Sunday, June 6, 2010

Dark Chocolate & Cherries Oatmeal Cookies

This is a variation on my All-Natural Oatmeal Cookie recipe that I posted months ago. The base recipe is very similar, but this cookie ends up being lighter, less spiced, and a much more decadent version thanks to the addition of dark chocolate chips.

Oven Temperature: 375 degrees
Baking Time: 9-12 minutes

1/2 c. Unsalted Butter, Softened (1 stick)
1 c. Sucanat (or brown sugar)
1/3 c. Agave Nectar
2 large egg
2 t. apple cider vinegar
1 T. good quality vanilla
1/2 t. cinnamon
2 c. old fashioned rolled oats (not quick)
2 1/4 c. whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose, or white whole wheat)
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
3/4 t. salt
1 1/2 c. dried cherries
1 1/2 c. dark chocolate chips or chunks

Preheat the oven to 375. Prepare cookie sheets with Silpats (non-stick baking mats) or parchment paper (you can use foil in a pinch). DO NOT GREASE THE PANS!

Cream the butter and Sucanat for 3-4 minutes on medium speed. Add the agave nectar, vanilla, and apple cider vinegar and mix for 2-3 more minutes. Add the eggs and beat until combined, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the dry ingredients cinnamon thru salt. Stir until just combined. Do not overmix - the cookies will be tough. Add the cherries and chocolate chips to dough and mix until combined. Drop the cookies in rounded tablespoons onto the prepared pans and bake for 9-12 minutes until lightly golden brown. Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pumpkin Cheesecake

It has been far too long since I posted a recipe. In honor of Thanksgiving, I've included this pumpkin cheesecake recipe which I modified from a Food Network Kitchens recipe. You will want to make this a day ahead of time so that it has adequate time to set and cool. It really is better the second day. Reportedly, its a pretty good copy of the one at Cheesecake Factory. I've included in parentheses options for lightening it up a little. Happy Thanksgiving and I hope you enjoy!

Pumpkin Cheesecake
Crust Options
#1 - (10 inch Springform Pan) 8 T. butter, melted, 2 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 c. granulated sugar, pinch of salt

Combine and press into the greased springform pan. Bake at 325 for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown

#2 - (10 inch Springform pan) 8 T. butter, melted, 2 1/2 c. gingersnap crumbs (use a food processor to grind them finely), 2 T. sugar, pinch of salt

Combine and press into the greased springform pan. Bake at 325 for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown

#3 - 2 deep dish prepared graham cracker crusts from the grocery store

*** I highly recommend the gingersnap crust. If you are short on time, the prepared graham cracker crusts work just fine.

If you are using the springform pan, after it cools, wrap the outside of the pan in foil and place in a roasting pan. If you are using the prepared crusts there is no need to wrap them in foil, just place them in the pan.

2 pounds cream cheese at room temperature (I use 2/3 neufchatel (reduced-fat) and 1/3 full-fat cream cheese. DO NOT USE FAT FREE!! The texture will not work.)

2 1/2 c. sugar

1/3 c. sour cream or greek yogurt (light is fine)

1 can (15 oz) pure pumpkin (not pie filling)

6 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten

1 T. + 1 t. good quality vanilla (Mexican or Madagascar, preferably)

1 t. salt

1 T. good quality cinnamon

1 t. ground ginger

1/4 t. ground cloves

(NOTE: If you have pumpkin pie spice on hand, you can sub 2 1/2 t. ground cinnamon and 1 1/2 t. pumpkin pie spice for all the other spices)

If you haven't already, preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil (or use a tea kettle). You will use the water to make a water bath for the cheesecake so that it will cook evenly in the oven. While the water is heating up, beat the cream cheese with a mixer until smooth. Gradually add the sugar, and beat until fully incorporated. Add the sour cream, pumpkin, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the eggs to the mixture, beating until fully incorporated, 2-3 minutes. To that, add the salt and spices, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl until all are incorporated.

