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Archive for December, 2010

This is my last post before the holidays – and I’m home in Iowa.

Earlier this week, I posted a semi-healthful recipe for whole grain chocolate cookies, made significantly less healthful from the amount of butter in them. The cookies I’m talking about today are similar in that they come together quickly, rely on whole grains, and are tasty. But – they are…. VEGAN.

I don’t gravitate toward vegan baking really – I don’t really see a need since I don’t have much problem consuming things like butter, eggs, and milk. However, I saw this recipe featured one day on The Kitchn and thought they sounded fabulous, vegan or not. After agonizing over what to bring to the cookie exchange I attended last week – I gambled, and decided to make these, even though I had never made them before, and even though the thought of baked-goods induces some skeptics to gag or roll their eyes.

Combining ground almonds with maple syrup, oats, and flour and topping that with jam, I had a feeling these would turn out to be a hearty, sweet, cookie and would be a departure from other richer options, like the chocolate-toffee cookies I brought into the office.

If you, like me, are somewhat of a vegan-baked-good-skeptic, try these. They are pretty good. And you can feel less guilty about eating some with your morning coffee.

“Life-Changing Vegan Thumbprints”

makes about 4 dozen 2-inch cookies

2 c, whole almonds
4 c.  oats
1/4 t. salt
1 1/2 c. flour, divided
1 c. canola oil
1 c. maple syrup
jam of your choice – I used raspberry

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a food processor, whirl around the almonds until they are chopped finely. Dump the almonds into a large bowl.

Using the same food processor bowl, grind the oats with the salt into a fine meal and add to the almonds. It is ok for it not to be a uniform, finely ground mix. Add 1 1/4 cup of flour, reserving the remaining 1/4 cup.

Next, measure he canola oil and pour into the bowl, followed by the maple syrup. Measuring the oil “greases the way” for the maple syrup, so you aren’t left with stubborn syrup clinging to your measuring glass/ cup.

Mix with a wooden spoon until combined. If the dough seems too wet, add the additional flour but don’t worry if it is too soft, as it will harden a little as it sits.

Scoop the dough onto your prepared cookie sheets using a tablespoon. (I used heaping tablespoon-sized scoops) The dough will be slightly wet but surprisingly not too sticky. The cookies can be fairly close together because they don’t spread  much while baking. In fact, the baked cookies look very similar to the unbaked cookies.

Using the back of a round quarter-teaspoon measuring spoon, make an indentation in the top of each cookie.

Wipe the spoon clean and use it to fill the indentation with jam.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the cookies begin to brown slightly. Remove from oven and let cool on the pans. Don’t try to move them too soon because they are fragile while still warm.

Like I said, these are sweet, wholesome cookies and just as good with your mid-morning coffee as they are for dessert.

This is my last post until after the first of the year. I hope you and your friends and family have a lovely holiday time.

See you after the New Year.

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I am drowning in cookies, as are many of us this time of year. My lovely friend Sara hosted a cookie exchange on Friday evening – where everyone was asked to bring a batch of cookies to share with everyone else. With 10+ people there, everyone left with a hefty amount of  several different kinds of cookies. Then my bf and cheese-grater extraordinaire returned from his weekend away with some delicious chocolate chip cookies he commissioned his aunt to make. More cookies. And I made cookies for a birthday at work.

These are not the cookies I brought to work, nor are they the ones I brought to the cookie exchange. I will post the recipe for those Thursday. These are the cookies I made a few weeks ago before I was drowning in cookies. When I was craving something sweet and rich. These are my go-to cookies for those situations, and… they are healthy!

Not really. But containing lots of whole grains, you can pretend they are!

My old roommate and great friend, Jess, first made these when we were going to grad school in Bloomington. They are whole grain cookies that contain whole-wheat flour and oats and are egg-free. They do, however, contain lots of butter. They come together pretty quickly as well, although the dough can be difficult to work with.

If you are in need of a last minute cookie recipe, or are not drowning in cookies like I  currently am and want some around, these are great. I imagine most recreational bakers will have the ingredients on hand.

Whole Grain Chocolate Cookies, from the New York Times

2/3 c. whole wheat flour

1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 t. baking soda

1/4 t. salt

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature (1 stick)

1/2 t. vanilla extract

1/4 c. rolled oats

1/3 semisweet chocolate chips

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Put butter and sugar in a large bowl and cream together with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy. Or do what I did and use an electric mixer. This is a stiff mixture and will take a while by hand. Add vanilla and continue mixing thoroughly.

