatey-ness. I decided to additonally boost the chocolatey flavor by adding in a 1/2 teaspoon of espresso powder. The consistency of these cookies will remind you of your favorite brownie mix as well. These cookies poof up and will collapse after you take them out. Don't worry they are suppossed to do that.

So as another old adage goes do as I say (make these cookies) and not as I do (in other words, don't buy cheap parchment paper and think you can get away with it).

Flourless Chocolate-Walnut Cookies
Originally adapted from Francois Payard's Chocolate Epiphany

Yield: 20 to 24 2-inch cookies
2 cups walnuts, chopped
3/4 cups miniature chocolate chips
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Spread the walnuts  on a large-rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 7-8 minutes, until they are golden and fragrant. Let cool slightly. (If you choose to use walnut halves, you may need to keep them in the over for an extra minute. After cooling, coarsely chop them.)
Position two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and lower temperature to 320. Line two large-rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk (or combine in an electric mixer on low speed) the confectioner’ sugar with the cocoa powder, salt, and espresso powder followed by the chopped walnuts. While whisking (or once you change the speed to medium), add the egg whites and vanilla extract and beat just until the batter is moistened (do not overbeat or it will stiffen).
Spoon the batter onto the baking sheets in 12 evenly spaced mounds, and bake for 14 to 16 minutes, until the tops are glossy and lightly cracked; shift the pans from front to back and top to bottom halfway through to ensure even baking. Slide the parchment paper (with the cookies) onto 2 wire racks. Let cookies cool completely, and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

pot o' gold cupcakes

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone! Now I imagine that St. Patrick's Day is a crazy fun day everywhere right? Not just in Boston? Of course, if I have to be biased (and I will) what better place to celebrate the luck o' the irish then in Boston?! Boston bleeds green all year round and St. Patrick's Day is no exception.

To celebrate I made these pot o' gold cupcakes. You will want to make these regardless of what day it is.  It is a super moist chocolate cupcake with a hidden surprise of caramel in the middle topped off with a light and fluffy vanilla buttercream. Basically, it is to die for.

 It uses my go to chocolate cake recipe, which is really just Hershey's "perfect chocolate cake" recipe. What can I say Hershey got this cake right. Sometimes I find chocolate cake to be dry and lacking in flavor. Not so with this cupcake. It is moist and a breeze to throw together. The batter will be very, very thin. Don't fret! It is suppossed to be like that. It has a cup of boiling water added in as the last ingredient making it thin but super moist.  I actually ran out of vegetable oil (yup, I know I did.) I added what I thought was canola oil to only find out after I poured it in it was peanut oil. I panicked thinking I would have to throw it out and start over. After a quick google search, I found that peanut oil is fine for baking (not just frying) and can be substituted equally for vegetable oil. Phew! I actually somehow forgot to add in my baking powder, too! I didn't realize until it was too late. Oh well, a happy accident. I still liked the way these came out.

After baking I let them cool and hollowed out the center.  (It took great will power to not eat all the crumbs!) I then added about a tablespoon (or two, but who's counting) of really good caramel sauce into the center. You can definitely make your own if you would like, but since I made these last night at 8:30 p.m.  store-bough caramel would have to suffice. I used a caramel sauce from Fran's caramel sauce. If you are lucky enough to come across a jar of this, trust me, it is worth the extra dough.

I topped off these cupcakes with my favorite vanilla buttercream from Annie's Eats. It is a simple buttercream, but it is perfectly light and fluffy. It is not coyingly sweet. You know the frosting kind. That cavity sweet frosting that gets you right in the back of your teeth. This is whipped up for a good 4 minutes in the mixer which creates an airy light texture. It has the perfect blend of butter to confectioner sugar keeping it at the perfect balance of sweet and rich. I didn't have heavy cream, so I used fat free milk. Not as rich, but still provided that liquid I needed to thin it out.

So there you have it. Pot o' gold cupcakes. Perfect for any St. Patty's day celebration..or any day of the week!

