Sneaky Chocolate Crinkles

20131226-145120.jpgWith 2013 near its final days, I thought I’d share a new recipe I tried this Christmas. Traditionally, my sibling, mom, and I make cut out sugar cookies and thumbprints for our cookie lineup, but this year I was enticed by this gorgeous recipe. The cookies are deliciously chocolatey, yet not over-indulgent. They also require no decorating, since they’re rolled in powdered sugar! To change things up a bit (and lighten up the holiday butter-load) I chose a recipe with less butter, and substitute partial whole wheat pastry flour. This IS the superior crinkle!

Chocolate Crinkles (Sneakily better-for-you!)
Inspired by Julievr on Babble.com

  • 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used hersheys)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

Powdered sugar, for rolling

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl cream the butter and sugars until fluffy and light, about 3 minutes. Do not skip this! It is crucial in cookie-making. Add the eggs, vanilla, and stir until well blended, then dry ingredients and mix again.

At first it will seem like there isn’t enough liquid, but it will come together. You may need to get in there with your hands – don’t be afraid to! Form the dough into a ball, slab, whatever and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Take the dough out of the fridge. Put some icing sugar in a shallow bowl and line a baking tray with parchment. Sprinkle some powdered sugar on the parchment, too. Roll the dough into walnut-sized balls and roll the balls in icing sugar to coat; be sure to cover them well, it makes them look much prettier. Place an inch or two apart on the cookie sheets.

Bake for 12-14 minutes, until set around the edges but still soft in the middle. Be sure not to over bake them! In fact, they are better a bit under, so they say soft and chewy in the center. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Serve warm with a glass of milk or egg nog.

Happy Baking!

Traditional Cranberry Biscotti

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Hi all! Today I have for you a quick recipe for traditional Italian BiscottiBiscotti, if you’re not familiar with them, are twice-baked cookies originating in the Italian city of Prato (it’s near Florence). The cookies are often oblong shaped, and contain almonds, dried fruit, and some sort of citrus zest. They are made dry and crunchy by cutting the log of baked dough into slices and baking it again at a lower temperature. Traditionally, biscotti is served alongside coffee or tea, and by nature is not supposed to be too sweet, as to avoid offsetting its accompanying beverage. Today, however, bakeries are tending to shift towards a more buttery, rich, and sweet biscotti (often covered in chocolate) that is more dessert-like.

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The recipe I have for you today is a more traditional biscotti – only relying on the sweetness from dried fruit, and the perfect level of crunchy-crumbliness from the richness of whole eggs. There is no butter or oil in the recipe, making the cookie perfect to satisfy your sweet-tooth in the morning, midday, or even after dinner when preparing for the richness that comes with the holidays. Also, this recipe is easily adaptable! If you would like the cookie to be richer, add in up to 1 cup of sugar, or even dip them in chocolate when they’re done. You can also add nuts, and chocolate chips, or experiment with different extracts. I’ve made this recipe 3 times, and each time I differ the filling. Have fun with it!

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Traditional Cranberry Biscotti

This biscotti is lighter and simpler than its bakery-counterparts, relying on a traditional Italian method. Serve it as a light sweet snack alongside a warm beverage.

Ingredients

3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or almond, coffee, raspberry, etc.)
zest of 1 whole orange (OPTIONAL)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried cranberries (or any mixture, such as raisins, apricots, almonds, chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In a small bowl, mix the eggs, and extract. In a larger bowl, mix the remaining ingredients except the nuts. Stir the wet mixture into the dry, using a spoon first and then using your hands. The dough will be VERY sticky and tacky. Stir in the dried fruit.

Flouring your hands and working surface, roll half of the dough into a 12-inch flat log. Place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment, sprayed foil, or a silicone mat. Repeat with the remaining dough. You can put both logs on the same sheet.

Bake in the center position of the oven for about 50 minutes, until golden brown. Take the logs off the sheet and onto a cooling rack, let cool for about 5 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 275 degrees.

Use a serrated knife to slice the logs into 1/2-inch thick slices. Return the slices to the baking sheet and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown and almost crisp. Transfer to cooling racks and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Makes 4 dozen biscotti

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Warm Tex-Mex Salad!

Hope you’re all enjoying the chilly weather this winter, wherever you may be. Even when there’s frost covering the rooftops and there’s an icy glaze over the sidewalk, I still sometimes just feel like a salad.

Yes, a nice summer salad, full of crisp lettuce, refreshing and light. I don’t know –  it pulls you out of the season for a bit, and reminds you of sprinklers, and late sunsets, and cubes of fresh watermelon, and crickets.

So today, I have a quick and easy recipe to share with you that extremely versatile: is vegetarian (!) , easily vegan (!) , as well as gluten free (!). The dish comes together quickly, and could serve as a quick and healthy lunch or dinner for one. Enjoy!

