October 31, 2008

Halloween-y Double Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

I love Halloween. I love browsing the Halloween paraphernalia aisles at convenience stores and looking at costumes, candy, party favors, everything. So I wanted to make something cute and festive to bring to a Halloween party I'm going to tonight. At first I was looking at these adorable ghoulish petit fours on Martha Stewart's website but after reading the preparation and comments they didn't seem to be worth all the trouble and I wasn't sure how good they would end up tasting. So I reluctantly gave up on that idea. A little later I was browsing (i.e. procrastinating) on the bread and honey blog and saw their post on chocolate sandwich cookies and I thought they would be perfect. I changed the recipe a little bit by using half dark brown sugar, half white because I wanted a chewy cookie. I also added 2oz chopped bittersweet chocolate to make the cookies darker and extra chocolatey. For the sake of convenience and because of the not well known fact that I really enjoy cake mate frosting, I decided to use cake mate orange decorating frosting for the centers. They were so easy to make- a one bowl recipe and came out really delicious- thin and soft almost like a brownie cookie. Mmm.
Double Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
Adapted from Retro Desserts via bread and honey
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 large egg
2oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (chips would work just as well)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a food processor or the bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugars. While pulsing or on low speed, add the butter, then the egg. Process or beat until the dough is thoroughly blended and massed together. Mix in chopped chocolate (if you are using a food processor you may want to take the dough out before mixing the chocolate in so it won't get too finely chopped). Roll dough into small balls with greased hands and place on parchment lined cookie sheet about 2 in. apart, then flatten slightly. Bake for 9 minutes, turning the pans once for even baking, until the cookies are set. Set the cookie sheets on a rack to cool.

Once the cookies are cooled you can fill them with whatever you like. Deb from smitten kitchen used them as ice cream sandwich cookies and the girls from bread and honey made their own frosting.

October 26, 2008

Homemade Granola

Yesterday I was thinking about buying some granola at the really cute brunch place/ shop I had just eaten at, but I feel like granola from the store is often needlessly expensive, way too sugary, not really that healthy or all three. Later that day I was reading Kath's blog and her granola recipe inspired me to try making my own.

I started reading some other granola recipes online and the basic idea seemed pretty easy: mix rolled oats with a sweetener, a fat, and whatever toppings you want and bake until golden brown (don't bake the dried fruit though if you end up adding any). I checked my pantry to see what I had and decided to add unsweetened coconut, flax seeds, almonds, and dried apricots to mine. It turned out so well that I'm excited to try out new combinations (like something incorporating maple syrup) once I've finished this batch.

Homemade Granola
1 1/4 cups rolled oats such as Quaker Old Fashioned Oats
2 tbsp. flax seeds
1/4 cup almonds, toasted and chopped
1/4 unsweetened coconut, toasted
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
1 1/2 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. lavender honey (regular would work fine too, I didn't even taste the lavender)
1 tsp. agave nectar
1 tbsp. vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place aluminum foil over a medium baking sheet and spray with cooking spray or spread a very thin layer of vegetable oil.

Mix the oats and flax seeds in a medium bowl (if your almonds are not already toasted, mine were, you can add them in at this step). Heat all brown sugar, vanilla, agave, vegetable oil and 2 tsp of the honey in a small saucepan. Once they have melted together and the sugar is dissolved pour the hot mixture over the oats and flax seeds and mix well. Spread the mixture evenly over the baking sheet and place in the over for about 10 minutes.

While the oat mixture is in the oven toast the coconut (I chose to do this because the coconut I have toasts extremely quickly so it would have burned from being in the oven as long as the granola). After 10 minutes remove the oat mixture and stir, increase the oven temperature to 325 and put the oats back until golden brown- about 5 more minutes.

While they are in the oven mix the apricots, toasted coconut, and toasted almonds in medium bowl, coat with remaining tsp. honey. When the oats have browned remove them from the oven and combine with apricot mixture. Do not mix too much if you want the granola to be more clumpy; push down into bowl and let sit to cool.

October 25, 2008

Arugula, Tomato, and Mozzarella Melt

This is a really simple and satisfying lunch. I'm just going to write out how to make it because it's so easy and relatively minimal on ingredients.