Pot O' Gold Cupcakes

Chocolate cupcake recipe (slightly adapted from Hershey's Perfect Chocolate Cake)

* 2 cups sugar
* 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
* 3/4 cup cocoa powder
* 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder (not afraid to admit my mistake here..I forgot to put this in!)
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 2 eggs
* 2 teaspoons vanill extract
* 1/2 cup peanut oil (this is what I had on hand, feel free to use vegetable oil)
*1 cup milk, skim
* 1 cup boiling water

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 12-cup muffin pans with cupcake liners.
2. In your mixing bowl, sift together your dry ingredients.
3. Add in your eggs, vanilla, oil and milk and beat for two minutes.
4. Stir in the boiling water (batter will be very thin!).
5. Pour into your prepared muffins filling each cup about 2/3 full.
6. Bake about 16-18 minutes. (I set my timer for 15 minutes and kept a close eye on them. I also gave them a rotation at this time too. One side was cooking a little faster than the others. Every oven is a little different, so keep an eye on yours and take them out when the middles are set).

Vanilla Buttercream Recipe
slightly adapted from Annie's Eats (originally from Cook's Illustrated)

2 1/2 sticks butter, softened
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbs. milk or heavy cream

1. In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds.  Add in confectioners's sugar and salt, beat at medium-low speed for 45 seconds, until most of the sugar is incorporated. Scrape down the bowl at this point, then beat for another 15 seconds.  Scrape down the bowl again, and add in your vanilla and milk (or cream). Beat at medium speed for 15 seconds until incorprated.  Increase the speed to medium-high and beat the mixture for 4 minutes until it is light and fluffy (you may need to stop during this time and give the bowl a good scrape).

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Blood Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies

Happy National Chocolate Chip Cookie Week! I don't know about you, but I don't need a special week to celebrate the chocolate chip cookie. I didn't just want to make the "same old chocolate chip cookie" for you. I perused the grocery shelves looking for inspiration and stumbled onto a bag of these...

And thought hmm..blood orange and chocolate..citrus..chocolate chip cookie! Eureka!

You need to make these, why? Because I said they were delicious, thats why!  Okay, yes they are, but also because blood oranges are in season right now, meaning they are at their peak of juiciness! And because you can feel good that while you may be consuming a chocolate chip cookie, you are getting some Vitamin C. That blood red juice is full of a special antioxidant, anthocyanina (antho-huh?!)A cookie full of antioxidants that can help reduce wrinkles, you say?! Ok eating a plate of these may not have you toting skin like Cindy Crawford but hey it can't hurt right?

If you are unfamiliar with the blood orange (it's ok I admit I have never had one until now either), it is a variety of the orange that when you cut into has a bright crimson (hence, the name blood) colored fruit inside. And they are season right now (ok, no not locally in season for me, that would be nice).  It is definitely worth grabbing a bag of these while you can folks.

Blood oranges can range in their sweet to tartness so I decided to use a dark brown sugar in this recipe. Not only does it give the cookie a chewiness that is unmistakable, but it also helps balance out the tartness of the blood oranges. They remind me of a milano cookie. It has the crunchy butteriness with that "hmm, what is that, orange note in the background" followed by all that chocolate. It's a perfect, is it winter still with all its chocolate chip cookie comfort and the "Has spring arrived?" citrus element.

I decided to use as the base of this cookie, Sally's Baking Addiction no. 1 ranked chocolate chip cookie recipe , which uses cornstarch (I know, cornstarch!). She raved about it so much that I figured how it could  be wrong? Well, she was right! I added in the zest and juice of one medium sized blood orange. I also added in white chocolate chips, because I had this annoying 1/4 of a bag staring me down. You know how that goes, right? I actually had 3 miscallenaeous bags overall of white and dark chocolate chips that all found a happy home in this cookie recipe. In the end, it amounted to 1/2 cup of white chocolate chips and 1 cup of dark (60 % cacao) chocolate chips.

So, there you go. A blood orange chocolate chip cookie. A little different. Totally delicious. Happy Chocolate Chip Cookie Week everyone...grab your mixer and celebrate with me!

