Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies

I make note of the people who decline a cookie on Cookie Mondays. Some just don't like sweets, and they can go eat some chicken or something because I'm all about sweets. But some people decline due to dietary restrictions - vegan, gluten-free, or - most recently - paleo. I've made gluten-free and vegan options in the past but had not yet attempted anything paleo. For those who do not know, the paleo diet is a new trendy diet that is actually pretty good. I can't do it, since there's a big emphasis on meat, but it sticks to the whole idea of "clean eating" and is not a bad thing at all. That being said, refined flours and sugars do not fit into the tenets of the paleo diet.

When my friend told me he had converted to paleoism, I made it a goal to find a cookie that he could eat. Because paleo avoids flour and dairy, it also meant the cookie could appeal to my gluten-free and vegan coworkers. I looked all over the place for a decent recipe, but most sounded pretty gross (to me). Then I came across this blog post from BakerGal, where the writer tested six different paleo cookies and used her experience from that to create one delicious paleo cookie. Obviously since it was tested so thoroughly, I decided to try out this composite recipe.

So. I made a small batch. I substituted coconut oil for the macadamia nut oil because that is what I had, and I found "very finely ground almond flour" at Wegmans (at 1am). I already had the coconut oil and agave nectar in my house, for reasons unbeknownst to me.

cookie

I thought they were gross. My gentleman ate one and said, "Babe. You can't. You can't give these out to people for Cookie Monday. These are not good. I'm sorry." He thought they were the main cookie I was giving out and didn't realize it was a paleo recipe. Once I explained it, he understood. But because of our reactions to it, I was very nervous serving them to my coworkers.

As it turns out, I shouldn't have been. My gentleman and I clearly just love the sugar and flour and butter too much and our palates are not cleansed to appreciate healthier baked goods. I actually got nothing but positive reactions to these cookies. That was really surprising but very exciting! It's excellent to know that I have a go-to recipe to use for friends with dietary restrictions. Yay!

Delicious Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookie
From BakerGal

5 oz (1 1/4 cups) very finely ground blanched almond flour
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional, but recommended)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup raw agave nectar
1/8 cup macademia nut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
A scant 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

Heat oven to 325.

Mix almond flour, salt, and baking soda well. In a small bowl, mix agave nectar, Macadamia nut oil, and vanilla. Combine wet and dry ingredients, mixing well. Add dark chocolate chips. Batter should be thick enough that you can roll a small ball between your palms and set it on the cookie sheet without it drooping or losing shape.

Make 16 - 20 small balls of paleo chocolate chip cookie dough and space them evenly on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Press the cookies down as flat as possible with the palm of your hand. This is important! The cookies will NOT spread out on their own.

Bake about 6 minutes. Watch closely and remove when the edges start to brown.

Yield: 16-20 cookies

White Chocolate Snickerdoodles

I really wasn't planning on making cookies for Cookie Monday this week because we went to Pirate Day at the PA Renaissance Fair and I was very tired. But then I felt guilty and actually ended up making two kinds of cookies. I found this recipe online - not even from Pinterest, just from google - by typing in the random crap I found in my pantry. As it happened, I had a box of white chocolate pudding mix. I didn't have white chocolate chips, but I did have baking melts, which I chopped up and threw into the batter. It made about 4 dozen, and since I bake about 18 cookies per batch, I was finished quickly. It was a nice, easy cookie to make after a long day of being a pirate.

I don't have a picture because I was tired and ran out of cookies before I realized I'd forgotten to take a picture. They look like snickerdoodles.

White Chocolate Snickerdoodle Pudding Cookies
SomethingSwanky.com

1 cup butter, chilled
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
3.75 oz. package white chocolate instant pudding mix
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tbsp hot water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups white chocolate chips
1/3 c. cinnamon-sugar for rolling (1/3 cup granulated sugar + 1 tsp cinnamon)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Using a stand mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Add the brown sugar and sugar. Beat for 1-2 minutes, until nearly creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time and mixing in between additions.

Dissolve the baking soda in the tablespoon of water. Add both the baking soda and the vanilla to the mixer and mix well. Mix in the salt and cinnamon. Add the flour and pudding mix, and mix until dough forms.

Mix in the white chocolate chips using a wooden spoon or spatula.

Scoop dough by heaping tablespoons and roll in the cinnamon sugar before placing onto a parchment lined or silicon lined baking sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes until edges are golden brown. Let cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: 4 dozen

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Cinnamon Roll Waffles

ON THE PINTEREST.... (begins every food post...)

There have been several pins floating around discussing making cinnamon roll waffles using canned cinnamon buns and your waffle iron. On a trip to the grocery store recently, Pillsbury Grands CinnaBon cinnamon buns were on sale, so, despite my better judgment, I grabbed a can. The other night we were hanging out and around 11:00 my gentleman said how much he wished he had waffles.

