Monday, February 28, 2011

Ethiopian-inspired Vegetable Chickpea Stew

Do you like spicy food?  I don't mean "hot" spicy here; I mean "full of spice."  If the answer is yes, then this is probably something you'll enjoy - a lot.  This is some seriously spicy stew.

Not that you can't make this "hot" spicy if you want - it's just that it's not necessary.  Even a mild version of this bursts with flavor, the layers lining up one after the other to impress your taste buds.  The spices are some of the main ingredients for the Ethiopian spice blend berbere, used to flavor simmering stews (or wats) that are then served over injera, a traditional spongy flatbread that is used both to hold and to scoop up the stew.  If you're feeling a little adventurous, ditch your utensils for this meal and try using flatbread or even regular bread to scoop this up with your hands - eating this way is a different, and really fun, kind of tactile experience.  

This can be made completely vegan, but non-vegetarians can also use chicken stock and throw in a few diced chicken breasts if they so desire.  You can adjust the seasonings to your own taste, adding a little less of one or a little more of another.  Serve with injera flatbread, over rice, or even on its own as a thick stew.  

Ethiopian-inspired Vegetable Chickpea Stew (Adapted from this Whole Foods recipe)
Makes 4 - 6 servings

1/2 tsp. ground coriander (or 1/2 tsp. whole coriander seeds, toasted lightly and ground)
1/2 tsp. ground cloves (or 1/2 tsp. whole cloves, toasted lightly and ground)
1/4 tsp. fenugreek (optional)
6 cardamom pods (or 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom)
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1 tsp. salt (plus more to taste later)
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (depending on taste)
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste mixed with 1 3/4 cup hot water
1 quart  vegetable or chicken broth
3 medium potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
12 baby carrots or 4 regular carrots, cut into bite-sized pieces
Optional for non-vegetarians: 2 - 3 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

Mix the ground spices together in a small bowl and set aside.

If you're in a hurry, don't worry about roasting the chickpeas; just drain them and rinse well before adding to the stew.  If you do want to roast them, preheat the oven to 450 F.  Drain and rinse well and then toss with 1 tbsp. of the olive oil and a dash of salt.  Spread into a baking pan and roast for 16 - 18 minutes, stirring gently every few minutes so they do not burn.  When they are slightly browned, remove from oven and set aside.

In a large pot, heat the other 2 tbsp. olive oil.  Add the diced onions and cook for 2 - 3 minutes; add the fresh garlic and ginger and continue to saute for another 5 - 6 minutes or until the onion is translucent.  Add the spice mixture and stir constantly for about 2 minutes to toast them. Add the tomato paste mixed with water and stir well and bring to a boil.

Now add the chickpeas, vegetable or chicken stock, potatoes, and carrots and stir well.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to medium heat to simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes and carrots are soft.  If you want to add chicken, add it now and cook for 7-9  minutes or just until cooked through.  Adjust seasonings (especially salt and pepper) as desired.

Serve with gluten-free injera flatbread or brown rice.  Garnish with fresh parsley. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Samoa Girl Scout Cookies

Who out there misses Girl Scout Cookies?  Samoas, anyone?  You might not have to miss them quite as much if you make these.  They're not spot on, but they are - shall we say - reminiscent.  If you don't compare them directly to the gooey coconut-y fudgey deliciousness of Samoas, you'll probably like them even more.  Lose the comparison entirely and they become decadent.

I was lucky enough to host a friend of mine over the weekend, a friend who is scarily similar to me in many ways.  One thing we share is a love of baking, and we spent much of her visit in my kitchen, chatting endlessly as we made one delicious thing after another.  On the first day of her visit, we walked past a little cluster of hopeful Girl Scouts  in the Harvard subway station.  They were standing in front of huge stacks of cookie boxes, trying their best sales pitches/pleas on the passing commuters.  While we didn't buy any for obvious gluten reasons, they inspired us to try making Girl Scout cookies on our own at home.  After all, how hard could it be?

Not very hard, really - and fun!  All it takes is a good cookie base - we used shortbread, but feel free to try any other vanilla cookie base that you think would work - and then it's just a matter of the coconut cream and chocolate.  Easy to assemble, and despite being shortbread (aka butter-based), ended up tasting quite light and airy when all was said and done.  The shortbread base did become slightly crumbly, making the process of eating them a little messy.  There are two ways to remedy that.  You could use a different base, one that is more like a regular cookie, which will be softer and chewier.  Or - you can avoid crumbs by eating the entire cookie at once.  The choice is yours.  But if you're looking for a Samoa fix, these are the cookies for you.

