Double Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

Whew! I have been absent for a month because I have been cooking crappily and uninspiredly 🙂 But I’m back now with some delicious (albeit somewhat time-consuming and labor-intensive) cookies to share.

Good morning to you, too, cookies!

I found this recipe via Tastespotting a few months ago and have been meaning to make it ever since, but since the dough needs at least a few hours in the fridge I’ve just not had the opportunity. It was my duty to bring cookies to the tutors’ meeting today, though, so I had some notice in advance and got to it last night!

The cumulative review was “sparkly, cakey, amazing.” These are almost as rich as brownies, but with a nice chewy, sugary crust. (And I don’t like brownie edges!)

Double Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies
Makes about 2 dozen
Adapted from Brownies for Dinner’s recipe for Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies. I just realized I took my pictures this morning and was thinking that these made really good BREAKFAST cookies…I guess the truth is that cookies are great any time of day 😀

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon peeled ginger root, minced fine
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup unsulphured molasses (weird spelling comes from my blackstrap molasses bottle!)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon boiling water
7 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (about half a bag or just under 1 cup)
1/3 cup granulated sugar (for rolling)

1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, spices, and cocoa powder until well mixed (I used a fork). In a separate bowl, beat the butter and ginger with an electric mixer (or stand mixer, or your muscles) until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes if using electric. Add the brown sugar and beat for another minute until well combined. Add molasses and beat until combined.

2. Dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water in a small cup; set aside. Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat to combine (careful that the flour doesn’t fly out!). Add dissolved baking soda, beat to combine. Add the rest of the flour mixture and mix until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand.

3. Turn the dough onto one half of a large piece of plastic wrap. Fold the plastic wrap and gently push the dough down into a 1-inch-thick disc. Place in a freezer bag or wrap in more plastic and chill until firm, at least 2 hours…I did it for about 3 with great results.

4. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat. Roll the dough into 1.5 inch balls (bigger than you think!) and place about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 325 deg F while you’re chilling the balls.

5. Roll the balls in the granulated sugar and replace on the baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until slightly cracked on the top. If you’re baking both at the same time, rotate halfway through. When they’re done, let cool on baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then move to a cooling rack.

Oh yeah, I measured the balls and the distance between (thanks, physics homework!):

No, I don't keep a clear ruler nearby for any reason at all...

Roasted Cannellini Beans with Rosemary

Roasted Cannelini Beans with Rosemary

Salty crunchy snacks that are NOT fried are notoriously hard to come by. These were easy to make and reallllly delicious, though they didn’t stay crunchy overnight. With a few minutes in the toaster oven I think they’d be crispy again, but I just ate them stale anyway because they were still that saltily wonderful.

These would probably be better with fresh rosemary, but it’s the dead of winter and I’m relying on dried everything. Definitely grind it up (or even really finely chop) first, since the dried stuff won’t stick to the beans and will poke your mouth when you try to eat these!

Roasted Cannelini Beans with Rosemary
Adapted from Ask Georgie’s Garlic and Rosemary Roasted Cannellini Beans

1 15-oz can cannellini beans, drained
2-3 tsp olive oil
1-2 tsp rosemary, ground
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Rinse the beans twice and let them sit in a colander for 5-10 minutes. In a large bowl, toss together the beans and oil. Add the rosemary, salt, and pepper; toss to coat. Spread onto a cookie sheet in a single layer and roast for 25 minutes. Test one; if not crunchy enough, roast for another 5 minutes. Repeat as necessary. Be careful that they don’t burn.

Roasted Cannellini Beans with Rosemary

Secret Ingredient Pesto

Homemade secret-ingredient pesto

I love, love, love margherita pizza. Last week, I indulged myself on the way home from school and bought some basil (and roma tomatoes and whole milk mozzarella in ball form and whole wheat pizza dough) to make my favorite pizza…one day, I’ll remember to take pictures before I gobble it up. Luckily I had some leftover basil–a real treat in January in Boston–so I got to making a batch of pesto that only needed a bit of basil to make it work.

This pesto is not “real” pesto. It uses almonds instead of pine nuts and more spinach than basil. But since pine nuts and basil are such a luxury to come by, I think this is a perfect low-cost and high-deliciousness option! You could also use walnuts instead of almonds–I’ve seen that on other food blogs, though I’ve never tried it myself. If you don’t adore garlic, you might cut it down to 2 cloves.

