6/27/2013

oatmeal cookies with golden raisins

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Inspired by 101 Cookbooks Thinnest Oatmeal Cookies, I present to you the lace cookie version of a classic. This are not your ordinary oatmeal cookies. Rather than the chewy, hearty cookies you remember; this crisp salty-sweet version provides a satisfying snap once cooled. That is, provided you eat them all the same day. No complaints here. Using almost no flour, these oat-y


For this recipe you will need:

1 tablespoon whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted but not hot
1 1/2 cups of rolled oats (I used a multigrain version, but regular oats will do)
1 egg
2/3 cup of cane sugar
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. In a small bowl, combine your flour, baking soda, salt and chopped walnuts.


In a separate bowl, combine your coconut oil and rolled oats. Stir until evenly coated. In yet another bowl (oh, so many bowls!), this time large, whisk together your sugar and your egg. Once you've achieved a creamy consistency, add your flour mixture. Whisk in, then add your coconut-y oats. Fold in the raisins - I realize I'm being specific and picky when I say "golden," but do whatever feels right, or use whatever you have. Cranberries? Regular ol' raisins? Dried blueberries even? Who's judging?

Though this dough scoops up neatly, these cookies really flatten out once baked. So be sure to give them enough space when you spread them out on your baking sheets. For my first round, I was unprepared for just how thin "thinnest" meant, and ended up with several conjoined cookies, which we did not discriminate against. If you're aiming for a more traditional round-cookie shape, give them all at least two inches. These guys like their elbow room.


Bake until very deeply golden, about 8-10 minutes. Once you remove them, they might seem as though they're going to be chewy, but let them cool for about 5 minutes on the parchment before you make that incorrect assumption. They will, at this point, peel easily from the paper and, once completely cooled, be the perfect crunchy cookie.





6/20/2013

asparagus + feta pizza

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Ah, pizza. A standby food in many households, versatile in its toppings, abundant in its availability. There are at least four pizza places I can think of off-hand within 1 mile of our apartment, and I don't even live in a city. In fact, I don't even live in a big town. It's small. Smaller than small. And full of pizza lovers, apparently.

Either way, it doesn't matter, because in order to make pizza right, you've got to do it yourself. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a huge, huge (note the huge) fan of a plain old cheese pizza, dripping in grease. In fact, I intentionally save a slice or two for the morning after, for the even-better cold version of said pie. I live for it, really.


Still, part of me (the ironically not-Italian Greek part of me?) knew we could do better. And having just acquired our very own pizza stone (which is now, after one use, broken: sad. We're working on getting a new one aka demanding that Crate & Barrel exchange our obviously defective original stone - save your warranties, people!), we decided, what better way to celebrate those almost-perfect summer tomatoes and NJ asparagus than with a handmade pizza built to highlight both?

Now the question is, do you need a pizza stone to make your own pizza at home? The short answer is no. You don't need it. Just like you don't need a bagel biter or a citrus juicer. It ups your professional quality, yes, it makes the cream cheese spread evenly and your salad dressing seed free, but do you need it? Nope. For your pizza, a baking sheet will work in a pinch. It won't, however, give you that pizzeria crust which is, let's face it, the whole point of a pizza anyway. You people who leave your crusts behind? I will never poach your leftovers, though I have considered it, and I will also never understand you.


While a traditional home oven maxes out at about 500 degrees Fahrenheit, most stone and wood-burning pizza ovens often chug away at a minimum of 800 degrees. Talk about hot. At this level, pies can cook in minutes and that perfect crisp-to-chew crust ratio is what it's all about. Why do you think your order is always ready in half an hour or less, even on a busy Saturday night? How the pizza stone works to implement this effect: while your oven is up at around 450 degrees, the stone itself, with its unique heat-retaining properties, can get much, much hotter, topping out at around 600-700. I know, I know. It's no pizza oven, but it brings you that much closer and that's what counts. (Of course, read your manuals: with heat like this, these stones are super temperamental and require specific care.)



