Cookie Carnival :: Peanut Butter Chocolate Sandwiches

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the clean plate club hosted a Cookie Carnival for the month of February, and of course, I had to get on board! The host sent out a cookie recipe, for which each participant is asked to make the recipe and post our individual results. At first glance, I was nervous that perhaps I had not received the recipe in its entirety, as the cookie is entirely gluten-free…only to remember that I had made a cookie like this previously, and that the peanut butter did more than enough for the structure of the cookie as my recipe for the flourless peanut butter cookie.

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Organic versus All-Natural

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I am extremely passionate to only cook with all-natural ingredients, but sometimes the labels can be downright confusing of exactly what you’re buying, or what all-natural means, or organic, low-fat, etc. Too many labels and not enough clarification.

Once you break it down, it actually makes a lot of sense…for the “all-natural” side at least. All-natural is really just that…all natural. Totally natural ingredients, with no chemical enhancements, and that the very minimum–not created in a laboratory. In my opinion, the two biggest offenses of the chemically-created food world are: hydrogenated oils (aka trans fats) and corn syrup. In both cases, something was carried into a lab thatbegan as all-natural, but then had loads of chemical enhancements to make it shelf-stable and, frankly, a huge money-maker (for the corporations, that is).

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Cooking: The Next Happy Pill

I found this fabulous article on the Washington Post, and I honestly couldn’t have said it better myself. I enjoyed reading it, as I felt that the author was speaking on my behalf! Fantastic.

Cooking: The Next Happy Pill? by A Mighty Appetite

“In a recent New York Times Magazine interview, U.S. Poet Laureate Charles Simic was asked what advice he’d give to people who are looking to be happy.

His response: “For starters, learn how to cook.”

The question was asked in the context of the slew of self-help books on the pursuit of happiness — a state of being guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence no less — and once there, how to keep the good vibrations going.

So, if we heed Simic’s advice and get back into the kitchen, could it be possible to one day throw the Zoloft down the drain? Could some time with the cutting board replace the need for time on the therapist’s couch? Would the inexplicable, seemingly unsolvable mysteries of life still carry the same weight after making a pot of soup?

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Treats for Two: Ricotta Cheesecake

Coconut Bread Coconut Bread
Coconut Bread Coconut Bread
Coconut Bread Coconut Bread

I came across a new book called, The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger. The name immediately drew my attention, as it goes right alongside my usual soap box speeches. :) I love her intro that talks about the fact that when we crave sugar, it’s because our bodies are looking for energy to sustain us. Since sugar is energy, it seems to always be the quickest thing to grab. Unfortunately, the boost lasts minimally, leaving us groggy, etc. Though I don’t tend to lean towards nutritionists, I really, really like her book because she doesn’t lecture [at all!] about what foods to eat, how much, your ideal weight, etc. It’s really a book full of great recipes that are healthy, both savory and sweet.

Along with my usual tactic, I flipped to the dessert section for my first run. After all, if someone can sell me on a healthy dessert, then I am sure I will enjoy all the other recipes in the book. Savory recipes can be healthy, as a general rule (when homemade, I mean). As soon as I saw the Ricotta Cheesecake recipe, I knew it was the challenge. You see, I’ve never made a cheesecake. I’ve heard more stories about failed cheesecake than anything else, so I’ve always shied away. However, as this was a ricotta cheese recipe, I knew it would be much easier (and much healthier!) than those made with mostly cream cheese.

Since I knew I didn’t want the full cheesecake (a 9″ cake, serving 8 people), I immediately proceeded to slash the recipe to a nice, two person recipe. As all small-batch recipes go, you need a few small-batch tools. In this case, I needed: Krups Convection Toaster Oven, one Kaiser Mini Springform Pan (or a set of four) and hand-held immersion blender with food processor attachment. As for the ingredient list, I conveniently had everything already in the house!

3.75 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese (1/4 of a 15-ounce container)
2 T reduced-fat sour cream (I suggest Daisy)
1 ounce reduced-fat cream cheese, softened (1/8 of the bar)
3 T granulated sugar
1 T all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon vanilla (I suggestpaste)
pinch of table salt
1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 egg, well beaten (use only 3/4 of beaten egg; save remaining for omelette the next day)

Coat Mini Springform Pan with cooking spray.

