Chocolate Coconut Date Balls

Image

With New Year’s resolution time in full force during the month of January, many of us have committed to a new year of healthy eating, or at least a period of detox as we strive to work off all of the extra indulgences we enjoyed during the holiday season. Or maybe it’s to stop buying clothes at Lululemon or new boots…..but I digress. I definitely fit into the latter category in terms of needing a “detox” of some sort; while I regularly try to make healthy choices, I also balance that with a treat or two. However, I think I enjoyed at least a few more treats than usual during this particular holiday season, and have actually not been in the mood for an indulgent dessert lately, which is highly unusual for me!

Image

Accordingly, these chocolate coconut date balls-or “bites” as I sometimes like to call them instead since I am secretly a 5th grade boy- are perfect. They taste rich and have almost a fudge like consistency, yet they are very healthy, consisting only of dates, cocoa powder, almonds, shredded coconut, and coconut oil. They also come together in minutes and make an effortless dessert for any occasion or are a good healthy snack to have on hand to curb chocolate cravings in a healthier way.  I recently made them for a dinner party and everybody loved them, and could not believe that they only have a few ingredients. Dates are awesome. These keep in the fridge for up to a month so feel free to double or even triple the batch. I do this often.

Chocolate Coconut Date Balls

  • 25 dates
  • ½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • ¼ cup almonds
  • 2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • dash of sea salt

Place all ingredients in a food processor and “pulse” until well blended, about 2-3 minutes. The mixture should still look chunky and should just barely come together. If mixture is still too crumbly add more dates and/or coconut oil.

Roll into balls and place into fridge until ready to serve.

Image

New Year’s resolutions seem much more manageable with treats like this.

Advertisements

Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting

There are so many unique (and sometimes complicated) cake recipes out there and just as many versions of chocolate cake.  While I love experimenting and trying out new recipes, sometimes I just want to have a good slice of rich, moist (sorry to those that hate that word-there’s truly no other word to use!) cake. Especially when it’s a special person’s over a month late birthday celebration.

Image

This is the same cake I mentioned in my last post, that came out lopsided and a little crumbly on one side. No amount of icing could really fix that and if anything, the more I tried to fix it the worse it became. Of course, I was frustrated and hard on myself because it didn’t look “pretty enough.” But it still tasted great. More than great, actually. This is one of the best chocolate cakes that I’ve made and our friends loved it when we served it over the weekend.

Image

I think part of what makes this recipe better than the standard run of the mill cake recipe is buttermilk. Buttermilk always helps to make baked goods more dense and moist (again!) while deepening the flavor-every time I bake with buttermilk it reminds me that I should use it more often! In breads, in waffles, in….more cakes! The cake itself is not overly sweet and tastes more of dark chocolate, which is my favorite kind.

The salted caramel also helps to elevate this cake to a whole new level. There may be nothing that I love more than the salty/sweet combination and the salted caramel, mixed with cream cheese and then combined with a dark dense chocolate cake…..I mean, do I need to even go on? I don’t think I really need to convince you about how good salted caramel is. It is also dangerously easy to make. A blessing and a curse.

Make this cake. Make this cake your new go-to chocolate cake recipe, even.

Image

Chocolate Cake

Adapted from Kimberly Taylor Images

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature (Greek yogurt can be substituted)
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee (Starbucks Via packets are great for this!)
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. On low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Add the chocolate chips and fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it’s completely blended. Divide your batter evenly between your cake pans.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let cool for 10-15 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Salted Caramel

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons brown rice syrup (or corn syrup)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Combine the sugar, water, and the brown rice syrup in a large saucepan and stir with a wooden spoon over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.

Cover the saucepan and let it cook over medium heat for 3 minutes.

After 3 minutes, remove the lid, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil.

Do not stir from this point on, but instead swirl the liquid around the pan so that the caramel doesn’t burn.

Continue to cook until the caramel turns an even amber color then remove from the heat and let stand for about 30 seconds.

CAREFULLY pour the heavy cream into the mixture. The mixture will bubble up significantly and is very hot.

