Saturday, December 31, 2011

Apple Cider Snickerdoodles

Just when I thought I was finished making Christmas cookies for the year, I realized Violet and I never made any to leave out for Santa! While I know she won't remember making them for the next several years, I will, and I love creating traditions with her. 

While Skyping with my sister in Geneva, she told me I should make Apple Cider Snickerdoodles, she saw the recipe pop up in the Food Network's 12 Days of Cookies. It just so happened that I had 1/2 gallon of apple cider in the fridge to use up, these cookies were meant to be! 

I strapped Violet in the Bjorn and we got to work!

These cookies were delicious. The apple cider added such delicious, fresh flavor, which can be hard to get in a cookie. Thanks for the recommendation, Becky! Santa loved these cookies.

Apple Cider Snickerdoodles
adapted from Food Network

1 1/2 c. apple cider
2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. butter at room temperature
1/2 c. granulated sugar, plus more for rolling
1/4 c. packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. apple pie spice (or 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. ginger, 1/8 tsp. cloves, 1/8 tsp. nutmeg)

Preheat oven to 400*
Bring apple cider to a boil in a small sauce pot, reduce to medium and simmer until reduced to about 2-3 tbsp. of syrupy liquid.
In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar.
Scrape down sides, add apple cider and egg, beat until mixed well.
Add remaining ingredients except apple pie spice.
Beat on low until mixed dough comes together.
Mix 1/4 c. granulated sugar with apple pie spice in a shallow dish.
Break dough into walnut sized balls and roll in sugar, place on cookie sheet lined with parchment, and press gently.
Repeat with remaining dough.
Bake cookies for 12 minutes, cool on pan for 2-3, then on a wire rack until they're at room temperature.
Store in a cookie jar, or on a plate for Santa!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Gingerbread Loaf Cake

Last weekend, my husband and I hosted an Ugly Sweater Christmas Party. I told everyone there would be a prize for the winner. After the votes came in, my husband won! However, I didn't want him to get the prize, so I gave it to his two friends tied for second. When I told them what the prize was, a loaf of delicious gingerbread, they were less than excited. Crazy talk, right? 

JJ told them that it was really good, and they should at least try it. He cut them each a piece, and of course, they loved it! Silly boys - what's not to love, spicy ginger and cinnamon, tender cake all topped with cream cheese frosting and bits of candied ginger. This loaf cake is reminiscent of my favorite Starbucks loaf cake, but it's a bit less dense. Perfect to whip up with simple ingredients from the pantry and spice rack. I love it as a holiday breakfast treat without the icing, but it's a little more fancy and dessert worthy with it. 

Old Fashioned Gingerbread
adapted from

1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 egg
1 c. molasses
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 c. unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 c. Guinness or hot water

Cream Cheese Frosting
(cream together 2 oz. cream cheese with 2 tbsp. butter, add 2 c. powdered sugar and a splash of vanilla, whip until incorporated, thinning with milk if necessary)
Candied ginger pieces

Preheat oven to 350*
Grease a loaf pan, line with parchment.
In a stand mixer, cream sugar and butter.
Add egg, molasses and vanilla, mix until light and fluffy.
Turn mixer off, add flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt, turn mixer on slow until flour is just absorbed, add the Guinness or water and mix until it's absorbed, do not overmix!
Pour batter into loaf pan and place in the oven.
Bake for 60-70 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then remove and cool on a rack until room temperature.
Smear with frosting and dot with ginger pieces.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sell Your Soul Pumpkin Cookies

When browsing through "Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar" for Christmas cookie recipes, I flipped past this recipe without giving it much thought. Then I saw the picture that accompanied the recipe, and had second thoughts. The cookies looked chewy and dense, not cakey and round like more pumpkin cookies. After reading the description, the author claims to make a chewy pumpkin cookie, you can sell your soul, or you can reduce the moisture content in the pumpkin - genius! 

These cookies are a bit of work because you have to cook the pumpkin down, but they're so worth it. I quadrupled this batch, and put the pumpkin in the crock pot to reduce all day while baking other cookies, but the original recipe calls for cooking out the moisture in a pan. Either method works, it just depends on how much attention you have for the pumpkin. 

My sister, the one I made the Nutella Thumbprints for, already told me these are her new favorite. Add some cinnamon ice cream and make yourself an amazing fall/winter flavored ice cream sandwich!

