Category Archives: Dessert/Sweet

Trail Mix Banana Bread

I wish I had anything interesting to say.  But I don’t.  Feel free to scan straight to the recipe because what follows will be riveting.

We’ve been doing some Christmas decorating.  And a lot of our lights don’t work.  And we bought them new just last year!  At Wal-Mart!  Because it was 10 PM and they were open!  And now they don’t work!  Oh, the drama.  We might have to buy some new ones if we want all the bushes out front to be done.  Also, we got a new tree stand.  Our pre-drilled stand broke last year and while we really enjoyed bickering about how crooked the tree was in the traditional stand, we opted to buy another pre-drilled one.   So far it hasn’t fallen over or anything exciting like that.  We didn’t even break any ornaments while decorating.  However, our Christmas village looks perfect because there are so many people with broken limbs from years past that it looks like a Tiny Tim convention.

I started my Christmas shopping yesterday.  The three week mark sort of hit me.  Actually, what will truly hit me are the shipping rates I will have to pay in order to make up for my procrastination.  I thought I was doing well by getting the kids’ Christmas photo done after Thanksgiving.  So the cards will be quality, but the gifts might suck.  And why is it so difficult to come up with a new coat/snow pants/accessories set for my daughter every year?  It seems like the same drill … cute coat, no matching snowpants.  Or nice matching set, one piece out of stock.  And confusing color schemes:  do the “buff” snowpants match the “ivory” coat?  Who the hell knows.  On the husband front, we have (of course) said we are getting each other nothing.  But now the boxes start showing up for me.  So I must figure out gifts for him.  Because we aren’t getting each other anything, you know?

I did a cool project on Jupiter the other day.  Did you know that you would weigh twice as much on Jupiter as you do on Earth?  I’m not sure if that would impact how tight my jeans are, but if I ever go, I’ll buy a size up.

Speaking of my jeans being tight, I decided after Thanksgiving that I was going to train for a half marathon.  Last week went well.  Today, I am already negotiating with myself about how I can avoid the longer mileage run that I was supposed to do yesterday.  The one that I should have done while I was having a few holiday beers.  I am a very disciplined runner, so this training thing should go really well.  I also don’t like the cold, so my running occurs only on the treadmill now.  If the race I ultimately select has episodes of Top Chef streaming throughout the course, I should be in good shape.

Also, if you made it this far (bless you), the other day I noticed that I had rotting fruit so I made some banana bread.  I mixed in some of our favorite trail mix ingredients and it was quite good.  We ate it quickly.  Then I did the dishes and went to bed.

The End.

Trail Mix Banana Bread

Makes one loaf

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
4 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
1/2 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease a loaf pan with softened butter.

2.  Combine whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

3.  Using an electric mixer, cream butter until light and fluffy.  Add in sugar and mix for 1-2 minutes.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, and then add in mashed bananas.

4.  Using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in vanilla extract, pumpkin seeds, coconut, and chocolate chips into batter until just combined.

5.  Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake for 50-55 minutes until golden brown and just set.

Brown Butter Non-Pecan Pie

Before I had kids, I imagined my life with them only in scenes with a Barbara Walters interview softening glow.  And I imagined babies — never toddlers or tweens or teens.  I’m sure that I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but the beauty and magic of it all consistently put a filter on my imagined reality.  And I guess that’s OK, because you don’t generally do things (by choice) that you imagine will be terrible.  My thoughts were generally filled with laughing babies on park swings — not spending an hour every evening attempting to get two kids to brush their teeth (Because seriously, does the schedule ever change?  No.  So brush your damn teeth.)

And when the babies arrived, I realized there were a whole host of little things that could go wrong.  I spent my time worrying about the big stuff, but never considered that my Christmas baby would be jaundiced and require light therapy.  I never thought about spending New Year’s Eve in the doctor’s office.  I never thought about silly little things that would require ultrasounds and blood work and doctors saying things like “Oh, in most cases this is fine, but we need to check it out.”  I never thought about mastitis.  And holy shit, that day seriously ruined my plan for a Barbara Walters glow.

I especially never thought about the chance my daughter would have severe food allergies.  I still remember standing at my bathroom sink when the pediatrician called to give me the results of the allergy tests we did on a whim because she had eczema (another thing you don’t imagine in your baby fantasies).  She read off the list … “Severe and life-threatening reactions to all dairy, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, and all tree nuts.  With tremendously high levels for peanuts.”

I cried.  And cried.  And cried.  And after I cried some more, I couldn’t help but feel guilty.  Guilty because I ate those things while pregnant and breastfeeding.  Guilty because I knew to stop eating dairy when she showed signs of eczema, but I never stopped eating nuts.  Guilty because she spit up a lot and I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN.  Guilty because in the whole universe of things that could go wrong, this seemed minor, and yet it was crushing to me.  I knew that day her life (and mine) had changed forever and that it was always going to be different for her.  And harder.  I remember someone very innocently saying “Oh, she’ll never get to have an ice cream cone.”  Thanks for the reminder.  I certainly wasn’t feeling horrible enough already.

