Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Double Chocolate Almond Cookies

On Monday, I had a snow day. Not a real snow day... No sledding, or snowmen or hot chocolate with mini marshmallows. Because of a little storm that dumped about eight inches of snow across the area, my employer allowed us to work from home. It's pretty easy, considering we all have MacBooks, Blackberrys and iChat, so we're very accessible even from home.

















Working from home gave me the opportunity to work in my PJs, and have Food Network playing in the background all day. Particularly, I enjoy watching Giada and Ina; their recipes always appeal to me because of their ease of preparation, everyday ingredients, and delicious flavors.


Imagine my delight when Ina showcased a great double chocolate almond cookie recipe, in which I had all ingredients right in my pantry. It shouldn't be too hard for you to guess what I did once my work was done for the day...

















Ingredients
2 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c. white sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. white chocolate chips
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c. almonds, chopped

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk to fully incorporate.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and both sugars. Add egg and vanilla extract. Mix well. Add flour mixture and continue mixing until just combined.

Fold in chocolate chips and almonds. Form dough into rounded balls about 1 heaping Tbs. in size. Bake for approximately 15 minutes (check after 12 minutes). Cool cookies on the baking sheets. The cookies should be very soft when they are removed from the oven. They will firm up as they cool. Makes approximately 50 cookies.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Crab Rangoons

I love Chinese food. Unfortunately, many of my favorite dishes are rather unhealthy. So several months ago, I attempted to recreate my favorite Chinese dish - crab rangoons - in order to make them a little more healthy.

To my dismay, the crab rangoons did not taste anything like I would have hoped. The filling was delicious, but baking the rangoons, instead of frying them, left me with a strong desire for something more. More crispy, more crunchy... More like the real deal!

So I have relented. Here are my crab rangoons in all their yummy and greasy glory. Served alongside white rice and a boatload of steamed veggies, I felt slightly less guilty about eating my fair share.


















Ingredients

6 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 oz. sour cream
1 (8 oz.) package imitation crab meat, drained and flaked
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. paprika
2 green onions, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 (14 oz.) package wonton wrappers
1 1/2 c. canola oil
additional green onion, finely chopped (garnish, optional)

Directions
In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except wonton wrappers and oil. Mix well.

Top one wonton wrapper with 1 heaping tsp. of crab mixture. Moisten edges with water, and cover with a second wonton wrapper.* Press to seal tightly, making sure to remove any excess air bubbles.

Heat canola oil over medium heat. Fry crab rangoons for 3 to 5 minutes until golden brown, flipping once. Remove and place on paper towel-covered plate to drain. Cool slightly before serving.

* Note: I cut my wonton wrappers into circles. Feel free to use the entire rectangular wrapper, or use one and fold over into a triangle shape. It's totally up to you. Additionally, I chose to keep my crab rangoons slightly flatter than normal in order to use less oil.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Grapefruit and Avocado Salad

Twice a week, Gabe has class until 7:30pm. Luckily this will end come May, when he will graduate with his master's degree. In the interim, this means I have to fend only for myself when dinnertime rolls around. This also means I can experiment a bit with meatless meals, a concept completely foreign and blasphemous in Gabe's eyes.

We are swimming in grapefruit here right now. I love eating it, and can't resist the 18 lb. bags, even though there are only two of us to feed here. So what to do, what to do.

I came across this interesting salad at Scraping the Skillet while perusing Tastespotting today. I enjoy making spinach salads with fruit, so why not use grapefruit? Add some avocado and goat cheese topped with a quick balsamic vinaigrette and voila, dinner is served.
















Ingredients
2 handfuls fresh spinach
1 grapefruit
1 avocado
2-3 oz. goat cheese
3 Tbs. chopped pecans

1 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 Tbs. honey
1/2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1/2 Tbs. Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. poppy seeds
salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Slice the top and bottom off the grapefruit, then trim down sides to remove peel and pith. Cut grapefruit into sections. Peel avocado and slice into strips.

Place salad on large plate. Top with remaining salad ingredients. Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients. Pour over salad and enjoy.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Homemade Granola

It's the new year and for many, myself included, it means a greater focus on eating and being healthy. Part of this focus is not so fun (why does going to the gym and working out have to be so hard?!). Other parts, like eating this homemade granola, is rather easy.



















I like making my own granola because I can control the type and quality of ingredients used. Plus, I can make it just the way I like - with all my favorite additions. This recipe is based on one I found at Artisan Bread in Five Minutes per Day. I definitely can agree when they state that this is, "The best granola I've ever had!"

Ingredients
1/3 c. honey
1/4 c. pure maple syrup
1/3 c. canola oil
2 Tbs. water
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
4 c. rolled oats
2 Tbs. sesame seeds
1/4 c. sunflower seeds
1 c. nuts (I used pecans, walnuts and almonds)
1/2 c. sweetened coconut
1/2 c. raisins
1/2 c. dried cranberries

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, toss together all dry ingredients except dried fruit.

In a small bowl, combine honey, maple syrup, canola oil, water and vanilla extract. Whisk to fully combine. Pour over dry ingredients and toss until thoroughly coated. Divide mixture between cookie sheets, spreading into a thin layer.

Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Stir around granola, and rotate pans. Bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until deep golden brown. Watch carefully, it can burn!

Remove from oven and cool completely. Add raisins and dried cranberries. Store in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Strawberry Lemonade Bars

Since the snow 'round these parts is nonexistent and the chances for snowboarding again this season shrinks by the day, I find myself yearning for summer once again. Since lounging by pool is slightly out of the question, I have to find other avenues to experience summer at its finest.

So.... food! Nothing tastes more like summer than these strawberry lemonade bars, via Playing House. I've been meaning to make these for a while (the recipe page indicated I printed this page back in June...), but clearly never quite got around to it. When my dad visited last weekend with a bag of frozen pureed strawberries from last summer, I knew just what to do with them.





















These bars are delicious, a perfect compliment between sweet and sour. Winter or summer, they're tasty any time of year. Next time, it would be fun to substitute other fruit instead. I'm thinking I'll try raspberry first!

Ingredients
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter, room temp
1 1/2 c. flour
1/4 tsp. salt

1 c. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon extract OR 2 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 c. pureed strawberries
1 1/4 c. sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
powdered sugar (optional)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, cream butter and 1/4 c. sugar together until smooth and fluffy. Working at a low speed, gradually add 1 1/2 c. flour and salt until mixture is crumbly. Pour into baking dish and press into an even layer. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until edges are slightly browned.

Meanwhile, make the filling. In a blender or food processor, add lemon juice, lemon extract, strawberry puree, sugar and eggs. Process until smooth. Add flour, baking powder and salt. Pulse until smooth.

When the crust has finished baking, gently pour filling over the hot crust. Return dish to the oven and continue baking for an additional 23 to 26 minutes, or until filling is set.

Cool completely. Slice into 24 pieces with a damp knife to ensure clean cutting) Dust with powdered sugar before serving, if desired.