Gluten-free Samoa Girl Scout Cookies

For the shortbread:

1/3 cup brown rice flour 
1/3 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup potato starch
2 tbsp. tapioca starch
3/4 cup, or 1.5 sticks, Fleischmann's baking margarine or Earth Balance "Butter"
Sweet rice flour for dusting

For the coconut cream and chocolate drizzle:

1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp. coconut oil (can substitute Earth Balance Buttery Spread)
1/2 cup So Delicious Coconut Milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup shredded coconut + 2 tbsp. for sprinkling over cookies
1/4 tsp. salt (or more to taste)
3 tbsp. powdered sugar
3 oz. Trader Joe's Pound Plus Dark Chocolate, melted

Preheat the oven to 300 F.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.

Using an electric hand mixer (if you don't have one, just do the best you can by hand), cream the butter until it is very smooth.  Slowly beat in the dry ingredients bit by bit until they are well mixed.  Using your hands, gather the dough into a big ball, kneading any uneven parts as necessary.

Break off the dough by tablespoonful and roll into balls.  Place them on the parchment paper and, after dusting with the sweet rice flour to keep from sticking, flatten with the bottom of a cup or a fork or spoon. Bake for about 15 - 20 minutes, until they are firm to the touch, but not yet browned.  Remove from oven and let sit on the hot cookie sheets for another 2 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.

In the meantime, prepare the coconut cream.  Melt the sugar and coconut oil together into a small pot and toast them together for about 1 - 2 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning/sticking.  Add the coconut milk and vanilla and stir well.  Simmer for about 5 - 10 minutes or until the mixture has reduced a bit and has become slightly thicker.  Add the shredded coconut and salt and stir in well.  Continue to cook for another 2 - 3 minutes, or until it has thickened more.  Remove from the pot into a bowl.  Let cool for a few minutes, then add the powdered sugar (which will help thicken it even more).  If yours still isn't very thick, you can try adding a bit of extra cornstarch as well.  Continue to cool.

In a regular nonstick pot, melt the chocolate over low heat. (If you have a double boiler, go ahead and use that!)  You could also microwave the chocolate in increments of 15 seconds if you prefer to avoid pots altogether.  Once it is melted, place it in a small baggie.  When you're ready to use it, cut a small hole at one of the corners to drizzle it over the cookies.

When the cookies have cooled, spread a layer of the cooled coconut cream on top, then drizzle chocolate over the coconut cream to your heart's content.  If desired, sprinkle some extra coconut flakes over the cookies before the toppings dry.  You can eat them right away, but the icing will still be slightly melty, so it works better to refrigerate them for a few hours before you serve them.

These can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 6 days.  If they last that long.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Crustless Quiche for One

Here's a lovely meal to make when you don't have a lot of prep time and want something quick, easy, and healthy for dinner.  The beauty of this is that it's an individual serving, and you can make as many or as few as you have people (or mini loaf pans).  It's great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  You can use any vegetables you happen to have on hand or in your freezer.  Serve alone or with a fresh salad.  With Daiya, or your favorite non-dairy cheese.  I think that cumin and eggs are amazing together, but you could add any other spices you like.

It's versatile, is what I'm saying.  Versatile, foolproof, and delicious.

Crustless Quiche for One

2 eggs, beaten
2 tbsp. soy creamer
1/2 - 3/4 cup sauteed vegetables (I used onions, garlic, red bell pepper, mushrooms, and spinach)
1/4 cup Daiya Vegan Cheese (either mozzarella or cheddar is fine)
Small piece of soy feta cheese, crumbled (if you can't find this, you can just use more Daiya or omit)
1 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper
Pinch of cumin

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Spray a mini bread loaf pan with cooking spray.

Sautee the vegetables until tender.  (I sauteed the mushrooms separately so they would brown more nicely.)  Layer into the bottom of the mini loaf pan.

In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs and soy creamer.  Add in the Daiya cheese, soy feta cheese, parsley, salt, pepper, and cumin and stir just to combine.  Pour over the vegetables.