Blood Orange Chocolate Chip Cookie adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction Chocolate Chip Cookie

  • 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Juice of 1 blood orange (2 Tbs. approximately)
  • Zest of 1 blood orange ( 2 teaspoons approximately)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chunks
  • 1/2 cup of white chocolate chips
  1. Line an ungreased cookie sheet with parchment paper or silpat. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together on medium speed until fluffy and light in color. Mix in egg, vanilla, juice and zest.  Scrape down the sides as needed. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. On low speed, slowly mix into the wet ingredients. Stir in chocolate chips. Dough will be thick and sticky. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 350F.
  4. Once chilled, the dough will be slightly crumbly, but will come together if you work the dough with your hands as you are rolling individual balls. Drop 1 Tbsp balls of dough onto cookie sheet. Bake for 8-9 minutes, until barely golden brown around the edges. Do NOT cook them longer than 10 minutes. Remove and let cool for 3 minutes on the cookie sheet. If the cookies are too puffy, try gently pressing down on them with the back of a spoon. They will slightly deflate as you let them cool. Transfer to cooling rack.
  5. Cookies stay soft and fresh for up to 10 days in an airtight container.
  6. You can also freeze the dough as I did. Scoop them into 1-inch balls and freeze in a single layer. Keep in an airtight container or ziploc bag. Add an additional 1-2 minutes baking time when you bake them!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Simple Black Bean Soup

Happy (meatless) Monday! For my second week in a row, I decided to make black bean soup, from scratch. Yup, with dried beans. Yes, this recipe does take some time but it's a great money saver. Dried beans are a fraction of the cost of buying them in a can. This soup makes a quiet a few servings as well.  You can serve a family of 6 in one seating, enjoy it all week for lunch, or do as I did and freeze the soup for when you are feeling super lazy!

I adapted the recipe from Smitten Kitchen, minus the (what I can all imagine is delicious) toasted cumin seed crema on top. Creme fraiche just isn't in the budget, Deb, sorry. I decided to top mine with avocado and cilantro. The creamy avocado is just what this soup needed.

I have to be honest here, folks. I did not follow the directions of removing two cups of the mixture to puree smooth and add it back into my soup. I used my Cuisinart smart stick hand blender instead and I think I got a little carried away. I absolutely love my hand blender for soups. Just be careful and watch how much you blend it! If it gets a little thick over time, add some vegetable stock in to thin it out. Works like a charm. Hey, it's soup people, it shouldn't be fussy. After all it is Monday and the last thing we all need on a Monday is a fussy meal.

Black Bean Soup
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen who adapted it from Bon Appetit
Yields 6 main course servings
Please note:
**  If it has been one of those Mondays, and you didn't remember to soak your beans overnight, then put the beans in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover by three inches. Do not cover. Bring the water to a over medium-high heat. Continue simmering for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 1 hour. Drain.
*  If you are feeling particularly lazy on this Monday, just remember you can substitute canned black beans. Just remember: 1 cup of dried beans produces 3 cups of cooked beans. Each can of beans contains 1/2 cup of beans.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium-size yellow onion, chopped
1 medium-size green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 lb. carrots, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 16-ounce package dried black beans
4 quarts water (divided)

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Cilantro and avocado for topping (optional)
1. Soak your dried bean overnight in 2 quarts cold water. (Every website I checked said to "check over your beans and pick out any stones". Not sure what I was suppossed to find, but all my beans were beans!)
2. The next day, drain the water. Add in 2 quarts (8 cups) of fresh, cold water. Bring to a boil.
3. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots, pepper and sauté until beginning to brown, about eight minutes. Add garlic and cumin; stir one minute. Transfer mixture to your pot of beans. 
4. Cover and cook on high until beans are very tender, about 3 hours. (Bean cooking time can vary, so keep an eye. I just kept coming back and giving it a stir and a tasted now and then.)
5. Transfer two cups bean mixture to blender; puree until smooth (or use your hand blender, if you are feeling lazy like me). Return puree to remaining soup in slow cooker. Stir in lime juice, salt, and pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste.. Ladle soup into bowls. Top with avocado and cilantro if you would like. (I have also had it topped with sour cream, which is a perfect garnish as well!)
Do ahead: This soup keeps great in the fridge, and even thickens a bit.  Also freezes well!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Nutella and Sea Salt Fudge

If you live in the New England area, I am sure you are just as sick of snow as I am! We had ANOTHER snow day this Friday. Sounds great in theory, right? A day off..what could possibly be wrong with that? "Why are you complaining?!", I can hear you scream. Well, a snow day now means an extra day in June! Oh well, carpe snow diem! With the unexpected snow day, I decided to put it to good use and whip up something delicious.

