Friday, December 25, 2009

Peanut Butter Cookies for the Dark Side

This is my second installment of "Cookies for the Dark Side."

Peanut Butter Cookies for the Dark Side

1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 c smooth peanut butter at room temperature
1/2 c sugar
3/4 c lightly packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tbs milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 dark Reese's cups, coursely chopped

In medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl beat butter and peanut butter until fluffy. Add the sugars and continue beating until fully mixed. Add egg, milk, and vanilla extract and beat well.

Mix in half the flour mixture until combined, then fold in remaining flour and beat until well combined. Fold in Reese's. Cover batter with plastic wrap (leaving no air in between) and chill dough 24-36 hours.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Roll about a tablespoon of dough at a time into 1 to 1 1/2" balls and place onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving a couple inches of space between drops for expansion. Lightly press each cookie with either a fork (making those ubiquitous criss-cross marks), back of a spoon, or your fingers.

Bake 8-10 minutes (they will look underdone, but this is important in making a soft cookie!).

Cool cookies on cookie sheet a few minutes before transferring to another surface. Keep cookies flat at least 15 minutes so that they retain their shape. Makes 24-32 cookies, depending on size and how much raw dough is eaten ;).

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Egg-less Apple-Cranberry-Almond Muffins

I've mentioned before that I do not enjoy baking. It's too rigid, and I can't play with as many ingredients as I prefer. But, as with the Cookies for the Dark Side, sometimes I want a freshly baked item. Typically, I turn to the oldest offspring for that task, but this morning I wanted to do something for the girls.

My immediate thought was fresh muffins for breakfast....and since I had a Golden Delicious apple that had been sitting in my fruit bowl for some time now, that was the logical choice. The plan was coming together. I happily measured and mixed away (making substitutes that I knew would work in the world of baking). Then I opened the fridge to grab the one lonely egg needed for the recipe.

Frak. No eggs. No egg substitute. Not even an empty carton to taunt me.

A tumbleweed blew through my kitchen.

My mind raced. After all, I had already ground the oats, measured the dry goods, and grated the apple. I reasoned that apples have pectin, and that is some sort of stabilizer, so in theory that would help. I needed something else, however, and I didn't think cornstarch would do the trick (the batter was too dry). I looked at my little cartons of yogurt and made a snap decision. Lemon seemed the least offensive flavor, so I measured a quarter cup into the batter and mixed. Things were still too dry for my taste, so I added another quarter cup. The batter at least looked like muffin batter at this point, so I decided this was do or die time: I spooned the batter into the muffin pan and placed it into the oven....and the Almighty Baking God's hands.

For whatever reason--my intuition, the alignment of the planets, or just plain old luck--these muffins turned out delicious. They are a denser sort of muffin, yet not so heavy that you can't enjoy two or three at a time. The lemon yogurt seems to have enhanced the apple flavor very nicely. All in all, I'd say it's not a bad effort for a non-baker such as I.

Egg-less Apple-Cranberry-Almond Muffins

1 c unbleached white flour
1 c oat flour
1/4 c white sugar
1/4 c brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 c canola oil
1/2 c lemon flavored yogurt
1 c grated apple
1/4 c dried cranberries, chopped
1/4 c almonds, ground
additional slivered almonds for topping

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line the muffin pan with liners or grease. Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

Mix in the oil and yogurt until well-combined. Add the grated apple, cranberries, and ground almonds; mix well.

Fill the muffin cups 3/4 full and top with slivered almonds. Bake 20-25min until golden brown or till a tooth pick comes out clean from it. Makes 12 muffins.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Vegetarian/Vegan Chili

Sometimes a girl just needs a nice hot bowl of soup. I was craving such a thing last night, and yet despite my greatest efforts, soup did not magically appear. Instead, I took stock of what I had on hand in the kitchen and threw together this vegetarian chili (vegan, if you use peanut oil instead of butter). This is a spicy, filling soup packed with veggies. A one-cup serving is 250 calories and loaded with vitamins A and C. I think this would be perfect to ease the pain of cold and flu season: The jalapeno really clears the sinuses!

In the photo, I topped the chili with shredded pepper jack cheese and some whole wheat flat bread to round out my meal. These additions are not included in the calorie count listed above.

Vegetarian/Vegan Chili

4 tbs butter or peanut oil
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 c onion, chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 tsp each salt and fresh ground pepper
1 jalapeno, diced
2 cloved garlic, minced
1 tbs cumin
1 tbs chili powder
1 tbs fresh minced oregano
1 tbs fresh minced thyme
1 tbs minced fresh basil
1/2 tbs fresh minced sage
1 15oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 15oz can kidney beans, drained
1/2 c dark beer
1 tbs red wine vinegar
1 bay leaf

In medium pan over med-high heat, melt butter (or heat oil). Saute carrots, celery, onion, and bell pepper until onion is translucent (about 5 minutes). Add salt, pepper, jalapeno, and garlic and saute another 2 minutes. Stir in spices and herbs; add tomatoes, kidney beans, beer, vinegar, and bay leaf and mix until combined. Lower heat to med-low and simmer covered about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serves 4.