Stir the mixture, again being careful. Add the butter, lemon juice, and salt. Stir until combined.

Measure 1 cup into a Pyrex measuring cup. Stirring occasionally, allow to cool until thick like molasses and warm to the touch, about 20 minutes. Save any extra in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

Salted Caramel Frosting

  • 2 sticks butter at room temperature
  • 8 ounces of cream cheese
  • 3-4 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 cup salted caramel (recipe above)

Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed until creamy.

Add 2 cups of the powdered sugar into the butter/cream cheese mixture and beat to combine.

Add 1 cup of the salted caramel and beat to combine.

Add additional powdered sugar until the frosting is the sweetness and consistency you desire. (I did not need to add any additional sugar).

Now go…make this cake. Make this cake your new go-to chocolate cake recipe, even.  You don’t even need a special occasion. I give you permission 😉

Soft and Chewy Pumpkin Cookies

Image

Back again with the pumpkin. I know that it’s the season and that there are pumpkin recipes everywhere, this little blog included, but these are a bit unique. These cookies are made with pumpkin butter instead of pumpkin puree, which in my opinion, yields a slightly sweeter cookie with hints of maple and spice.

IMGP6344

I brought these cookies to our office Halloween party and, not to brag or anything, but everyone loved them. I’ve actually been making this recipe for a few years now and they’ve gotten the same reaction. These cookies are perfectly soft and keep this way for 4-5 days. I happen to be picky about cookies and will not eat them once they become stale, which usually happens in 2-3 days, so this is an added benefit to making these.

Image

Despite the pumpkin overload this season brings, seriously, make these because they’re the best I’ve tried and they are by far our favorite. I have a tendency to be a little bit dramatic sometimes, but this time I’m for real.

Oh, pumpkin. You knew I couldn’t stay away too long.

Soft and Chewy Pumpkin Cookies

Adapted from How Sweet It Is

  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin butter
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Mix the flour, salt, cornstarch, pumpkin pie spice and baking soda in a bowl and set aside. In another bowl, mix the melted butter and sugars until they are combined. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and stir until mixed. Stir in pumpkin butter until smooth. Gradually add flour mixture and mix until a dough forms – it will look crumbly at first, but it will come together.

Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes, then roll into golfball-sized balls. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until cookies are crisp and slightly golden on the edges, then let cool completely.

Image

Cranberry White Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

I finally made a Fall recipe that doesn’t involve pumpkin. Don’t be too worried though. I’m not through with pumpkin just yet. I made these cookies for a Chili Cook Off and wanted to create a Fall inspired recipe that was not pumpkin-based, because I figured that someone would probably bring pumpkin something or other, especially with there being a plethora of pumpkin chili these days. I have to say that I’ve never been the biggest fan of oatmeal cookies in general. I’m sure many people can relate to the disappointment I feel when I pick up an oatmeal raisin cookie after mistaking it for chocolate chips. Raisins in my dessert? No, thanks. Not my thing.

Image

However, since I’ve gotten older (and more mature, I like to think), I’ve developed a fondness for oatmeal, especially in baked goods. I love the texture and the heartier flavor that it lends to breads, muffins, cookies, and crusts. The health benefits are a nice added benefit as well, though I am realistic enough to know that generally speaking, stuffing white chocolate, butter, sugar, and some sweetened cranberries does not necessarily yield a health food. But, it’s all relative. They are healthier. And sometimes, when you need dessert, that’s the best you can do. I get it.

Side note: I’ve seen so many recipes for these 3 or 4 ingredient “power bites” or cookies made of only, like, bananas and carrots and protein powder, or something crazy like that. That’s all well and good for a post-workout snack, but that’s not dessert. Dessert is supposed to be a treat and, to be honest, my primary purpose when making desserts is to make it taste as amazing as possible.

Image

If that involves using a cup of butter and sugar, I’ll do it. It’s supposed to be a treat. If it involves adding oatmeal and ingredients that are naturally sweetened, thus cutting back on added sugar, well then, that’s an added benefit.

I could go on and on (which is probably why I started a blog in the first place) but I’ll get to the point and just give you the recipe.