What I didn’t know even then was what it would be like to have a child, not a baby, with food allergies.  I didn’t know how much harder it would be when they are off on playdates, or field trips, or birthday parties — when they are out of your control and making their own choices.  I didn’t think about teachers asking “Can she touch an acorn?” I didn’t think about her having to sit in a special chair or at a special lunch table just to avoid allergens.

I also didn’t know how thankful I could be today.  I am thankful that, at almost 9 years old, she has outgrown all of her allergies except peanuts and tree nuts.  I am thankful (in a strange way) that, because so many more children are afflicted, we now have an entire section of our grocery store devoted to allergy-friendly products — things like coconut milk ice cream, Sunbutter, or wheat and gluten-free bread and pasta.  It would have made my life a lot easier back then, but I am not sure that I’d be sitting here typing this today if it weren’t for her allergies.  They forced me to cook and to understand food at a level I never had to before.

My daughter’s allergies also made me understand the importance of food and family, and the magical moments that occur when we share both together.  And I think I was so crushed when I realized she had severe food allergies because I knew inherently that there would be times when she was excluded from those celebrations — times when the friend’s birthday cupcakes wouldn’t be safe.  And I think that is why I made it my business to cook a safe version of nearly everything just to keep her at the table and let her be part of every celebration (even if it meant baking cupcakes at midnight or attempting to make homemade pasta out of rice flour).

But this year when we sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, my daughter will be able to have everything at the table.  Even the “Pecan” Pie.  The soft glow has worn off a bit, but I am so truly thankful for where we are today.  May you all have a wonderful celebration of food and family on Thursday.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Brown Butter Non-Pecan Pie

Make one 9 inch pie

Butter Pie Crust of your Choice (I used this one)
2 cups of sunflower and pumpkin seeds (I liked the mix of both for better texture)
6 T butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup corn syrup (light or dark both work)
3 t vanilla extract
1/4 t salt
3 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.  Roll out pie crust into a circle with approximately a 12 inch diameter.  Carefully transfer to a 9 inch pie dish (not deep dish).  Trim off excess if necessary, leaving about one inch of overhang.  Fold the overhang under and decoratively flute or crimp the edges.  Using a fork, prick the bottom of the crust and place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to re-firm the butter.

3.  Place sunflower and pumpkin seeds in an even layer on a baking sheet.  Toast in preheated oven for 5-10 minutes until golden, being careful not to let them burn.  Set aside to cool.

4.  In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and allow to brown slightly.  You want it to be golden brown and smell fragrant, but do not let it burn or you will have to start over.  Remove from heat immediately after it gets to that state and whisk in brown sugar until well incorporated.  Stir in corn syrup, vanilla extract, and salt.

5.  In a large bowl, whisk the egg to break them up.  Slowly whisk in brown sugar/butter mixture (just a bit at at a time, so the eggs don’t curdle).  Mix well to make sure everything is incorporated.

6.  Remove chilled crust from refrigerator and pour toasted (and cooled) seeds into crust.  Pour pie mixture over top of the seeds.  Place pie pan on a baking sheet and bake the pie until the filling has set and it is a nice brown color, about 55 minutes.  Let cool completely before serving.  You can store this in the refrigerator for at least a day (mine’s been in there for two now and it is still great) — just bring to room temperature before serving.

White Chocolate Meringue Cookies

I remember being in about 3rd or 4th grade and getting a C in handwriting.  I was crushed.  The only grades that ever graced my report card were A’s.  But something about cursive writing wasn’t clicking with me.  My handwriting was ugly and awkward and certainly not the least bit artistic.  I received C’s in only two other courses during school:  1) Home Economics (during the sewing unit, which is not at all surprising considering I still can’t figure out how to thread my machine) and 2) Gym (during the basketball unit, which is not surprising considering I could only make 3 out of 10 free throws — a skill [or lack thereof] that thankfully hasn’t affected me in life . . . yet.)

I can distinctly recall bringing home that report card while my grandmother, Grace, was visiting.  We talked about it and she quickly told me that it didn’t matter.  This was crazy talk, from my vantage point.  She told me how her father once said to her that everyone develops their own unique brand of handwriting, and that making it perfectly beautiful according to one person’s definition was not only impossible, but not the least bit interesting.  I am blessed to still have my grandmother in my life at 96 years old.  Arthritis has crippled her imperfectly beautiful, but truly unique, handwriting — but I still get a chance to talk with her and that it something I treasure.

My mom recently gave me a stack of her recipe cards and I studied them for nearly an hour.  There were clues in that handwriting somewhere.  I could imagine any one of those cards being out on the counter when I was visiting her as a toddler. I could imagine her writing recipes down in her old house.  I could imagine her pulling them all out in anticipation of Christmas, or just a weekend visit.