Sell Your Soul Pumpkin Cookies
from "Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar"

1 c. canned solid pack pumpkin
1/2 c. earth balance (or butter, for the non-vegans)
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 c. oat flour (put some oatmeal in a blender)
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. baking powder
 1/2 tsp. salt
Pumpkin seeds, shelled, for garnish if desired

First, reduce the pumpkin.
Either place in a crock pot on high for several hours, stirring occasionally, or place in a saucepan over medium heat for about 45 minutes, stirring often. You can either weigh or measure, you want to reduce the pumpkin by half, ending with 1/2 c. or 4 oz. Cool to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 350*
Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a stand mixer, cream earth balance with the sugars, when soft and fluffy, add the vanilla and pumpkin, mix until incorporated.
Add all remaining ingredients and mix until just incorporated.
Chill dough for 30 minutes.
Spoon walnut sized balls and roll in your hands, then press lightly on a cookie sheet.
Press pumpkin seeds on top, if desired.
Bake for 12-14 minutes, until golden and no longer glossy in centers.
Cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. 
Yield 24 cookies

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Nutella Hazelnut Thumbprints

When I make my Christmas Cookie list each year, I keep a few traditional favorites, but then try to include some new cookies. I always keep my recipients in mind, and look for cookies I know they'd enjoy. My older sister is a Nutella fiend, so I thought rather than make my traditional jam thumbprints, I'd use Nutella. When I was contacted by Oh Nuts! to choose a few products to assist in my holiday baking, I decided on Hazelnuts because I thought I'd combine the nuts with Nutella somehow. I google searched Nutella Hazelnut Thumbprints, and this recipe popped right up! It was exactly what I was looking for, really showcasing the delicious Hazelnuts as well as the Nutella. The Hazelnuts get toasty in the baking process and encrust the cookies perfectly. Not a traditional Christmas cookie by any means, but I'm guessing Kristine will hope they stay in the rotation for years to come! 

Hazelnut Nutella Thumbprints
slightly adapted from The Curvy Carrot
(I quadrupled this recipe and got about 70 cookies!)

1/2 c. (1 stick) salted butter at room temperature
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 large egg, separated, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. unbleached, all purpose flour
1 c. Hazelnuts, chopped (I like bigger chunks, it's up to you how finely)
1/2 c. Nutella (or any other chocolate hazelnut spread)

Add butter and sugar to a stand mixer, beat until light and fluffy.
Add the egg yolk and vanilla, beat until incorporated.
Scrape down sides, add the flour and beat on low until absorbed.
Cover with saran wrap and place bowl in the refrigerator for an hour.
Beat the egg yolk until it's frothy.
Add hazelnuts to a shallow dish.
Preheat oven to 350*
Pull off walnut sized dough balls, roll in egg white, then coat in nuts.
Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
Repeat until all cookies are rolled in nuts, gently press a small divot in the center of each cookie.
Place in the oven and bake for 8 minutes, remove, press hole again, and bake for another 8 minutes, or until nuts are golden brown.
Cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.
Press again in the center, if necessary.
When cookies have cooled, add Nutella to a piping bag and pipe a mound in the center of each cookie.
Cool for an additional hour or two, until Nutella has set, before placing in a cookie jar or packaging.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Cookies 2011

As always, I spent a December weekend baking dozens of cookies, and mailing them out to friends and family. I also have a few friends who purchase them as gifts. One of my loyal customers put in a special request this year, vegan cookies! I've never baked vegan cookies before, so I spent some time researching recipes and learning how to cut the butter and eggs. The end result was 7 batches of cookies that were fantastic! 
After each batch was baked, my husband and I sat down and did a taste test, as photographed above! The vegan cookies seemed a bit more dense than their dairy-full counterparts, but I don't think you'd realize their vegan unless you were told so. 

I'll be posting a few new recipes in the next few days, and linking to my trusty old recipes below. 

Merry baking to all :) 

Vegan Cookies, beginning with bottom left and going clockwise:
-City Girl Snickerdoodles
-Chocolate Chunkers
-Sell Your Soul Pumpkin Cookies
-Roll and Cut Sugar Cookies
-Gingerbread Men
-Cherry Coconut Oatmeal (adapted from Oatmeal Raisin Cookies)
-Blackstrap Gingersnaps
all recipes are from "Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar"

Christmas Cookies, 2011 (non linked will be blogged soon!):
-Butterscotch Walnut Chunk
-Cherry Oatmeal White Chocolate Chip
-Hazelnut Nutella Thumbprints
-Sell Your Soul Pumpkin Cookies

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Spaghetti and Spaghetti Squash with Lemon Garlic Sauce and Ricotta

Just when I think I can't eat any more eggplant and zucchini, squash invade the market and save me. Then I finally get to go back into my google reader, and scroll through the millions of recipes I have starred to try that showcase squash! I have to say, spaghetti squash is probably my least favorite, but if I find a recipe where it looks amazing, I'm willing to use it rather than my beloved butternut. 

I found this recipe on Eats Well With Others, so I knew it was going to be good. Joanne never steers me wrong, and has the same appreciation for squash that I do. I made this recipe as written, but added a handful of frozen sweet peas. Something about non-traditional pasta dishes with peas, I just love'em! For the pasta component, I only had vegetable fettuccini on hand, which made this bowl sure look weird! However, don't let the weirdness steer you away (or look at Joanne's photos, which look luscious and creamy). This is a great squashy, but not will-burn-you-out-on-it's-squashness dish. 

