Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Fontina Farro Risotto with Roasted Cauliflower

Have you had farro? I adore the texture - very chewy, but in a soft and welcoming way. It's high in fiber, protein, iron, and calcium making it a fun alternative to rice and even quinoa. I made farro with lemon a few months ago and was blown away and decided to incorporate into my meals more often. This is a slightly less healthy way to prepare it (cheese instead of lemon), but it is still pretty healthy and trust me when I say that it tastes amazing and does not feel heavy and cheesy. All of the flavors really work well together. I have been really into roasting cauliflower so I had to throw that in of course and it complimented everything nicely. Oh, just thinking about it makes me wish I still had some left.

Fontina Farro Risotto
How I Did It:

1 head cauliflower, sliced lengthwise into 1-inch chunks
salt and pepper
1 onion, chopped
2 cups farro
16 oz low sodium chicken broth
6 oz fontina cheese, grated
6 oz peas
spinach, roughly chopped

1. Preheat oven to 450.

2. Spread cauliflower out on a large cookie sheet and drizzing with olive olive and then sprinkle with salt and pepper (using more pepper than salt). Flip all of the chunks and repeat. Roast for about 20 minutes or until parts of it start to crisp up and it is soft.

3. While the cauliflower is roasting, heat 2 tablespoons of water in a large pot and add the onion. Cook for about 10 minutes or until soft and translucent.

4. Add farro and let cook for 1 minute while constantly stirring.

5. Add 2 cups of broth or enough to cover the farro. Lower heat and cook until the broth has been mostly absorbed (stirring frequently) before adding more broth, 1/2 cup at a time until the farro is cooked.

6. Stir in peas, spinach, and cheese and cook on low until cheese is melted and everything is well combined.

7. Cut up cauliflower and stir in, reserve a couple larger pieces for garnish.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Whole Wheat Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Sometimes I get the urge to try to make something a little more healthy. These cookie bars are whole wheat (you need to use some white flour or they will not be tasty to normal people - I have made this mistake) and in place of butter they are made with healthy and delicious coconut oil. The batter was very dry and crumbly which lead me to over-mixing these and making them a little tougher (once completely cooled) than I would have liked (out of the oven they were perfect). Even with that, I still really enjoyed them - I didn't even notice the slight toughness after the first bite. They were beautifully dense with a chewy texture and I loved the hint of coconut flavor. The density and chewiness is assisted by the lack of baking soda/baking powder (they don't rise and get fluffy). Also, due to the use of coconut oil, I think they would be much softer if the temperatures were warmer. I'll test out this theory in a few months. The coconut oil also made the edges very crisp. While I think the whole wheat gives these a hearty taste without being over-powering, if you hate whole wheat stuff, you might want to skip this one. I plan to make other variations of this in the future.

Note: I baked this in a loaf pan as I did not want to end up with too many. If you have more of a crowd, I suggest doubling and baking in a 9x9 pan.

Whole Wheat Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
How I Did It:

1/2 whole wheat flour
1/2 + 1/8 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 + 1/8 cup brown sugar
1/4 granulated sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350. Place a piece of parchment paper in your pan, overlapping the edges slightly (so you can pull the bars out easily when they are cooked) and then lightly coat any of the exposed pan and the parchment paper with light oil olive (not virgin - you can also use canola oil). Set aside.

2. In the smaller of two bowl, whisk together the flours and the salt. Set aside.

3. Whisk together (with an electric beater) the oil and the sugars until well combined and then whisk in the cinnamon, vanilla, and egg.

4. Stir in the dry ingredients until just combined.

5. Stir in the chocolate chips and make sure they are well distributed.

6. Place batter into pan and press down to evenly spread it out.

7. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the edges are slightly brown and the center looks center. Remove from oven and let sit for a couple minutes before pulling out of the pan with the parchment paper.

8. Let cool to almost room temperature before cutting into bars. Store in an airtight container.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Traditional Muddy Buddies

Need a last minute sweet Super Bowl snack idea? Muddy Buddies (a.k.a "puppy chow") are about the quickest thing you can make and they are a no fail hit! It's been awhile since I have made traditional Muddy Buddies as I have been enjoying testing out other flavor combinations, but the traditional peanut butter and chocolate never gets old or boring and after making them I can say they are just as addicting as I remember them. Other recipes you will see call for less peanut butter and chocolate and honestly, I am not sure why. I think the amounts that I use are perfect and any less would not coat the cereal enough.

See below the recipe if you are interested in other muddy buddy flavors.

Traditional Muddy Buddies
How I Did It:

9 cups Rice Chex
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup + 1/8 cup milk chocolate chips
1/8 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup + 3 tbsp peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar

1. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips, butter, and peanut butter. Once they start to melt a bit, stir to speed up the process. Once melted, stir in the vanilla.

2. Dump 9 cups of Rice Chex cereal into a large bowl. Pour the melted chocolate mixture over the cereal and gently stir until all of the cereal is well coated.

3. Pour the powdered sugar over the chocolatey Chex and gently stir to coat.

4. Spread out the coated Chex on a long piece of parchment paper to dry.

5. Once dry store in an airtight container for up to a week (ha, like it would last that long)

Other types of Muddy Buddies worth trying:

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Crisp and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am all about trying out different ways to make chocolate chip cookies and these turned out just as I had hoped. They are medium thickness and are crisp on the edges and (thanks to the large amount of brown sugar) chewy in the middle - so good!