And I didn’t have to imagine the memories of her making many of the recipes — I can remember coming into her kitchen at breakfast time as she was pulling her special meringue cookies out of a cold oven — a cold oven with a heavy door.  They were like a magic trick — you put them in a hot oven, turn it off, go to bed, and wake up to beautifully crusty meringues with a somewhat creamy interior, loaded with chocolate chips.

When I see in the recipe that she says to line a baking “tin” with wax paper, I remember she had the coolest wall mounted wrap dispenser that had three (I think) covered segments that held paper towels, foil, and wax paper.  Each one had its own little door and cutting edge.  I remember her glass jars (some of which I have on top of my cabinets now) filled with spices, and especially cinnamon heart candies.  I remember her geranium out front and the seemingly mile-long hallway to her bedroom.  I remember making paper dolls to count the days down until my parents would return from a trip.  I remember her making trip activity books with cryptoquips and crossword puzzles (that she would make herself) and riddles for me to solve.  I remember going to painting class with her and trying to be an artist — a skill she had, that I did not.  And I remember sitting with her at the piano and getting giddy with excitement as she would play Scott Joplin.

But mostly, I remember her telling me that I was me and that was the only person I ever had to be.  Eventually, my handwriting went from awful, to beautiful, and back to awful again — it seems now I am always too rushed to make perfectly formed letters.  But I think about those physical artifacts and wonder if reading a blog post will ever substitute for holding a grandmother’s recipe in your hands, studying the words that she wrote, and seeing yourself in her life.

White Chocolate Meringue Cookies

A few notes:  The original recipe calls for 3/4 cup of sugar, but I found 1/2 cup to be plenty.  Also, she always used regular chocolate chips, but I used white chocolate for a nice all white appearance.  Both are delicious.  And one food safety note, I am not a food scientist so I am not sure if these get cooked hard enough to eliminate Salmonella.  As with any dish where eggs are gently cooked, please only use the freshest eggs from responsible farms and take care to not serve to those who might be very young/old or immune-suppressed if Salmonella is a concern.

Makes about two dozen

2 egg whites
1/2 cup of sugar
1 cup of chocolate chips (white or semi-sweet, mini chips are nice too)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.  Beat egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.  Gradually beat in sugar until the mixture is very glossy and holding nice, stiff peaks.

3.  Fold in chocolate chips.

4.  Drop by the spoonful onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and place into hot oven.  Immediately turn the oven off and leave overnight, or at least 6 hours.  Remove and store in a tightly sealed container.

Aunt Cherry’s Oatmeal Cake

The other day, I was bored and looking for something to bake.  So I did a Twitter call for ideas, and a friend sent me this recipe.  It was called “Aunt Cherry’s Oatmeal Cake” and is apparently one of those old recipes with a fictitious name attached — their family baked it all the time growing up, but never knew who Aunt Cherry was.  Beyond, you can find similar recipes online that also refer to Aunt Cherry.  Based on that, I’m figuring Aunt Cherry wouldn’t mind me putting my spin on it.  And of course, now that I realize that the entire internet is public domain (Thanks Cooks Source!), I am going to call it my own.  But seriously, Monica Gaudio, if you are out there and you are actually Cherry, just email me for my address and you can send me a check for featuring your work.  If I rip off enough people’s work, I might actually find a revenue model for Cuizoo.

The recipe seemed intriguing — not many ingredients, seemingly very easy, and get this:  dollops of a butter/brown sugar/coconut/nut mixture dropped into the cake batter before baking.  That last part is what got me.  There was just no way that could turn out to be anything but delicious.  And I figured that I could make it *slightly* more healthy by cutting back on the sugar a bit and substituting whole wheat pastry flour.  Obviously, I also needed to remove the nuts because of my daughter’s severe nut allergy.

I decided to make it yesterday and if I only knew Cherry’s last name, I’d write her a thank you note — attached to a big bottle of vodka, and perhaps a personal massage device.   She deserves it.  It is that good.  And it’s easy.  I mean one-bowl-for-the-cake easy.  It makes a tremendous dessert (maybe with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream), but I could easily see it served for a special breakfast or brunch too.  Because today was Friday, November 12th, I deemed it a special breakfast day and we had it before school.  With fruit, of course.

The original recipe calls for walnuts (I substituted sunflower seeds), regular all purpose flour, and 1 cup each of brown and white sugar in the cake (I cut it back to 1/2 cup each in the cake — but left the sugar the same in the dollopy mixture).  If you want to go all out, feel free to make it with white flour and the normal amount of sugar.

You can thank me and Aunt Cherry later.

Aunt Cherry’s Sticky Oatmeal Cake

Makes one 9 inch by 13 inch cake

(Adapted from some lady named Cherry, who may or may not be real or alive)

Cake:
1 cup oats (I used old fashioned)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/3 cups of whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 t salt
1 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
1/2 cup butter, softened (1 stick)
1 1/2 cups boiling water
2 eggs

Topping:
1 cup sunflower seeds (or other chopped nuts)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup of milk
6 T butter, melted
1 t vanilla
1 cup shredded coconut (not sweetened)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease a 9 inch by 13 inch glass baking pan.