Warm Tex-Mex Salad

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Warm Tex-Mex Salad

Feel free to omit/add any ingredients you’d like! This salad is made for one, but you can easily up the amount of ingredients to serve more.

First, cook the tofu. You can also omit the tofu or substitute another protein (chicken, shrimp,  steak, etc.)

  • 1/5th block extra-firm or pressed tofu (about 4 oz.), cubed 1/2 x 1/2 in
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp coriander
  • olive oil
  • pinch of salt and pepper, to taste

Heat a non-stick skillet on medium. Once the skillet is hot, add the tofu cubes; do NOT oil the pan. The tofu should sizzle and jiggle about once they hit the heat – do not turn or stir them. Let the tofu cook for 5 minutes, or until the pieces have a golden brown layer on each side and do not stick to the pan. Add oil to coat the tofu, then the salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, and coriander to the pan. Toss the pan to coat the tofu evenly. Set the tofu aside, and keep the skillet on.

Now, assemble the warm vegetables to top the salad.

  • 1/2 medium red onion, cubed
  • 1 small handful of cilantro, chopped
  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, cored & sliced into strips
  • 1 zucchini, sliced into rings the same thickness as the bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup frozen corn
  • 1/3 cup black beans, drained
  • finely shredded romaine/iceberg lettuce
  • 1 whole wheat tortilla (or tortilla of choice)
  • 1/4 cup shredded mexican cheese

Keep a skillet on medium heat; drizzle some olive oil on once it is hot. Add the onions, green onions, and cilantro to the pan. Immediately, add the spices and stir to coat the onions. Let the onions brown for about 2 minutes, stirring infrequently, then add the peppers and zucchini. Allow the zucchini and peppers to caramelize on each side by not stirring excessively – leave them alone! Once the zucchini and bell peppers and zucchini are softened, add the frozen corn. Allow the corn to thaw on the pan for about 2 minutes, stirring often. Add the drained beans and tofu, toss gently for about a minute, careful not to break the beans or tofu, then take off the heat.

With the stove still on medium, carefully warm the tortilla over the flame or heat, for about 20 seconds each side. Place the warmed tortilla on a plate, and make a bed of the shredded lettuce. Add the warm ingredients on top of the lettuce. Top with cheese and extra cilantro or green onions if desired. Enjoy!

Note that there is a lot of room for variation in this recipe: the tortilla can be omitted or replaced with a gluten free one; the tofu can be replaced with a meat or another alternative; the cilantro can be removed if you are one of those “cilantro haters” (I respect you, though); you can add hot sauce, jalepenos, avocado, brown rice, etc. Have fun with it, and use whatever you have lying in the fridge!

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Buckwheat Pancakes

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These buckwheat pancakes are perfect for a chilly morning doused in your favorite maple syrup, or spread with a  bit of jam. The buckwheat flour lends a pleasantly nutty flavor, and an extra step in the pancake-making process ensures optimum softness. In addition, buckwheat is a wonderful flour to use because it is gluten free (!), is low glycemic index (it will not spike your blood sugar), and is lower calorie than whole wheat flour! So celebrate this great grain and go out and buy a bag of buckwheat flour, if you don’t have one already.  If you want to learn more about buckwheat, hop on over to this blog, Buckwheat for your Health, full of recipes and buckwheat facts. Enjoy!

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Basic Buckwheat Pancakes 

(adapted from this recipe at simplyrecipes.com)

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 14 to 15 4-inch pancakes, serves 4-5.
  • Vegetable oil for coating the pan
  • 3/4 cup (100g or 3.5 oz) buckwheat flour
  • 3/4 cup (100g or 3.5 oz) whole wheat pastry flour (can sub with buckwheat flour for a 100% buckwheat pancake if you wish, or another gluten free flour)
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 Tbsp plain greek yogurt (nonfat ok)
  • 1 egg (optional)
  • 2 cups milk (I used vanilla soymilk an omitted the honey)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

1 Whisk together the dry ingredients—the flours, sugar, salt, baking soda—in a large bowl. Whisk the egg, yogurt, and milk in a seperate bowl, then slowly add in to the rest of the dry ingredients. Stir only until everything is combined. Do not overmix. A few lumps are fine.

2 Let the batter rest for about 15 minutes. This step is crucial! It will thicken the batter and make for a fluffier pancake. Heat a well-seasoned griddle, cast iron skillet, or stick-free pan on medium heat while the batter rests.

3 Put a few drops of vegetable oil on the pan or griddle and spread it around with a paper towel to coat, or use a baking spray. Ladle the batter onto the hot surface to the desired size, about 4-5 inches wide. (A 1/4 cup measure will ladle about a 4-inch pancake.) Allow the pancake to cook for 2-3 minutes on this first side. Watch for bubbles on the surface of the pancake. When air bubbles start to rise to the surface at the center of the pancake, flip the pancake. Cook for another 1-2 minutes, or until nicely browned.

