Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Peanut Butter Cookies...sans the refined sugars

Recently I have been off the hook baking like crazy. It is a good thing because a) I am trying all these new recipes b) I get to enjoy the fruits of my labor c) I get to make other people happy with my creations. It is a bad thing because a) I feel over fed b) I am giving into my awful addiction of being enslaved by the power of sugar, and c) Most importantly, my jeans are tight...again.

I have found that when I bake without using refined sugar and brown sugar I tend to want to eat less of what I have made. I think this is because sugar truly does have an addiction quality and once you have a little your body craves more and more of it. I have had a lot of positive results using agave as a refined sugar substitute, but now I have a recipe that uses maple syrup instead of refined sugar. I have been wanting to make peanut butter cookies for some time now, and was glad to finally have the chance this weekend. When I was younger it was a rare occasion if we could afford to splurge and buy a bag of chocolate chips, but something we always had on hand was a huge tub of peanut butter. I always made the same recipe from the talk about good cooking Louisiana cookbook - and old family cookbook whose binding was falling apart and many of the pages had already fallen out. It was always hard to find any recipe in that book because some of the pages that had fallen out had included most of the index. The cookies always turned out flat and hard, but still I continued to make then. Now that my "cookie skills" have improved I plan on trying out that recipe again...hopefully with better results!

Peanut Butter cookies
adapted from 101 cookbooks

2 cups whole wheat flour, spelt flour, or unbleached all-purpose flour (I used white wheat flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 cup organic, chunky natural peanut butter (you could also use almond butter)
1 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 300F degrees. In a medium mixing bowl combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. in a separate larger bowl combine the peanut butter, maple syrup, olive oil, and vanilla. Stir until combined. Pour the flour mixture over the peanut butter mixture and stir until barely combined - still a bit dusty looking. Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Press down on each one gently with the back of a fork. Bake for 12, maybe 14 minutes - but don't over bake or they will be dry. Let cool five minutes and transfer to a cooling rack.

* The original recipe called for baking the cookies in a 350 degree oven, I have recently been baking my cookies on a lower temperature for a longer amount of time and have been having excellent results. These cookies looked like they needed more time in the oven, but I pulled them out anyway and after they cooled they were perfect.


Friday, August 21, 2009

How to get the most juice from citrus without a special machine or tool...

First of all, I would like to just say that citrus is not something I use a lot of. In fact, as a general rule I avoid it. If someone brings me a glass of water with a lemon in it I quickly fish it out before it can contaminate my water too much. When life gives you lemons most people make lemonade, I usually put them on the counter and wait for them to rot and then throw them away...put that on a bumper sticker! : ) I don't like to use it in things I bake, but I do use it in my marinades and salad dressings from time to time.

Last semester while we were making lime curd we were instructed in the ways of "properly" juicing citrus.

1. Citrus always juices better when it is warm or at room temperature. It is hard to juice citrus straight from the fridge, or even freezer : ) Not that any of you put your citrus in the freezer.

2. People like massages and so do citrus. By rubbing it against the counter you are releasing some of the tension and knots that have built up in the fruit - yes, it is stressful to be a citrus -you try living your life on a tree, then maybe lying helpless on the ground, and all you have to look forward to is ending your life by being squeezed and cut. Poor little guys.

3. Cut your citrus into 3 slices. Most people have been trained to cut the citrus in half and then scoop and squeeze the heck out of it. By cutting it into 3 pieces it makes it easier to reach all those hard to get to places.

4. Squeeze each slice until it is dehydrated. Yippee! Your citrus is now juiced, please pass go and collect $200.00.

Monday, August 17, 2009

My new granola recipe : )

As a general rule I try to make three new recipes every week. This week I made cream cheese brownies, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and then granola. I guess I cheated, because granola is not a new recipe for me. I used to make my granola with butter...which is why it tasted so good...but have begun to use coconut oil and olive oil instead. I only changed things up because I was craving granola and was plum out of butter. I like both of my recipes, but this new one has a special place in my heart now. I usually make up a big batch every Sunday evening and then eat it for breakfast throughout the week. It is very filling, so you don't need to eat a lot, and it keeps me satisfied until lunch time. My favorite way to eat it is with almond milk in my little colorful one cup ice cream bowl...it makes me feel very tres chic : ) Ironically, the New York times recently had a post about granola made with olive oil...I swear I just read that article day : )

Olive oil Coconut granola:
from my lab to yours...

1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup honey
1 TBS Vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
6 cups old school/old fashioned oats
1 cup chopped almonds (I use the blanched slivered ones, but I have also used the salted and roasted whole kinds roughly chopped - both work out yummy)
1 cup unsweetened coconut (shredded or flaked)

In large sauce pan heat the oils, agave, honey, vanilla, and cinnamon, until combined and the coconut oil has been broken down - no longer clumpy. Usually takes only a minute or two. Stir in the rest of the ingredients until well combined. Spread out evenly onto a pan - I use a really large rectangle cake pan. Bake in 300 degree oven for 20-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven, cool, eat. I usually toss in some raisins after it has cooled down.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Cannolis, non-traditional style : )

Growing up one of my first recipes to make was from the Nestle Toll house recipe book. Little did I know that this would become one of my most favorite things to make. This is not your traditional cannoli filling recipe...in fact it is very different. It is quite simple to make, and something "different" to have for dessert.

According to Wikipedia..."Cannoli, (plural) in Sicilian, are Sicilian pastry desserts. The singular is cannolo (or in the Sicilian language cannolu), meaning “little tube”, with the etymology stemming from the Latin "canna", or reed."

Cannoli filling:
Adapted from The Nestle Toll house cookbook

1 cup milk chocolate chips
15 oz. ricotta cheese
6 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
2 tbs confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Melt chocolate chips and set aside. I like to melt chocolate chips in the microwave at 50% power for 2-3 minutes.

In bowl cream ricotta with mixer until smooth. Add cream cheese and cream until smooth. Add rest of ingredients, and melted chocolate chips, and blend until smooth. Tastes best after being refrigerated for at least 4 hours.

I usually buy the pre made shells at the grocery store. Alessi makes a good shell. I have tried to make my own shells, but haven't had much luck with that. I fill the shell with filling and then dip one end in chocolate chips, and the other in crushed up pistachios, then sprinkle with powdered sugar.

If you can't find shells, this also makes a nice fruit dip. I have been trying to come up with a thin cracker like cookie that can be dipped in the filling....when that happens, I will post it!