2.  In a large bowl, mix together dry cake ingredients: oats, white sugar, brown sugar, whole wheat pastry flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg.  Make sure to break up any lumps of brown sugar.

3.  Add boiling water to dry ingredients.  Using an electric mixer, beat in softened butter (1 stick).  When incorporated, beat in eggs one at a time.  The batter will be thin.  Pour into greased 9 inch by 13 inch glass baking pan.

4.  In a small bowl, mix together topping ingredients:  sunflower seeds, brown sugar, white sugar, milk, melted butter, vanilla, and coconut.  Drop in small dollops all over the unbaked cake batter.

5.  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes.  Remove and cool on a rack.  Send Aunt Cherry a thank you note.

Spiced Whole Grain Pumpkin Seed Biscotti with Cranberries and White Chocolate

As I sit here watching the footage of the Chilean miners being rescued, I am struck by my own limitations (BTW, I generally like to focus on myself during situations like these).  I joked with several people today that I couldn’t even stand to be in that rescue pod for 15 minutes *above ground.*  And if there were a psychological test administered before you were allowed to go underground, I’m quite sure checking the box that says “sometimes I get panicky in the check out line at the grocery store” would disqualify me immediately.

I am just not the type of person you want around in a crisis.  Actually, I’m not the type of person you want around during a mildly stressful flu shot.

But perhaps it’s not just OK, but necessary, that some people run the race and some people bake cookies for the finish line.  Perhaps this is the reason that the rescuers have the strength to strap themselves into a cage and go thousands of feet below the ground into a caved-in mine, while their wives clutch the children and pictures of the Virgin Mary (The heathen I am, I generally clutch a Bloody Mary).  And here in the land of the soft, perhaps this is the reason that my husband flies all over the country, talks in front of hundreds of people with ease, and I stay home and bake biscotti.  In short, my husband is a tremendous risk taker and I am a tremendous risk averter.

It’s not that I’m not brave or strong (I gave birth to two children, you know) nor do I think that women are incapable of strapping themselves in and rescuing 33 miners.  Hell, some of us might like to go down that hole simply to get some quiet time.  The issue has more to do with roles than it does with gender.  Once you have children, doesn’t it just seem that both parents can’t simultaneously go balls to the wall anymore?  Doesn’t it seem that someone has to be the rock while the other person is in the hard place?  Children demand routine and stability and comfort.  So when one parent is down a mine shaft or on a plane to L.A., the other one has to be pouring the cereal at 8:00 AM sharp and reading the favorite two (OK, three) stories at 8:00 PM sharp.

Maybe I am risk averse because that’s who I have to be.

Or maybe that’s how I justify the fact that I enjoy eating biscotti and hate enclosed spaces.

Spiced Whole Grain Pumpkin Seed Biscotti with Cranberries and White Chocolate

Makes 15-18 biscotti

2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
3/4 t salt
1 star anise pod
1-1 inch piece of cinnamon stick
1 small piece of whole nutmeg (about the size of a nickel, or 1/4 t pre-ground)
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean (or 1 t vanilla extract)
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup pumpkin seeds (hulled and dry roasted or toasted)
4 ounces white chocolate, chopped

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine the whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, and salt.

3.  Using a clean spice or coffee grinder (I have a second coffee grinder that I use exclusively for spices), grind the star anise pod, the cinnamon stick, and the piece of whole nutmeg until they are a fine powder.  Add this spice mixture to the flour mixture.  (If you like your biscotti extra spiced, double up on the spices. Alternatively, if you don’t want to grind your own spices, just make a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, or other spices like anise seed to equal 1 t.)

4.  In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, beat the softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until thoroughly incorporated.  Split the vanilla bean in half and, using the back of a knife, scrape the seeds from both sides of the pod.  Add seeds to butter and egg mixture and beat to incorporate.

5.  Add the flour/spice mixture to the butter mixture in two additions and beat until just combined.  Switch to a wooden spoon or spatula and stir to make sure the flour is incorporated.  Stir in cranberries and pumpkin seeds.

6.  Turn dough onto parchment lined baking sheet and pat into a long loaf, approximately 3.5 inches by 15 inches.  Bake loaf for about 35 minutes, until just golden.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 20 minutes.

7.  Using a very sharp knife, carefully cut individual biscotti from the loaf — each about 3/4 inch.  Place the biscotti, cut side down, on the parchment lined sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes and flip.  Bake 10-12 minutes more and remove from oven (about 20 minutes total for the second stage of baking). Remove biscotti from sheet and cool on racks.

8.  Place chopped white chocolate in a double boiler to melt.  You can also use the microwave at about 50% power.  When biscotti are completely cool, drizzle with melted white chocolate.  Place in refrigerator until chocolate is hardened.  Remove from refrigerator and store biscotti in a tightly sealed container.

