Friday, May 22, 2015

Chickpea Lunchbox Salad

I'm very excited for this time of year because now I can tell you about the fruits, vegetables, and herbs I'm incorporating into our meals that either I've grown myself in our backyard garden. We also joined a CSA this year so I will tell you about that, too, once it starts! Seriously guys, it's the little things.

So my herbs are already just going crazy. I was looking for a lunchbox meal I could make in bulk for the week that would incorporate some of the herbs. I found this recipe, from a cookbook I have called Salads, which worked really well. The instructions say to keep the herbs separate, til ready to serve, but I ignored that. I mixed everything together earlier in the week (minus sun-dried tomatoes because I don't love those), distributed into my little lunch containers, and brought them each day. It worked so well! This was such a yummy lunch. People actually commented on how good it looked. I would make this again - hopefully once the cherry tomatoes start to grow! I did use basil, chives, and parsley from the garden.

salad

Chickpea Lunchbox Salad
Salads: Fresh & Flavorful Recipes All Year Round by Elsa Petersen-Schepelern, 2001

2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 ounces marinated artichoke hearts
4 ounces sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained (optional)
20 very ripe cherry tomatoes (about) halved
6 scallions, finely sliced diagonally
Leaves from 4 sprigs of basil, torn
A small bunch chives, snipped with shears
Leaves from 4 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 cup fresh Parmesan (about 2 oz) shaved
1 tablespoon black pepper, cracked with a mortar and pestle

Dressing:
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice or sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional)
1 small garlic clove, crushed
Kosher salt or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the dressing ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake well. Put the chickpeas, artichoke hearts, and drained, sundried tomatoes, if using, in a bowl or lunchbox. Pour over the dressing. Cover with a lid and chill for up to 4 hours.

When ready to serve, add the cherry tomatoes, scallions, basil, chives, and parsley. Stir gently, then sprinkle with the shaved Parmesan and pepper.

Yield: 4 servings

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Slutty No-Carb Pasta

That's the title that came with the recipe. I didn't name it that. I have no idea what makes these "zoodles" slutty. Maybe because they're easy? Because they are really simple to make. Remember I bought that spiralizer last month? I've been spiralling up some zucchinis fairly often. The other day I tried this recipe. It's pretty simple. I took the leftovers for lunch the next day. I added some feta cheese and pine nuts. I don't think I would make it again, but it was pretty good.

zoodles

Slutty No-Carb Pasta
Adapted from The Londoner

3 zucchinis
Anchovies or anchovy paste
2 cloves garlic
1 handful capers
1 handful pitted black olives
Chili flakes
1 can diced tomatoes
Olive oil
Parmesan cheese (and/or feta)

Heat a pan over medium heat. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Crush two cloves of garlic into the oil. Add 3 or 4 anchovies. The anchovies should start to disintegrate in the oil ad the garlic gently brown and soften. Add a sprinkle of chili flakes to the oil. Roughly chop up the olives and capers and add them in too. Give it all a good stir and fry for a minute.

Add your canned tomatoes. Let it all bubble away, stirring now and then for a few minutes. Set aside to cool.

Using a spiralizer or mandolin attachment, cut your zucchini into ribbons. Toss into the sauce and heat through. Serve with fresh Parmesan.

Yield: 2 servings

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Basic Macarons with Easy Buttercream

So last weekend, for Cookie Monday, I made a triple recipe of these bad boys.
macaron

Macarons. I freaking made macarons. From scratch. For the first time ever.

I decided I wanted to make them, and as most people know, when I decide something, I make it happen. So I did a LOT of research to figure out the best methods for making them. Some people say to leave the egg whites out overnight to age. Some people say to leave the almond flour out to dry. Some people tell you not to use food coloring because it'll brown. Measure amounts with measuring cups vs with a food scale? Baking times are different, ingredients are different. So I compared some recipes, narrowed it down to two, and hacked them together.

Mostly I used this recipe from PattyCake Baker and this recipe from Brave Tart. Brave Tart also has some extremely helpful resources about tips for making the macarons. For the filling, I used this trusty Martha Stewart recipe for a very standard buttercream, to which I added teal food coloring. No need for boiled Swiss buttercreams here - by the time I was at the frosting step, I just wanted to be done.