Spaghetti and Spaghetti Squash with Lemon Garlic Sauce and Ricotta
changed a bit from Eats Well With Others

1 spaghetti squash
8 oz. pasta
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 c. olive oil
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/3 c. lemon juice
1 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. fresh chopped basil
2 tbsp. parmesan, plus extra for serving
1 c. ricotta cheese

Preheat oven to 375*
Slice squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds.
Place cut side down, fill halfway with water, roast for 45 minutes, or until fork tender. 
Cool for 10 minutes.
Boil a pot of water for spaghetti, cook until al dente. 
Heat a skillet over medium, add EVOO and garlic, saute' until tender.
Add zest, butter, juice, season with salt and pepper. 
Simmer for 2-3 minutes, add peas and basil, stir, remove from heat. 
Scrape squash into a large bowl, add pasta and toss.
Pour sauce over spaghetti mixture, toss parmesan cheese in, place in serving dishes.
Top with a generous scoop of ricotta, extra parmesan, and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Eggplant Bhartha with Saffron Quinoa

This is one of my absolute favorite Indian dishes. I've been buying eggplant at the farmer's market, but then am stumped to think of what to do besides tossing it with pasta. I've always got peas in the freezer and grains in the pantry, so this dish came together in a matter of minutes. I love cooking Indian food at home now that my spice rack is stocked with traditional spices. It's easy to adjust the heat level, you can serve it with whatever grain you'd like, and best of all, it's a fraction of the price for a lot more food.

I loosely used this recipe, mostly as a guide for the spice amounts, which I then adjusted to my tastes. I also roasted the eggplant, then tossed it in the sauce. I served this with saffron laced quinoa, the saffron just added a touch of flavor and made it a little more than just plain quinoa. Get to the market and buy up the last of this season's eggplant so you can make this dish soon!

Eggplant Bhartha with Saffron Quinoa
adapted from this recipe

1 medium eggplant, diced
2 tbsp. EVOO, divided
Salt and pepper
1 large yellow onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 15 oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground corriander
1 tsp. garam masala
1/4-1/2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1 c. frozen peas

optional garnishes: plain yogurt, cilantro
2 c. prepared quinoa tossed with a pinch of saffron threads

Preheat oven to 400*
Toss eggplant with EVOO, salt and pepper on a baking sheet.
Place in the oven and roast for 20 minutes, or until tender and beginning to brown on the edges.
In a nonstick skillet over medium, saute' onion and garlic in 1 tbsp. EVOO until onions begin to brown.
Add tomatoes, spices and peas. 
Bring to a simmer, taste and adjust seasonings.
Add eggplant, stir gently until combined, serve with quinoa. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Temp-fakin' (Tempeh Bacon)

It seems like bacon fever has calmed down a bit in the past few years. For a while, it was everywhere, on cupcakes, donuts, cookies, in chocolate and even ice cream. I can't say that I love bacon that much to eat it in ice cream, but there are several dishes I've had to forego over the years as a vegetarian. Sure, there's fake bacon out there, but it's full of chemicals and who knows what else. 

I saw tempeh bacon at Whole Foods, and though I'd give it a try. Then I saw it was double the price of regular tempeh, so I took the challenge on and tried making my own. I can't say this tastes exactly like bacon, but boy is it close! My husband even commented that it smelled like bacon as I was cooking. Since coming up with this recipe, I've used it in many dishes, like Hawaiian Pizza (shown below), wedge salads, with eggs and English Muffins, and on BLTs. It's a keeper for sure! 

Temp-fakin' (Tempeh Bacon)

1 package of plain tempeh, sliced into strips
2 tbsp. EVOO
2 tbsp. pure maple syrup
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. liquid smoke
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder (or smash a clove and leave it in the marinade)

Whisk together EVOO, syrup, soy sauce, liquid smoke, salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder.
Add tempeh, toss to coat evenly.
Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 day, tossing occasionally.
Heat a skillet over medium-high, cook tempeh until golden crisp on each side, about 3-5 minutes (be careful not to burn it!)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Curried Butternut Squash

Simplicity is key these days, as are meals that sit for five minutes or two hours. Just when I am about to take a bite of food, I hear a crying baby, and dinner is set aside for who knows how long. I try to tell Violet that if I don't eat, she won't eat, but she doesn't quite grasp that concept yet! 

Well, butternut squash have finally made their presence known at the farmer's market! I grabbed three last weekend, and then had some brainstorming to do. It had cooled down a bit here, to like, the 70's! I snapped up the opportunity to make a warm bowl of something squashy, and this is what I came up with! It's really simple, but packed with flavor. The quinoa works as a hybrid protein/starch to make this a well-rounded meal. I did throw a dollop or yogurt on right before eating, which I highly recommend! 