Raspberry Stout Truffle Brownies

This post has nothing to do with brownies.  But by the end of it, I am probably going to want to bake a pan. (And maybe the interspersed pictures will make us all happier.)

I have been thinking a lot about empathy and tolerance in our world — specifically the lack of it.  I see it in war and conflict and politics.  I see it on Facebook every day among grown adults.  I see it in anonymous comments attached to posts or articles that make me sad and angry and sick.  I see it in my daughter’s class and with kids who are 8 or 9.  She tells me about kids making nasty comments about her food allergies (“Random Boy X told Random Boy Y to say that he had peanut butter for breakfast so they didn’t have to play with me.”)  She tells me about a boy who moved here from another country and is clumsy.  And how people make fun of him because of it.  I see my daughter’s sadness.  I can only imagine the other boy’s.

I think about gay children committing suicide because they feel like they have no hope of ever fitting in or being loved and accepted.  I see two other children — both of Asian descent — who are responsible at some level for another child jumping off a bridge.  Children who should know a thing or two about being considered “different” in this country.

I think about a pavilion full of Muslim women and children who were having a baby shower the other day when I was at the park with my son.  As the acorns fell on the pavilion roof and made shockingly loud bangs, my baby and I laughed and covered our heads.  I wondered if the other mothers thought about taking cover in a different way.

I think about myself.  It is probably with a huge dose of white girl privilege that I say I didn’t feel accepted in my mostly white, protestant, small town.  I was all of those things, but it wasn’t good enough.  I think about “friends” who caused pain like it was sport.  I think about the people I should have reached out to, if only I would have had enough strength to realize it was OK.  I think about who I might be if I would have embraced who I was, rather than fighting it at so many turns.  I wonder if I’m still doing it.

I think about what I need to teach my children.  I think about the grounding I need to give them so they have the courage to be good.  Soccer and piano, be damned.  The only thing I wish for my children is the strength to do right in the face of others who do not.  I hope that is enough.

Raspberry Stout Truffle Brownies

Makes 2 dozen large, or 3-4 dozen small

Brownie Ingredients:

1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup good quality Stout Beer (I used Otto’s Black Mo Stout)
1/2 cup raspberry preserves
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (at least 70%), chopped
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/3 cup dark cocoa powder
1/2 t salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 t vanilla extract

Ganache Ingredients:
2 T unsalted butter
2 T heavy whipping cream
1-2 T good quality Stout beer
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (at least 70%), chopped

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an 11×8-inch metal baking pan* with foil and grease with softened butter.

2.  Melt 1/2 cup butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; stir in beer and raspberry preserves. When mixture is hot and begins to bubble, turn heat off and stir in 6 ounces of  chopped bittersweet chocolate until melted and well combined.  Set aside to cool.

3.  In a medium sized mixing bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, and salt.

4.  In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer on high speed, beat together granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla for 3 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low, and slowly beat in melted and cooled chocolate mixture until well combined (make sure the chocolate mixture is cool enough so it doesn’t scramble the eggs!). Add in flour mixture until just combined. Don’t overmix.

5.  Pour batter into prepared dish. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20-22 minutes, or until just set in the middle.

6.  Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath which will stop the brownies from cooking (and preserve that truffle-like interior) after you take them out of the oven.  To do this, fill a larger baking or roasting pan with ice cubes and water (no more than halfway filled up). If you don’t have a larger pan, maybe fill the sink with a bit of ice water.

7.  When brownies are done, remove from oven and place pan directly into ice bath.  Be sure the brownie pan is sitting on top of the ice or floating so the water doesn’t get into the brownies!  Cool the brownies in the ice water bath for at least 10-15 minutes and remove carefully. (See photo)

8.  While brownies are cooling, make the ganache.  To do this, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in cream and Stout. When mixture starts to bubble, reduce heat to low and stir in remaining 6 oz. of chopped chocolate until melted and smooth. Pour ganache over mostly cooled brownies, and smooth the surface, using a rubber spatula. Freeze the brownies until ganache is set, about 15 minutes.

9.  Cover tightly and place in refrigerator until ready to serve. Lift the foil-lined brownies out of dish, and slice into bars using a sharp knife (peeling the foil away).  They are very rich (much like truffles), so I would suggest cutting them into small, almost bite-sized, pieces. (I made these a day ahead and stored them in the refrigerator — removing about an hour before serving.)

*You really need a metal baking dish for these brownies because a hot glass one will probably crack in the ice water bath.

Whole Grain Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Coconut Oil

This post is brought to you by summer camp.  Sweet, sweet summer camp.

After several weeks of kids at home all day and attempts to get real work done late at night, I have a bit of breathing space.   And you’d think after cooking three meals a day for three weeks that I might have some recipes to show for it.  I probably would have — other than the fighting.  Oh man, the fighting and bickering and whining between siblings is almost too much to handle.  My older sisters alluded to this a few years ago with not-so-vague comments like “Just wait until they start to fight.”  These comments probably occurred (and went right around my perfection force field) as I was praising how much my children love each other, what a great big sister my daughter is, and how my son just looks adoringly at his sister all day long.  Right.