Pour the cheesecake mixture into the prepared pan(s). Carefully place the roasting pan with the cheesecake in it into the oven (don't pull the rack out more than a quarter of the way). Pour the boiling water into the roasting pan until it goes halfway up the sides of the pan(s). Bake until the outside of the cheesecake sets, but the center is still loose (for the springform pan, around 1 hour 30 minutes - 1 hour 45 minutes, for the prepared crusts, between 50 minutes and an hour). Once the cheesecake is set, open the oven door for 2 minutes to let out some of the heat and turn the oven off. Leave the cheesecake in the oven for another hour (30 minutes for the prepared pans), then carefully remove the roasting pan and cool the cheesecake on a rack. Run a knife around the edges to loosen, then cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight. Bring the cheesecake to room temperature for at least thirty minutes prior to serving. Serve with whipped cream and pecans.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The most decadent pie EVER

"Slap Your Mama" Pie

This pie is usually a once-a-year kind of thing because it is so incredibly decadent that its only for special occasions. Mom was here this weekend and we had a little early birthday celebration and this was her requested birthday dessert. We came up with it a couple of years ago when thinking about ways to combine our fantastic peanut butter and chocolate pie recipes. When we discussed what to name it, my dad remarked that the pie was so good "it'd make you wanna slap your mama," thus, "slap your mama pie". The bottom layer is a chocolate fudge pie (that does include raw eggs - therefore, eat it at your own risk. p.s. - once you eat it, you will never go back). On top is a creamy peanut butter pie that is super easy to whip together. Put all that in a chocolate cookie crust and drizzle it with melted chocolate and you have the most fantastic indulgence around.

Preparation Time - 15 minutes
Setting Time - 1-2 hours

Prepared Chocolate Cookie Crust (either store-bought or a homemade one with a combination of chocolate cookie crumbs, melted butter, and a little bit of sugar or agave nectar baked in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes)

Chocolate Layer
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips (half of a bag, preferably high quality like Ghiradelli or Guittard)
2 T. milk or fat free half and half
1 T. sugar (or agave nectar)
2 large eggs, separated
2 t. good quality vanilla
1 t. Kahlua (optional)
pinch of salt

Melt the chocolate, milk, and sugar in a double boiler, stirring frequently. Let cool for approximately 5 minutes. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating to fully incorporate after each addition. Add the vanilla and Kahlua (if using) to the chocolate mixture. In a separate bowl, using a mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. This will take at least 5-6 minutes. Be patient. For the recipe to work, it has to be at the stiff peak point. Add the pinch of salt to the chocolate mixture and stir to combine. Using a rubber spatula, fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture in three batches. As best you can, do not deflate the egg whites. They provide structure to the pie. Pour the chocolate mixture into the prepared crust and place in the freezer for at least 1 hour to set. While its setting, make the peanut butter layer.

Peanut Butter Pie Layer

2 T. cream cheese, softened (low-fat will work in this recipe)
1/3 c. peanut butter (while the original recipe calls for smooth, we really like the crunchy - either will work)
1/4 c. milk
1 c. powdered sugar
1 1/2 t. vanilla
5 oz. Cool-Whip (I use light, this is a little more than half of a normal sized container)

Whip the cream cheese, peanut butter, and milk for 3-4 minutes until combined. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat for 3-4 minutes more. Stir in the Cool-Whip until fully combined.

Pour the peanut butter pie on top of the semi-set chocolate pie that has been in the freezer. Allow to set up in the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour more before serving. Keep refrigerated.

All Natural Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

I tried this new recipe last week for work visitors and it was met with rave reviews. These are soft, earthy cookies that taste fantastic and last for at least 3-4 days (if there are any left). Feel free to mix in whatever suits your fancy. Tom loves cranberries in his oatmeal cookies, so these are frequently made with cranberries, Basic Four cereal, and toasted pecans in our house. The recipe is extremely versatile, though, and you can really put any kind of dried fruit and toasted nuts in these and they will be fantastic. If you want to up the fiber content, try using a high-fiber raisin bran cereal (such as Fiber One).