Curried Butternut Squash

1 tbsp. EVOO
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 4-5lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp. yellow curry powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1-2 c. vegetable stock
Quinoa, Rice or another grain for serving

Optional toppers:
1/4 c. plain yogurt
1 tbsp. minced cilantro
1/4 c. chopped cashews

Heat a soup pot or deep skillet over medium heat.
Add EVOO, onions and garlic.
Season with salt and pepper, saute' until onions are just golden, about 5 minutes.
Add butternut squash, curry powder and cinnamon, season with salt and pepper, stir well.
Add 1 c. vegetable stock, cover and turn to low heat.
Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Uncover and reduce liquid as desired, or add more if necessary. 
Taste and adjust all seasonings.
Serve over quinoa, top with yogurt, cilantro, cashews, etc. 

Note: For an added burst of sweetness, add 1/4 c. golden raisins just before simmering

Monday, October 3, 2011

Honey Spiced Madeleines

I have a problem with honey. Specifically, honey in glass jars. A month ago when I was at the farmer's market, I bought a large jar of Gallberry honey (my favorite, which I discovered when I went to a Jewish Group's Honey Tasting for Rosh Hashanah at Native Sun). When I had about 1/4 of the jar left, my sticky fingers dropped it and it smashed all over the kitchen floor. That was fun to clean up!

Luckily I remembered I had a jar of honey in the pantry that my sister brought me from Greece recently. Yes, this is the same sister who brought saffron from Morocco, chocolate from Switzerland, and even went to France just for me because I wanted Herbes de Provence. For the record, she's in Copenhagen right now earning her masters degree!

So anyway, I saw these Madeleines on a few blogs because they were chosen for a Dorie cooking group. I love Madeleines, but rarely think to make them. The pans just collect dust in my baking closet, such a shame! These madeleines were a nice change from a classic, delicious with a small cup of coffee. Just don't forget when you make madeleines, the way to get the signature hump is by letting the batter chill as long as possible! I went 5 hours before I absolutely had to bake them!

And after I made these madeleines, sure enough, I dropped my jar of Greek honey on the floor. Seriously, I about cried. Plastic honeybears it is, for me anyway...

I'm simply going to link Dorie's blog, because she has some great tips that go along with these, and I think her blog is worth reading! 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fruity Carrot Salad

Growing up in New York and Ohio, I never was around a Chick-fil-a. When I went to school in North Carolina, one opened just before my freshman year, and everyone raved about it. They were very generous with their coupons being handed out around campus, so JJ and I went one night. It was by far the best fried chicken I've ever had from a fast food restaurant, and the pickles just make the sandwich that much better, in my opinion! After the novelty wore off, we rarely went. But it always seemed that when we were craving Chick-fil-a, it was a Sunday. Does that happen to anyone else??

I hadn't been back in a couple years, but JJ had a gift card to use, so we went on Saturday afternoon. I decided to just pair a few side dishes and make a random meal. I was intrigued by the carrot salad, hoping that it was similar to my favorite carrot salad from Bloomingfoods (I miss you!), which has a bit of tang. When I took a bite of Chick-fil-a's, it was like candy! It was good for a few bites, but then far too sweet for my liking. Turns out, this is quite a popular salad combination! I looked online and found that most recipes called for carrots, raisins, pineapple, sugar and mayo. I don't like mayo, and didn't think it needed added sugar, so I tried to make it a bit healthier and not quite so sweet. The result was a very earthy salad with bits of sweetness. Exactly what I was looking for! 

Fruity Carrot Salad
inspired by Chick-fil-a

2 lbs. carrots, peeled and shredded
1/4 pineapple, in a small dice (you can also used canned, tidbits or crushed, I prefer fresh)
1 c. raisins
1 c. plain yogurt
2 tbsp. - 4 tbsp. honey, depending on taste
Pinch of salt

In a small dish, whisk together yogurt, honey and salt.
Add carrots, pineapple and raisins to a bowl, toss with yogurt mixture.
Refrigerate until well chilled, about 2 hours, serve

Monday, September 26, 2011

Spicy Lentil Vegetable Soup

When my husband and I were freshman in college, and had just started dating, we discovered that we both loved the restaurant Carrabbas. There wasn't one in Hickory yet, but we found one right outside Charlotte. Of course we wanted to spend as much time together as possible, without really saying that to each other, so driving to Charlotte "for Carrabbas" was our favorite date. I didn't have a car at school, but JJ did. One Saturday night each month, he'd pick me up at my dorm room (on the third floor, his was on the second), we'd walk down to the parking lot and he'd even open the car door for me.

We would almost always order the same exact thing, I'd get Chicken Marsala with Mashed Potatoes and Lentil and Sausage Soup, he'd get Pollo Rosa Maria with the same sides. While I can't proclaim my love for Mushrooms in Marsala anymore than I already do, the lentil soup was just as delicious. It was so spicy, full of flavor and very hearty. These days we rarely go to Carrabbas, and I wouldn't eat those dishes anymore since I went back to vegetarianism, so I'm left with trying to recreate the flavors at home. 

The basics of this soup were easy to imitate, lentils, vegetables, tomato broth and spice. What was a bit more challenging was getting the sausage flavor in a vegetarian soup. To do this, I added sage and fennel. Those two distinct flavors scream sausage! I didn't add any sausage texture, but you could chop some Field Roast Italian Sausage, crumble in some tempeh, or even add some rehydrated TVP flakes. Since my husband is always in need of a soup dipper, I pulled some artichokes, roasted red peppers and mozzarella from the fridge and made a simple Italian Quesadilla, but some plain crusty bread would be equally delicious! 