Image

Cranberry White Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Inspired by this recipe

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking solda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 3 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup white chocolate chips or chunks

In a bowl, combine the flours, oats, baking soda, and salt.

In a large bowl, combine butter, coconut oil, vanilla extract, egg, and brown sugar. Still well until combined.

Mix dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir without over-mixing.

Stir in cranberries and white chocolate chips.

With a spoon, scoop cookies onto cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until slightly golden. Let cool and enjoy!

Another note: white chocolate and cranberries are seriously a perfect combination. White chocolate does not usually satisfy my chocolate cravings, but these worked perfectly.

Pumpkin Magic Cake

You’re intrigued now, right? Magic cake? This probably would have been a more fitting Halloween recipe, come to think of it.

My Wednesday evening consisted of baking up a storm of pumpkin Halloween treats, as evidenced by a glimpse of my kitchen mess:

Image

Only good can come out of that trail of ingredients. This can also serve as a preview of recipes to come. I’m so predictable.

I first came across this recipe on Pinterest and, after googling “Pumpkin Magic Cake”, learned that there are many different versions, but that it is essentially a layer of pumpkin-spiced custard with a crumbly cookie top. I was intrigued and knew that this had to be made at some point during the Fall season.

Image

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that on any given day during this Autumnal season I have pumpkin puree in the fridge.  I also happened to have some regular milk (we usually drink almond milk due to our lactose issues….fun topic I know). Because we had a Halloween get-together at a friends’ house to pass out Halloween candy, it seemed like an opportune time to find out if this magic cake lived up to its name. It certainly did. This bar is dense, as the first layer has a custard texture, with a more subtle pumpkin flavoring. It is actually a bit reminiscent of pumpkin pie and I think it would make a nice Thanksgiving dessert.  Even though I realize that it is sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar, it is actually not overly sweet, which was nice for a night like Halloween when we were eating passing out candy for the majority of the night.

Image

Pumpkin Magic Cake

From Foodness Gracious 

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup pumpkin, canned
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter an 8 x 8 cake pan and set aside.

Melt the butter and set aside.

Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks (stand mixer recommended if available-if so, use whisk attachment).

If using same bowl and beaters, clean out bowl thoroughly and beat egg yolks and sugar until pale and light, about 5-6 minutes.

Mix in the melted butter and combine.

Add the flour mixing well to break down any lumps. Beat in the milk and vanilla.

Add the pumpkin and pumpkin spice and whisk until smooth.

Slowly add the egg whites 1/2 at a time, whisking gently until smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Set the pan on a baking tray and bake for about 45-50 minutes. The top will still be a little jiggly but will set upon cooling.

Cool completely before slicing into squares and dusting with some more confectioner’s sugar. I put it in the fridge overnight before cutting and serving.

Image

I also recommend serving with a pumpkin beer. Highly recommend.

Vanilla Bean Custard

So, a couple weeks ago I mentioned my new favorite ingredient, vanilla bean paste:

Image

I purchased this at Williams Sonoma after attending one of their free morning cooking technique classes; this class in particular was about vanilla, and one of the recipes given to us that day was for crème brulee. Since then, I have not been able to get the idea of making a crème brulee out of my head, and finally decided to make a variation of the recipe.

We do not have a kitchen torch, so what I made is considered to be vanilla custard. However, in my opinion, it was equally delicious, thick and creamy, with only a few ingredients needed to truly allow the flavors of the vanilla to shine. With the vanilla bean paste, you can actually see specks of vanilla bean in the custard.

Image

They’re in there, I promise.

You could make so many different custard flavors with this recipe base. I am already thinking about chocolate, pumpkin (of course), and almond, to name a few. Or you can simply choose to enjoy the simplicity of the classic vanilla version. This custard can also be used as a filling for tarts, pastries, and a variety of other desserts.

Image

Vanilla Bean Custard

  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla bean paste (or ½ vanilla bean)
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 3 egg yolks
  • pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup sugar

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Have a pot of boiling water ready.