I took Farm Girl Fare’s recommendation and tried this mixed with some rinsed garbanzo beans and chopped roma tomatoes, and OH MAN–it was divine and suprisingly filling! I’ve been using it this week for chicken sandwiches, too. So flexible and so flavorful.

Secret Ingredient Pesto
Adapted from Farm Girl Fare’s Recipe for Pesto.

1/4 cup toasted almonds
3 cloves garlic, peeled
Olive oil
3/4 cup frozen spinach, thawed
Bunch of basil (I had about 1 cup)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor, combine the toasted almonds and the garlic and process until finely chopped. Add about 2 tsp olive oil, the spinach, and the basil, and process. Add olive oil as needed to get the paste-y texture–it will probably end up being about a tablespoon. Taste (with processor OFF, haha!) and add salt and pepper as needed.

Try not to eat it all straight off the spoon!

This was really hard not to eat off the spoon.

Daring Bakers January 2010 Challenge: Nanaimo Bars

I am known for my…ahem…tardiness. I have historically done a terrible job of predicting how long it will actually take me to complete a task. I also hate to tell my friends that I’m going to be late, so I used to tell them how long it would be until I would *like* to get there (even if I suspected that it might be a bit longer).

For whatever crazy reason that’s changed in the last year or so. I mention this because this is the first month I’ve actually completed my Daring Bakers challenge not only on time, but 3 WEEKS EARLY! (Though I’m posting along with everyone else). It was a lucky coincidence that I would also get the input of a real live Canadian in assessing this month’s dessert, which hails from Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada.

Nanaimo Bars

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.

These are very, very sweet and rich. They’re best in small pieces…that way you can pop them at intervals instead of getting overwhelmed by big ones! They also freeze well (and I preferred them cold); I wrapped mine individually in plastic wrap, then threw them in the freezer a day before the event and they held up perfectly in transport.

Give yourself a couple of days to make these, since the graham cracker dough needs to refrigerate for a while. You can also cheat and buy graham crackers, but these are really cool to create, so I’d recommend it if you have time and the inclination. I made only a half batch of the crackers and still had leftovers for the Nanaimo Bars, by the way.

For Graham Crackers

2 1/2 cups plus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup (200 g) (7.1 ounces) Dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon (5 mL) Baking soda
3/4 teaspoon (4 mL ) Kosher salt
7 tablespoons (100 g) (3 ½ ounces) Unsalted butter (cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen)
1/3 cup (80 mL) Honey
5 tablespoons (75 mL) Whole milk
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Pure vanilla extract

Directions:
1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal. If making by hand, combine aforementioned dry ingredients with a whisk, then cut in butter until you have a coarse meal. No chunks of butter should be visible.
2. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the honey, milk and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture until the dough barely comes together.
3. Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours, or overnight.
4. Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. Cut into 4 by 4 inch squares. Gather the scraps together and set aside. Place wafers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough.
5. Adjust the rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius).
6. Gather the scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and reroll. Dust the surface with more flour and roll out the dough to get a couple more wafers.
7. Prick the wafers with toothpick or fork, not all the way through, in two or more rows.
8. Bake for 8-12 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. The ones that started on the bottom browned faster–check early and often, because these can burn quickly.
9. When cooled completely, place enough wafers in food processor to make 1 ¼ cups (300 mL) of crumbs. Another way to do this is to place in a large ziploc bag, force all air out and smash with a rolling pin until wafers are crumbs.

Graham Crackers

Nanaimo Bars

Bottom Layer
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted butter
1/4 cup (50 g) (1.8 ounces) Granulated sugar
5 tablespoons (75 mL) Unsweetened cocoa
1 Large egg, beaten
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) (160 g) (5.6 ounces) Graham cracker crumbs (see previous recipe)
1/2 cup (55 g) (1.9 ounces) Almonds (any type, finely chopped)
1 cup (130 g) (4.5 ounces) Coconut (shredded, sweetened or unsweetened)

Middle Layer
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted butter
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons (40 mL) Heavy cream (or whole milk with a thin pat of butter)
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Vanilla custard powder (Such as Bird’s)– Vanilla pudding mix may be substituted
2 cups (254 g) (8.9 ounces) Powdered sugar

Top Layer
4 ounces (115 g) Semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) Unsalted butter

Directions:
1. For bottom layer: Melt unsalted butter, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 by 8 inch pan.
2. For middle layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder (or pudding mix), and powdered sugar together well. Beat until light in color. Spread over bottom layer.
3. For top layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool to a bit over room temperature (give it maybe 10 minutes). I let mine cool too much and it didn’t spread well! It should still glisten when you pour over the middle layer. Chill until firm, about 20-25 minutes.