*To speed up cooking time, I simmer lentils separately while soup gets cooking, but you can also add all ingredients to a crock pot and cook.

Spicy Lentil Vegetable Soup
inspired by Carrabbas

1 c. dried lentils, rinsed and picked over
2 tbsp. EVOO
1 yellow onion, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 celery stalk, minced
Salt and pepper
1/2 c. white or red wine (I used Malbec)
1 28 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes (crushed or whole, depending on your chunk preference)
4 c. vegetable stock
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. dried rubbed sage
1 tsp. whole fennel seed, crushed with a mortar and pestle (preferred, or use ground)
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
Parmesan Cheese, for serving

Fill a stock pot with water, bring to a boil, salt heavily and add lentils.
Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer.
Heat a soup pot over medium. 
Add EVOO, onion, garlic, carrots and celery. 
Season with salt and pepper, saute' for 10 minutes, until slightly caramelized and softened.
Add wine, reduce, and tomatoes. 
Use a potato masher, if whole, to crush tomatoes to large chunks.
Drain lentils.
Add vegetable stock, lentils, red pepper flakes, sage, fennel and paprika to soup pot.
Bring to a light boil, reduce to low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, or until lentils are tender.
Taste and adjust seasonings. 
Serve with grated Parmesan cheese. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tropical Chop Salad with Cilantro Vinaigrette

Every time I log on to Facebook,and especially when I talk to my sister in Cleveland, I'm hearing about how Fall has hit Ohio. I get it, you can drink a hot Pumpkin Spice Latte while wearing a sweater. But I'm not jealous. Yet, anyway. 

As far as I'm concerned, summer can stay for another month or two as long as the produce keeps coming! See, when I was pregnant, vegetables hated me. I still loved them, and when I was stupid, I'd eat them, but inevitably I'd be sick for hours or even days.  I'm finally able to go to the Farmer's Market every Saturday and buy more than peaches and watermelon (though those were my #1 craving), I'm buying peppers, cucumbers, beets, squash, and above all, fresh, sweet, delicious tomatoes! 

This past weekend, I went nuts buying up produce. When I got home, I decided to throw a random bunch of my finds together into a salad. Once I had the peppers and tomato chopped, I decided to add some black beans I had in the fridge, and take it in a different direction. At first, Tex-Mex seemed to be the way to go, but then I decided to add some fruit for the sweet-savory combo I love, and finally I had a bunch of cilantro that needed to be used up. This salad just happened by chance, but was absolutely delicious! 

Tropical Chop Salad with Cilantro Vinaigrette

1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 heirloom tomato, seeded and diced
2 c. black beans (I used cooked, dried, but canned is fine too)
1 c. chopped pineapple
1 star fruit, sliced

2 c. cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/4 c. EVOO
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. honey 
1 tbsp. pineapple juice

Add all salad ingredients except star fruit to a bowl, line with star fruit.
Add all vinaigrette ingredients to a blender, puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Serve salad with vinaigrette on the side. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes

Back when I was 37 weeks pregnant and planning to go back to work at my old job (8-5 with a 40 minute commute), I thought it might be smart to have a freezer stash with some dinners, so I spent a weekend cooking up a storm! When I found out I was hired for the new job, I thought all of the freezer meals seemed to be a waste of time. 

How wrong was I?! Having a stocked freezer is wonderful! In the past 2 weeks, even though I hadn't been working, I still found myself exhausted at dinner time and wanting to get pizza or takeout. Then I remembered I had my freezer stash! And I'm sure that in the weeks and months to come when I'm working all day, even though it's from home, these meals will be lifesavers! 

Now when you think of summer and freezer meals, soups, stews and casseroles just don't sound good, right? I had to really do some brainstorming with summer-friendly freezer meals because honestly, summer lasts until November in Florida. For this meal, I just roasted some okra from the farmer's market to serve along side the sloppy joes, quick and easy! 

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes
inspired by The Vegan Stoner

1 c. TVP (I use Bob's Red Mill brand, this is dehydrated soy protein found near beans in health food stores)
1 c. vegetable stock
1 tbsp. EVOO
1 yellow onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 15 oz. can tomato puree
2-4 tbsp. light brown sugar (taste and adjust, as necessary)
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. soy sauce
salt and pepper
4 English muffins, split and toasted

Bring vegetable stock to a boil, add TVP, remove from heat and cover.
Heat a skillet over medium heat. 
Add EVOO, onion, garlic and bell peppers.
Saute for 10 minutes, until softened and caramelized.
Add tomato puree, brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce and TVP, which should have absorbed all the stock.
Season with salt and pepper, bring to a bubble and turn to low.
Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Taste and adjust seasonings once more, serve on English muffins or cool and freeze in a freezer safe tupperware container.