For this recipe, you'll need:

Some ready-to-use pizza dough, plus a little flour for rolling/stretching: if you want to make your own dough, go for it. If you don't and your local grocery store isn't any help (though most are carrying it these days), you can usually buy it from an actual pizza place.

For the sauce:

Tomatoes, and lots of them. I used about three and a half big guys and about 1/2 cup of baby heirlooms.
1 medium carrot, shredded
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt/pepper
Some fresh thyme or any other herbs you have on hand



Heat your olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add your garlic and onions and simmer until translucent, about five minutes, stirring constantly to avoid burning. Add your carrot and stir for another minute. Add your tomatoes (I chopped them, though only roughly; they'll continue to break down as the sauce cooks), salt, pepper and fresh herbs to taste. The trick to this sauce is that the longer it goes, the better it gets. Have some time to kill before dinner? Once this guy gets to a steady boil, reduce the heat to low and let it simmer. For how long? Well, that's up to you. If it really can't wait, it should be useable in about thirty minutes. Use a fork or immersion blender to further break down the tomatoes, if desired. As you can see in the picture, we did not desire such things.


And now: assembly! Shape your pizza dough according to instructions. Tip: it's harder than it looks. After a certain point, don't overwork it and just go with whatever shape you have. Not perfectly round? Well, it won't be in your belly, either, so move on. Oh, and the whole tossing thing? For seasoned tossers and pizza veterans only. I tried it once. I had cereal for dinner.

Cute Colin, mid-stretch.

From there, the rest is up to you! What we all love about pizza is that there is no wrong answer, right? Top it however you want, any kind of cheese, veggies, or even fruit. Anything goes, and since that's true, we decided to go with some sliced asparagus and crumbled feta, the perfect salty-tart compliment to the sweet tomato sauce.

Pre-stone pizza.

The best way to get the pizza ON the stone is to also have a pizza peel in your possession. We, unfortunately, do not. However, cute Colin's inventive skills to the rescue, and suddenly we have an inverted baking pan that swung in to do the trick. (A little cornmeal will also help prevent your pizza from sticking too much, to either your peel, pan or your stone.)

How long does it have to cook? Beats me, to be perfectly honest. We checked it, often but not too often as to avoid losing valuable oven heat. I'd say about 10 minutes and a professional browning of the crust prompted us to pull the pizza out (much easier to remove, at least if you have two spatulas handy).

I don't mean to brag or anything, but this pizza was the BOMB. So much so that it's been verified (by me) that it's totally okay to bring back "the bomb" as an appropriate way of complimenting a freaking amazing occurrence, thing or, in this case, food. I might even go so far as to add diggidty, without even the fleeting thought of apology.



6/10/2013

spicy carrot oatmeal muffins

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On a misson for healthy substitutes (though giving in to an actual craving every now and then is good for all of us--not long after this post, had a carrot cake cupcake and it was d to the vine. I will not apologize for that), I was wondering how I could make a simple but delicious version of carrot cake, without actually giving in and making a whole cake. Cream cheese frosting and all. But I will, soon. Right after I make this: ahhhh.



So for these health nuggets (that's right, I said it), that are better for breakfast and inspired by Kitchen Treaty, you will need:

2 cups of whole wheat flour
1 cup of multigrain oatmeal (plus 1 tablespoon for topping)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup of milk
3/4 cup of cinnamon applesauce
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup of vegetable oil
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups carrots, grated (Please oh please grate these yourself. That pre-shredded stuff is dried out GARBAGE. Final.)
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup golden raisins

Whew. That's a lot of stuff.
If your kitchen looks something like this mid-making, full speed ahead: you're on the right track.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. You can either grease your muffin tins or use yellow-orange cupcake liners to commemorate the carrot color, as I did. But either is fine.