4 Keep your pancakes warm on a rack in the oven set on “warm,” or stack them on a plate and cover with a towel as you make more. Spread more oil on the pan as needed between batches of pancakes.

Serve with  maple syrup, fruit jam, cheese, or whatever your heart desires. I’ve found that they are particularly delicious spread with a bit of this honey chevre from trader joe’s:


Happy Breakfasts!

Thanksgiving 2013 & a Southern Cornbread for Stuffing

This year, I’m thankful to be home, along the beautiful Santa Cruz mountains.

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Amidst warm weather and clear sunny skies, I know next year, I might not be home to enjoy California. So I’m thankful to live where I live, but at the same time, I’m thankful that I’m ready to start a new chapter with college on the east coast.

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I’m thankful I could spend time with my extended family: my aunties, and uncles, whom always praise me and tell me that they’re proud of me. And my cousins, who are almost like siblings, we’ve laughed and joked together since we were babies. I’m also thankful for my mom, who’s put up with so much to make sure that her kids have the most comfortable life possible.

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And I’m thankful for traditions. Every year, my mom’s side of the family gets together on Thanksgiving and the day after to pick out our Christmas trees. We all truck up to a nearby farm up in the Santa Cruz Mountains and saw down our leafy house guest for the next month. Timber! On the way there, we always snack on Lee’s Sandwiches, a Vietnamese Sandwich chain, to recover from turkey, stuffing, mashed potato, and pumpkin pie overload the night before.

Speaking of stuffing… my mom always makes the most fantastic stuffing for Thanksgiving. I’m always trying to “update” her recipes – but this one is nearly untouchable. It’s a cornbread stuffing actually based on Giada’s Recipe. Normally, my mom buys the cornbread but I made my own this year (healthified, of course).

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Lighter Cornbread (based on this recipe)

1 cup plain yellow cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup greek yogurt, nonfat

1 cup whole buttermilk (OR 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice + 1 cup minus 1 tablespoon whole, nonfat, or skim milk let sit for 5 minutes)

For the buttermilk cornbread, grease a 10″ cast iron skillet and place on center rack in the oven. Preheat oven to 425°F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, melted butter, and buttermilk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just incorporated.

Pour the batter into the preheated skillet and smooth the top. Bake until cornbread is golden yellow, about 16 to 19 minutes. doesn’t overcook or dry out. Immediately remove the cornbread from the skillet and allow to cool.

The cornbread can be made up to 2 days in advance when using for the dressing. Store until needed, then follow instructions for the dressing.

Mom’s Sweet and Savory Cornbread Stuffing (based on this recipe)

Ingredients

1 medium red apple, cored and sliced into 1-inch pieces

1 medium onion, diced

1/2 cup celery, diced

1/2 cup carrots, diced

olive oil for the skillet

1/4 cup chicken broth

1 (6-ounce) bag dried cranberries

salt to taste

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pack sweet Italian Sausage, ready to eat, cubed

1 pack chicken apple sausage, ready to eat, cubed

1 recipe buttermilk cornbread

1 cup chicken broth

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a medium saute pan add the apples, onion, carrots, celery, and oil and over a medium low heat for 10 minutes to soften. Add the broth, cranberries, and salt and pepper, simmer for about 5 minutes. Put aside.

Add sausages to same skillet with more oil, and cook until browned and cooked through, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Add the fruit, onion, carrot, celery mixture and toss with sausages. Put in a large bowl and set aside.

Slice the cornbread into 1 inch cubes. Put in the same bowl with the rest of the ingredients and toss together. Put in a square baking dish (about 8.5 by 8.5 inches), and cover until ready to bake.

Add the remaining chicken broth before baking. Place in middle rack and bake until top is golden brown, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

This cornbread stuffing’s always a hit, I even loved it during my picky-eater days. We were rather sad when there weren’t many leftovers, but that’s what you get when you have thanksgiving with 28 people!

There were plenty of other dishes to share, of course. My mom also made 2 turkeys, brined, and deliciously moist, as well as a mushroom gravy and cranberry-pear sauce. I made a delicious roasted pumpkin and collard salad with chutney vinaigrette, and a roast sliced potatoes. My aunts made marshmallow yams, roasted brussels sprouts, pasta salad, carrot rice, and countless other dishes I can’t even recall.

For dessert, I made a maple pumpkin pie (recipe coming soon!) as well as shortbread cookies. My cousin made a pumpkin truffle pound cake, and my aunt made apple pie. Another of my aunts also made a pumpkin cheesecake. Talk about pumpkin overload! For the asian twist, of course, my great aunt made a vietnamese dessert (che) made of coconut milk and colorful jellies.

At the end of the day, our hungers, satisfied, our voices tired, and our house, warm, the guests all packed up the leftovers and left late at night.

It was a great thanksgiving, and I’ll always enjoy spending time with my family. That’s what the holidays are all about!

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