Place the ricotta in a food processor attachment and process until smooth and creamy. Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth. Pour into prepared pan, smooth with spatula. Turn toaster oven to 325ºF with Convection Bake. Place on lower-rack and bake for 40 minutes, turning pan halfway through cooking time.

Transfer to cooking rack and allow to cool, then cover and chill for at least 3 hours before removing from pan.

—At this point, I stuck it in the freezer for 20 minutes because it looked and smelled WAY too good to wait anywhere near 3 hours!!—

I used some leftover lemon curd as a topping on the still slightly-warm cheesecake. As you may notice, there are no photos of the curd, finished cheesecake unmolded, or anything beyond. Ummm, that’s because I couldn’t wait. This is absolutely my new favorite dessert. It was the easiest thing I have ever made, I always have all these ingredients on hand, and it is so versatile!! A nice fruit sauce, chocolate sauce, poached pears, what have you—anything will make a great topping. Truly an amazing recipe.

I suggest you check out the book, The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger
for this full recipe, and so many other fantastic desserts and meals!

Lemon and Coconut ??

Seeing as I have an enormous amount of coconut and lemon sitting around, I figured I needed to use them up. Of course, who doesn’t need cookies in their house, anyway? I have the lemons left over from my Daring Baker’s Challenge of lemon meringue pie, and the coconut leftover from my attempts at coconut bread. So, I turned to my most recent baking book find, The Great Big Butter Cookbook. I have so many dog-eared pages in that book, it’s hard to pick which will be the next adventure. However, my belly settled upon the Lime-Thai Snowball Cookies. I mean, yummy!! I adore anything with citrus, anyway, and seemingly coconut and butter will only push them right over the edge of delight! 

I began by making the recipe as stated, but wasn’t overly thrilled. They were good, but I used the lime oil that the recipe suggests, fearing that it would add a bitter note. Yep, it did. They were okay, given that you’re snowed in to your house and the thought of going to the store would require you to dig a tunnel just to get there. :) I highly suggest ignoring the oil and using the fresh juice instead. I keep zest and juice in the freezer at all times, but I managed to get low on juice (enter ashamed face), so I went for the lime zest and oil mix. Like I said, good, but could be better! So, that’s when I decided to go for the lemon…  

Of course, if I’m going to switch to the lemon, I wanted to make sure I used fresh juice (I did). Also, I felt that on the lime cookie, the coconut tasted a little raw, so I decided to lightly toast the coconut for round two. Definitely an improvement! The lemon cookies are by far superior…but, I feel it’s fair to say it’s because of the toasted coconut and fresh juice, not necessarily because of the citrus choice. In fact, I think that these cookies have great possibilities to adjust many other flavors (orange citrus, almond extract, peppermint, vanilla, chocolate…). It’s an awesome, super easy, basic butter cookie, and the last-shake in the coconut-sugar blend makes it look beautiful. It is a great cookie to stand proud at any cookie exchange. Enjoy. Sharing Optional! 

Coconut-Lime Thai Snowballs from The Great Big Butter Cookbook
Makes 48 cookies using Oxo Small Cookie Scoop

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 ounces (1 cup) confectioner’s [powdered/icing] sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lime oil or 2 T lime juice
  • 1 1/2 t finely grated lime zest
  • 1/4 t table salt
  • 9 ounces [1 3/4 cup + 1 T] all-purpose flour
  • 3 ounces (1 cup) unsweetened shredded coconut (medium shred)

Coating

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F with the racks set on the lower/upper thirds of oven.
  2. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the lime oil [I highly suggest the fresh-squeezed juice] and beat to combine. Gently fold in the zest, salt, flour and coconut. Blend well.
  3. Lightly flour your hands and roll the dough into one-inch balls [or use the Oxo Small Cookie Scoop]. Place the balls about 1 1/2-inch apart on baking sheet and bake until the cookies are puffy, not browned. Allow cookies to cool about five minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, combine the coating ingredients in a quart- or gallon-sized plastic bag [I chose to use a lidded-container]. While the cookies are still warm, carefully toss them in the coating. Place the cookies on a wire rack to cool completely.
Coconut Bread Coconut Bread
Coconut Bread Coconut Bread
Coconut Bread Coconut Bread
Coconut Bread Coconut Bread
Coconut Bread Coconut Bread
Coconut Bread Coconut Bread
Coconut Bread Coconut Bread
Coconut Bread Coconut Bread

Could you survive without your stove?