Alright so here we go. Let me show you quickly with pictures.

First I made the batter. You whip egg whites into stiff peaks, then add in the almond flour and food coloring. Put it into a pastry bag (just discovered this method for filling the bags without making am mess like I always do) and squeeze out little circles onto baking sheets. The baking sheets are lined with parchment paper, on which I drew circles so I would make them all uniform. As you can see, I did not do a great job on all of them.
macaron

I baked it for five minutes, rotated the pan, baked for 5 more minutes, and then rested on the sheet before transferring them to a wire rack to finish cooling.
macaron

They are crisp but delicate - too much squeezing and the whole top will just collapse. Be very careful with them. Also note the little "foot" of the cookie - that's a sign you did something right!
macaron

After everything cooled, I piped on some buttercream frosting. Be very careful pushing the two sides of the cookie together because they crack easily!
macaron

Then I put them in the refrigerator, brought them to work, and ran out by 9:30 AM. I AM A CHAMPION.

macaron

So here is the actual recipe I mushed together from all the aforementioned sources. I tripled it and got about 35 macarons.

Basic Macarons with Easy Buttercream

1 cup confectioners' sugar
3/4 cup almond flour (as finely-ground as you can find it, no need to "dry it" like many recipes suggest)
2 large egg whites (temperature does not seem to make a difference)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, or 1/4 teaspoon clear vanilla extract (I used both)

Preheat oven to 375.

Prepare your baking sheets. Use something approx 1 1/2" in diameter to trace circles onto parchment paper. I used a shot glass. It seemed appropriate. Make sure they're about an inch apart. Flip the parchment over so you don't get ink on your cookies.

Sift together the almond flour and confectioners' sugar. Not all the almond flour will fit through the sifter. Dump it in anyway.

Whisk the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed (4 on a Kitchenaid) until it is foamy, 3-4 minutes. Add the cream of tartar. Increase the speed on the mixer to 5 and continue to beat until soft peaks form, another 3-4 minutes. Add the sugar. Increase the speed again to high (8) and beat another few minutes until stiff peaks form. Soft peaks are when it's still kinda foamy, stiff peaks are when it fully retains its shape when you lift the whisk. Add in the vanilla and food coloring (I used Wilton Gel Coloring in Teal) and beat another minute.

Dump the almond flour and confectioners' sugar into the mixing bowl and fold in with a rubber spatula. I read on Brave Tart, and then confirmed with my own experience, that 40 turns is perfectly enough. It gets everything incorporated while still keeping the meringue fluffy.

Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round tip. Pipe the batter onto the prepared baking sheets, using the circles as guides. Hold the tip straight up and down when piping - the batter will spread out on its own to fill up the circle.

Turn the oven temperature down to 325.

Take the pan of macarons and hit it very hard against the counter. Tap it maybe a couple more times. Air bubbles will rise to the top. Let the macarons sit for a few minutes to "rest" after that. The batter will settle again, but without any air bubbles.

Put one pan in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, rotating after 5 minutes. Cool on pan for 10 minutes and then transfer them to a wire rack. They will be fragile but you should be able to lift them off the parchment paper.

Turn the oven back up to 375 while the first batch is cooling. Turn it back down to 325 when you stick the next batch in to bake.

After the macarons have cooled, fill a pastry bag with the buttercream or filling of your choice and pipe onto half the shells. Gently sandwich them with matching shells. Layer them gently on their sides in an air-tight container and stick them into the refrigerator overnight. They get better overnight!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Harissa Zucchini Spaghetti Skillet

I recently discovered "zoodles," or zucchini noodles. It's popular among people doing the Whole 30 or Paleo diets, which I clearly am not. But the idea of using zucchinis (and other vegetables) in a new way was intriguing to me. I ordered a cheap $7 spiralizer from Amazon and decided to make this as my first "spiralized" meal.