Homemade Nanaimo Bars

Pork Tenderloin with Honey Mustard Balsamic Glaze

This one’s incredibly simple considering how fancy it looks and tastes…and how quickly you can throw it together. Mike made it last week when we made the Roasted Stuffed Baby Portobellos; this afternoon I made it and served it (to myself) with steamed broccoli.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin

It helps a lot if you have a cast iron grill pan. Mike advised grilling these on the stovetop for about 3 minutes per side to get some beauteous grill marks (and maybe that sunset look above!), then putting the whole pan with the meat in it in the oven for about 5-15 minutes (depending on your meat). Without a grill pan, I’m not sure how to adapt it–perhaps you’d just start it in the oven and sacrifice the grilled look.

Pork Tenderloin with Honey Mustard Balsamic Glaze
Note that the amounts I listed for the mustard, vinegar, and honey are EXTREMELY approximate, as I didn’t measure at all–I went by sight and then taste.

2.5 pounds pork tenderloin (my pack contained two equal-size tenderloins)
~2 Tbsp Dijon mustard (regular yellow would work, too)
~2 tsp balsamic vinegar
~1 Tbsp honey
~1 tsp dried basil
Salt and pepper

Cut the tenderloins into serving-sized portions. Mine came to 6 3-inch long pieces, plus 2 ends about 4 inches long (but thin). Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides.

In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, balsamic vinegar, honey, and basil. Taste. Add more of whatever flavor needs to be stronger. It should have a good balance between the acidity (vinegar/mustard) and sweetness (honey). Pour this mixture into a large plastic zippered bag. Add the meat to the bag, seal it, and smush the meat around to evenly coat each piece. Set aside.

Start heating the grill pan over medium-high heat and turn on the oven to about 350 degrees F. Once the pan is very hot (give it at least 5 minutes), gently place each piece of pork in the pan. Try to fit all of them. After 3 minutes, flip. After another 3 minutes, place the entire pan into the oven. After 5 minutes, remove from the oven and let sit for 2 minutes. Check one piece to see if done; the inside should be just barely pinkish. If still raw, put back in the oven for another 5 minutes. Check again and replace in the stove if necessary. Remember to let them sit out of the oven for at least 2 minutes when checking.

Enjoy!

Pork Tenderloin with Broccoli

Moosewood Restaurant’s Tamale Pie

I’ve mentioned a few times before that the best thing I’ve learned about cooking during my informal training (that is, living with Mike) is the flexibility of any recipe I find. I *used* to think that if I picked a recipe I wanted, I needed to go to the grocery store and buy every single thing in order to end up with a palatable dish. Nowadays, I shoot for about 25% of the same ingredients, and then anything above that is a bonus!

Moosewood Restaurant has released a few cookbooks that I’ve heard about but never actually held in my hands. I googled a few recipes as a way of deciding whether or not I’d buy my own copy. This recipe for Tamale Pie is from their low-fat cookbook, though I’m not sure it is particularly low-fat in any way. Essentially, it’s a bunch of vegetables with a bit of cheese covered by cornbread. And it’s GOOD. It’s vegetarian, though you could add cooked meat if you wanted to–maybe ground beef, or sausage, or bacon…yum.

The version of the recipe I came across calls for onions, garlic, carrots, yellow and red bell peppers, zucchini, chiles, crushed tomatoes, and beans. I had onions, garlic, carrots, a green bell pepper, golden acorn squash, dried ancho chiles, crushed tomatoes, and frozen corn on hand instead…so I went with it! I think any kind of veggie would work, really, as long as you dice it and let it cook for an appropriate amount of time. Essentially, onions should go in first, other veggies in the middle, and tomatoes last.