Because I can’t! A week ago my stove tops burnt out (new one won’t arrive until end of week). The truth to the irony is that only the night before my hubby was working on a project that involved hand-lettering (the original form of typography, now done on a computer). He commented that he never could have done it “back then,” I thought for a moment and disagreed that of course you could, if it was the only thing you knew, and you still loved it! Was that someone’s funny way of seeing how much I really like to cook??

The oven works, still, and I have my trusty toaster oven for my smaller items, nonetheless. Apparently, I didn’t give enough thanks for my stove while I had it, though. Sure, I’ve complained and grunted about having an electric stove, but oh, how I miss it! If it weren’t -14º F outside (umm, before windchill), I’d be happily cooking away on the grill. In the meantime, I’m discovering a rice cooker—in which I burnt rice!!—-clearly, I’m better at making things by hand; a slow cooker—of which I keep worrying about the electricity bill.

So, bottom-line, I once used a stove for nothing more than boiling water for Kraft and Jell-O, but now? Apparently it’s my life-line!

Have you tried :: Coconut Bread?

Seeing as hubby grew up in a family that owned a local bakery, and my competitive nature, you can only imagine what it is like trying to recreate childhood memories. There is one particular beast which I have not yet been able to conquer. I emphasize ‘yet.’ Hubby has found memories of being at the beach, and the lovely local women carrying baskets on their head full of seething hot coconut bread-rolls. Upon purchase, the ladies would coat nearly a tablespoon of butter on the middle of the roll, to be consumed immediately. Sounds good, doesn’t it??

Yesterday was my second attempt at the coconut bread. For what it was, it was quite good. Alas, not what hubby was in search of. Curses. As I was cleaning up last night, a brilliant thought occured to me. Perhaps what hubby was seeking for wasn’t a yeasted bread, as I had been doing, but something more like a quick bread, anything along the lines of a coffee cake, loaf bread or muffin. Suddenly, it all became how clear! As I raced upstairs to share my brilliant thought, the reply was, “yah, it wasn’t a a bread made with yeast.” Umm, that information could have been helpful a few months ago, when I first attempted the recreation!

Nonetheless, if you’ve got a hankering for coconut bread, this recipe turned out happy faces. Looking back, I wish I would have toasted the coconut first. I’ll try that after I conquer my next venture: coconut muffins.

Coconut Bread makes 12 muffins or one loaf as adapted from the King Arthur Flour recipe

  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 large eggs 4 tablespoons melted butter (2 oz/half-stick)
  • 12.75 ounces King Arthur Flour (2 1/2 cups)
  • .90 ounces coconut milk powder (1/2 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • .90 ounces sugar (2 T)
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure coconut extract
  • 1.5 ounces unsweetened dried coconut (1/2 cup)
  1. Leaving coconut behind, mix remaining ingredients in mixer set with bread hook until soft and shiny, adjusting liquid/flour as necessary, about 7 or 8 minutes.
  2. Add coconut [toasted, if you would like more flavor], and continue kneading until well-mixed, about 2 minutes.
  3. Knead by hand approximately 60 seconds more, then shape into ball and place in greased bowl to raise for 1 1/2 hours [I like to place in the oven with the light on, for continued warmth and draft-free location].
  4. If using muffin tin, divide dough into 12 pieces and place in greased muffin cups; if using loaf or brioche pan, shape and place in greased pan.
  5. Cover with greased plastic wrap and allow to rise 1 1/2 hours.
  6. Pre-heat oven to 350º F (about 30 minutes) and bake until golden brown (between 20-30 minutes, depending on method (muffins or loaf). Remove from pan promptly. Enjoy. Sharing Optional!
Coconut Bread Coconut Bread
Coconut Bread Coconut Bread
Coconut Bread Coconut Bread
Coconut Bread Coconut Bread
Coconut Bread Coconut Bread
Coconut Bread Coconut Bread
Coconut Bread Coconut Bread
Coconut Bread Coconut Bread
Coconut Bread Coconut Bread
Coconut Bread Coconut Bread

the clean plate club blog–thank you!

Wow! I just won a bloggy giveaway! It is the Martha Stewart’s Hors d’Ouevres Handbook. I am so excited! I can’t wait to receive the kind gift so I can begin posting all sorts of fun ideas. Thank you so much to the clean plate club for such a great giveaway. I’m so excited!!

Baked From Scratch