I've recently been utilizing the broil function on oven/ toaster ovens and while at first it was kind of scary (gas stove, open flames, quickly burnt macaroni and cheese...) I've come to realize its wonders. So since I wanted to broil this sandwich I decided to first toast the bread so it wouldn't get soggy when the wet tomatoes and cheese were put on. While the bread was toasting I sliced a tomato and fresh mozzarella; then after it was toasted I topped it with a bed of arugula, the sliced tomatoes and mozzarella. Next I put it back in the toaster oven on broil until the cheese was bubbly and crisp in some areas. When it came out I sprinkled it with some salt and pepper and topped it with fresh basil.

October 24, 2008

Grilled Shrimp Salad with Honey Lavender Vinaigrette

A couple days ago my boyfriend and I made grilled shrimp skewers to go along with our dinner. We bought the shrimp already prepped (de-veined and skewered) from Whole Foods. They also had some that were pre marinated with things like cajun spices, barbecue sauce, peanut sauce, etc. but we just got the plain ones and seasoned one side with salt and pepper and cooked them on my le creuset grill pan .

So, I had some leftover shrimp, which I de-skewered and decided to have in a salad for lunch. I also made a Honey Lavender Vinagrette with this wonderful Whole Foods impulse buy.

Grilled Shrimp Salad
1-2 skewers of raw shrimp
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp olive oil
1/3 package mixed greens

Oil the grill pan and heat for about 5 minutes before placing the shrimp skewers (this will help ensure the pan is hot enough when the shrimp go down so they will get nice grill marks). While you are waiting season the shrimp with salt and pepper, then place on grill. Wait about 3 minutes to flip, before you flip them make sure the shrimp have turned a dull pink and white color if they haven't wait a bit longer. Lie greens out on plate. Let shrimp cook on the other side and once they feel firm remove from heat and de-skewer. Cut off the tails if you like and place on top of salad.

Honey Lavender Vinaigrette
1 1/2 tsp palette lavender honey
1 lemon wedge
pinch of salt
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp olive oil

Pour all ingredients into small bowl or ramekin and mix well. Then pour over shrimp salad. You could also warm the dressing in the microwave for about 15 seconds.

On the side I had a piece of Wasa Crispbread spread with cranberry orange goat cheese.

October 21, 2008

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

I was trying to think of some ways to use the leftover pumpkin I have from making Pumpkin Bread earlier this week and I remembered reading about Carrot Cake Oatmeal on eatmedelicious. So, Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal seemed like a logical step. It was super easy to make, flavorful, and pretty healthy too. A perfect fall breakfast.

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal
Ingredients (for 2 servings)
1 cup Quaker oats
1 3/4 cups water (you could also use milk)
heaping 1/2 cup pumpkin
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 cup skim milk

Boil water in medium pot on the stovetop. Add the oats, wait until almost all the water has been absorbed and then add pumpkin and mix well. Add vanilla and spices, mix and remove from heat once all the liquid has been absorbed. Portion into bowls and top with brown sugar and cold milk. You can also add some chopped nuts or raisins if you want a heartier oatmeal.

Healthy Chicken Salad

The concept of mayonnaise has always grossed me out, but I find chicken salad rather pleasant, except when I think about the whole mayonnaise issue. Vegetable oil and egg yolks (sorry to ruin it for you) just sounds so unappetizing. So I tried to think of some kind of substitute that would still taste good and maybe even be healthier and I came up with plain greek yogurt mixed with salad dressing or spices. I guess that sounds sort of gross too?

Anyway, the first time I tried this I made a curried chicken salad with mangoes loosely based off this recipe from Gourmet. Instead of red onions I used scallions, didn't add the mayo or ginger, and used raisins instead of grapes. This time I decided to try making a non-curried version, which I didn't base off a particular recipe. The measurements given are estimated because I didn't measure anything when I made it so you could add more or less of anything on here. The most important thing I think is finding a balance between the yogurt and dressing and putting in just enough to coat everything so it is not dry or watery.

This tastes great on toasted sandwich bread with some romaine lettuce, in a wrap or just plain as a side.

Chicken Salad*
3/4 cup poached chicken shredded or cubed
1/8 cup dried cherries
1/8 cup toasted almonds, sliced
1- 2 tablespoons poppyseed salad dressing
1- 2 stalks for celery, chopped
1/8 cup diced bread and butter pickles
enough 2% greek yogurt to coat
salt and pepper to taste

This is pretty self explanatory but... poach chicken, chop/ slice all ingredients, combine in medium bowl, coat with dressing, coat with yogurt, add salt and pepper.