Bake at 350 until the eggs are set.  The time may vary depending on how big your mini loaf pan is; mine baked for about 35 minutes.  Test for doneness by inserting a fork or knife into the top center.  Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes in the pan before removing to a plate to serve.  You could also serve right from the oven in the hot mini loaf pan, placed on another plate.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Carrot Cupcakes with Coconut Cream Cheese Icing

Carrot cake might be my favorite of all cakes.  It's subtly sweet, moist, with a hint of spice, and you can even trick yourself into thinking it's halfway good for you because it has a vegetable in it.  Carrots are good for you - they are high in vitamin A (off the charts, actually) and antioxidants.  And they promote good vision.  They're healthy; we should get them into our diets any way we can....right?  Right. 

Everyone in Boston seems to have a copy of Flour these days, the new cookbook by pastry chef Joanne Chang, who owns several bakeries by the same name in Boston.  It's a gorgeous book, full of inviting recipes and pictures.  But the part that stood out to me the most was at the very beginning, when she writes about her path to becoming a pastry chef.  Secretly, I've always wanted to be a pastry chef and have spent more hours than I'd care to admit researching various culinary arts programs.  But I guess I've always thought of that as being unattainable because, who can afford that?

But that's what's so great about Joanne Chang's story.  She went to Harvard and got a degree in something extremely practical, worked for a few years in that field, and then - decided she'd rather bake.  She was able to find herself an apprenticeship of sorts in a bakery and worked her way up the ranks, learning from some of the best pastry chefs on the East coast.  And now - she has her own amazing bakery and her own amazing cookbook. 

Maybe I need to start writing some letters....  But in the  meantime, here is my gluten-free adaptation of her fabulous recipe for carrot cake.  There was too much batter for only 12 cupcakes, so I used the leftover to make a huge pancake, which was almost tastier than the cupcakes themselves - almost.  These were received by a non-gluten-free test audience with exclamations ranging from "Dynamite" to "Num!" (that one was from the one year-old I babysit).  Suffice to say - these are incredibly delicious.  Make them.

Carrot Cupcakes (Adapted from "Flour" by Joanne Chang)
Makes 12 cupcakes plus

2 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 tbsp. So Delicious Coconut  Milk + 1/2 tsp. lemon juice (to make dairy-free buttermilk)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup + 2 tbsp. Bob's Red Mill Gluten-free Flour Mix
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 cups shredded carrots
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Place paper cupcake liners into a 12-muffin pan.

In a small bowl, combine the So Delicious Coconut Milk and lemon juice.  Let sit for at least 5 minutes.  Voila!  Dairy-free buttermilk. (Note: Don't worry if it gets kind of chunky; mine did too, and it was fine!)

Combine the eggs, granulated and brown sugar.  Beat with an electric hand mixer for about 8 minutes, or until the mixture has gotten thick and the color is light.  In a separate bowl, combine the oil, vanilla, and dairy-free buttermilk and whisk together.  Add slowly to the egg-sugar mixture and continue to beat until well-mixed.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice.  Beat into the wet ingredients little by little, mixing well.  When all of the flour is mixed in, add the shredded carrots and raisins and mix with a spoon or rubber spatula.  The batter will be pretty thin - thinner than other cake batter you have worked with.  Don't worry.

Pour/spoon batter into each cupcake liner, filling about 4/5ths way to the top.  Place in the oven and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, or until ever-so-slightly browned on top, or about 28 - 35 minutes depending on your oven.  Remove from oven and let sit in the muffin pan for 3 more minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool.  Cool completely, then ice with coconut cream frosting (see recipe below).  If desired, sprinkle with a few pieces of shredded carrot or shredded coconut for garnish.  Store in the fridge for up to 4 days or freeze and defrost as-needed.

**For carrot cake:  Prepare batter as described above, but pour into a bundt pan and bake for about an hour at 350 F or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Use frosting recipe below.

Coconut Cream Cheese Icing (to be made about 2 hours before using)

1/2 cup Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese, at room temperature
2 tbsp. Earth Balance Buttery Spread, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (possibly more depending on how thick you want the icing to be)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup coconut 

Cream together the Tofutti, Earth Balance, and vanilla using an electric hand mixer.  Add the powdered sugar, a little at a time, until the icing is thick.  If you want the coconut to disappear a bit more into the icing, beat it in using the electric mixer.  If you'd like it to stay in bigger pieces, stir it in with a spoon. 