Remember that homemade butter I made? Well this is what I used it for! Nutella. Sea salt. Fudge. Nothing wrong with that combination at all.When I found this recipe on Pinterest, it was a no-brainer to repin it. It was also a no brainer to get in the kitchen and whip up a batch on my day off. And boy, am I glad I did. This fudge has the perfect sweet and salty combination. And it is a breeze to make! The hardest part? Waiting to let it firm up in the fridge.

So even if you aren't buried in snow, I encourage you to make these. Immediately. Just make sure to have someone in mind to give some of it away or you will find yourself eating piece by piece as I did watching the flakes come down.

Nutella and Sea Salt Fudge
originally from Cookin' Canuck
makes approximately 50 3/4-inch pieces

  • Butter, for greasing pan
  • 1 (14 oz. ) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 oz. high-quality bittersweet (60% cacao) chocolate chips
  • 1 cup Nutella, room temperature
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 tsp (approximately) sea salt
  1. Grease the bottom and sides of an 8- by 8-inch baking pan with butter. Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overlap on the sides.
  2. In a medium glass or stainless steel bowl, stir together sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, bittersweet chocolate chips, Nutella, and butter.
  3. Form a double-boiler by setting the bowl on a medium pot of gently simmering water. The water level should be low enough that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Stir until the chocolate chips are melted and the mixture is smooth, 5 to 7 minutes.
  4. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan, spread the top smooth with a spatula, and sprinkle with sea salt. Refrigerate until the fudge is firm, at least 2 hours.
  5. Run a knife under hot water, dry it off, and run it around the edges of the pan to loosen the fudge. Using the overhanging parchment paper, lift the fudge out. Peel off the parchment paper. Cut the fudge into 3/4-inch squares. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container or wrapped well in plastic wrap and foil.
***Basic fudge recipe from Giada de Laurentiis

Friday, March 8, 2013

homemade butter in a jar

B-u-t-t-e-r. Yup, homemade butter. Is there anything better than butter? Julia Child would say no, no there is not. Butter makes everything better. And homemade butter? Oh wow. And so easy. If you have never thought of making butter, I urge you to make some.  I just kept repeating to anyone who would listen, "Butter. I made butter!" You don't technically don't even a mixer, which is good because I broke mine awhile back.  All I used was a good old fashioned mason jar and some muscle power. Seriously, that's it!
Now, don't get me wrong using heavy cream won't result in a great amount of money saved. This method shouldn't replace buying butter, but it is a great way to use up that leftover heavy cream in the fridge. The carton always makes me feel slightly guilty when I throw it out; portion unused. Not anymore!

I'm sure if my ancestors could see me now getting giddy over butter, they would chuckle. They had been doing it for years, so what's all the fuss? The sense of accomplishment of channeling Laura Ingalls Wilder in your 21st century kitchen is well worth the effort, I promise. And what did I make with all my hard earned effort? Well, you will just have to wait and see...

Homemade Butter in a Jar

Please note: If you want a step-by-step tutorial visit this site.
If you just got home from the gym, and your triceps are tired or you want to make a bigger batch, check this site out.

* Heavy Cream (6 cups will yield about a pound)
* Salt (to add in the end for flavor- 1/2 teaspoon per 1 lb. of butter)
* Jar (any jar will do, just make sure it has a tight fitting lid)

1. Fill your jar with the heavy cream (Some sites I read suggested leaving the cream out for a few hours. Some even said overnight to quicken the process. I did not and my triceps thank me.) Leave some room in the jar. Whatever you do, don't fill it past 3/4 full. Just remember the more you fill it, the more shaking you have to do.
2. Then...shake. And keep shaking. (It also helps to add a marble to the jar, to increase the agitation of the milk). Depending on your amount, the time will vary as to the amount you need to shake for.  After a few minutes, you should notice the cream is starting to thicken. You could stop here, add some sugar and call it whip cream and no one would blame you! I implore you shake on! After a few more minutes, what you should see is the liquid (that's the buttermilk) separating from the milkfat (i.e. the butter). At this point, you should be ablet to see through the jar. If you did use a marble, you should also notice that your marble got very quiet (it's a good watchdog to tell you when you are done shaking)
3. At this point, open your jar and drain the buttermilk off. (I read some other sites that suggested adding some water to the butter and to shake and drain again. I did not try this method, but I don't see the harm. I did not and my butter tasted just fine.)
4. You are done. Spread it on toast. A biscuit. Pancakes! Whatever you do, enjoy the fruits of your labors. I know I did.  