2. Next, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl – whisking together lightly.

3. Add flour mixture to butter and sugar mixture. The dough will be quite firm at this point. Add the oats and mix evenly, along with the chocolate chips. I actually had to mix it in by hand – carefully kneading the dough directly in the bowl.
4. Scoop up balls of dough with a tablespoon and put on prepared cookie sheet, about two inches apart. The dough will result in 18 to 20 cookies. Once you’ve finished scooping the dough, flatten each ball slightly with the back of a spoon.
5. Bake the cookies until the top is set and cracked, about 14 minutes. Set on a rack to cool and serve.
These will keep well in a tightly sealed container for at least 4 days.

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As I mentioned in the previous post, this was a big week for me, trying a new vegetable and making up a recipe. Really though, this recipe wasn’t a big deal and I was inspired by a cheese ball I had when I lived in Bloomington, IN. Bloomingfoods, a local food coop, sold (and still sells?) delicious, fresh, Maytag blue cheese balls during the holidays. Festive and different from usual wine-flecked or bright-orange cheese ball, I was eager to try to recreate Bloomingfood’s delicious recipe for a Christmas party.

I think it turned out well – and there wasn’t much left at the end of the night. How bad can cheese really be though? It was a nice mix of salty and creamy cheese, sweet cranberries, and sharp garlic. If you are headed to any Christmas or holiday parties try this out, particularly if you like blue cheese. It also comes together pretty easily, with or without a food processor.

Maybe another time I’ll try creating a more creative recipe.

Here is what you do, from… me! With inspiration from Bloomingfoods.

4 oz. sharp white cheddar

1 clove garlic

8 oz. block of cream cheese, softened – I used reduced-fat

2 – 4 oz. Maytag blue cheese, or any other soft blue cheese (Maytag is made in Iowa) I originally planned to add 4 oz, but Maytag is strong and not everyone enjoys the pungent taste of this moldy cheese, so I started with half that and tasted it. 2 oz. was enough for me and my taste-tester.

about 3/4 c. dried cranberries, or more or less.

1/2 c. chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/2 c. toasted, chopped walnuts

1. If you have not already done so, cut the cheese into cubes and place in a food processor. Add the clove of garlic too.

Pulse a few times until the cheese and garlic are chopped. If you don’t have a food processor, just grate the cheese finely and mince the garlic.

2. Add the cream cheese, blue cheese, and cranberries to the bowl and process until the ingredients are mixed and come together. Or mix the ingredients well in a bowl with grated cheddar and garlic.

Taste and add salt and pepper.

3. Transfer cheese mixture onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Form into a ball using the wrap.

Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.

4. Place chopped parsley and walnuts on a large, shallow plate and mix together. Spread into a thin layer. Carefully roll the cheese ball in the mixture until completely coated. Serve at room temperature with crackers.

 

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jicama-orange salad

This has been a week of culinary firsts for me. By “week” I actually mean this last weekend, and it was really only two things: 1) I made up a recipe for a cheese ball which I will post later this week, and 2) I bought and prepared a brand new vegetable, jicama.

It has been unseasonably cold here in Louisville, as it has been across the country. After over-indulging all weekend with two Christmas parties, it was a cold, snowy, lazy Sunday and a warming soup was in order (curried lentil soup with potatoes to be exact). Feeling slightly more ambitious, I wanted to serve the soup with a side dish and wanted something other than my usual salad but also something that would go well with the strong flavors of the curried lentil soup. I have no idea why, but jicama came to mind.

I turned to Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, which contained a recipe for jicama and orange salad. For those of you as unfamiliar with jicama as I was, it is a turnip-like root vegetable from Mexico.

Here it is.

Here is what you do, Jicama-Orange salad, from How to Cook Everything

1 jicama, about 1 lb.

3 small organges

1 lime

salt

2 T. cilantro

1. Peel the jicama. I tried doing this with my vegetable peeler, but ended up having to slice off the thick, fibrous peel using a knife. Dice into 3/4″ cubes. Place in a bowl. Squeeze the juice from orange over jicama along with the juice from the lime. Add a small pinch of salt, stir, and allow to marinate while prepping the oranges. This can also be done a couple of hours in advance.

2. Peel the remaining two oranges and cut into small pieces. Remove any tough parts or pith as you go. Add to the bowl with jicama and citrus juice.

3. Add cilantro. Stir and check for seasonings and add more salt if necessary. I didn’t do this but I think a little cayenne pepper would add a nice kick too.

This was a light, refreshing salad that did go well with the curry soup. The jicama was sweet and crunchy, kind of like a cross between an apple and a turnip, but better. The flavors blended well and it tasted good the next day too. Not a bad end to a small experiment.

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I’m the luckiest gal in the world – at least I thought so when I opened up this wonderful birthday gift from my mom. After lamenting the deterioration of my old food processor in this post, I went without using one for several months. This happened just prior to a whole series The Minimalist did on the wonders of this sometimes under-appreciated appliance. I suffered without one until my parents visited in October, and brought with them my new most-favorite-ever appliance.