Add vanilla bean paste to 2 quart saucepan. Add the cream, stir to mix and set the pan over medium-low heat. Warm the cream until bubbles form around the edges of the pan and steam begins to rise from the surface. Remove from the heat and set aside, about 3-5 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, salt, and the ¼ cup sugar until smooth and blended. Gradually add the cream to the egg mixture, whisking until blended. Divide the custard among 3-4 5 or 6 oz inch ramekins, or 2 souffle dishes (this is what I used). In 13×9 inch baking pan, place ramekins and fill bottom of pan halfway up sides of ramekins with boiling water. Cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil and bake until custard is just set around the edges, 35-40 minutes.

Allow ramekins to cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3-4 hours, and up to 3 days.

Tres Leches Cake

Today is a pretty big day. It marks a milestone birthday for my favorite guy in the whole world:

0333-1

I have to admit that I get almost as excited for Jose’s birthday as I do my own. That’s one of my favorite parts of being married-you get to celebrate two birthdays instead of just your own!

Now, I need to tell you about this Tres Leches Cake. I made it for the first time last year. I had always wanted to try making a Tres Leches Cake, but had been a little intimidated by the idea. It always seemed like such a complicated recipe, compounded by the fact that Jose had always mentioned that his cousin makes an amazing Tres Leches, and no other versions could hold a candle to hers.

Image

So, I never tried making it, until I saw a version that caught my attention last year. I couldn’t stop thinking about making that cake, and so I finally hesitantly told Jose that I wanted to attempt it, and decided to make it to bring to our good friend’s birthday party. This friend is also Mexican (and also lactose-intolerant, which I did not know at the time-oopsies!). So I made it. And we tried it. And, goodness…..Image

I know that photo is dark, but look at those layers!

Image

I generally have some sense of self-control when it comes to sweets. I crave desserts, but I can force myself to have one serving and be done. I do use the term “serving” loosely here but I think you get the idea. This cake, though. It’s seriously irresistible to just stop at one (and I accidentally just typed the word “irresponsible” which is probably just as fitting). We can be so full from a big meal and still want a piece of this cake.

It’s rich, yet light. So moist and flavorful. It actually tastes better a day after it is made, allowing the milks to completely seep in to the light sponge cake, making it more dense.

So now, when I ask Jose what kind of cake he wants for his birthday, he chooses Tres Leches.  And I am equally excited for his birthday because I know that it includes a perfect reason to make this cake. Think this is becoming a new birthday tradition around here. This year, he asked me to make it with chocolate whipped cream, which, in my opinion, takes whipped cream to a whole new level. I hadn’t made chocolate whipped cream before so I just threw some cocoa powder into the stand mixer while I was whipping the cream. I could just eat this whipped cream alone by the spoonful. Although I suppose that doesn’t say a whole lot because honestly, I could eat any kind of whipped cream by the spoonful, but what I mean to say is that this whipped cream has a rich and deeply intense chocolate flavor, despite its light coloring. However, if you want to go the traditional route, simply omit the cocoa powder. It is delicious either way, and the “plain” whipped cream brings out the vanilla flavoring of the cake even more. So, make this cake, whatever you do. Whether you have a birthday excuse or not.

Image

Tres Leches Cake

From The Pioneer Woman

  • 1 cup All-purpose Flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 5 whole Eggs
  • 1 cup Sugar, Divided
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • 1/3 cup Milk
  • 1 can Evaporated Milk
  • 1 can Sweetened, Condensed Milk
  • 1/4 cup Heavy Whipping Cream

For the Chocolate Whipped Cream Icing

  • 2 cups (or one pint) heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (can use vanilla extract)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with cooking spray liberally until coated.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Separate eggs.

Beat egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar on high speed until yolks are pale yellow. Stir in milk and vanilla. Pour egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir very gently until combined.

*Wash mixing bowl and wash the whisk before beating egg whites-stiff peaks will not form if there is any yolk residue left.

Beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. With the mixer on, pour in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until egg whites are stiff but not dry.

Fold egg white mixture into the batter very gently until just combined. Pour into prepared pan and spread to even out the surface.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Combine condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream in a small pitcher. When cake is cool, pierce the surface with a fork several times. Slowly drizzle all of the mixture onto the cake-try to get as much around the edges of the cake as you can.