Place in the fridge for at least 2 hours before using.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Flourless Fluffer Nutter Cookies

Remember Fluffer Nutters?  Peanut butter and a thick slathering of Marshmallow Fluff brought together in one amazing sandwich?  They are a part of my childhood, and every once in a while, when I have a peanut butter sandwich, I reminisce about them.  So when I recently confirmed that Marshmallow Fluff is, in fact, gluten-free,  I was maybe a little too happy.  In fact, I promptly opened the jar I had just bought and ate a spoonful right out of the jar.  Yeah.  I do that sometimes.  (But don't worry, I don't double-dip, for those of you who eat my baked goods!)

Later that week, I was making a batch of peanut butter cookies for my cousin's birthday party and suddenly remembered that jar of Marshmallow Fluff.  Inspired, I took it off the shelf and decided to find a way to insert it into the recipe.

It worked!  They were delicious. Out of curiosity, and to test how well another favorite sandwich of mine would translate into cookies, I also made a few with strawberry jam instead of Fluff, and those were a success as well. (Directions for those are at the end of the recipe.)

The bottom line is, these peanut butter cookies are fantastic.  They have no flour, making them naturally gluten-free, and unmitigated peanut butter-y flavor.  The only problem is that they disappear quickly, so be sure to make enough!

Flourless Fluffer Nutter Cookies
Makes about 30 cookies

3/4 cup natural creamy peanut butter (I used Trader Joe's Creamy PB)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking soda
1 egg
3-4 tbsp. Marshmallow Fluff

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Line two cookie baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cream the peanut butter and sugar until well mixed.  Add the vanilla and baking soda and mix.  Add the egg and mix very well until it is evenly distributed.

Using a teaspoon measure, scoop out the dough and roll into a ball with your hands.  Line up the balls of dough about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheets.

Before putting in the oven, use a fork to crack each ball in half.  Place about 1/8th of a teaspoon (I'm just guessing since I didn't measure, but just a very tiny dollop) of Marshmallow Fluff into the center of each ball and then re-form the ball around it, rolling them in your hands.  Place the balls back on the cookie sheet and, using a fork, smash down each ball gently, creating creases on the top of each cookie.

Bake for 10 minutes or just until set.  Remove from oven and let sit on hot cookie sheets for another 3 - 5 minutes until slightly cooled, then remove to wire rack to continue cooling.

Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

**For peanut butter and jelly cookies:  Instead of placing marshmallow creme inside the cookie dough balls, use your thumb to press each ball of dough flat and then scoop about 1/2 - 1 tsp. strawberry jam into each cookie after baking.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pea Mint Tapenade

I know - peas.  Gross, right?  Peas are the vegetables that get shuffled unenthusiastically around the plate.  They're the ones we hide behind the other food until dinner is over.  They're not only physically difficult to pin down, squirming and rolling away from utensils, but I feel like peas are often a vegetable of obligation.  I myself have a bag of them in my freezer that prompt a slight wave of guilt every time I catch a glimpse of them.  I feel like I should have them, but I don't know why.  Why do we hate peas, anyway?  Is it the faded green color?  The taste?  The texture?  The associations we have with being forced to eat them as children?  Whatever the reason, peas have gotten a bad rap in our minds, rating up there with brussel sprouts in their ability to repel us. 

So who knew they'd be so freaking delicious as a tapenade?  The texture of this is so creamy that you'll think for a minute that some sort of fat or cream has been added.  But - it hasn't.  The peas run the show, settling into perfect smoothness when pureed.  The flavor is delightful, but not overpowering, and it is wonderful spread over crispy garlic crostinis hot from the oven.  You could even serve it as a dip for gluten-free crackers.  The perfect appetizer, it's simple to make and will impress your guests with the unexpected harmony of peas and mint. 

Pea Mint Tapenade
Makes enough for about 24 crostini, or about 2 cups

2 1/2 cups peas, cooked and drained
5 - 7 tbsp. chopped fresh mint (to taste)
1 tbsp. lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.  Adjust seasonings and mint to your own taste.  Serve with gluten-free garlic crostinis or gluten-free crackers.

*Note: This does not keep very well, even overnight, so it is best to make it as close to serving time as possible for maximum freshness and flavor.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Heavenly Snickerdoodles

These are hands-down the best snickerdoodles I've ever had, ever, ever.  They are soft, chewy, and the thin coating of sugar and cinnamon is perfectly balanced in its sweetness.  I have been bringing my kitchen creations into school to get feedback from my classmates (and also to avoid eating all of this food by myself, because believe me, I could do it).  These got rave reviews!  My professor took one bite, looked at me in surprise, and said, "Wow - you would never know that these are gluten-free!"  Another classmate leaned over as she was eating hers and confided, "I think I like gluten-free cookies better than regular ones."  I may have them all converted to gluten-free diets by May.  We'll see. 