Being the best girlfriend ever, I then took out the can of cinnamon buns, placed each one onto the waffle iron, and let it cook for four minutes.

waffles

SO. DELICIOUS. They're wonderfully perfect and they cook so well in the waffle iron. Yum!

The only downside: four minutes to cook, three days to clean :( The cinnamon/butter mixture from the buns melts and sticks ALL OVER THE PLACE on the waffle iron and it is super difficult to clean. Google it. It's a complaint everyone has when they make it. You just have to decide if it's worth it to you or not (and for me it is).

Pasta & Squash with Tomatoes, Basil, and Pine Nuts

See? I've been more inspired lately. I've been cooking! I pulled out this oldie-but-goodie the other night to make a full batch of Pasta & Squash with Tomatoes, Basil, and Pine Nuts from Cooks Illustrated. While I had the pasta and squash, I did not have any tomatoes or basil. I used dried basil (and dehydrated garlic because I was out of fresh garlic too), and I used drained canned tomatoes in place of the cherry tomatoes. I just threw them in with the squash at the end so it could warm up and cook a little bit. It turned out beautifully and I have had some delicious leftovers!

Cookie Monday: Lemon Crinkle Cookies

To be honest, I picked this recipe mostly because of how little effort it required. I wanted a from-scratch cookie, and I needed something quick because I was baking them after volunteering at our local Pride festival. I also just bought a dwarf lemon tree to grow in my house and, while it will not bear fruit for a couple years, I felt inspired to make something lemony.

So I found this recipe in my Pinterest archives, of course (isn't Pinterest where all recipes come from now?). I doubled it and quickly managed 5 dozen cookies. I found that rolling them in powdered sugar did not have a visible "crinkle" result as most of the powdered sugar just absorbed right into the cookie, but I didn't skip it because it added some extra sweetness to the cookie. Everyone LOVED these. I loved these! They're very summery and light, and just the right combination of sour and sweet. Love. I would make these again.

cookie

Lemon Crinkle Cookies
LDS Living magazine (Seriously)

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease light colored baking sheets with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Whip in vanilla, egg, lemon zest, and juice. Scrape sides and mix again. Stir in all dry ingredients slowly until just combined, excluding the powdered sugar. Scrape sides of bowl and mix again briefly. Pour powdered sugar onto a large plate. Roll a heaping teaspoon of dough into a ball and roll in powdered sugar. Place on baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough.

3. Bake for 9-11 minutes or until bottoms begin to barely brown and cookies look matte {not melty or shiny}. Remove from oven and cool cookies about 3 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

Yield: 2-3 dozen

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Shirley Templars

It's been a lovely week for drinking on the back porch. I had acquired the things necessary to make Dirty Shirleys, my bff Erica's favorite drink. It consists of 7Up, vodka, and grenadine. Mix, drink. Ta-da.

BUT! My gentleman was playing Assassin's Creed one night and in the middle of the game a recipe was imparted for Shirley Templars. Love it. It's exactly the same as a Dirty Shirley except with gin instead of vodka.

shirleys

I didn't think I would like the Templar because gin can sometimes be too strong for me, but I actually liked it better than the Dirty Shirley. Yum!

Myrtle Beach

Alright I got back from Myrtle Beach 2 weeks ago and am just now getting around to posting this. I'm sorry.

Obviously the most exciting food adventure in Myrtle Beach was the shark feast I already posted about. Kick ass.

We ate at a lot of restaurants, small cafes or takeout places, ordered pizza, and made food. Lots of things were consumed. I have made sure to document the more memorable food places, so I will break them down for you here.

1) Steak 'N Shake
On our way down to Myrtle Beach (a 14 hour drive), my Gentleman realized that we would be near a Steak 'N Shake. We don't have one of them near us in PA (although I just googled and found out there's one that just opened up near Harrisburg, oops). This general fast food restaurant reached somewhat mythical proportions by the time we were settled, and thus we went to eat food.
shake

You may not be shocked to learn that Steak 'N Shake's menu is built upon burgers made of steak, and milkshakes. We sat at the bar inside to watch the chefs making the food.
shake

And guess what! They had a vegetarian sandwich! It was filled with vegetables and cheese and avocado and was quite delicious. I really enjoyed it. We had an enjoyable time and it was tasty.
shake

2) Douchey McDougals
The restaurant's actual name was Finn McCool's. It was a landmark for us to know where to turn to get to our condo, and for awhile no one could remember the name so we just ended up calling it whatever words we could think of, with an Irish twist. This was one of the huge inside jokes of the whole trip and I'm sure isn't funny to anyone else.

We actually only ate there once. We ordered pudding shots while waiting for the food, which they served in big plastic syringes. It was wonderful.
shots

(Fun Fact: There is a bar in Philadelphia called Finn McCool's where my Gentleman and I went during our Philly weekend in April.)