But now my son goes crazy when his sister sings.  Which is always.  And she goes crazy when he ruins her stuff.  Which is always.  They started out sort of like roommates.  You think the person is super cool because she brought BOTH a boom box and a microwave; and then you realize she has very bad body odor and you want to pummel her when she schmoopy talks to her boyfriend at night.  I guess all you can hope for is that by the end of the year, they end up going to a kicking party, have an “I love you man” moment, and are BFFs forever.

So if you are able, take a moment today to thank your mother for putting up with all of your annoying shit.  You can bet she considered leaving you alongside the road at some point in your childhood — though she’ll deny it.  You can also bet that when she enrolled you in clarinet camp, she was more interested in her sanity than in your music skills.  She’ll deny that too.  And just to shatter the rest of your childhood, she made chocolate chip cookies because she had PMS cravings.

Luckily, these cookies will both satisfy the cravings and quiet the children.  They use coconut oil, making them dairy free and giving them just a hint of coconut flavor.  They also have a bit more salt than I would normally use, giving them a touch of that perfect salty/sweet combination.  Chilling the dough will keep them taller and prevent them from spreading too much.  We used ours for cookie ice cream sandwiches one warm evening, which was pretty fantastic.

Whole Grain Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Coconut Oil

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen

2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 cup coconut oil, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 t vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups of dark chocolate chunks or chips (from about 9 ounces of chocolate)

1.  Mix whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

2.  Using an electric mixer, cream the softened coconut oil with the brown sugar and white sugar until light and fluffy.  Add in eggs (one at a time) and mix until incorporated.  Add in vanilla extract and mix.

3.  Add about a third of the dry ingredients mixture to the coconut oil mixture and mix until just incorporated.  Repeat with remaining dry ingredients (1/3 at a time).  Do not overmix.  With a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in chocolate chunks/chips until mixture is thoroughly combined.  Chill dough for 45 minutes.

4.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Drop spoonfuls of the dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Because they do tend to spread, I only put 9 on a single sheet.  Bake for about 10 minutes until just golden.  Allow to cool for a minute or two and then transfer to cooling racks and cool completely.  Repeat with remaining dough (keep dough in the refrigerator while baking other batches).  When completely cooled, store in an airtight container or freeze.

Minted Strawberry Ice Cream with Coconut Milk

So, the summer time bounty is upon us.  The rhubarb has already piled up in my refrigerator and my CSA box contained one zucchini — obviously a sign (omen?) of the many squashes to come.  In the next week, I will surely be making both Honey Strawberry Freezer Jam and Rhubarb Applesauce in an attempt to save some of the overflow for winter.  If you were to identify the hard part about eating locally and seasonally, it is the sheer amount of produce that you get in a short period of time.  It has to be both eaten and dealt with.  And I say “dealt with” seriously … because you will not use it up by eating alone.  I read this great article the other day and there are a lot of tips for using up CSA produce — many that I would reiterate.  But here are a few more things that I have found to be helpful.

Your sheet pan is your best friend.  When anything — strawberries, blueberries, rhubarb, peppers, etc. — comes in too quickly and you have too much to use up, wash it and make a single layer on a parchment-lined sheet pan (leaving berries whole and cutting others up into chunks).  Stick it in the freezer and freeze until it is solid.  I have forgotten about trays and left them in there for days without issue.  Remove the frozen items from the sheet pan and transfer into containers or freezer bags.  I aim to have a few huge bags of every type of berry by the end of the summer.  We use them all year long for smoothies, yogurt, ice cream, and other desserts. And the great thing about the single layer technique is that they don’t stick together, so you can store them in big containers and still pull out just what you need when you need it.  You’d be amazed at how wonderful a batch of strawberry ice cream tastes in February.

If your sheet pan is your best friend, your freezer is your lover.  I tried to do a few summers without a deep freeze and it was difficult.  Investing $200 in a small chest freezer was a fantastic decision.  Aside from the produce that you can keep on hand, if you buy your meats through local farms, they are almost always frozen and you can keep a nice stockpile in the freezer.

For everyone’s benefit, I won’t continue with the metaphors.  But suffice it to say that canning jars are also important.   I still don’t do much canning.  I know. I know.  I need to do that and just haven’t.  So, obviously if you are canning, you are ten steps ahead of me and don’t really need to read this article, now do you?  But I do make jams and freezer jams are still my favorite.  I just like the uncooked taste of fruit freezer jams.  So, another CSA tip is to make a lot of jam.  We just used up our last jar of strawberry jam from last summer.  I never, ever have to buy it at the store.