Allow the cake to absorb the milk mixture for 30 minutes.

To make the whipped cream icing, add the heavy whipping cream to the bowl of a stand mixer or mixing bowl. Mix cocoa powder and sugar separately. Beat for 1 minute, then add cocoa powder/sugar mixture. Drizzle in vanilla paste or extract. Beat for 2-3 more minutes until thick and fluffy. Spread over the surface of the cake.

Serve and enjoy!

Happy 30th Jose.  To a big year for both of us, to more than just a milestone marked by numbers. I can’t wait to see where this journey takes us together but I hope it includes many more Tres Leches Cakes to come.

Image

Purple Berry Fruit Crisp

Image

I’ve never been particularly skilled with themes, especially when it comes to food. Not only am I not very  creative or crafty, but I’d also rather not sacrifice flavor, ingredient combinations, or anything of the like, to make a dish fit with a theme. I want to make food because it is delicious and because it is what sounds good to me, without compromising any of the previously mentioned components. 

ImageImage

So when we were invited to a Breaking Bad season finale theme party with the caveat that everyone contribute a “Breaking Bad” themed dish, I had the same hesitations. Until I had the idea of incorporating the color purple into a dish, which is an obsession of one of the supporting characters on the show. From there, I decided to make a Fruit Crisp using only “purple” fruits.

Blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, to be more specific. 

Image

So pretty. Fruit crisps are great because, while they look and taste impressive, they are ridiculously easy to make. They are a quick and relatively healthy dessert to make on a last minute whim. You can substitute almost any type of fruit, improvise with the crisp topping, top with whipped cream, ice cream, yogurt….make it your own. Homemade whipped cream is highly recommended, though. 

Image

Purple Berry Fruit Crisp with Homemade Whipped Cream

For the fruit filling: 

  • 5-6 cups mixed blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, frozen or fresh (I used frozen)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

For the topping: 

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour (substitute oat flour or even almond meal for GF options)
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cubed

For homemade whipped cream: 

  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2-3 tablespoons granulated sugar (add to taste) 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In large bowl, combine frozen or fresh fruit with cornstarch, lemon juice, brown sugar, and salt. Place in baking dish or cast iron skillet (I used a 12 inch cast iron skillet). Use smaller skillet or 8×8 baking dish for thicker fruit layer. 

To assemble topping, combine all ingredients except for butter in bowl of a food processor. 

Image

Pulse about 5 times to combine. Add cold butter cubes and pulse until butter is thoroughly incorporated, about 8-10 pulses. Use your hands to further mix together and crumble evenly over the surface of the fruit. 

For whipped cream, simply pour heavy whipping cream into bowl of stand mixer with whisk attachment and give it a whirl for 2-3 minutes. Add in vanilla extract and sugar and whisk for 1-2 more minutes, or until mixtures thickens to whipped cream consistency. Taste and add more sugar if desired. You can also make using electric hand-held mixer. 

Bake crisp for 35-40 minutes, until top is golden and crunchy and fruit is bubbling. Allow to stand for 5 minutes, then serve with homemade whipped cream or topping of choice. 

Image

No Bake Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake

Image

My husband does not like cheese.

I know, it was probably rude of me to blurt that out and startle you like that without a proper warning. People are typically surprised to learn that about him, and I know he’s probably tired of the shocked responses by now, as well as the teasing from me. But when you live with someone and you tend to cook meals for the both of you and you love cheese, it’s just a fact that you will not get to eat it quite as often as you’d like. Which, honestly, is probably not the worst thing ever, since cheese is not exactly a health food (although I’m pretty sure we make up for any lack of cheese in other ways). He does have “cheese” rules though: he likes cheese when it is not the dominant flavor in any dish, i.e. pizza must have pepperoni or another type of meat, and he will tolerate more mild flavored cheeses as compared to stronger flavored goat and feta cheese when incorporated into dishes. But cutting up some baguette and cheese to enjoy with a glass of wine? He can’t do that. Feeling sorry for me yet?

