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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

On the First Day of Valentine's, My True Love Gave to Me

After a last minute surge in voting, we have a winner. It looks as though I'll be spending this week up to my elbows in flour, sugar, chocolate and the like, providing you with five ever-so-lovely treats to give to your sweethearts.

To me, a Valentine's day treat should have the following:
1. incorporation of the day's signature colors - pink and/or red
2. an equally representative shape (i.e. hearts, L-O-V-E, x's and o's)
3. chocolate, lots and lots of chocolate

Today I thought we'd start with something cute as a button and full-proof even for the most baking-phobic of you out there.

Don't miss out though, I have 6 tweeks for you to make this recipe wholly your own impressive, love-inspiring, dream of a dessert.


Enter my family's chocolate fudge cookie. It's ooey, gooey, dense and chewy but best of all, it has a whopping 5 ingredients you plop together in one bowl.

The Governor's Cookies (I don't know why...)
Servings: approximately 2.5-3 dozen

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons butter
1 15-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
*crushed pecans - optional

To Do

preheat oven to 325 degrees

melt chocolate chips and butter together in a double broiler or in 2-3 45 second rotations in the microwave

add sweetened condensed milk and vanilla to the melted butter and chocolate and stir

add flour and stir until combined

*if adding crushed pecans, add now

put 2 tablespoon balls on lined baking sheet with 2 inches between them

bake for 12 minutes or until crackly on top

Vogueing

party time - chocolate and butter - I tend to microwave them because it's quicker than a double broiler. Just be certain to keep an eye on it so  you don't burn the concoction. Also, use heat resistant bowls.
Oh yummy goodness. One day, I will succumb to the pressure and bathe in it.
It will look like way too much flour initially, but never fear. After about 1 minute of stirring with your favorite utensil (mine is a spoon), you'll be good to go.
See?
This will make approximately 30 cookies. I say approximately because I've never made a full batch without eating significant portions of the batter.
Dressed to Impress
By themselves, they make a delicious treat, but given this is a holiday of grand gestures, we can't stop here, can we?

Of course not.

To really get the job done right and well, find three recipe alternatives below...of the aphrodisiac variety.

*

The Italian Governor's Cookies
Servings: approximately 2.5-3 dozen

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons butter
1 15-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons espresso powder

To Do

preheat oven to 325 degrees

melt chocolate chips and butter together in a double broiler or in 2-3 45 second rotations in the microwave

add sweetened condensed milk and vanilla to the melted butter and chocolate and stir

add espresso powder and stir

add flour and stir until combined

put 2 tablespoon balls on lined baking sheet with 2 inches between them

bake for 12 minutes or until crackly on top


The Zesty Governor's Cookies
Servings: approximately 2.5-3 dozen

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons butter
1 15-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
Zest of 1 orange

To Do

preheat oven to 325 degrees

melt chocolate chips and butter together in a double broiler or in 2-3 45 second rotations in the microwave

add sweetened condensed milk and vanilla to the melted butter and chocolate and stir

add orange zest and stir

add flour and stir until combined

put 2 tablespoon balls on lined baking sheet with 2 inches between them

bake for 12 minutes or until crackly on top

*
The Spicy Governor's Cookies
Servings: approximately 2.5-3 dozen

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons butter
1 15-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon

To Do

preheat oven to 325 degrees

melt chocolate chips and butter together in a double broiler or in 2-3 45 second rotations in the microwave

add sweetened condensed milk and vanilla to the melted butter and chocolate and stir

add cinnamon and stir

add flour and stir until combined

put 2 tablespoon balls on lined baking sheet with 2 inches between them

bake for 12 minutes or until crackly on top

Haute Couture Cookie

My very first qualification for a Valentine's Day cookie calls for the requisite pink or red colors. Well, here they are in the most luscious of ways.

Frost That Cookie
Servings: approximately 3/4 cup of frosting

Ingredients

1 cup confectioner's sugar (aka icing sugar, powdered sugar)
1/3 cup softened butter
1/2 cup marshmallow fluff
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon milk (I used almond)

Pink or red non-pareils or sprinkles

To Do

With your mix master, mix the sugar and butter until combined

Add fluff, vanilla and milk and mix until thick and creamy

Frost one side of your favorite Governer's Cookie and make an insanely delicious and incredibly rich cookie sandwich

Now, go out and get yourself some pink or red non-pareils or sprinkles and roll the side of the iced cookies

Vogueing

I took it a step further and after the cookies cooled, cookie-cuttered them into hearts. If you're going to go all out on Valentine's Day, hearts need to be present
Look. It's a jar of hearts...literally.
Truly Ridiculous

Still not decadent enough for you?