Another big helper is your food processor.  Even if you don’t feel like making pesto, you can take tons of basil or spinach (or beet greens), wash them, throw them in the processor with a bit of olive oil or water and puree it down to the size of a microchip.  I then put little dollops onto my old friend the sheet pan, freeze it, and then throw it in ziploc bags for almost anything (great in soups or pasta).  Your kids will think they are cookies, so you can either warn them — or not.  The spinach puree is also great in Spinach-Laced Brownies. The other big thing I use the food processor for is shredding zucchini and yellow squash.  There is no doubt you will be up to your eyeballs in them and I shred up a whole bunch and freeze that in smallish containers.  It’s is great to throw in soups or pasta to up the vegetable count or you can use it all year long in things like Chocolate Zucchini Cake.

I will definitely reiterate the idea of eating things raw.  Whenever I get radishes or kohlrabi, or even turnips for that matter, I always slice up a plate to have on the bar while I’m cooking dinner.  Sprinkle with a little coarse salt and everyone will snack on them and they will disappear before you know it.

As for greens, I generally don’t wash all my lettuces when I first walk in the door.  I find that to be annoying and I don’t think they really last much longer than when stored in bags and washed as needed. The greens I get through my farm share are generally so fresh that they definitely will last all week.  And maybe it’s my husband’s Italian roots, but we have salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette every night, so using up lettuce is never a problem.   With greens that are good cooked (spinach, chard, etc.), I usually just rinse them and saute them with tons of garlic and olive oil.  My kids love them like this, but they are also great thrown in pasta or soups too.

There are always a few stinkers that nobody wants.  In my family, only my son and I eat beets.  I love them shredded raw with an orange vinaigrette for a quick lunch, but even non-beet lovers may like them roasted.  As for Curly Endive, I’m still trying to work out something for that.  Not a big fan.  My go to recipe for a languishing pile of turnips is Homemade Chicken Stock, which is tremendous to keep on hand in the freezer.

And winding our way back to the purpose of this post, you can never go wrong to invest in an ice cream maker.  I make every type of fruit ice cream that exists and am rarely disappointed.  It’s great for overripe fruit that needs to be used up.  Here’s a new recipe for Minted Strawberry Ice Cream with Coconut Milk.  It’s completely dairy free and not overly sweetened.  It is definitely getting added to my go-to list.  Good luck with your summer produce!

On update:  I just thought of one other tip that seems like a no-brainer.  Save your relatively clean produce bags and bread bags from the grocery store.  Instant free and reused storage!

Minted Strawberry Ice Cream with Coconut Milk

Makes about 2 quarts

2 cans coconut milk (15 ounces each, I used regular, but you could use light or one of each)
4-6 sprigs of mint
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup honey
Pinch of salt
1 t vanilla extract
1 1/2 pints strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 T sugar
2 T chopped fresh mint
Juice of 1/2 lime

1.  Bring coconut milk to a simmer in a medium, heavy saucepan and add mint sprigs.  Remove from heat and allow to steep for 30 minutes.  Remove mint sprigs and discard.  Bring coconut milk back to a simmer.

2.  Whisk together egg yolks and honey with pinch of salt until well combined.

3.  Add 1/4 cup of hot coconut milk to egg mixture and quickly whisk it in to temper the egg yolks (which prevents curdling).  Whisk in an additional 1/4 cup of coconut milk and repeat two or three times until egg mixture is hot.  Add egg mixture back to remaining hot coconut milk in saucepan and whisk or stir constantly over medium low heat until slightly thickened, about 5-7 minutes. Do not boil!  Remove from heat and immediately pour into a bowl or dish.

4.  Add vanilla extract to custard mixture.  Chill in an ice bath until cooled down.  (To do that: use a much larger bowl or dish and fill with ice water.  Set smaller bowl with coconut milk custard in the ice bath being careful not to get any water into the custard.  Here’s a picture for reference.)  Store cooled custard in the refrigerator for at least an hour, or until you are ready to make the ice cream.

5.  Meanwhile, combine sliced strawberries, chopped mint, and lime juice.  Let sit for at least 15-20 minutes, or until juices form.

6.  Combine strawberry mixture with custard mixture.  Pour into ice cream maker and churn for about 20-25 minutes, or according to manufacturer’s directions.  Remove from ice cream maker and store in freezer.  Allow it to soften a bit before serving.

Quinoa Sunbutter Cookies with Cocoa Nibs and Pumpkin Seeds

A few months ago, I decided to go off gluten.  While I haven’t been entirely faithful, I am still attempting to avoid it.  And like almost everything else, I am very bad at “all or nothing” eating.  I’m trying to eat less meat, but I don’t think I could ever be a vegetarian because beans have nothing on a seared medallion of filet mignon. I’m trying to eat less dairy, but how the hell is one supposed to give up heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella? And I’m trying to eliminate sugar, but you can’t make caramel without it, so there goes that. And alcohol?  Oh yes, one can give up alcohol and live many more years. But as the old joke goes:  you don’t actually live longer, it just feels like it.

I guess I’m not cut out for strict regimens of anything.  I start feeling sorry for myself.

So I have a pantry and refrigerator full of supplies based on my abandoned “regimens du jour.”  Here’s the brown rice flour.  There’s the coconut milk.  Back there (in the way back) is the goat’s milk yogurt.