Friday, September 16, 2011

White Bean and Vegetable Salad with Rosemary Vinaigrette

I've now got weeks of life with a newborn under my belt. I'm proud to say that cooking is getting quite a bit easier. I find that recipes with multiple short steps seem to work the best right now. Each morning, I think about what I'm going to make for dinner, then decide how every nap I can do a bit more. With this recipe, I had to cook the dried beans, harvest rosemary, make the dressing, chop the veggies, and let it sit and marinade. Of course this can all be done in a marathon of 10 steps, but for now, the 2-3 minute steps spread hours apart are working perfectly. 

One reason cooking itself is getting better is Violet is now happy to sit in her bouncer and watch me cook! Of course, her attention span is about 10 minutes, but I get to practice my cooking show skills on her. A newborn is definitely the toughest critic, I have to say. One awkward minute of silence and she starts screaming! Now I just need to figure out a way to get the photography portion of cooking down... It's still a struggle to time dinner perfectly that I can photograph it and eat it. I've had several great dinners lately that went unphotographed, but I do intend to make them again, and again, and again, if necessary, until it's photographed! 

Note: You can use canned white beans, but I find them mushier than cooked, dried beans.

White Bean and Vegetable Salad with Rosemary Vinaigrette

1 c. dried navy beans, cooked, drained and chilled
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, quartered, seeded and sliced
1/4 c. diced red onion
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese

1 roasted red pepper, jarred or fresh
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, about 1 tbsp. 
2 tbsp. sweetener (honey, maple syrup, agave)
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. EVOO
Salt and pepper

Place all vinaigrette ingredients in a blender, puree until smooth.
Taste and adjust seasonings.
Add all salad ingredients to a bowl, pour on vinaigrette, mix well.
Chill for 30 minutes and serve.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pumpkin Bread

I can't help but think the internet has really changed how often people bake, how much more confident people are, the different recipes they try, and unfortunately, how often people have a baking failure. It's just so easy to pull up Google and type in "Pumpkin Bread". Your search will yield hundreds of recipes, some from published sources, some from blogs, some from user submitted sites, it's recipes overload! This is both good and bad, because you can easily come across a great looking and sounding recipe, but when you make it, it's a big fat fail. I've learned to stick with recipes from sources I know are tested, but occasionally I'll go to a bloggers recipe or a user-submitted site. 

When I was looking for a pumpkin bread recipe, I found this one from all-recipes. What shocked me was it has a 5-star rating from over 4 thousand people! I think if 4,000 people like the recipe, I will too! I did read through the comments to see what people thought, any changes they made, and decided to implement a few of my own. Isn't it funny that I make sure I'm using a "good" recipe, but then make changes anyway? I found these changes to suit my taste and not effect the bread, so hopefully if you try them you'll have positive results, too! My changes were: subbing half the oil with yogurt, using milk instead of water, subbing some brown sugar for all granulated, and increasing the spices, because I love a spicy bread. I made 4 mini loaves of bread, 2 were frozen, but will need to be defrosted very soon! 

Pumpkin Bread

8 oz. (1 c.) pumpkin puree
2 eggs
1/4 c. canola oil
1/4 c. plain, nonfat yogurt
1/3 c. milk
1 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 3/4 c. unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350*
Spray 4 mini loaf pans with nonstick spray.
Fit a stand mixer with the paddle.
Add pumpkin, eggs, oil, yogurt, milk, sugar and brown sugar to the bowl. 
Turn on low speed until completely mixed, about 2 minutes.
Add flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg.
Mix again on low until dry ingredients are just absorbed.
Divide equally into loaf pans, place in the oven.
Bake for 35 minutes, use a toothpick inserted in the center to determine if loaves are cooked.
Cool in pans for 30 minutes, then remove and cool on a wire rack for another 30 minutes.
If freezing, wrap tightly in aluminum foil and place in a freezer safe bag. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Blueberry-Buttermilk Wheat Pancakes

When I try out a basic recipe for something and have great results, I tend to use it as a baseline for creating many new recipes. I use the same basic chocolate chip cookie recipe with many variations, and now, this Buttermilk Pancake recipe. I first made the recipe back in February, and have since made it many times. When blueberries were abundant at the Farmer's Market this summer, I knew they would be destined for pancakes. Though the recipe isn't unhealthy, I did want to make a small changes to make it healthier. I did this by simply subbing half the flour for whole wheat pastry flour. I also added a tsp. of vanilla extract, just for a bit more flavor with the blueberries. These pancakes were still light and fluffy, full of sweet berries, and perfect for Saturday morning breakfast!

Blueberry-Buttermilk Wheat Pancakes

1 c. unbleached all purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs, slight beaten
2 tbsp. canola oil
2 c. lowfat buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 pint blueberries

Heat griddle over medium (about 350*)
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together salt, baking soda and flours.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together oil, eggs, buttermilk and vanilla.
Add dry ingredients to wet, stir until moistened.
Add blueberries to batter and stir gently, careful to not break berries.
Spray griddle with nonstick spray, ladle batter onto griddle.
Cook for 3-4 minutes, until bubbles form all over pancakes, flip and cook for another 2 minutes.
Repeat with remaining batter.
Serve with pure maple syrup and butter.