Try adding 1/2 a teaspoon espresso powder to the frosting for the Italian Governor's Cookie Sandwiches,

1/2 a teaspoon cinnamon to the frosting for the Spicy Governor's Cookie Sandwiches,

or 1/2 a teaspoon orange juice to the frosting for the Zesty Governor's Cookie Sandwiches

Stay Tuned

This week, be prepared for a Valentine sweet worthy of a magazine cover, a sneaky healthy option, and gasp a treat void of any and all chocolate.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Decisions, Decisions

With mere hours left to vote in our poll, we have a tie. Ties are wretched.

So, in the hopes of inspiring more votes, I've provided interesting facts regarding the two leaders. I know you'll find them truly riveting.

Did you know that if you put an egg in water, a fresh one will float but a stale one will sink?
.

Did you know that physicians in the 1800s prescribed doses of chocolate to patients suffering from a broken heart?
.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Would You Rather and a Ramekin of Chickpeas

I'm hoping you are fully appreciating the fact I reigned in my voracious hunger for the 15 seconds it took to take a medium-par photo...
I had a very intense game of Would You Rather this weekend. Such impossible line-ups as "Jimmy Choo or Manolo Blahnik" were forced upon me. Somewhere around fifteen minutes in, "french fries or chips" came to the table. This was easy for me because I unequivocably enjoy french fries more than chips.

Then a problem happened - enter barbeque chip craving.

Then something divine happened - my teensy little brain wheels started churning.

Then, a near miracle took place - I decided to, and did, make barbeque fried chickpeas. And by that I mean I broiled those suckers til they crunched like none other. We all know I don't have a fryer.

Then I ate 3 cups of them and the world was right and filled with decency again.

You should too.

Chickpea BBQ Poppers

Ingredients

1 15 ounce rinsed and drained can of chickpeas aka garbanzo beans aka hummus makers aka yum in a can
1 tbspn vegetable oil (or any oil your heart desires)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp hot paprika

To Do

combine all ingredients, put on foil-lined baking sheet, and bake at 450 degrees for 45-50 minutes

rinse off that nasty looking/smelling goop that comes with the chickpeas and drain
In a small bowl, give those chickpeas an nice oil bath. They deserve it after spending lord knows how long with the goop
Put all your spices in the bowl and mix together. Then place on a foil lined baking sheet and plop in a 450 degree oven for 45-50 minutes.
Take them out of the oven and plop them in a little ramekin. This way, you can pretend that you might be sharing.

Problem - I now have a chickpea popper craving...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Life is Too Short to Stuff a Mushroom

We've had some seriously ick weather thus far this week down here in Texas. The type of damp weather that leaves you really fighting the urge to abandon all responsibilities and dive into bed for all of eternity.

That, or make mass quantities of soup to warm yourself up from the inside out.

Being the over achiever that I am, I did both, in reverse order.

This September, Jon and I spent a weekend in Carmel. Just in case you weren't aware, Carmel is a sneak peak at heaven on earth. Well, unbeknownst to you most likely, heaven on earth happens to house the most incredible mushroom soup ever to exist. In the past four months, I've probably mentioned this soup to no less than twenty people. No, no one discusses soup that often. Unless you have a borderline unhealthy longing for a particular variety and you happen to work it into conversations regularly.

This was not a digression. I have a point. And my point is that a perfect storm came to be Monday evening when the ick weather was at its ickiest and I came across the below picture of what once was the best soup of all time.

Clearly there was a challenge of massive food/bad weather quantities presented to me, and yes, I took that challenge and spent the better portion of 4 hours recreating the soup to the best of my ability.
just over there beyond the parmesan cheese capped green mountain of goodness you'll note an entirely empty bowl. alas, this is the only evidence that remains proving the existence of the type of mushroom soup dreams are made of - meaty, with notes of fresh herbs and a touch o' cream. salivation ensuing.
My version is seriously burn-your-tongue-because-you-can't-wait-one-more-second-to-devour-gallons-of-mushroomy-goodness good. But, me being me, I didn't have the heart to douse the thing in heavy cream, so it's more an inspirational tribute as opposed to a clone. Most likely because I'm an anti-cream soup maker given that the majority of my family is lactose-intolerant.