Since there is a lot of wait time between each step, I didn’t cut everything ahead of time–I just prepped the vegetables for the next step while the latest set was cooking down. I made the topping batter after I added the tomatoes, too, so everything came together nicely. From beginning to end, this took about an hour to assemble, then 30 minutes to bake.

Tamale Pie
Adapted from Cloudberry Quark’s adaptation of Moosewood’s recipe for Tamale Pie.

2 tsp olive oil
3 medium onions, chopped
3 tbsp minced garlic (5 cloves)
2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
1½ tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/2 cup water
2-3 medium carrots, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 golden acorn squash, seeded, peeled, diced
½ small dried ancho chile (ground up)
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
About 2 cups frozen corn
salt & pepper to taste

1/2 cup grated cheddar

¾ cup cornmeal
1 tbsp unbleached white flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
2 egg whites, beaten
½ cup nonfat buttermilk (I used Lactaid milk with 1 tsp of lemon juice and let it sit for a few minutes)
2 tsp canola oil (I used olive oil but canola is probably better)

Over medium heat, cook the onions and garlic in the olive oil with a big pinch of salt, covered, for about 10 minutes. Add cumin, coriander, Italian seasoning, the water to prevent sticking, and the carrots. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

Add bell pepper, squash, chile, and another big pinch of salt. Cover and cook for 10 more minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes and corn, a big pinch of salt, cover, cook for 10 minutes. If it looks very wet, remove the cover half-way through. After a few minutes, taste; if it needs more salt, add it. Add pepper to taste. While it’s cooking, prepare the topping (see below). Remove from heat.

Coat a casserole dish with cooking spray or butter and spread the vegetable mixture on the bottom. Sprinkle cheese on top.

Topping:
In a mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. In a separate bowl, mix together the beaten egg whites, buttermilk, and oil. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry until just mixed. Pour the batter over the vegetable mixture, spreading gently with a rubber spatula. Make sure your dish has enough room above the topping for it to rise. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 400°F, until the top is golden.

Banana Oatmeal Bake with Whipped Cream

I signed up for Twitter a couple of weeks ago. I can’t say that it’s been life-changing, given my current Facebook addiction, but it DID make me aware of National Whipped Cream Day on January 5th.

A few months ago I made whipped cream by hand during a dinner party at Becca and Kiki’s darling abode, but it was comical: the whisk was maybe 2 or 3 inches long and I had an entire pint of heavy cream. Eventually we did get it whipped and we dipped fresh peaches in it and ate the whole bowl. Wonderful.

Since I had spent the morning of Jan. 5th baking this banana oatmeal conglomeration and noticed the NWCD announcement while it was in the oven, I just decided to top it off with the fluffy stuff from the can….and ohhhh my goddd….it was divine. The bake alone is sufficient breakfast food–warm, hearty, simple, nutritious, and can be made in batches–but when you add the whipped cream it is over the top, wonderful, beautiful, subtle deliciousness.

Banana Oatmeal Bake

It’s one of those dishes that doesn’t LOOK too special, but I’ve had it both mornings since then and I’m looking forward to my last serving tomorrow bright and early 😀

I used a recipe from Kath Eats Real Food. I think I would add cinnamon next time to spice it up a bit. Otherwise it is an easy dish that can be multiplied if you have several mouths to feed!

Banana Oatmeal Bake
Adapted from Kath Eats Real Food’s recipe for Baked Banana Oatmeal. Her photos are helpful, too!

3 bananas
2 cups rolled oats
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt (I rubbed the salt between my fingers to make it a little finer as I added it)
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla
1-2 Tbsp brown sugar
Whipped cream, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line an 8×8 inch baking dish with parchment paper (bottom and sides), or lightly grease.

Slice 2 of the bananas into equal-sized slices. Cover the bottom of the lined or greased baking dish with half of the slices.

Combine the oats, baking soda, and salt. Mash the remaining banana. (I found it helpful to peel then microwave the banana for about 30 seconds before trying to mash it). Add the egg, milk, and vanilla to the mashed banana and whisk together. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until well combined. Pour this batter into the dish over the slices. Lay the rest of the banana slices on the top in an even layer.

Bake for 26 minutes. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the top of the bake, then broil for 3-4 minutes to melt the brown sugar (caramelizing it, essentially).

If you used parchment paper you can lift the whole thing out and cut it up; otherwise divide the bake into four servings and go. Add some whipped cream if you want to send it out of this world.