Note: These keep well in the freezer in a food storage bag. To reheat, just place in a foil packet and cook at 350* for 10 minutes.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Mushroom Marsala Quinoa Bake

Back when I was an omnivore, I was still quite picky about what meat I would eat. However, one of my favorites was Chicken Marsala. I love the savory and sweet wine paired with mushrooms and salty pancetta. I've made quite a few mushroom-marsala dishes, hoping to capture the best of Chicken Marsala, but it never was quite the same. I struggled to find a protein for the dish, tofu was too soft, and I'm not a fan of faux meat products. I did some brainstorming and decided to try quinoa. I love how quinoa is so high in protein, but also resembles a starch. The end result was perfect, a bowl full of savory, sweet, salty and delicious flavors!

Mushroom Marsala Quinoa Bake

2 c. quinoa
4 c. vegetable stock
1 tbsp. EVOO
16 oz. mushrooms, any variety or mixed
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1/2 c. dry marsala wine
salt and pepper
1/2 c. shredded Gruyere cheese

Place quinoa in a fine mesh colander, rinse under cold water for a minute, until water runs clear.
In a stock pot, bring vegetable stock to a simmer, add quinoa, turn heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. 
Wipe mushrooms to remove dirt, quarter and place in a food processor fitted with the blade.
Pulse until mushrooms are minced (might have to do this in batches), or mince by hand.
Heat a skillet over medium, add EVOO, mushrooms, onions and garlic.
Saute' for 10 minutes, until mushrooms have released moisture and vegetables have begun to caramelize. 
Add thyme, marsala, salt and pepper. 
Cook until marsala has reduced by half, remove pan from heat. 
Uncover quinoa, turn heat off. Fluff with a fork.
Spoon mushroom mixture into quinoa, add half the Gruyere, mix well.
Pour quinoa into a greased casserole dish, top with remaining cheese.
Place under a broiler on low for 3-5 minutes, until cheese is melted and golden.
Remove from the broiler and serve. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Over the past few weeks, I've been getting back in the kitchen more and more. While the baby naps, I find myself with time to do some cooking and baking. It's a little tricky to get the timing perfect, I've had a few freak out moments where the timer is going off and she's eating, but my husband doesn't mind burnt cookies! Sadly, his season is in full swing now, so he's home less and less. On his first weekend of travelling, my sister and nephew came down to keep us company. To thank her for making the epic trip from Cleveland to Jacksonville, 4 plane rides with a 10 month old, I baked some cookies and packed them up for her. These cookies are just another version of my favorite go-to recipe. They're soft, chewy, a little cakey, and delicious! I was a little timid to eat chocolate since it was a major aversion during pregnancy, but these cookies confirmed that chocolate is back! 

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 c. salted butter (2 sticks) at room temperature
1 c. light brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 c. unbleached all purpose flour
1 c. old fashioned oats
1 c. semi sweet chocolate chips

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter.
Add brown sugar and granulated sugar, beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Add vanilla extract, mix, add eggs one at a time, mix until pale yellow and fluffy.
Scrape down sides of mixer, add baking soda, powder, flour and oatmeal.
Turn mixer on low until just mixed, add chocolate chips and mix until distributed.
Place dough in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or as long as 24 hours.
Preheat oven to 350*
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Break off heaping tbsp. pieces of dough, roll into a ball and place on cookie sheet 3" apart.
Bake for 15-16 minutes, until just brown.
Cool on the cookie sheet for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.
Repeat with remaining dough, makes about 30 cookies.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Tropical Chunk Cookies

A few months ago, I bought a package of mixed, dried tropical fruit on a whim. Then it was a random Sunday night, and I was hosting book club Monday. I decided a baked good was in order to pair with the quiches I made, and the bag of dried fruit was calling my name. I began pulling ingredients out and found half-used bags of dried coconut and macadamia nuts, these tropical cookies pretty much made themselves. My book club friends really liked them, and my husband absolutely loved them. 

When it comes to the actual recipe, I winged it a bit today compared to last time. I've baked enough batches of cookies in my day to know a proper ratio, and I like to try to use up what I have. I know the consistency of dough I want to get the cookie I desire (chewy and thick, no crisp/pancake cookies here!). 