The good thing is, you, most likely, have not been blessed enough to try the manna from Carmel, so you'll have no idea.

While this is definitely a guilt free soup, it doesn't taste that way. It's very rich and even with the chicken broth, tasted as though it had beef in it. This is due to the meatiness of the mushrooms. It's really not a claim vegetarians make to feel included. Mushrooms add heft and the best kind.

I've never had mushroom soup in a tiny French village, but I'm absolutely certain that if I had, I would tell you this is what it tasted like.

Ingredients
Servings: This makes a lot of soup, 15 cups. All the ingredients are very half-able, so feel free to slice the recipe in half for those who don't need mass amounts of mushroom soup taking up their limited freezer space.

4 cups white onions diced
8 minced garlic cloves
4 lbs mushrooms, chopped
1 tsp salt
14 cups stock, I used chicken but for a less rich dish, vegetable is great and for a richer than the Queen of Sheba flavor, use beef stock
4 fresh basil leaves in ribbons
1 tbsp Tabasco (if you like spicy, add another tbsp)
1 tbsp Worcester
3 bay leaves
2 tsp black pepper
1.5 cups uncooked quinoa
1 cup uncooked farro

To Do

Prepare quinoa according to package instructions. Typically, you will need 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of quinoa, bring it to a boil, simmer covered for 20 minutes or until fluffy

Heat large soup pan with olive oil at medium heat

Add onions and garlic cloves

Sautee for approximately 5 minutes or until translucent

Add in the chopped mushrooms and cook on medium heat for approximately 10 minutes. You'll notice the mushrooms will shrink down considerably and an inch or so of water will fill the pan

Add in stock, salt, basil, Tabasco, Worcester, bay leaves, quinoa and black pepper and cook for 15 minutes on medium heat

Take out bay leaves

Blend with either your immersion blender for 5-7 minutes or put in batches in your standing blender until you've blended approximately 1/2 of the broth/mushroom concoction

Add in 1 cup uncooked farro and bring up heat to medium-high

A mild boil should ensue shortly thereafter - boil for 15 minutes or until farro is slightly al dente

Serve immediately or cool and store

Brief Demonstration of How to Chiffonade so You Look Uber Fancy Schmancy

Step 1: take a pile of pretty greens and stack them flatly on top of each other
Step 2: roll said pretty greens like you see the cigar-men rolling up their cubans in Mexico. Don't crush them as they're awfully sensitive and bruise easily...like Natasha Bedingfield
Step 3: say your goodbyes and draw and quarter the buggers
Step 4: admire your pretty little ribbons
Back at the Ranch...

Pretty cooked quinoa. Quinoa is a glorious South American seed (It is NOT a grain. All Jews may rejoice for Passover and all Celiac sufferers can join in) that is jam packed not only with the standard mass amounts of dietary fiber you see in brown rice and barley but also serves as its own complete protein source. What is not to love? Nothing, I tell you.
Gah-lic and onions - ne'er the two shall part
I used four lovely mushroom varieties because each is unique in its own right and brings exciting and individualistic flavors to the pot. They're like my little kindergarten students. I love them. You may use however many different varieties you like to add up to the 4 lbs.
I know, 4 lbs of mushrooms actually is just as much as it sounds like. They will take over your kitchen like weeds to a garden. But then you'll find they're like the pretty dandelion weeds that actually serve another amazing purpose and you'll love them again.
It's shocking how bloated they are. Wouldn't it be a different kind of wonderful if we could be put in a warm bath of olive oil and garlic and come out significantly less bloated in minutes?
I used 15 cups broth initially but felt it was too brothy. If you want a brothier soup as opposed to a creamier one, add in the additional cup.
See how nice our little ribbons and spices make the mushrooms look?
There's always one bay leaf that takes entirely too long to find. But alas, you absolutely must take these out at all costs prior to blending or serving. If all else fails, let me know, and I'll send my Uncle D over to take care of it. He's like the pied piper only for bay leaves. Look at this little rebel. He even has the hoop earring to match his tortured soul.
Quick Tip - if it's 9PM and you and your mother want to go to sleep already but the soup isn't cool enough to store, put it in an ice bath in your sink for 20 minutes and it will be good to go.
Do any dishes haunt your dreams?

Don't forget to vote in our poll this week. Right up there to the right.