Thursday, March 7, 2013

d.i.y. homemade yellow cake mix

In an attempt to become a little "greener" and healthier, I decided to post for you this homemade yellow cake mix. I don't know about you but cake batter desserts are the new black. There are so many "cake batter" recipes out there right now calling for a box of yellow cake mix. Have you ever taken the time to look at what is in that yellow cake mix? Don't get me wrong, I grew up on boxed cake mix. My mother could roast a mean chicken, but when it came to cakes and things, Betty Crocker reigned. She tells the story that when she was married her mother in law taught her what it meant to "bake from scratch". She said she had no idea a cake didn't come out of a box.

Since my mother's "betty crocker" days I have come to never rely on a boxed cake mix. I personally like the hassle of getting all the ingredients out and knowing that "I made that". I personally believe that it is worth it. Not only does it taste better, but you know what is in it. No preservatives here folks!

The thing is as much as I am a baking purist, I am also a realist. I completely understand that sometimes you just don't have time to bake from scratch. That is where this do it yourself cake mix will save your day. You can make this mix ahead of time and store it in your freezer. So when you need a last minute dessert or you just have a craving for these you can just pull out this mix from the freezer.

I made this mix in my 6-cup food processor. It filled it almost the brim so be careful! It made about 5 cups of mix. When I made my cake batter blondies I used about 3 1/2 cups of mix to make these. I can't wait to try out all of these cake batter recipes out there. Any suggestions on what to make next with my mix?

d.i.y. yellow cake mix
I got it from Brown Eyed Baker, who got it from Mel's Kitchen Cafe, who got it from Cook's Country
Visit Mel's to see how to turn that diy cake mix into a cake!

Print this recipe!

2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup non fat dry milk powder
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter (cut into 1/2-inch cubes, cold)
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract


1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the sugar, both flours, milk powder, baking powder and salt. Process for 15 seconds. Add the pieces of butter and lightly toss with a fork so they are coated with the flour mixture. Sprinkle the vanilla over the top. Pulse until the mixture is fine and crumbly, about 10 one-second pulses. Use immediately or store in an airtight bag or container in the freezer for up to 2 months.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Brown Butter Blondies with Chocolate and Almond

I have to admit when I want a sweet treat my mind doesn't gravitate towards blondies. I's terrible. I want a fudgy brownie or a cupcake. A treat laden with chocolate. I see you nodding your head in agreement.  My mind doesn't think...mmm a blondie. I decided to re-think blondies after making these, and decided to make blondies again.  So I turned to the Bible of Cooking and Baking.  I knew they wouldn't steer me wrong. 

I did, however, have in my head that I wanted to change it a little bit. Eek, am I allowed to say that I think I improved upon the recipe? Am I allowed to say that? Well not having made the original recipe, I have no claim on that. I decided to brown the butter to up the caramelly flavor with the brown sugar. Trust me, if you do one thing. Brown. The. Butter. Don't be scared, follow this step by step tutorial on how to do so. The original recipe called for pecans, but I had almonds on hand. To ump the almond flavor, I decided to also swap out the vanilla extract and use almond extract instead. So if you don't like almond extract, what's wrong with you?! How do you not like almond extract?! I mean..keep the original vanilla extract and pecans. I finished off the delicious blondie by still adding in dark chocolate chunks and white chocolate chips.  I mean, come on, it's chocolate. You don't omit that.

All I can say is that after making these I have started thinking of all the endless possibiliteis of blondies.  Hmm...what to add next? Coconut? Peanut butter chips? Pretzel bits? All three....any suggestions?

Chocolate and Toasted Almond Blondies
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated
Please note: I actually ran out of brown sugar in the middle of making these! Eek! Luckily, one of my favorite bloggers came to the rescue and showed me how to quickly make my own brown sugar.

Print this recipe!