Oven Temperature: 350 degrees
Baking Time: 13-17 minutes

3/4 c. Unsalted Butter, Softened (1 1/2 sticks)
1 c. Sucanat (or brown sugar)
1/4 c. Agave Nectar
2 T. Molasses
1 large egg
1 T. apple cider vinegar
1 T. good quality vanilla
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. pumpkin pie spice
1 1/3 c. old fashioned rolled oats (not quick)
1 1/4 c. whole wheat flour (I use white whole wheat flour)
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 1/4 c. crushed cereal (Basic Four or Raisin Bran)
2 c. dried cranberries (you could also sub raisins or cherries, here)
1 c. chopped toasted pecans (or walnuts, if you prefer)

Preheat the oven to 350. Prepare cookie sheets with Silpats (non-stick baking mats) or parchment paper (you can use foil in a pinch). DO NOT GREASE THE PANS!

Cream the butter and Sucanat for 3-4 minutes on medium speed. Add the molasses, agave nectar, vanilla, and apple cider vinegar and mix for 2-3 more minutes. Add the egg and beat until combined, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the dry ingredients cinnamon thru salt. Stir until just combined. Do not overmix - the cookies will be tough. Add the cereal, fruit and nuts to dough and mix until combined. Drop the cookies in rounded tablespoons onto the prepared pans and bake for 13-17 minutes (13-14 minutes will be soft cookies, 16-17 will be more crunchy, though these are meant to be softer cookies) until lightly golden brown. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Whole Grain Banana Espresso Muffins

Whole Grain Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Baking Time - 15 minutes (mini-muffins), 25 minutes (regular muffins)
Temp - 375 degrees

I love muffins and this one seemed to fit the bill for a kitchen with a bunch of super-ripe bananas, a girl in need of a chocolate fix :-), and a need for something to take in to work tomorrow. We really enjoyed having breakfast for dinner tonight. As with all my recipes, feel free to make changes based on what you have available in your kitchen. Kefir may be unfamiliar to many of you (I know it was to me until a few weeks ago). It is a cousin to yogurt that is full of probiotics. It's thickness is somewhere between that of milk and yogurt and its taste is tangy, kind of like buttermilk. If you don't have access, or just don't have any use for kefir in your kitchen, use buttermilk instead. I hope you enjoy and would love to hear your comments!

9 T. unsalted butter, softened
1 c. natural sugar (can substitute granulated sugar)
1/3 c. sucanat (or brown sugar)
5 extremely ripe bananas (we're talking black and spotty), mashed
1 1/4 c. lowfat sour cream (or lowfat plain yogurt)
1/4 c. kefir (or lowfat buttermilk)
1 T. good quality vanilla
3 c. white whole wheat flour (or whole wheat pastry flour, or all-purpose if you don't have WW)
1 T. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 t. espresso powder (optional, but it really enhances the flavor. You could also use instant coffee)
1 t. cinnamon
2 c. toasted walnuts (or pecans), chopped, 1/2 c. reserved
1 1/2 c. dark chocolate chips (or semisweet - I use Ghiradelli or Guittard)

Combine the dry ingredients (including the spices) and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugars for 2-3 minutes on medium speed until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time and mix 2-3 minutes until fluffy. Add the mashed, ripe bananas, sour cream (or yogurt), kefir (or buttermilk), and vanilla and mix 1-2 minutes until fully combined. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and still with a spoon or spatula until just combined (Though a bit more tedious, this step really is important. If you overmix, the muffins will be tough.) Stir 1 1/2 c. of the nuts and chocolate chips (if using) into to the batter.