Let's be clear here: this is just a creative way to eat zucchini. It is NOT in any way a replacement for spaghetti. I know people call them zoodles and claim they are better than pasta, but they are wrong. This is not similar. It just looks the same. BUT! If you like zucchini, you will enjoy this. Plus, the spiralizing process is fun.

The rest of the dish is similar to my favorite Roasted Cauliflower, Chickpeas, & Harissa dish (which I make all the time), but with some kale and eggs. The eggs aren't actually poached; they're just baked in the same skillet as the rest of the food. I don't like runny eggs so I poked the yolk so it would cook through. Just my personal preference.

This was good and was a fun introduction to spiralizing. I have many more recipes I'm hoping to make. We joined a CSA this year, so I'm hoping for an abundance of zucchini, and it's nice to have exciting ways to use them!

zoodles

Harissa Zucchini Spaghetti Skillet with Kale, Chickpeas, and Poached Eggs
Inspiralized

1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup diced shallots
1 cup diced tomatoes (or half a 14oz can of diced tomatoes)
2 tablespoons harissa
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 small pinch of saffron
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/2 cups chopped kale
3/4 cup chickpeas
2 medium zucchinis, Blade C
2 whole eggs
Feta and chopped parsley, to garnish

Place a medium cast iron skillet over medium-low heat and add in the olive oil. Once the oil heats, add in garlic and shallots. Cook for 30 seconds and then add in the diced tomatoes, harissa sauce, cumin, saffron and season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine and let cook for 1 minute.

Add in the chopped kale, stir to combine and let cook until sauce is reduced. Once sauce is reduced, add in the zucchini noodles and chickpeas. Toss the noodles around until covered in the sauce.
Move the mixture around to create two pockets for the eggs. Crack one egg into each pocket. Cover the skillet and let cook for about 5 minutes or until egg whites have fully set.

Remove the cover, garnish with parsley and feta.

Yield: 2 servings

Cookie Monday: Soft Monster Cookies

Here is what you need to know about this week's cookie: I ran out by 12:30 PM. I RAN OUT. I've run out of cookies before, but not til the end of the day. Usually I have enough. These were great though, and word spread. And before I knew it, they were gone.

They have peanut butter mixed into the dough, and then have oats, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, and M&Ms folded in. My M&Ms are from Christmas, so the cookies are belatedly festive. I ran out of AP flour so I used a combination of that and some white whole-wheat pastry flour. I think this was actually a really good mistake because it gave the cookies a nice chewy texture.

I loved these and I think everyone else did, too. I would definitely make these again, but I'll make sure to bake more next time!

monster

Soft Monster Cookies
Sally's Baking Addiction

1/2 stick salted butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick oats (not instant or whole rolled oats)
3/4 cup M&Ms (any size or variety)
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (can sub in some peanut butter chips, too)

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.

In a large bowl, using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together on medium speed, about 3 minutes. Mix in the peanut butter, egg, and vanilla (in that order). Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Slowly mix in the baking soda and flour. Do not overmix. Fold in the quick oats, M&Ms, and chocolate chips. If the dough is very soft and unmanageable by hand, chill the dough for 30 minutes before rolling.

Rolls balls of dough, about 2 Tablespoons of dough per ball, onto prepared baking sheet. Press a few extra M&Ms on top for looks, if preferred. Bake for 9-10 minutes - do not bake past 10 minutes. The cookies will appear undone. Slightly press down the baked cookies with the back of a spoon, since the cookies only slightly spread in the oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Cookies will firm up as they cool. Store cookies covered at room temperature for up to 1 week. Cookies freeze well.

Yield: 30-40 cookies, depending on size

Friday, April 24, 2015

All-American Potato Salad

Woops, I forgot to actually finish telling you about the barbecue last weekend, besides just the amazing Crack Cake.

SO, this was my plate:
bbq
Cornbread, potato salad, grilled vegetables, tomato salad.

I don't have a recipe for the tomato salad, because a guest brought it. The vegetables were just seasoned with olive oil and grilled. We'll skip those.