1 cups almonds, toasted and chopped
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (7 1/2 ounces)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted, browned and cooled
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar (10 1/2 ounces)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1/2 cups white chocolate chips

1/2 cups dark chocolate chunks

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Spread nuts on large rimmed baking sheet and bake until deep golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer nuts to cutting board to cool; chop coarsely and set aside.
3. While nuts toast, cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width. Fit foil into length of 13 by 9-inch baking pan, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhang pan edges. Cut 14-inch length foil and fit into width of baking pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet (if using extra-wide foil, fold second sheet lengthwise to 12-inch width). Spray foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.
4. In a saucepan, melt and brown your butter. As it cools, prepare your other ingredients.
5. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl; set aside.
6. Whisk browned butter and brown sugar together in medium bowl until combined. Add eggs and almond extract and mix well.
7. Using rubber spatula, fold dry ingredients into egg mixture until just combined; do not overmix.
8. Fold in chocolate and nuts and turn batter into prepared pan, smoothing top with rubber spatula.
9. Bake until top is shiny, cracked, and light golden brown, 22 to 25 minutes; do not overbake. Cool on wire rack to room temperature. Remove bars from pan by lifting foil overhang and transfer to cutting board. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Meatless Mondays: Baked Falafel Bites

I have to admit I have been very "green" this week. No, not with envy. But thinking of all the "green" St. Patrick's day goodies I want to make. As I got to thinking about this popular March hue, I thought not just about baking up green items and wearing green this month, but more about being "green".  I decided to ask my students that very question. What does it mean to be green? 

 I then got thinking about this blog as I was dreaming up this St. Patrick's  day project for my students about living green. How could I be a more green cook or baker in my kitchen? Practice what you preach, right?  When I first set out to write this blog, I set out with the intent to share recipes that are "seasonal and on budget".  Not sure I have always succeeded here- but I think I have tried. I know I can surely do better.  As I continue to eat, bake, and blog I want to do so but a littler "greener" if you will. 

You all may not know this, but I grew up on a farm. I was an active member in 4-H and learned how to sew, cook, and show animals and did regularly.  We owned at any given point cows, chickens, sheep, pigs, and horses. I grew up not realizing that I lived quite green.  We had farm fresh eggs (we just had to collect them out back). We had a vegetable garden in the summertime. Digging up the potatoes with my grandfather was always my favorite. And yes we raised and butchered our own meat.  A freezer full of the freshest and most local produce and meat you could find. We didn't waste any produce and I remember all too well helping my mother make jam and freeze local fruit for winter. It was simply cheaper; that is why we did it. It wasn't about saving the Earth or reducing our carbon footprint. It is just what made sense. I think it has taken me awhile to realize just how valuable those lessons really were. I have a natural passion I think to want to live more "farm to table". Doing so in a city can be challenging, though. Not impossible...just a little more challenging. So as I continue on this blog, I am going to try and focus (as I first set out to do) to cook and bake a little greener, a little more sustainably.

This recipe is not a bad start I don't think. I made these little baked falafel bites. It's a perfect "Meatless Monday" recipe that you can prepare ahead of time and have for lunch all week. That's what I am planning to do with these little bites.  Yes it is cheaper and used up some produce I had on hand; so that's good. It also helps with that carbon footprint. Did you know that going "meatless on Mondays" is one of 12 ways to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions" due to livestock production?   How will you be more green this week? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Step one: Chop up your fresh produce!

Step two: Gather your dry ingredients!

Step three: Put all in a food processor and give it a good chop!

Step four: Scoop into 1-inch balls and place on a baking sheet. Give them a quick spray and bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Flip over and bake another 10-15 minutes.  

Baked Falafel Bites
adapted (slightly) from The Picky Eater

Print this recipe!
Please note: You don't need to make these gluten free and simply use regular flour or whole wheat flour if that is what you have on hand. I used a combination of gluten free flour and gluten-free breadcrumbs. You don't need to use breadcrumbs at all and use flour if that is what you have on hand.
  • One 15-oz. can chickpeas, well drained
  • 1 red onion, very finely chopped
  • 1/8 cup gluten- free flour
  • 1/8 cup gluten-free breadcrumbs(you could also try using panko breadcrumbs or whole wheat breadcrumbs.
  • 3 tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 tbsp. ground cumin
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/8 tsp. paprika, or more to taste
  • black pepper, to taste
The Directions
1.Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place all ingredients for falafel (except for the baking powder, and nonstick spray) in a food processor, and give them a good chop.
2. Transfer into a bowl, add the baking powder and stir together. Using a potato masher, mash any big chunks that remain – Mixture should remain slightly chunky, not smooth.
3. Spray a baking sheet thoroughly with olive oil nonstick spray. One at a time, scoop the mixture into 1-inch balls and gently place them on the baking sheet. Spray the top of each ball with olive oil nonstick spray, for a total of about a 2-second spray.
4. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
5. Remove baking sheet from the oven, and carefully turn each ball over, gently reshaping if the bottoms have flattened.
8. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 10 – 15 minutes, until golden brown and slightly crispy. Allow to cool and set for at least 5 minutes.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Peanut butter and jelly "sandwich" scones