So when I came across this recipe for Easy Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake Parfaits, I sent it to him with the question of “should I make this?” already assuming that he’d shut the idea down right away, but figuring that it never hurts to try. 

However, he responded with an excited “Yes!” He still surprises me.

You’d think I know by now whether or not he likes cheesecake, and, to be honest, he may have mentioned it at some point in the past, but when you are married to someone that does not like cheese, it’s not very often that suggestions of cheesecake making would even come up. 

Image

 

This cheesecake was so easy to make, especially compared to the traditional baked variety. The most time-consuming part of the process is baking the cookies. I highly recommend that you use the cookie recipe provided because….brown butter. It gives the cookies such an added depth in delicious, buttery, flavor.

The original recipe had served the cheesecake parfait style in individual glass jars, which would be adorable; however I do not have any, so I thought the next best thing would be to get some more use out of my cute new tart pan. Though the pan was a bit big for the amount of cheesecake made, it still worked very well.

I highly recommend making this recipe as further effort to unite cheese lovers and haters worldwide. 

Image

No Bake Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake

Slightly adapted from How Sweet it is

For the Brown Butter Oatmeal Chunk Cookies:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups rolled oats
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat a small saucepan over medium-low heat and add butter. Whisking constantly, cook butter until bubbly and until small brown bits appear on the bottom of the pan – about 5-6 minutes. Watch closely and immediately remove the butter from the heat, whisking for an additional 30 seconds or so. Set aside and let cool completely.  Note: It does not need to solidify at all, but it should not be warm to the touch. I put mine in the fridge for a few minutes to speed up this process.

In a bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder, oats and cinnamon, mixing, then set aside.

Once butter has cooled, add to a large bowl. Whisk in sugars, stirring until smooth. Add in egg and vanilla, whisking until smooth once again. Slowly begin to stir in dry ingredients, using your hands if necessary (I did) to bring dough together. Fold in chocolate chips, distributing them evenly. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.

Form dough into balls and place about 2 inches apart on a nonstick baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until bottoms and edges are golden. Let cool before serving. 

For the Chocolate Chip Cheesecake:

  • 12 chocolate chip cookies
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 4 ounces mascarpone cheese, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk 

In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the cream cheese and mascarpone. Beat on medium speed until the cheeses are mixed and slightly creamy, then drizzle in the condensed milk with the mixer still going. Add in the vanilla extract and beat the mixture until it is creamy and smooth.

Take 10 of the chocolate chip cookies and either add them to a food processor or place them in a resealable plastic bag. Pulse (or crush) the cookies into small pieces. They should not be as fine as graham cracker crumbs – but still want them crumbly. Having some larger pieces in there is okay too. Take a few spoonfuls of the crushed cookies and stir them into the cheesecake mixture. I didn’t measure this part.

Next, take some of the crushed cookies and spread them on the bottom of the pan. Add a layer of the cheesecake mixture and spread the best you can on top of the crushed cookies (doesn’t have to be perfect). Alternate with another layer of crushed cookies, then another layer of cheese, and finally, another layer of crushed cookies as a topping (the layers may be ordered differently depending how big your pan is-I was starting to run out of ingredients-but it doesn’t have to look “perfect” to still taste amazing.)

This keeps in the fridge for 3-4 days-just cover tightly with plastic wrap. I like to take it out for 10-15 minutes before serving, but that’s just my preference. It tastes pretty delicious either way.

We both loved this cheesecake. I especially loved the creamy sweet flavor of the mascarpone cheese and am already dreaming up more uses for the half empty container I have left. The crunch of the cookies made it delicious as well.

When I served this, Jose looked over at me and asked, “So….this is probably pretty awful for us, right?” Be under no impression whatsoever that this is a health food recipe. But it’s cheese….and chocolate chip cookies….and all the good things. And I like to sometimes pretend that dessert does not truly “count.” So, indulge and enjoy. 