Happy National Soup Month to you and yours.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Falafelovin'

Given the positive responses from our pancake post a couple weeks back, I thought we'd venture down the technique path again, this time with a slightly more unusual homemade item, falafel.
I've loved falafel since my freshman year at Emory and would consider myself to be somewhat of a connossieur with the little fried poppers. They are like the platypus of the food world, a total conundrum. Typically deep fried in vegetable oil, they are still universally considered to be a health food given that for every 1 gram of saturated fat, they provide a full 7 grams of that oh-so-good-for you unsaturated fat.*

While the health benefits of these chickpea and herb gems go generally undisputed, the ideal recipe is as highly debated as that of a pancake. Points of contention include but are not limited to the interior color (green or brown?), the outside and inside texture (smooth, crisp, both?), the flavor notes (mostly herb-y, mostly chickpea-y?), and so on and so forth.

As for the very largest debate point, that which whole blog posts and articles are dedicated to, the texture of the falafel depends almost entirely on your cooking method of choice. (hence today's post...get it?) Do you bake it in favor of a fluffier interior and healthier falafel or do you fry it in favor of a crisp crust and creamy center? Well, today, we'll explore the pros cons and genius of both (says captain obvious).

Let's start with my recipe of choice gathered from the deepest caverns of my imaginative noggin. Of course, given the opportunity to completely change a recipe milenia old, I jumped right to it and replaced common herbs like parsley and coriander with basil and chili powder. And, at the risk of initiating a falafel revolution, allow me to tell you that the result was so.much.better. This is clearly only applicable if you, like me, prefer basil and chili powder to parsley and coriander. I digress...

Ingredients
Servings: 25 tablespoon sized falafels with 5 per serving as typically satiating

1 15, oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 packed cup spinach
1 tbsp dried basil
1/2 tsp salt
1 carrot
1 celery
3 garlic cloves
1 tspn chili powder
2 tspn cumin
1 tbspn flax seed
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbspn lemon juice
1 tbspn olive oil

In a food processor, combine the first 10 ingredients and process until combined.

Add in last 3 ingredients and process until it begins to form a ball.

Put mixture in refrigerator for an hour or up to 24 hours.

Method #1 - aka The Deep Fry, lightened

I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume that you do not own a deep fryer either. I'm glad that's settled. Let's proceed with pan-frying, or pan-searing for those who shiver at the meer thought of frying.
start by adding 1 tablespooon olive oil to a non stick pan and heat on medium
start slow, adding only a couple tablespoon sized amounts of the batter to the heated oil
press down on the balls to flatten out slightly and cook on first side for approximately 2 minutes or until golden edges start rising up on the batter. do not cook at too high a heat or you will get blackened surfaces which is ugly on top of being nasty
flip those suckers over and allow them to cook for another 2-3 minutes
once browned golden on both sides, place on cooling rack or plate with a couple layers of paper towels to absorb unnecessary oil. Unless you like unnecessary oil, in which case, go for it.
I whipped up a tablespoon of tahini (sesame paste) with a tablespoon of non fat greek yogurt for a light dip and promptly devoured two
Results

Pan-frying the falafel is definitely your quickest bet. While only needing 4-5 minutes total cook time, you'll have these on the table twenty minutes after bringing out your food processor.

The resulting texture is magical. It has a super crispy (without being too dense) exterior crunch that makes way to a creamy like hummus center. Texture-lovers will adore the contrast.

While pan-frying is definitely a healthier method than deep-frying, in our little competition here, it is definitely the loser. The two tablespoons of oil go a long way, but at the end of the day, frying is never going to increase the health value of your cooked goods.

Method #2 - aka Half Baked

Mid-way through my second pan-fryed falafel, I happened upon a conundrum. I knew that a baked falafel, no matter how tempting the little halo that comes along with healthier eating is, could never measure up to a golden delicious fryed falafel.

What's a girl to do? Well, luckily for you and me, the glorious amino acids in my falafel gave me an even more glorious idea...(don't you love a good cliffhanger?)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and place the tablespoon sized falafel batter on a baking sheet lined with either silpat or parchment paper. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip all the falafel balls over and press down on them to flatten.
After flipping and flattening, put those suckers back in the oven for a broil on the very top shelf of your oven for 3-5 minutes. Hence the 'half-baked' bit. Maybe it's 3/4 baked but that's not clever.
allow your little army to cool, and then commence your photoshoot. Or you may just get to eating if you'd so prefer.
served up with more of our tahini-yogurt mixture, a bit of horseradish, dijon, pickles, and loads of veggies
Results

Baking your falafel does take a bit longer, however it requires a lot less of your attention. With the flipping and the potential for burning and the stress of managing heat, pan-frying can totally leave you brain-fried.