Oh, and there’s the quinoa flour!  Aside from being a kick-ass Scrabble word, what might one do with quinoa flour?  I did some reading and found out that it can generally be substituted 1:1 for normal wheat flour in baking (except if you are making a yeast-leavened product, because it has no gluten).  It intrigued me so I decided to figure out a cookie recipe that would utilize all quinoa flour and be very allergy friendly (especially for kids).

As usual, I cut back on the sugar tremendously, so this recipe is not overly sweet.  It is another one of those cookie recipes that is more health food than dessert.  But you could easily add more sugar if you wanted to.  And the end result is pretty darn good — and a great allergy-friendly treat because it contains no wheat, no gluten, no dairy, and no nuts.  It does have eggs, but I bet you could substitute each egg with 2 T water, 1 T oil, and 2 t baking powder (that’s the “egg” combo I used in baking when my daughter was allergic to eggs).  If anyone with egg allergies tries this, let me know how it turns out.  Also, I used cocoa nibs to keep the sugar down even more, but feel free to substitute with chocolate chips if you like.

One VERY interesting side note, however:  I stored these cookies in our cookie jar and when I got some out for the kids today, the interiors of the cookies were green!  I have seen pumpkin seeds create a green tinge in certain things, but this was really green.  I am wondering if it was a reaction with the quinoa or the cocoa nibs.  Green food coloring without the chemicals, perhaps!  The ones stored in the freezer were fine, so if you don’t want greenish cookies, try that.  The kids thought the green color was pretty funky, however.   Any food scientists out there who could explain this one to me?

Quinoa Sunbutter Cookies with Cocoa Nibs and Pumpkin Seeds

Makes 18-24 cookies

1 cup sunbutter (I used crunchy — and any other nut/soy nut butter would work)
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs
1 t vanilla extract
1 cup quinoa flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds (or other nuts/seeds)
1/3 cup cocoa nibs (or chocolate chips)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Mix sunbutter with honey in a large bowl.  Whisk in eggs and vanilla extract.

2.  Combine salt, baking soda, and quinoa flour.  Stir into sunbutter mixture until just combined.

3.  Stir pumpkin seeds and cocoa nibs into dough.

4.  Drop teaspoonfuls of dough onto parchment lined baking sheets.  Flatten slightly with a fork if you like.  Bake for 7-8 minutes until just done.

Chocolate Coffee and Cream Cookies with Spelt Flour

Apologies for the lentil salad meltdown and thanks to those who sent words of support.  Ham bones have a way of making me crazy. Or maybe it’s motherhood and children.  Who the hell knows.  Anyhoo.  Life goes on and we still need chocolate, right?  So, I shall stay strong and carry on and only drink vodka when I *really* need it.

Recently it was a little rainy and I needed something to hold over my kids’ heads to ensure good behavior I wanted to engage in a meaningful life skills activity with my children.  So we decided to bake cookies and I thought I’d make something up with all spelt flour to see how it turned out.  I have done a lot of baking with sprouted spelt flour, but have rarely used it as a 100% wheat flour replacement in a recipe.

We decided to do a chocolate and coffee cookie with a creamy, sweet glaze to replicate some sort of 1000 calorie creation at Starbucks.  Except we used all sprouted spelt flour and cut back on the sugar.  And instead of hipster music, we listened to Hall and Oates.  Can I mention how much I have enjoyed listening to them lately?  It is an odd phenomenon and I attribute it to being almost 38.

The spelt flour actually worked quite well.  The cookie was moist and slightly cakey — partially due to the spelt, I think, but also because we used a lot less sugar than a normal cookie recipe.  They reminded me of a coffee- scented, cakey Oreo with a nice kick from the sea salt.  And that’s a pretty good combination as far I am concerned.

Chocolate Coffee and Cream Cookies with Spelt Flour

Note:  I didn’t do it, but I think that adding some chocolate chips or chunks would be delicious.

Makes 2-3 dozen

1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups sprouted spelt flour
3/4 cup dark cocoa powder
1 t baking soda
1 t sea salt
2 T espresso powder

Glaze:

1 cup of powdered sugar, thinned with heavy cream until glaze consistency

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Mix sprouted spelt flour, cocoa, baking soda, sea salt, and espresso powder in a medium bowl and set aside.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, cream butter with an electric mixer until soft and fluffy.  Cream together with brown sugar and honey for 1-2 minutes.  One at a time, add eggs and mix well.

3.  Gradually add dry ingredients to butter mixture and mix until just combined.  Stir with a spatula to finish mixing and make sure the flour is completely incorporated.

4.  Drop by teaspoonfuls onto parchment lined baking sheets and bake for 8-9 minutes until just done.  Let cool for one minute and remove to racks to cool completely.

5.  While cookies are baking/cooling, mix glaze and drizzle over cooled cookies.  Let harden a bit and then store in a sealed container or in the freezer.