Crisp and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
How I Did It:

(makes about 24 cookies)

2 1/4 cups + 2 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

2. Beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy (don't be impatient!)

3. Add in egg and vanilla extract and beat until well incorporated.

4. In three parts, beat in the dry ingredients until just combined.

5. Cover well and refrigerate for at least two hours (or overnight).

6. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 and cover your cookie sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper (not wax paper!)

7. Form dough into heaping tablespoon sized balls and place two inches apart on the cookie sheet. Bake for about 8 minutes or until the edges start to lightly brown, but the center still looks a bit unset.

8. Let sit for 2 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Ribollita (Tuscan Vegetable Stew)

Ribollita means "reboiled" in Italian and historically, that is what this soup is. Yes, Italians love their bread, but it was actually added to soup to make it last longer. So this vegetable stew was made with inexpensive vegetables and beans (cannellini...larger than navy beans, but very creamy) and before there leftovers were reheated, old bread was added to thicken it.

Have you ever put good bread in soup? Not crackers, bread. Well, I hadn't and was skeptical, but it's amazing. The flavors of the whole wheat sourdough bread I used (not old) and the broth meld together wonderfully and while soggy bread (from a rogue tomato, etc) is disturbing and unpleasant, in soup it becomes delightful and exciting. I decided to put the bread in before each serving so it wouldn't break down too much in between and it created the perfect texture for me. The soup is good without the bread too, but once you try it with bread you won't be able to go back.

Ribollita (Tuscan Vegetable Stew)
How I Did It:

1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, diced
2 carrots, chopped
2 parsnips, chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
1/2 tsp chili pepper flakes
1/4 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
1 1/4 tsp ground sage
1 zucchini, chopped
15 oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 bunch kale, destemmed and roughly chopped
26 oz good quality diced tomatoes with liquid
32 oz low sodium vegetable broth
whole wheat sourdough bread

1. Cover the bottom of your soup pot with 1/4 inch or so of water and heat. Add in onion, garlic, carrots, parsnips, celery, and all of the spices. Heat on medium-low for about 20 minutes until everything has softened. Stir occasionally, adding small amounts of water as necessary.

2. Add in the zucchini and cook for another 5 minutes.

3. Add in the beans, kale and then the diced tomatoes and broth, Stir well to submerge the kale. Lower heat, cover and cook for another 30 minutes.

4. Rip one piece of bread per bowl into pieces (not too small). Serve the soup and then stir in the bread. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Two Ingredient Nutella Brownies

I have been hearing so much about two ingredient Nutella brownies that I had to try them out. I had such high hopes! Well, the texture is perfect, but they are pretty low on flavor. They weren't eggy, they just didn't have that strong Nutella flavor I was expecting (hoping) for. I solved the issue by heating up some (more) Nutella and using it as frosting. I highly recommend doing that if you make these.

Two Ingredient Nutella Brownies
How I Did It

4 eggs
1 cup Nutella
1/4 cup Nutella (if you decide to frost them)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease an 8x8 (or 9x9) baking pan and then cover with parchment paper so some is hanging up over the top. Lightly grease the top of the parchment paper as well.

2. With an electric beater, whisk eggs until they are light, pale yellow, and billowy. I used the whisk attachment of a hand-held beater and it took 12 minutes. If you don't whisk them enough, your final product will have an eggy taste and will have an unpleasant texture.

3. While you are whisking your eggs, heat up your Nutella so it is smooth and creamy. Do not burn your Nutella! You should only need to microwave it for about a minute, but make sure to top every 20 seconds or so to stir.

4. With the mixer, slowly whisk in the Nutella in several parts. Scrap down the sides of the bowl a few times as you are whisking.

5. Pour "batter" into your prepared pan and bake for about 25 minutes or until your cake tester comes out clean.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Nutella Stuffed Salted Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

The Nutella Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies I made were such a hit with everyone (including myself) that I decided to make a bar version of them. My intention was to literally make a the same recipe, but as a bar instead, but then I happened upon Vanilla Sugar Blog's idea to use Jacques Torres's famously amazing chocolate chip cookie recipe as the base.

Well, they were amazing! I used more Nutella than she did and was very happy with the results. I thought they were the best about 30 minutes after they came out of the oven. At that point they were solid enough to pick up, but still very gooey. After they they took on the form and texture of an extremely divinely chewy (though very dense) brownie (similar to that of my skillet cookie). If I had to compare, I think the cookies were still a little better, but only because of how outrageously delicious they are. These bars win in their own way though as they are so good and are much quicker and easier (and less messy!) to make. If it feels a little like cheating, you will forget as soon as you take a bite.

Nutella Stuffed Salted Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
How I Did It:

2 cups minus 2 tbsp cake flour
1 2/3 cups bread flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup 60% chocolate chips
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/4 cup Nutella

1. Whisk together flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. 

2. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes).

3. One at a time, beat in the eggs, and then the vanilla.

4. In several parts, slowly beat in the dry ingredients until just combined. 

5. Stir in chocolate chips to evenly distribute. 

6. Shape into a large ball and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place in a air-tight container in the refrigerator at least overnight.

7. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 9 x 13 pan.

8. Divide your dough so one part is about 2/3 and the other 1/3.

9. Press 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan evenly.

10. In a microwave safe bowl, heat your Nutella for 30-60 seconds and stir until smooth and creamy. Spread over the dough in the pan, keeping away from the very edges. 

11. Take chunks of the remaining 1/3 of dough and flatten slighly before placing on top of the Nutella. Make sure to get all of the edges - there should be enough to cover the whole thing, but if ot that is okay.

12. Sprinkle with sea salt and bake for about 25 minutes or until the edges start to brown lightly and the center looks set.

13. Remove from oven and let cool before cutting into squares.