Additionally, with no added oil, the half-baked falafel come along with a little golden halo and an A+ nutritionally.

As for the texture worries I had, feel free to applaud audibly. That last minute broil really does the trick and leaves you with a firm, crisp (albeit not entirely crunchy) shell. As for the center, you'll find a fluffier version with the baked variety.

Take your pick and enjoy. I promise you'll think twice about going out and paying for them again once you've given a homemade version a try.





*http://www.livestrong.com/article/432622-do-falafels-have-good-or-bad-cholesterol/

Monday, January 23, 2012

New York, I Love You (plus a Shrek-inspired treat)

In case my not so encryptic message on Friday didn't make it entirely clear, I spent the weekend (or around 30 hours of it at least) in my home away from home, New York City. It was glorious. I've officially been gone long enough to have nearly completely forgotten all the things I found abhorrent and am left only with fond memories of snow, fashion that feeds my soul and food that feeds my belly.

A quick synopsis of my trip told through food.
Pinkberry parfait with my bestie Emily. Oh how I have missed both of you! Yes, it was 20 something degrees outside. Nothing can keep us from our fro yo.

life changer alert: grilled cheese tomato soup dumplings
seared tuna with my latest obsession, parsnip wasabi puree. helloooo umami
There was also a lot of chocolate in bar, fondue, pudding, martini, donut, and cupcake form. I hope you'll understand that in order to get in before it was devoured in full, I had to put down the camera and play a quick game of survival of the fittest.

Needless to say, I woke up this morning coming out of a food coma and in dire need of some heavy duty food cure. I settled on one of my more recent obsessions (just before I met and fell madly in love with parsnip wasabi puree), a green smoothie.

Don't cringe dear ones. I have not, I repeat not, abandoned tastebuds in favor of waist line. As a matter of fact, I've spent the past week working up the most perfect of perfect tasting green smoothies so I can confidantly present you with a good for you and your tastebuds product.

Green smoothies are great nutritionally speaking because they set your digestive tract right on track first thing in the morning, while also packing all sorts of energizing vitamins, fiber, and protein into a pretty little Shrek colored glass. I swear to you I don't need coffee til just prior to lunch.

The hard part comes along when you want to get enough spinach in there to do a thorough job but come just short of ruining a heavenly flavor.

Voila - you'll find below a vanilla, banana berry super thick smoothie with absolutely zero (I swear on everything holy and dear) spinach flavor.
so green and happy. those flecks are blueberry by the way, not spinach.

Ingredients
so simple. it takes me a total of 7 minutes to get this ready and get the two of us out the door

1/2 cup raw spinach
1 tbsp flax seed or flax meal
1/2 large banana
1/4 cup fresh blueberries
1 tbsp non fat greek yogurt
1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1/3 cup ice

**UPDATE - it is best to use a very ripe banana. This is great because you can put any browning bananas that are ick to eat in the freezer and safe for your smoothies. If the banana is under-riped and you use it, it may have a slightly funky taste.

To Do

place all ingredients except for the ice into the blender and blend thoroughly for 2-3 minutes

add ice and blend for another 2-3 minutes or until completely smooth
poor little ingredients...no idea they're getting ready to meet their maker
Alterations - Endless

No greek yogurt? Substitute in another plain yogurt flavor.

No yogurt at all? You can leave it out. Primarily, it adds a smooth thick texture and not much flavor.

No almond milk? Substitute regular milk, soy milk, coconut milk or even water.

Hate blueberries? Either leave them out or replace them with orange, pear, or another berry of your liking.

If you want to get creative, add a tablespoon of peanut butter or some cocoa powder for an added flavor pow.

Nutritional Goodness

In what amounts to be around 1.5 cups of liquid depending on how thick you prefer it, you'll get 15% of your daily calcium need, a full 8 gram serving of protein, 32% of your daily Vitamin A need, 21% (5g) of your daily fiber need, and 23% of your daily Vitamin C need all for a measley 150 calories.

To make it your breakfast in full, double in size. I just prefer to have this when I wake up, wait an hour or so and then have an apple and eggs.

As it's now been an hour or so, I'm off to get my apple and eggs.

xo,
L