Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Breaking New Year's Resolutions

I admit it, I broke my New Year's resolution and splurged at Whole Foods. But, it was certainly worth it! Virgin, raw, unrefined Coconut Oil has found a place in my fridge and my heart. When used sparingly, it's a great substitution for cooking oils. Although coconut oil has the highest saturated fat for any natural oil, it does NOT contain trans or hydrogenated fats. Decadent and full of natural antioxidants, coconut oil will provide depth and richness to the right recipes - emphasis on the right recipes. And don't forget, because it comes from a coconut, there will be a hint of coconut flavor in your dishes.

Personally, I've been enjoying it with sauteed veggies, rice and quinoa. It adds some flavor to those boring weekday dinners and leftover work lunches. But, this week I found some time and decided to kick it up a notch. I made the Double Chocolate Cookies that I've been drooling over in Julia's big book of baking. The steps are tedious, but it was just the recipe to take my mind off of work and whatever it was that was stressing me out last week. The results were fabulous...

Double Chocolate Cookies
"cookies to put a grin on anyone's face"
Adapted from Baking with Julia

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
12 ounces semisweet chocolate (thanks for the Guittard Henry!), chopped into larger-than-chip-size chunks
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
5 ounces Coconut Oil
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons instant coffee powder (whoops... no instant coffee in my kitchen. I used 1 tablespoon ground coffee and it worked great)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

The Dough
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Divide the chopped up semisweet chocolate in half and set half aside.

Place the butter, half of the semisweet chocolate and unsweetened chocolate in the top of a double boiler. Or if you have limited supplies like me, simply put a glass bowl over a pan with boiling water. Heat and stir occasionally until the butter and chocolates are melted and smooth. Remove from the heat.

Next, in a mixer, combine eggs, sugar, coffee and vanilla. Beat at high speed for about 10 minutes. Mixture should become very thick and form a slowly dissolving ribbon when the whisk is lifted and the mixture is allowed to drizzle back into the bowl.

With the mixer on low speed, very gradually add the warm coconut oil-chocolate mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and work your rubber spatula around the bottom of the bowl, then continue to mix just until the chocolate is thoroughly incorporated. Turn the mixer off, and with a spatula fold in the dry ingredients and the remaining semi sweet chocolate chunks. The mixture is going to look like a thick cake batter - don't get dismayed!

Cover the bowl with plastic and chill overnight. The dough can also be refrigerated for up to 4 days.
Baking the Cookies
Preheat oven to 350F and line your baking sheets with parchment paper.
Spoon out heaping teaspoons of dough for each cookie, drop dough onto the lined sheets leaving at least 2 inches of space between each mound of dough. Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes. The cookies are better underdone than overbaked. They appear cake like and will not be crisp. Let cool on parchment paper.

Currently, I have about a dozen of these delicious chocolate cookies in my freezer. The guys at work literally ate another dozen up before noon rolled around last Friday... Hopefully the directions are not too daunting as the results are definitely worth the hard work!

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Ballad to my Cuisinart

Well not really... but I just can't resist expressing the love I have developed for my brand new Cuisinart Food Processor I was given on Christmas Day. Ahhh the creations that are going to take place in my kitchen, my imagination is running wild. Homemade pesto, fancy-schmancy salad dressings, creamy soups, sandwich spreads and the lovely stress reduction Chop On/Off Button! My love will not be contained!

Due to my knee surgery, I've been forced to be less active... this is tough if you know me well! Over the next couple months, my plan is to experiment with healthier sauces, soups, spreads/dips and salad dressings due to my new sedentary lifestyle. The emphasis will be flavor, and lots of it! Currently, there are a couple creations I have in mind:
  • Carrot Ginger dressing
  • Spinach pesto with Greek yogurt
  • Creamy Broccoli Potato Soup
  • Aioli creations
  • Anything with Mint
There is something so gratifying about having the ability to pulverize vegetables/herbs/fruit/etc. into delicious flavor combinations. Lets get started!

My first creation is a zippy, lemon pesto sans Parmesan cheese. With lemons in season, this pesto is a great way to add zang and zip to fish, salads and chicken using local and organic ingredients. Unfortunately, the basil is not in season; however, I was able to find some at my corner store... must be a California thing.

Lemony Pesto
1 bunch of basil (about 2 cups)
juice of a lemon
1 garlic clove
1/8 cup pignolias (pine nuts)
couple pinches of coarse sea salt
2-3 tablespoons olive oil - or just a drizzle to add moisture
lemon zest to decorate

Remove the basil leaves from the stems and place in food processor. Roll the lemon with the palm of your hand on a hard surface to release the juices. After juicing the lemon, pour the juice over the basil leaves and add the garlic, salt, pine nuts and olive oil. Next, pulverize!! It should transform into a thick sauce. With a spatula, scrap pesto out into a small bowl. Top with some lemon zest or red chili flakes if you like the heat. Pesto should stay fresh for a couple of days.