Place paper or foil muffin cups into the muffin pan and spray each muffin cup individually with cooking spray. Spoon batter into cups until 90% full (this will make a nice large muffin top). Divide the extra chopped nuts among the tops of the muffins. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 15-25 minutes, depending on the size of the muffin tin. Let cool 4-5 minutes in pan and then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Pasta e Fagioli

It has been so long since I updated the blog! Between moving, visits to Texas, and getting settled in in Lexington, its been a crazy two months. We've been a little under the weather here, so tonight was the perfect opportunity for one of my all-time favorite comfort foods, Pasta e Fagioli. If you've never had it, Pasta e Fagioli is a wonderful Italian soup with beans, veggies, pasta, and, in this case, Italian sausage. We love it, particularly served with crusty Italian bread and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. This is a recipe that you can play with and adjust to your liking. If you prefer sweet sausage to spicy, then use it. If you'd rather have different veggies, try them out. Lots of things go with this soup, and I find myself making it a little different each time. No matter what's in it, it seems to turn out great and is even better left over the next day. One word of warning - you want the pasta to be al dente in the final soup or else the next day's leftovers (if there's any left over) will be a bit of a mushy mess. Enjoy!!

Pasta e Fagioli

1 package (1-1/2 pounds) spicy Italian sausage (I use turkey)

1 yellow onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 carrots, chopped

½ t. salt

½ t. red pepper flakes (optional)

1 t. Tony Chachere’s creole seasoning

1 t. Italian seasoning (or you can use a combo of fresh herbs if you have them on hand)

1 can stewed tomatoes

1 can kidney beans

1 can white beans (Great Northern or Cannelini)

¾ c. good quality red wine (use one you like to drink – Merlot works well)

4 c. chicken broth

1 c. water

2 T. tomato paste

1/3 c. small pasta (ditalini or small shells)

2 medium zucchini cut into small dice

2-3 handfuls of baby spinach

Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padana cheese, grated for garnish

Over medium to medium-high heat, put 2 tablespoons (olive or canola) oil in a large, heavy bottomed stock pot. Take the sausage out of the casings and break up in the pan, stirring frequently until cooked. Remove from pan and drain. Set aside. Over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan and the onion. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add garlic and carrots. Add salt (and red pepper flakes, if using) to the onion mixture and cook until fragrant, 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the can of stewed tomatoes (with the juice) and break up the tomatoes into smaller pieces. Return the sausage to the pan, and add the creole and Italian seasonings. (Note: if using the fresh herbs, do not add them at this point, wait until after you bring the mixture down to a simmer. Fresh herbs (particularly basil) are more volatile and the flavor of some will change significantly with too much heat). Drain about half the liquid from the two cans of beans and add them to the pot. Increase the heat to medium high and add the red wine, chicken broth, water, and tomato paste to the pan. Bring to a boil and let boil for 3-4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for approximately 30 minutes until the carrots are near tender. Add the pasta and cook for 6 minutes over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium low and add the zucchini, cooking 4 more minutes. Add the spinach (it will seem like a lot, but will wilt down very quickly), and reduce the heat to low after 2 minutes. Stir and remove from heat. Serve with grated cheese sprinkled on top and with crusty Italian bread on the side.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Good food, wonderful friends...

As I sit here writing this, I cannot believe that school is OVER, really OVER, not just for the summer, but for good (unless, that is, I go back to school, but that is a whole different topic).  We are all moving on to other places and things in life and I am feeling reflective as the moving date looms.  The last four years have provided numerous blessings, the greatest of which has been the support of wonderful family and friends.  We got to celebrate last weekend and throughout this week the journey that began four years ago.  What better for a celebration than breaking bread together and sharing a table with one another?  Below is the link to a recipe that I made for this celebration.  I don't make too many changes to the recipe except reducing the amount of oil in the dressing by about 1/3 and adding a dash of sriracha hot sauce to up the spicy flavor.  To add more fiber and up the health factor, you could always use brown jasmine rice (you can usually get it in the bulk bins at specialty stores), but you will need to cook it closer to 50 minutes (follow the liquid/cooking time suggestions on the package).  This recipe is actually even better the next day when the flavors have had time to marry.  I hope you enjoy!