*This recipe is also really flexible so you can pretty much add whatever you like. I always like a mix of sweet and salty with different textures to make it interesting. I try to always have a fresh fruit, a dried fruit, nuts, something crunchy, and something salty.

October 18, 2008

Pumpkin Bread

Eating things with pumpkin in them is one of my favorite things about fall, and this pumpkin bread that my mom used to make is one of the reasons why. It's super moist and can even be made kind of healthy by subbing in applesauce for part of the oil. It's also versatile. When I was younger we would usually make one plain loaf and one with raisins but last time I made it I decided to experiment and made one orange chocolate pumpkin bread because at the time Lindtz's dark chocolate bar with candied orange peel and almond slivers was my new favorite chocolate. Anyway I added orange infused chocolate and some Grand Marnier to one of the loaves and loved it. So this time since I didn't have any Grand Marnier around I decided to use orange zest and regular dark chocolate and found that also worked quite well but here are some more ideas for mix ins if you want to experiment further:

raisin walnut
orange cranberry
peanut butter chips
cream cheese swirl
dried figs
maple syrup
chopped apples

Some delicious heart shaped cranberry orange goat cheese that I bought this morning and cannot stop eating. But on to the pumpkin bread...

Dry ingredients

Wet ingredients... which look pretty unappealing.

Pumpkin Bread
3 cups sugar
3 3/4c flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp salt
3 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp nutmeg
2 c. pumpkin
½ c. applesauce
¼ c. vegetable oil
2/3 c. water
4 eggs
1 ½ tsp. vanilla

2 oz dark chocolate coarsely chopped
1 tsp orange zest (takes about 1 medium sized orange)

Combine first 6 ingredients in large bowl. Make well in center of dry ingredients. Combine pumpkin, applesauce, oil, water, eggs and vanilla. Put into well, beat all ingredients until smooth.

Grease and flour two loaf pans. Pour half the batter into one loaf pan. Take remaining batter and add 1 tsp orange zest and 2 oz coarsely chopped dark chocolate. Mix to combine. Add orange chocolate batter to 2nd loaf pan.

Bake 350 degrees for 1 hour. Cool and cover or wrap in foil and freeze.

* The original version of this recipe called for 3/4 cup vegetable oil but last time I made it I subbed in applesauce for part of the oil and there were no noticeable changes, so since then I've kept the recipe that way. I also usually use slightly less than 3 cups sugar because I don't feel like it needs to be so sweet. This time I also tried using 2 1/4 cups white flour and 1 1/2 cups whole wheat and thought that worked well too.

October 14, 2008

Yummy Coconut Cake

I actually made this coconut cake two summers ago when I rediscovered how wonderful coconut is and began to wonder why more people don't appreciate it. Anyway, the cake was amazing but definitely heavy, so watch out! The recipe is originally from Bon Appétit but I made some of my own changes to it.

I remember the layers coming out of the oven so moist and even that I didn't even have to worry about cutting off the rounded tops that are usually an unwanted (at least for me) result of layer cakes. I wish I had some pictures of the process but for now this one will have to suffice.

Coconut Layer Cake
Adapted from Bon Appétit

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup canned sweetened cream of coconut (such as Coco Lépez)
4 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons coconut extract
Pinch of salt
2 cups sweetened shredded coconut (toasted)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat sugar, butter and sweetened cream of coconut in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in egg yolks, vanilla extract, and coconut extract. On low speed, beat in dry ingredients and then buttermilk, each just until blended.

Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites with pinch of salt in another large bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold beaten egg whites into batter.

Divide cake batter between prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on rack 10 minutes. Run small sharp knife around pan sides to loosen cakes. Turn cakes out onto racks and cool completely.

Toast the sweetened shredded coconut.

Place 1 cake layer on cake plate. Spread 1 cup frosting over cake layer. Top with second cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle and press toasted coconut over top and sides of cake.

** Bon Appétit suggests using a cream cheese frosting for this, but for some reason I didn't find the idea of cream cheese and coconut very appealing so I used Seven Minute Frosting. Also instead of using frosting in the middle I did a chocolate ganache, it was good but maybe not worth it to go through the extra trouble- your choice.

Can be prepared up to 1 day ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature 2 hours before serving.