Image

 

Grains and Mains

So, thanks to the arrival of this new cookbook from my lovely sister for my birthday present:

Image

I decided to delve right in cooking more recipes featuring grains as the main element of the meal. Though we have a tendency to eat this way at least a few times a week, we generally stick with rice, quinoa, pasta, and oats. I’ve always been intimidated by the overwhelming amount of other options there are. However, after flipping through the recipes in this book, I decided to give it a shot and placed an order on IHerb:

Image

From left to right, that would be Kamut, rye berries, buckwheat groats, and millet. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was a little intimidated!

So MOST of those purchases are related to a recipe in this book.I know peanut butter isn’t a “grain” but whatever it’s one of my favorite foods. So there.

Last night I made the first recipe from the book (I did loosely base a stir fry from this recipe last week but it was more thrown together and too bland) and it turned out pretty well:Image

Lots of veggies. I loosely followed the recipe here and just added what I had in the fridge.

Image

Finished product!

I really like buckwheat. It has a somewhat crunchy, almost nutty consistency and flavor and I’m excited to cook with it more. I can’t wait to use it as a substitute for other grains, such as rice, pasta, or quinoa, in some of our favorite recipes.

On another note, this week has been a particularly frustrating one at work, as I mentioned last week. The technology issues remain and we are very limited to what we can actually get done. This essentially resulted in feelings of stir craziness by the end of the day, the antsy feelings of sitting in front of a computer at a desk for 8ish hours. So in addition to the stir fry, I made this Chilled Dark Chocolate Pie with Toasted Almond Crust (subbing strawberries for whipped cream): 

Image

Image

Image

Because, you know, we had heavy whipping that was going to expire soon, so it obviously makes perfect sense to find something to bake to go with the whipped cream that I had decided to make. Not backwards thinking at all? This pie certainly worked for this purpose. It’s actually somewhat healthy, as the crust is made from basically ground almonds, oat flour, and a bit of brown rice syrup (another newly purchased ingredient) and the filling is full-fat coconut milk and chocolate chips. Make the crust, pour in the filling, put in the freezer for 2 hours, serve and enjoy with that whipped cream. My husband, who “doesn’t like coconut milk” loved it-and still doesn’t know that there was actually coconut milk in it. Ha! Success. The only thing I would change is the crust….while it was good, it wasn’t quite crispy enough? There was definitely something missing there. I think it just tasted too “healthy”. But healthy is good because then you’re allowed to have just a little over a (giant) piece because also you have to even out the edges and all of that. Anyway, this recipe was too delicious not to share:

Chilled Dark Chocolate Pie with Toasted Almond Crust

Adapted from Oh She Glows

For the crust:

  • 3/4 cup raw almonds
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoons brown rice syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1/2 cup oat flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats

For the filling:

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 (15-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk, chilled in fridge overnight
  • 2 tablespoons brown rice syrup
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the crust: Preheat oven to 350⁰F and lightly grease a 9-inch pie dish with coconut oil. Add almonds into a food processor and process until a fine crumb forms, the size of sand. Now add the coconut oil, brown rice syrup, salt, and oat flour and process again until the dough comes together. Finally, pulse  in the rolled oats until the oats are finely chopped, but still have some texture to them. The dough should stick together when pressed between your fingers. With your fingers, crumble the dough evenly over the base of the pie dish.  Starting from the middle, press the mixture firmly and evenly into the dish,  moving outward and upward along the side of the pie dish. The harder you press  the crumbs into the dish, the more it will hold together. Side note: I am horrible at creating perfect, beautiful pie crusts. It doesn’t have to be perfect and will still taste the same, regardless. Bake pie crust, uncovered, at 350⁰F for 10-13 minutes, until lightly golden and  fragrant. Remove from oven and set aside to cool on a rack for about 20 minutes.

For the filling: Chill can of coconut milk in the fridge overnight so the  cream can solidify. When ready, open the can and carefully scoop out the solid  white coconut cream into a pot, discarding the water. Add chocolate chips and stir until combined. Heat over low-medium heat until most of the chocolate is  melted. Remove from heat and stir in the brown rice syrup, salt, and vanilla until smooth.