Yesterday was "national peanut butter lover's day" so I apologize because I meant to post this yesterday in honor! Oh's the though that counts right? And it is never a bad day to make something with peanut butter in it is it? I mean, who doesn't love peanut butter? Peanut butter is that person at the party that can pretty much get along with everyone. But what is the one thing that peanut butter is best known for getting along with? Its soul mate in life..jelly.

So I knew that I wanted to pair up peanut butter again with its long time comrad..jelly. But how? In a cupcake? In bar form? Some fancy layer cake that would take hours. Ain't nobody got time for that!  When you think of peanut butter happily married to jelly, what do you think of? Me too! A peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Crust optional. No I did not make you a sandwich.  So my mind went immediately to where it goes everytime. Scones.  And what better way than to reinvent the peanut butter and jelly sandwich but in my favorite form- a scone!

My gears were turning..but I was still left with one important do I get that jelly in there? Swirl throughout? Drizzle on top? Then it struck me. I'll sandwich that jelly in there. It truly would be a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. In the form of a scone. I'll sandwich that jelly in between two pieces of bread..err.. I mean layers of peanut butter scone dough. So that's what I did. I made you a peanut butter and jelly "sandwich" scone. 

This scone starts out very typical. I used my favorite scone recipe from Cook's Illustrated (i.e. America's Test Kitchen). I switched out the cream for the almond milk. First, I didn't have cream. Second, I figured almond milk..peanut's all in the same family, right? How could that be bad? I added in some crushed peanuts as well to bump up that peanut butter flavor. Next time, I am totally adding in peanut butter chips! If you make these and add in chips, let me know what you think. I added in my peanut butter when I added in my cream. The peanut butter ended swirling throughout the dough.

Now adding the jelly is where it got tricky. Here is what I did. I formed my dough into about a 10 x 10 circle. Then spread a layer of grape jam on one half of the circle. I folded the other half over and tried pinching the sides down. Basically, at this point it looked like a scone calzone. Hey..that rhymes. (sorry, that's the teacher in me!) I then proceeded to cut my scones into triangle wedges.  I am definitely not saying this was the smartest way. Pretty messy actually. I think I got a little carried away with the jam. Less is more here people. I attempted to seal the edges with each scone wedge, with little luck. I think if I was to make these again I would make the dough a little thinner and use a biscuit cutter to cut ou circles. I would then layer the jam in and sandwich two dough circles together (more of a ravioli approach as oppossed to a calzone technique). However you get the jam in there it was well worth it. My co-worker said, "These were one of the best scones he has tasted." Then again, he eats everything. I promise you though, peanut butter and jelly were happily joined again. So make up a batch of these and celebrate National Peanut Butter Lover's Day (even if you are a day late!)

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Scones

Print this recipe!

2 cups AP flour
3 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
5 Tbs butter, chilled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup peanuts, chopped
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup jam (use to your discretion..I did use more when I made them and ended with a big mess. So start with a 1/4 cup)
turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Combine your flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl.
3. Cut your butter into your flour mixture with a pastry cutter (or you can use a food processor).
4. Stir in your peanuts.
5. Add in your milk and peanut butter and stir to combine.
6. Turn your dough onto a floured surface and knead 5-10 times to incorporate the floury bits.
7. Pat into a large circle of dough (at this point, you could cut it into circles and spread jam on individual scone halves if you wanted to)
8. On one half of the circle, spread the jam.
9. Fold over your dough and cut into wedges. Try to seal the down the edges best you can! It will be a little messy, but that's ok!
10. Transfer your scones (carefully!) to your baking sheet. Bake them for 12-15 minutes and transfer to a cooling rack.