In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oatmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add in your four spices (cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger) and whisk to combine.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, applesauce, brown sugar, vegetable oil, egg (pre-beaten) and vanilla extract. This is a crazy bowl of madness, but it all works out in the end.


Add your wet ingredients to your dry, folding together with a rubber spatula. Add your carrots, walnuts and raisins and stir in evenly. Distribute your batter into your muffin tins (will make about 18-20 small-sized muffins) and sprinkle the tops with your remaining oatmeal flakes.


Bake for about 24 minutes. (Kitchen Treaty originally suggested 20, though I found the toothpick-method still had these guys a bit runny in the centers. Check them frequently, adjusting time as necessary. All ovens are different, of course, especially if you live in a building that's been around since the 50's.)

These were just what I was looking for: simply sweet and lots of spice while the raisin and walnuts added just enough to make me believe I was eating cake. Next time: cream cheese frosting and I'm sold.





6/05/2013

healthy mac & cheese

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Around the same time I made these avocado brownies (okay, okay, the same DAY), I also had a deep hankering for some baked macaroni and cheese. Something salty, a little spicy, a lot cheesy. Oh, but how to justify having both brownies and a bucket of pepper jack all in one day? And for that matter, back to back?!

Well, you can't, and quite frankly, I'm not really into justification, anyway. Moderation is key here, but I'm always open for the opportunity to healthify a recipe, if the changes are a. still good, b. retain or, better yet, add flavor and c. actually fulfill the original craving that started all these shenanigans. You can't crave a hunk of Brioche and satisfy that urge with a fat-free cracker. Case and point.


So, I put on my thinking cap and snapped on my recipe-building belt and did some digging. While scouring online recipes and a stack of vegetarian/vegan cookbooks, I found that many first instincts to making macaroni and cheese healthier is to either add vegetables or go for low-fat or (shudder) nonfat cheese. Statement: nonfat cheese is a sin. If you eat it, we can't be friends. Harsh, maybe, but rules are rules. With this fact in mind, vegetables it is! I will add all the vegetables in the world to my organic whole wheat rigatoni and FULL FAT cheese.


What else? Running to the store not being an option, I scoured some more for ways to amp up the creaminess, retain the healthy, all with what I already had in my fridge. Ricotta, nope. Cottage cheese? Nope and .. nah. Oh! But what I DO have is some Greek yogurt. That will do quite nicely, won't it.

YES, indeed it will. As for vegetables, I decided on a creamy white head of cauliflower, garlic, spinach and sautĂ©ed onions. So, now that I've given almost everything away, here's what you'll need:

Nonstick cooking spray
Dash of salt
4 ounces of whole wheat macaroni
1 small onion
2 cloves of garlic
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cup shredded cheese of choice (PEPPER. JACK.)
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup grated Parmesan 
1/2 head cauliflower, thinly sliced
2 cups baby spinach


To start, preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Meanwhile, cook your pasta according to the instructions. (I also included my thinly chopped cauliflower in the same pot, so it would soften.) Drain and return to pot. While your pasta is cooking, chop your other veggies. A neat trick alá Jamie Oliver is to choose your chop based on the pasta shape you're using. For example, long and thin for rigatoni and short and squat for elbows. It creates a nicer presentation overall, so he says. Let's face it, he's right.

I chose to caramelize my onions slightly, with the garlic, in order to avoid that too-harsh bite that raw onions can occasionally give. I also pre-cooked my spinach, lightly in olive oil, to ensure proper wilting.



After all your vegetables are prepped and cooked, toss everything together in your pasta pot. Sprinkle in your shredded cheese and stir in the yogurt. Next, distribute evenly into a casserole or baking dish, sprinkling the top with your Parmesan cheese. Bake until the Parmesan is browned (you might also consider including bread crumbs here), about 10 minutes.

This most definitely, for sure hit the spot. Was it saucy, yellow American-cheddar macaroni, Velvetta-style? No; better. Way better, and damn good.