My gentleman made ribs for the first time. He used this Alton Brown recipe. Everyone really liked it a lot, so if you eat meat you might want to look into it.
bbq

I also made the Best Cornbread In The World, which is still my favorite cornbread recipe.
bbq

And then I made this potato salad:
bbq

I LOVED this potato salad. Because you soak it ahead of time in a mustard sauce, the mustard is able to flavor the potatoes without getting all weird with the mayonnaise. It's so subtle and lovely. It was also great the next day (not that there was much left). I didn't add any celery because we were out. I didn't peel the potatoes because we prefer it that way. I would definitely make this recipe again next time.

All American Potato Salad
Food.com
From "Cook's Country by America's Test Kitchen," episode 106, "All-American Picnic."

2 pounds yukon gold potatoes
1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
3 tablespoons pickle juice, divided
1 large dill pickles, finely diced (1/4 cup)
1 small celery rib, finely diced
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
2 hard-cooked eggs, cut in 1/4-inch dice (optional)

Peel and cut potatoes in 1" cubes. Place in saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring up to a gentle simmer and cook until tender, when a knife slides in and out of cubes without resistance, about 10-15 minutes. Drain potatoes and turn out onto a baking sheet.

Whisk mustard with 2 tablespoons of juice from a jar of pickles. Pour over hot potatoes and toss with fingers to coat. Spread out potatoes and refrigerate for 30 minutes until cool.

Combine pickle, celery, red onion and remaining 1 tablespoon pickle juice with salt and celery seed. Add mayonnaise and sour cream and whisk together.

Add potatoes and toss. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes longer. Add diced egg and fold to combine.

Yield: 8 servings

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Crack Cake

We had a barbecue this past weekend and I wanted to make a really exciting cake, but I reallllly did not want to put in much effort because I was already making so much food. In some magical twist, I had ALL of the ingredients available to make this cake. It's super easy. Mix everything together, dump it in a bundt pan, bake it for an hour. Then as soon as it's out, pour melted butter & white wine over it. It'll bubble and sizzle, like this:

cake

Then the liquid will soak evenly into the entire cake, and then you dump it out and you have the best cake EVER.

cake

The cinnamon flavor is strong, the wine flavor is not. It's amazing. I promise. I will make this again. Also, I used my Williams-Sonoma Nordic Ware Bundt Cake Pan, which I love love love.

Crack Cake
It's The Little Things via Pinterest

1 box Duncan Hines yellow cake mix
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 box vanilla pudding instant mix
2 teaspoons cinnamon
4 eggs
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup oil
1/2 cup white wine

For the topping:
1 stick of butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup white wine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the above ingredients by hand or hand mixer.

Grease a bundt pan.

Pour into pan.

Bake for one hour.

When cake comes out of the oven, melt 1 stick butter into 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup wine.

Pour over hot cake.

Cool. Flip out of pan onto plate and serve.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Chocolate Chunk Peanut Butter Fudgy Swirl Cookies

I made these for Cookie Monday this week. I did not double the recipe, and I got 4 dozen huge cookies. If you make the cookies smaller, you could probably get tons more. I used half regular cocoa, half hershey's extra-dark. This was a brilliant idea and made the cookies VERY chocolatey. Freezing the peanut butter is very important because it helps it to hold its place when you bake the cookies, other than melting everywhere or absorbing into the dough.

I couldn't take a picture because it kept looking like poop. I can't explain it. It was horrible. The cookies are delicious though. Bake them, and then you'll know what they look like!

Chocolate Chunk Peanut Butter Fudgy Swirl Cookies
Picky Palate

1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 sticks butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups good-quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat liner.

Place peanut butter into the freezer until firm, about 30 minutes.

In a stand or electric mixer, beat butter and sugars until well combined. Add eggs and vanilla, beating until well combined.

Place flour, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Add to wet ingredients along with cocoa powder, and chocolate chunks, slowly mixing until just combined. Drop dollops of frozen peanut butter into dough and turn mixer on for just a few turns of the mixer to get swirls of peanut butter through the dough. With a medium cookie scoop, scoop dough onto prepared baking sheet, about 1 inch apart from each other. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, until cooked through. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Yield: 3-4 dozen