3) Sticky Fingers
Of all the places we went during our trip, Sticky Fingers was not only our favorite but also the only place we went to twice. We found it by accident and ended up having the most wonderful southern barbecue. It turns out it's a small chain, but that's okay. We loved it so very much. And if you think there's no vegetarian food at southern barbecue, you are wrong. Remember: side dishes. SIDE DISHES. I had a huge stuffed baked potato and fried corn and macaroni and cheese and hush puppies and cole slaw and SWEET TEA and pie and omg. So many things. I took pictures of a bunch of our plates.

sticky

sticky
(My plate)

sticky

sticky

sticky
(A seven-layer caramel apple pie!)

And then I got home and went to the grocery store and discovered... our grocery stores here in PA carry Sticky Fingers barbecue sauce. Oh my gosh. Best.
sticky

4) Medieval Times
For my gentleman's mom's birthday, we went to Medieval Times.

medieval

It turns out they have enormous drinks. Tons of beer ("Kingling" = their Yuengling) and mixed drinks and fancy shots. Gentleman got a huge HUGE mug of beer (in a glass we got to bring home) and I got a huge HUGE mango coconut daiquiri type thing.
medieval

When his stepdad made the reservations, he told them I am a vegetarian, because at Medieval Times there are no menus. Everyone gets the same thing: chicken, potatoes, soup of some kind, and no utensils. But guess what! The vegetarian menu is WONDERFUL. I think I would prefer it over the chicken even if I did eat chicken. It was so great.

medieval
First I got hummus with pita and vegetables.

medieval
Then I got a big pot of vegetable and bean stew over brown rice. (And a spoon.) It was hearty and delicious. I really, really enjoyed it.

So that's my post about Myrtle Beach.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Shark (A Food Post)

While I was in Myrtle Beach with my gentleman's family, we ate shark.

Shark.

shark
{Composite photo from my Instagram featuring all parts of this story}

The story is such: Gentleman and his male relatives went on a deep-sea fishing trip one of the days we were on vacation. They caught little sea bass, then used those as bait for shark. They also caught a flounder but flounders are gross and flat and the both eyes are on the same side and ew. But shark! They each caught one. (YES it was legal.) Specifically, they caught dogfish sharks. The fisherman leading the voyage then prepared the sharkfish to take home. This means he cut it up and skinned it and made it into nice little non-fish-looking filets in a cooler.

We have one of the shark's jaws in the freezer in the basement. It is going to be mounted.

I know, this is such a non-Lauren post. Bear with me, it gets better, kind of.

So meanwhile, I'm hanging out with the ladies of the family and we all get texts like "Babe. Caught some shark. On our way back to the condo. Find a recipe."

Not knowing what else to do, we looked to Pinterest.

Not finding anything helpful on Pinterest, we looked to Youtube.



I thought this guy's recipe sounded great, but we ended up not using it.

As this was a week prior to Shark Week, myths began to run rampant in the condos. The most pervasive was that sharks pee through their skin and thus shouldn't be eaten or they'll taste like pee. This turns out not to be the case. LESSON TIME: some sharks store 'urea' under their skin, which is urine-ish and smells like ammonia. This can be remedied by skinning the fish when you catch it. Which is what our men did.

Just in case, Gentleman decided to soak the filets in a little waterbath of warm water, fresh lemon and lime juice, and some beer. (IT IS A VACATION, THERE MUST BE BEER.)

Despite the various videos found online, we ultimately went with a quick and easy fish fry. We picked up some batter from the grocery store (side note: never go to the grocery store in Myrtle Beach. Any of them. Bring everything you need. It is a nightmare.) as well as some vegetable oil and potatoes. I made some little oven fries which I was so proud of but only turned out mediocre since they stuck to the condo pan.

Gentleman and his brother in law mixed up all the batters and fried the little pieces of shark. We served it with tartar sauce and/or malt vinegar.

TRUTH TIME: Dogfish shark tastes like cod. It was basically like a New England fish fry. Nothing amazing, nothing terrible, certainly nothing scary. It was an exciting adventure and now we can all say we've eaten shark.

We also learned that you can't leave oil on the stove while you're eating your shark because it will get too hot, smoke everywhere, and burn the next batch to thoroughly black chars. Oops.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Cookie Monday: S'Mores Kisses

I've missed the past two Mondays due to being out of town so this week I made sure to find an extra-special recipe for Cookie Monday. These were sticky and messy but absolutely wonderful. The cookie itself is an oatmeal cookie with some graham cracker crumbs mixed in. Then it's topped with marshmallow fluff and a hershey kiss (just like the Chocolate Nipple Cookies).

These actually did not take very long to make, which was much-appreciated. They also were very easy. The fluff got a little stuck to the cookies while I was topping them, and it melted all over the place, but that's just something that happens when you use marshmallow fluff.