  • If using dried herbs, cut the amount to one-third to one-half.
  • Decrease or skip the jalapeno depending on your heat tolerance. One jalapeno (seeds included) makes a decently spicy chili.
  • If you don't have beer on hand (teetotaler!), don't drain the beans; the liquid they are packed in will make up the difference.

Almond Chicken with Cranberry-Balsamic Sauce

This meal was requested by my oldest daughter. She wanted something with cranberry sauce and chicken, so I obliged with this meal. Although I don't typically bread chicken, I wanted to include more almond than the sprinkling I placed across the top. Plus, a little crunch never hurt anyone!

Almond Chicken with Cranberry-Balsamic Sauce

1 c rice of choice (I used jasmine rice)
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1/2 c panko
1/3 c unblanched almonds, coarsely ground
1/2 tsp each salt and fresh cracked pepper
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
2 tbs light olive oil or peanut oil
2 chopped shallots
1/2 c dry red wine or vegetable broth
1/2 can whole cranberry sauce
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
1 tbs minced fresh rosemary
1 package (9 ounces) fresh baby spinach
2 tbs sliced almonds

Prepare rice according to package directions with 1 sprig rosemary added whole during cooking time.

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the bread crumbs, almonds, salt and pepper. Add chicken, one piece at a time, and shake to coat.

In a large nonstick skillet, cook chicken in 1 tbs oil over medium heat for 4-5 minutes on each side or until juices run clear. Remove and keep warm.

In the same pan, cook shallots in remaining oil until tender. Stir in the wine or broth, cranberry sauce, vinegar, and minced rosemary. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5-6 minutes or until thickened.

Meanwhile, steam spinach 5-8 minutes or until spinach is wilted; salt/pepper to taste. Remove rosemary from prepared rice. Serve chicken over bed of spinach and rice; top with sauce and sliced almonds. Serves 4.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hummus....Just the Basics

Today is one of those days I'm just not meant to sleep. I'm not entirely sure what is happening in the apartments around me, but there is a ridiculous amount of hammering and drilling happening. Work tonight will be a real bitch....

Since I'm not sleeping, I decided to whip up a batch of hummus. This is a very basic recipe that can have almost anything added to it. For instance, stir in chopped basil or roasted red pepper to add some color and extra flavor. I typically eat this with fresh veggies (you can see my snack in the picture!), but it's also good with pita or flatbread. I've even used it as sauce on a Mediterranean-style pizza.

Tip: To roast such a small amount of garlic, I don't bother with heating the oven. My faster method is to toss the garlic cloves (with the skin on!) in a small skillet over med heat. Cover the pan, and give the garlic about 5 minutes on each side to thoroughly roast.

I may be working on little to no sleep tonight, but at least I have my 2:00am snack all set to go!

1 can (15.5oz) chickpeas, drained/rinsed
3 tbs tahini
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
zest and juice from 1 lemon, or 2 tbs vinegar of choice
3 cloves garlic, roasted and peeled
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
additional olive oil, water
salt/pepper to taste

In food processor, puree beans, tahini, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1/4 cup of water, lemon zest, juice, garlic, cumin, and cayenne to a medium-fine texture. Add about half a teaspoon each of salt and pepper to start.

While blending on medium speed, slowly add equal parts oil and water until paste smooths to desired consistency.

Transfer to a bowl, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve. Makes about 2 cups.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Creamy Garlic Dipping Sauce

Here is one of my favorite side dishes. I created them after having a deep-fried version at the local Renaissance Festival. Instead of breaded and fried, these "fries" are baked. They are good with or without the creamy garlic dip. A Thai peanut sauce would go well with these for someone of the vegan persuasion.

The dipping sauce is a tart, cool contrast to the sweet potato. My original recipe used sour cream as a base, but this last time I subbed in plain yogurt in an effort to cut down on the calories. Honestly, I couldn't tell the difference; hence the final recipe is made with non-fat plain yogurt. This sauce is also very good on fish and chicken. I've dipped both proteins in it before baking with rave reviews.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

2 medium-sized sweet potatoes
1 tbp rice (or white) vinegar
2 tbs light olive oil
1 tsp fresh thyme, very finely minced
1 tsp fresh basil, very finely minced
2 tsp fresh parsley, very finely minced
1 tsp cumin
salt/pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Slice potatoes into strips about 1/4" around. In a large bowl whisk oil, herbs, and cumin together. Toss potato strips with oil mixture until thoroughly coated.

Arrange evenly on baking sheet, not touching. Bake 15 minutes, flip, and bake another 18-20 minutes (or under caramel brown and crisp on the outside).

Remove from the oven and salt/pepper to taste. Makes 6 servings.

Creamy Garlic Dipping Sauce

1 c low fat plain yogurt
3 tbs mayo
1 tbs horseradish
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
2 tbs light or extra virgin olive oil
2 clove garlic, very finely minced
3 tbs parsley, very finely minced
salt/pepper to taste

Whisk together all ingredients until well-combined. Refrigerate at least an hour before serving. Serve chilled. Makes 1 1/2 cups.