March 30, 2011

Espresso Cardamom Chocolate Chip Cookies

Last Thursday was one of my nearest and dearest friends' birthdays; you know what that means, right? I had to bake something; it's a given.

When I think of my friend Francesca, I think of cardamom coffee.  She was the first person to introduce me to the idea of making flavored coffee at home.  It's such a fantastically simple concept, yet it had never crossed my mind.  All you do is put a bit of whatever whole spice you'd like (in her case, it's cracked cardamom pods) into your french press with some coffee grounds and brew as usual.  D'oh!  But this post isn't about coffee, it's about cookies.  Espresso Cardamom Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Since cardamom coffee makes me think of Francesca and cookies are easy to transport (I'm all about practicality here), I decided to make a cardamom coffee flavored cookie.  I had a hunch that dark chocolate would be a perfect complement to the flavors of coffee and cardamom, so I decided to add chocolate covered espresso beans to the cookies and kill two birds with one stone (as I said, I'm all about practicality).

I used the classic Tate's chocolate chip cookie recipe as a base because I've never heard of anyone who doesn't like Tate's cookies [Note: if you exist, I'd advise you not to show yourself as you will surely be shunned-- mostly in New York and the Hamptons though.]  I'd never tried this recipe before but it worked wonderfully.  The cookies came out with Tates' trademark crispness and rich tan color.  As for the taste, my friend absolutely loved them but, in the interest of full disclosure, they were a little heavy on the cardamom for my taste.  I have a feeling I'll be making a plain chocolate chip version in the near future... 

Espresso Cardamom Chocolate Chip Cookies
If I were to make these a second time I think I'd add in a teaspoon or so of instant espresso or coffee powder.
Adapted from Tate's Bake Shop via GOOP (thanks Gwyneth!)

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom (I used a mortar and pestle to grind Decorticated Caradamom, if using pre-ground, you may want to add slightly more)
1/2 cup (1 stick) lightly salted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 teaspoon water
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg, beaten
2/3 cup dark chocolate covered espresso beans, chopped
2 tablespoons raw cacao nibs (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350ยบ.

Whisk the flour, soda, salt and cardamom together in a bowl. In another large bowl, mix the butter with a wooden spoon to lighten it a bit and then mix in the sugars. Add the water, vanilla and eggs to the butter mixture. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined and then fold in the chocolate covered espresso beans and cacao nibs, if using.

Using two soup spoons, drop the cookies 2" apart onto two nonstick or greased cookie sheets. Bake for eight minutes if you want them soft in the middle, twelve if you want the trademark crispiness.  Rotate the sheets after four minutes (I didn't find this necessary). Remove the cookies to a wire rack to cool, and repeat the process with the rest of the batter.

Makes about 24 cookies

March 24, 2011

Organic Nectars Raw Agave Gelato

I usually don't spend too much time talking about products on this blog because, as you can probably tell from my fig newtons, marshmallows, and English muffins, I'm a big fan of home-making it (new term, go with it).  Even though I'm always tempted by new and delicious looking products at the grocery store, I try my best to stay away from too much packaged food.  Making things at home is usually cheaper, healthier, and more enjoyable, making it a win-win-win.  Still, there are always certain specialty products that I have to make an exception for and this gelato is one of them.

I saw it for the first time in the Bowery Whole Foods (where I hang out in my spare time...) and it immediately caught my attention.  I contemplated buying it, but the fact that it was $8.99 and that I don't live anywhere near the Bowery Whole Foods brought out my better judgment.  Fast forward to a few days later at my local Whole Foods and a pleasantly surprising incident in the freezer aisle: Organic Nectars Gelato, Cherry Chocolate, on sale-- I'm pretty sure you can guess what happened next.

I was afraid of having yet another lackluster dairy-free "ice-cream" experience (i.e. soy dream and rice dream-- anyone tried almond dream yet??) but as soon as I opened the carton-- approximately 5 seconds after I got back from the store-- and saw the fudge-y swirls and large chunks of real cherries, I knew this was going to be a hit.  People, this gelato is really good.  Taste-wise, it's creamy, smooth, and flavorful; health-wise, it's made from cashew milk, sweetened with agave nectar and all organic, raw, vegan, gluten and soy-free.  I think it's my favorite dairy-free frozen treat I've tried to date.  So far, I've only tried the Cherry Chocolate flavor, but it also comes in Chocolate, Chocolate Hazelnut, Mint Chocolate, Pistachio, and Vanilla

I'm not being compensated by this company in any way but I wanted to do this post because if any of you had seen this in the supermarket and weren't sure if it was worth the price tag, I wanted to let you know that, I think, it's a really tasty product.  I wish it were cheaper, but I think I can rationalize the occasional carton.  I'm looking to track down Mint Chocolate and Pistachio next.  Let me know if any of you try, or have tried, some of the other flavors.  I'd love to hear what you think!

March 17, 2011

Vegan Mushroom and Farro Risotto

A lot of the time, when I start out with a vegan recipe, I'll end up adding a little cheese, or a bit of butter, or maybe even an egg because let's face it, I'm no vegan.  This time, however, I didn't feel the need for any of the above; it's just right as is.