This thing is amazing. Before this – I never considered using anything other than a knife and cutting board for chopping. But this super-strength appliance grates cheese in seconds (leaving my cheese-grating bf almost useless in the kitchen- sorry dear), purees soup quickly, and chops broccoli and garlic for these broccoli cheese wraps in less time than it takes to whip out my knives.

I’m in love.

This brings me to one of the first things I made using several features of my food processor. I used it to chop the onions, broccoli and garlic, and to grate the cheese for these broccoli cheese wraps.

This recipe  is certainly healthier than the last post about the five-cheese baked pasta. While it isn’t quite as delicious, it still has a warm, comforting quality stemming from the cheese and a healthful kick from the broccoli. You could make this at the beginning of the week and would be awarded tasty, filling lunches for at least three following days (provided you ate one wrap, alone, for dinner).

“Broccoli Cheese Wraps,” from Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health

Makes 4 – 8 wraps – depending on size of tortillas (see note below)

1 T. olive oil

1/2 large onion, chopped – about 1 cup

1/2 t. salt, or a little less – the cheese is pretty salty as is

3 c. chopped broccoli

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 t. dried oregano

1/2 t. dried red pepper flakes, or to taste

1 c. low-fat ricotta cheese

1/2 c. grated mazzarella cheese

1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese

additional salt and pepper to taste

whole wheat tortilla for serving

I used my food processor to chop the broccoli and garlic.

Warm the oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the onion and salt and cook until soften. Stir occasionally for about 5 minutes. Stir in the broccoli, oregano, garlic, and pepper flakes.

Cook until the broccoli is tender and bright great, about 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the cheeses. Season with salt and pepper.

Make sure you taste the mixture before adding salt and pepper. Like I said above, the cheese is pretty salty as is. I added quite a bit of black pepper – maybe 1/2 teaspoon.

Place the filling in warmed tortillas and enjoy!

Note, the recipe says this fills 4 large tortillas or 8 small ones. I ended up using medium tortillas and had 5 hearty wraps with the filling.

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This is now the third iteration of a cheesy baked pasta that I have featured on Thyme and Reason (see the classic, resurrection mac and cheese and spicy macaroni and cheese for more melty, cheesy, goodness). This is also the most gourmet, expensive, and time-consuming to produce. These factors are usually enough to steer me away from trying a new dish – but not this one.

No, not this one. With five different kinds of cheese, pancetta, and squash – this macaroni and cheese caught my eye, and left me craving it for days until I finally gave in and made it. The picture above does not do it justice.

This is a dish to make on the weekend – when you have time to cook the pancetta, roast the squash, shop for the cheese, and then grate the cheese and cook the noodles, then bake everything. But it is worth it if you don’t mind consuming an incredibly rich dish and don’t have a dairy intolerance that is. It also makes a delicious, warm, hearty, perfect-for-fall casserole.

I highly recommend making this. You will not be sorry.

Also – if you notice, the actual amounts of the cheese used isn’t all that much, especially compared to the large amounts used in Ina’s recipe above (resurrection mac and cheese), it is still really rich.

Pasta al Forno with Pumpkin and Pancetta, from Food 52

Serves 6

2  butternut squashes that total 3 to 4 lbs.

salt and pepper

olive oil

1/4 lb. pancetta, diced

1 lb. shells

2 c. milk (the original recipe calls for heavy cream, I used 1% milk with excellent results)

1/4 lb. shredded fresh mozzarella

1/2 c. grated Pecorino Romano

1/2 c. grated fontina

1/4 c. crumbled gorgonzola

2 T. ricotta

1 t. dried thyme or 2 t. chopped fresh thyme leaves

Heat oven to 400. Cut the squash in half length-wise and scoop out the seeds. Cut into wedges and arrange on one baking sheet lined with foil. Sprinkle the squash with salt and pepper and drizzle lightly with olive oil.

Bake for about an hour until caramelized and tender. Remove from the oven and let cool until you can handle the squash without burning yourself.

Meanwhile, cook the pancetta.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, cook the pancetta until crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.

Turn up the oven to 500 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta for exactly 5 minutes, drain.

Scoop the squash from the rind to make 2 cups. (In retrospect, I should have peeled the squash before baking it. The original recipe called for pumpkin or squash – which would be much harder to peel). Combine squash with milk in a blender or food processor and puree just until smooth. Scoop out some more of the squash and chop roughly to make a cup and a half. This does not have to be exact.

Combine the squash and milk puree with cheese, a dash or two of salt, thyme, and pancetta in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Add chopped squash and pasta and fold until well combined.

Spread the pasta evenly in a casserole dish. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes until browned and tender.

Eat. Enjoy. Don’t feel guilty.

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