Everyone said they really, really liked these. I was pretty proud of them, personally. I'm glad they were enjoyable. I would absolutely make these again.

kiss

S’more Oatmeal Kiss Cookies
From CinnamonSpice via Pinterest adapted from Midwest Living

4 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup finely ground graham crackers (about 15)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 7 ounce jar marshmallow creme
About 45 Hershey's Kisses, unwrapped

In a medium bowl whisk the oats, flour, graham crackers, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together until well combined. Set aside.

In a large bowl beat the butter on medium speed for 30 seconds the beat in both sugars, scraping down the side of the bowl. Beat in the eggs, milk and vanilla just until combined. Beat in as much of the flour mixture as you can with the mixer, if it gets too thick for your mixer stir by hand until just combined.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour but no longer than 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or lightly grease.

Scoop up slightly rounded tablespoonfuls of dough and lightly roll into a ball. Place about 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets and bake 8 minutes.

Remove from oven and use the back of a measuring spoon to make a small indent in the center of each cookie. Drop teaspoonfuls (use another spoon to scrape it off the measuring spoon) of marshmallow fluff into each one and then push a kiss down into the center of that.

Cool on wire racks and store in one layer in a tightly covered container up to one week.

Yield: 4 dozen

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Fresh Cherry Cup-Pies

If you've followed for a little bit, you know by now that every summer at some point (even last year when I was in the throes of moving), I bake Fresh Cherry Pie with an abundance of delicious fresh cherries. It truly is the best cherry pie recipe I've made, or had, and I love it. Cherry pie filling be gone! Fresh cherries for life.

So while I had this urge to bake this pie, I know that my gentleman and I are unlikely to eat the whole thing (despite the time we literally ate an entire pie - that never needs to happen again). Then suddenly, I remembered the tv show Pushing Daisies. Though generally a show about reviving the dead for 60 seconds to solve mysteries, the main characters own a restaurant that serves only pie. And in one episode, one of the characters develops the Cup Pie.

pushing daisies

As chance would have it, Pinterest happened to have a link to a tutorial for making cup-pies. The link is HERE.

I adapted it to use my own aforementioned pie recipe and it worked BEAUTIFULLY. Oh my goodness. I went with the traditional lattice-top because I love doing lattice-tops, but it could easily be a double-crust.

I only baked four of them - it made 12 - and I put the other 8 into the freezer, unbaked. My hope is that I can then bake them individually whenever we are needing some pie. Does that seem like a good idea? I think it does. I have never frozen an unbaked pie before so I'll keep you updated on the results.

Anyway, this was my beautiful cup-pie.

pie

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Lemony Risotto with Asparagus and Shrimp

I have a lot I need to post about. We went on vacation to Myrtle Beach so I need to do a food post on that. We had an exciting fish fry following the gentlemen deep-sea fishing on the vacation, so that needs its own separate post. I haven't made any cookies since we've been on vacation, but I did manage to try a new recipe this week and that was very exciting.

Ready?

It isn't that exciting.

I had all the ingredients for this except white wine and asparagus. I used some peas instead of the asparagus, vegetable stock instead of chicken, and I added more butter and vegetable stock to make up for the white wine (sad). It was pretty good. I didn't like the texture of the shrimp cooked in the risotto but the Gentleman did. I should have sauteed the shrimp separately and then added them so they would be more of the texture I like. Gentleman ate all of them so I guess they were okay. The non-shrimp part of it reheated well the next day. It's a pretty generic recipe. I'd make the risotto part again and tweak the rest of it.

shrimp

Lemony Risotto with Asparagus and Shrimp
Gourmet, May 2009

When life gives you lemons, make risotto. The clean, citrusy spark brightens both the asparagus and the shrimp (though you can omit the shrimp to turn this from a main course into a side dish).

3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
3/4 pound asparagus -- trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small onion -- finely chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter -- divided
1 1/4 cups Arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
3/4 pound medium shrimp -- peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/4 cup grated parmesan
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. Bring broth and water to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Add asparagus and simmer, uncovered, until just tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer asparagus with a slotted spoon to an ice bath to stop cooking, then drain. Keep broth at a bare simmer, covered.

2. Cook onion in 2 tablespoons butter with 1/4 teaspoon salt in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.

3. Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add wine and simmer, stirring constantly, until absorbed.

4. Stir in 1/2 cup broth mixture and briskly simmer, stirring frequently, until absorbed. Continue adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is creamy and tender but still al dente (it should be the consistency of a thick soup), about 18 minutes. (There will be leftover broth mixture.)

5. Stir in shrimp and cook until just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes.

6. Stir in asparagus, zest, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, parmesan, parsley, and pepper to taste. (Thin risotto with some of remaining broth if necessary.)

Servings: 4