Tropical Chunk Cookies

1 1/2 sticks salted butter, softened (12 tbsp. or 3/4 c.)
1 c. granulated sugar (or 1 c. packed brown sugar, omit molasses)
2 tbsp. molasses 
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. almond extract (vanilla is ok too!)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
2 c. unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 c. packed shredded, sweetened coconut
1 1/2 c. dried mixed tropical fruit (papaya, pineapple, mango)
1 c. chopped macadamia nuts

In the bowl of a mixer, cream together butter, sugar and molasses.
Beat until fluffy and pale yellow.
With the mixer on low speed, add eggs one at a time.
Add almond extract.
Turn mixer off and scrape down the sides. 
Sift together baking soda, powder, wheat and all purpose flours, add to mixing bowl.
Turn mixer on low until flours are moistened into butter mixture, turn off.
Add coconut, fruit and nuts, turn mixer on and mix until distributed evenly and all flour is absorbed. 
Use a spatula to scrape down blade and make sure dough is mixed well.
Place in the refrigerator and chill dough while oven preheats.
Preheat oven to 350*
Line a large baking sheet with parchment.
Spoon heaping tablespoons full onto baking sheet, press cookies down a bit, spacing 3-4" apart. 
Place in the oven and bake for 14 minutes, until golden brown and puffed.
Remove from the oven, rest on the cookie sheet for a minute, then transfer to a cooling rack.
Repeat with remaining dough, recipe yields about 2 dozen cookies, depending on size. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Crunchy Baked Zucchini Planks with Garlic-Lemon Aioli

About a year and a half ago, JJ and I were given a gift card to Maggiano's for our 2nd anniversary. We had never been there before, so we had the server sort of choose our menu for the night. We started with the appetizer combination platter, and the shining star of that dish was the fried zucchini with aioli. I can't say I remember much else about that meal, the zucchini was the star of the show! It was crispy and flavorful, and the aoili was the perfect pairing. I'm usually not a fan of creamy based sauces or ranch dressings, but this was phenomenal. We haven't been back to Maggiano's, but this zucchini has been on my mind since then, and I had been meaning to recreate it at home. 

On our weekly Farmer's Market excursion this week, like every week, I haphazardly pointed at produce and baskets and filled up my cart. I find that it's easier to go there first, see what looks best, then take it home and plan a weekly menu around it. I bought 2 baskets of zucchini, so I began to brainstorm some meal ideas. This simple dish was easily put together with only pantry staples, it's flavorful, cheap and easy to make. While I'm sure it would taste great fried, I actually preferred the baked version. For the aioli, I used Greek Yogurt rather than mayo, and I think it tasted better than the mayo version. The tang of the yogurt replaced the need for mayo + vinegar in the aioli, and it gave a punch of additional protein to the dish.

Crunchy Baked Zucchini Planks with Garlic-Lemon Aioli
inspired by Maggiano's 

3 medium zucchini
1/2 c. unbleached AP Flour
1 egg + 2 tbsp. water
1 c. panko breadcrumbs
1/2 c. Italian style breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper

2 garlic cloves, grated
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/2 c. plain 2% or fat-free Greek yogurt
Salt and white pepper
Minced parsley

Wash zucchini, slice off ends. Slice into 1/4" thin strips.
Line a colander with tea towels, lay zucchini slices in colander, salt, and add another towel on top, repeating the process until all zucchini are salted and covered. 
Place a bowl inside to press zucchini and set aside for 30 minutes.
(This step isn't necessary, but will keep zucchini extra crisp and less mushy when cooked)

In a small bowl, whisk together garlic, lemon juice and zest, yogurt, salt and pepper. 
Taste, add more salt and pepper if necessary. 
Add minced parsley, about 1 tsp. 
Cover and place in the refrigerator. 

Lay 3 shallow bowls out on the counter and a baking sheet fitted with a wire rack. 
In the bowl closest to the baking sheet, toss together breadcrumbs.
In the center bowl, crack the egg and whisk in water and 2 tbsp. flour, salt and pepper.
In the farthest bowl, pour in the remaining flour. 
Preheat the oven to 425*
Wipe down the excess moisture from zucchini slices, dredge in flour, then dip in egg, and press into the breadcrumbs. 
Place on the baking sheet and repeat until all zucchini is coated.
Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. 

Place planks on a platter and serve with aioli in a dish on the side. 

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Almond Roca Cookies

I recently participated in Cara and Jen's Bloggers Bake for Hope Bakesale, and my contribution was a batch of Almond Roca Cookies. I first made these cookies several Christmases ago. I wanted something with toffee and nuts, and these popped up in my search. They quickly have become one of our favorite cookies, so caramely and crunchy, absolutely delicious.
Thank you to the winning bidder, these will be on their way to you soon! 

Almond Roca Cookies

2 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. dark brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 c. butter, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
1 package Toffee bits (1 1/4 c.)
1 c. coarsely ground almonds
1/2 c. melted milk chocolate

Preheat oven to 300*
Cream butter with brown sugar and white sugar, beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Add eggs, one at a time. 
Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add baking soda, salt, flour and toffee bits.
Turn mixer on low until ingredients are just incorporated and flour is absorbed.
Scrape down the sides and clean off the beater, place dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Roll dough into walnut sized balls, roll in nuts then place on a parchment lined baking sheet and press down lightly. 
Continue with all cookies (about 24-30).
Bake for 20-22 minutes, remove from the oven, cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.
Melt chocolate, drizzle over cookies and cool until chocolate sets.