I rarely make risotto, even though I enjoy it, because it can be time consuming, fairly rich, and not that nutritious.  This risotto is different though.  Made with nutty whole grain farro (I was only able to find the semi-pearled variety) instead of arborio rice, olive oil instead of butter, almond milk instead of cream, and no cheese to speak of, this risotto is actually pretty healthy.  Plus it's full of mushrooms, which I guess it's time for me to admit I like...

So if you're in the mood for something creamy and comforting (that can still pass as being good for you) on one of these last few chilly nights, give this risotto a try.  I love it just the way it is, but I won't be mad if you feel the need to stir in some mascrapone at the end.  I've still got a soft spot for the traditional version too.

Vegan Mushroom and Farro Risotto
Adapted liberally from OhSheGlows
Serves 4, recipe easily halved

1 sweet onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
2 garlic cloves, minced
16- 24 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 cup semi-pearled farro
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon white miso, mixed with 1 tablespoon water
~ 1 1/2 cups water or vegetable broth
1/4- 1/2 teaspoon salt to taste

Rinse and drain the farro in a strainer.  Heat the olive oil in a medium sized pot and add in the onion, basil, oregano, and a dash of salt.  Saute until onion is just translucent.  Add the garlic and mushrooms and continue to saute until mushrooms have cooked down. 

Add the farro and stir until coated.  Add the almond milk, nutritional yeast, miso, and salt. Stir together and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat.  Lower the heat and continue boiling, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is absorbed.  Then, add 1/2 cup water or vegetable broth, and bring the mixture to a boil again, stirring occasionally.  Repeat process, adding liquid 1/2 cup at a time, until farro is tender and most or all of the water/ vegetable broth has been used (about 45 minutes).

The mixture should be creamy, but not soupy, and the farro will be chewy and not mushy. Serve immediately.

March 8, 2011

"Raw" Rosemary Crackers (Quackers)

It's obvious, I love food. Food that's baked, or roasted, or sauteed, or boiled-- food that's COOKED. But I'd be lying if I said there wasn't something seductive about raw food; it's kind of sexy, is it not? Maybe it's because it's pure and unadulterated and a little bit mysterious; it could also be because a lot of people who eat raw food are pretty sexy.  I'm not sure what the exact allure is but I do know that when it's done right, raw food tastes pretty darn good.

My friend and I tried Pure Food and Wine for the first time this weekend and while I did like it, I might actually like their takeaway cafe, One Lucky Duck, better.  Here's why: amazing salads, smoothies, and juices in a casual atmosphere.  Eating a giant salad and drinking a fresh juice (or smoothie) just makes you feel good.  Eating a raw mallowmar probably makes you feel good too, but I still have my $6.  So what do you do when you're beginning to crave $15 salads with expensive raw toppings?  Well, you do your best to replicate them for a fraction of the price.

Laziness caused me to take this photo on my phone, but it's not much worse than it would be on my camera...
The salad I've enjoyed (only twice) from One Lucky Duck is called the S&M salad; sexy, right?  This salad is made up of fresh greens, avocado, hemp seed, dulse, rosemary crackers, and a light dressing.  I already have the majority of these ingredients (minus the dulse, but who really needs that anyway?) in my pantry/ refrigerator, so lets be honest here, what really sets this salad apart is the rosemary crackers.  Those crackers are just SO GOOD.  And they're totally raw.

I did some sleuthing (i.e. read the label on a small bag of the crackers that costs $13.50) to find out exactly what these little pellets of deliciousness were made of, so here goes: almonds, flaxseed, nutritional yeast, rosemary and sea salt.  That's it!  I could totally make these at home.  So what if I don't have a dehydrator... I'm not trying to be 100% RAW I'm just trying to make some yummy crackers, which is exactly what I did.

Rosemary Crackers
Despite the fact that I didn't dehydrate these crackers, the result tasted preeeetttty close to the original.  Mine weren't as thick, so next time I won't spread them out as thinly, but otherwise, they were a great replica.  I may play around with the ratios a bit (more nutritional yeast, perhaps?), so definitely let me know if you do!
Adapted from The Happy Raw Kitchen

1 cup raw almonds, soaked for at least 8 hours, rinsed and drained [I peeled mine after soaking but I think it was unnecessary; next time I probably won't]
heaping 1/4 cup ground flaxseed meal
3/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
~1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat the oven to 250 F.  Whisk the ground flaxseed and warm water and let sit until an egg-like consistency develops (about 3 minutes).

In food processor fitted with an "S" blade, process almonds until coarsely ground.  Add nutritional yeast, rosemary, and salt, and process until combined. Pour in the flax"egg" mixture and process until combined.  Adjust seasonings as desired.

Pour the mixture onto a lined baking sheet and spread out into a thin layer.  Bake for about 4 hours, or until crackers are firm, flipping about halfway through.  The drying time depends on the thickness of crackers. [It was getting late and I was getting impatient so I baked mine at 250 F for about 2 1/2 hours and then finished them at 300 F for about 30 mins.  The small amount of time at 300 F was fine and they didn't take on a toasted flavor at all]

Let cool and use your hands to break the sheet(s) into free-form crackers.  Store in glass jars for several weeks.  Enjoy on salads and with dips and spreads!