For the whipped cream: Pour 1 pint heavy whipping cream into the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk on medium-high speed for 3-4 minutes, until cream thickens and “fluffs.” Add 3 tablespoons sweetener of choice (I usually use granulated sugar or maple syrup) and 1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract to taste.

Pour chocolate filling into pie crust and smooth out. Place in the freezer, on  an even surface, for a minimum of 2 hours, or until firm throughout. Allow pie  to sit on the counter for 15-30 minutes before attempting to slice. Serve the pie chilled with whipped cream on top. Wrap leftover pieces of pie and store in the freezer or fridge for up to one week. We stored ours in the fridge and it kept firm without any issues.

Read more: http://ohsheglows.com/2013/07/06/chilled-dark-chocolate-pie-with-toasted-almond-crust-and-strawberry-vanilla-compote/#ixzz2fjjFaG6T

Next attempt at cooking with those grains was the following night: Quinoa Crepes. Jose was a bit more on the fence with this one, and, turns out, rightfully so.

I had never made crepes before and am also the type of person who cannot make one of those perfectly round pancakes. My pancakes may taste good, but why can’t they also look pretty? Yes, I whine just like that when I’m frustrated, too. So, crepes always intimidated me, because they are so pleasantly thin, larger than pancakes but still require a flipping in the pan. I read through the recipe, then went to read some blogger success stories about how “I was so scared to make crepes but then I did and WOW it was like, so easy!”

Those are lies.

Image

Do those look like crepes to you? Fortunately, they tasted good. However, these were stressful to make. Spreading the batter in the pan, but it’s too thick-and then it’s too thin, and then, we try to flip it and it crumbles. With all of that difficulty in the execution, I did not have high hopes for the taste. But, thankfully, my Mexican husband had a pretty decent idea: pretend like they are tortillas! (When in doubt…).

Image

The crepes were made of quinoa, whole wheat pastry flour, egg, almond milk, olive oil, and sea salt.

The filling was a simple combination of grilled corn, avocado, chopped cherry tomatoes, olive oil, oregano, cumin, and sea salt.

Though they were somewhat thin like crepes, they were hearty and reminiscent of a cross between corn and flour tortillas.

Image

And they were sooo good. Though we may not be racing to make these again anytime soon, they were surprisingly delicious and filling!

Quinoa Crepes with Corn and Avocado Salsa

Adapted from Grain Mains

For the crepes:

  • 1/2 cup quinoa, cooked (follow instructions on package)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (we used almond milk and it worked well!)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for the skillet
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (do not use whole wheat flour)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the salsa:

  • 2 ears of corn, husked, grilled, and kernels sliced off cob.
  • 2 avocados, diced
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano (or 2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano leaves)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

To make the crepes:

Whisk quinoa in a large bowl with milk, 1/4 cup olive oil, honey, and egg. Whisk in whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, and salt until a batter comes together.

Lightly grease a 12-inch nonstick skillet with some olive oil. Heat over medium heat. Pour in about 1/2 cup batter all around the skillet; quickly shake and swirl the skillet to thin the batter out into an even coating (*this is where we had issues! If this does not work for you, they may be more like tortillas or pancakes, which still taste good!). Cook until the bottom is set and the batter has bubbles throughout, about 2-4 minutes. The top should already look dry. Loosen the crepe with a large spatula (or have your husband help you because you are panicking that you are going to break them!). Cook about 1 minute longer, until set and lightly browned. Transfer to a large plate, oil the skillet again, and continue until the batter is used up.

To make the salsa filling:

Mix corn and other filling ingredients in a medium bowl: avocados, tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Assembly: Set crepe on a serving plate and spoon about 1/2-2/3 cup of the salsa into center. Fold the edges over the filling) and enjoy! I can imagine a variety of additional toppings with this; the recipe called for Mexican crema, but i also think you could add tomato salsa, Greek yogurt, creme freche…..

I don’t think I’ve completely convinced Jose on this whole idea of cooking with more grains. He’s already started to snicker and ask if this is one of “those recipes from that new book you got” pretty much anytime he hears a food he doesn’t recognize listed as one of our dinner ingredients. I think that means I just need to keep trying more of these recipes….