But that should be all you need to hear to convince you to make these.  These are the kind of gluten-free snack you can proudly offer your friends.  You can bring them without shame to the potluck.  No apologies necessary for their being gluten-free - because no one will know.  Unless, of course, you want to impress them even more.

I adapted a recipe from Cybele Pascal's cookbook, The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook, to make these.  I didn't change all that much;  I used an egg instead of egg replacer, adjusted the vanilla (I love my vanilla), and used sorghum flour in place of some of her more starchy blend to make it more whole grain.  Obviously, if the above comments are any indication, they turned out beautifully - for both the gluten-free and gluten-ful.

Heavenly Snickerdoodles (Adapted from "The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook" by Cybele Pascal)
Makes 48 small cookies or 36 large ones
(You can either use 2 1/2 cups + 2 tbsp. of your favorite gluten-free flour blend OR the following mix of flours)
1 1/4 cups brown rice flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1/4 cup tapioca starch
2 tbsp. sweet rice flour (or more tapioca starch)
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup Spectrum Organic Shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. firmly packed brown sugar
3 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
1/3 cup So Delicious Original Coconut Milk
2 tbsp. granulated sugar + 2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (no cooking spray is needed).

In a small bowl, mix the flours, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt together.  Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, cream the Spectrum shortening and both sugars together with an electric mixer until very well-blended.  Add the vanilla extract and egg and continue to mix.

Add about 1/4th of the flour mixture and - still using the electric mixer - beat it into the dough.  Add a little of the coconut milk and mix.  Alternate between adding the flour and coconut milk until it is completely blended, scraping the sides of the bowl as-needed to make sure everything gets mixed in.  The dough will be pretty stiff at this point.

Combine the sugar and cinnamon and pour onto a plate.

You can make these into bigger cookies by using a tablespoon measure or smaller ones using a teaspoon measure.  Choose one and use the measure to scoop out the dough, and then roll each scoop into a ball using your hands.  Then, roll the ball in the cinnamon-sugar mixture and place onto the baking sheet.  Space about 2-3 inches apart.

Bake the larger cookies at 350 F for 10-12 minutes, or just until they are set.  Bake the smaller ones for 8 - 10 minutes or until set.  Remove from oven and leave on the hot baking sheet for another 5 minutes until they start to firm up.  Then, remove to a wire rack to cool.

If there are any left to store, keep them in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

You can also freeze the dough and defrost later as-needed for a quick batch of these!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Coconut Almond Pie Crust

I've never really been much of a pie person in the past.  I'm not sure why.  Pie always seemed like so much work, and so messy.

But...that is one beautiful crust.  And it was so simple to make.  What on earth was keeping me from making pie all this time??

I used a strawberry custard filling in this for the first try, and it was delicious.  But I would imagine other successful flavor combinations oould include vanilla custard, chocolate pudding, key lime filling, non-baked cheesecake, or any dark berries - especially raspberries.

I taste-tested this with the kids I babysit, and while one of them hated it (because she hates coconut and almonds!), the other one couldn't get enough of it.  I eventually had to cut her off.  Her parents loved it, too.  They said the crust reminded them of Coconut Almond KIND bars.

This is probably the easiest pie crust you'll ever make - you don't even have to worry about peeling flour off of your rolling pin when it's done.  So, have at it.  As a former pie skeptic, I can tell you - it's worth it.

Here's what mine looked like just before going into the oven.  A springform pan would work best for this recipe, but if you don't have one (as I don't), a regular old 9-inch pan will work just fine, too.

Coconut Almond Pie Crust

1 cup shredded unsweetened or sweetened coconut
1/2 cup almond flour
1 tbsp. sweet rice flour
1/4 tsp. sea salt
2 tbsp. Earth Balance Buttery Spread
1 tbsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 300 F.  Spray a 9-inch nonstick pan (or a springform pan if you have one) with cooking spray.

Combine the coconut, almond flour, sweet rice flour, and salt in a bowl.  Add the Earth Balance Buttery Spread and vanilla extract and cut them into the dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is evenly distributed.  Press into the pan, pushing some of the dough up along the side of the pan.  Place in the oven for 20 - 25 minutes or until the coconut is lightly browned.  Watch it carefully so the coconut doesn't burn!  If it's browning too quickly, you can place a piece of foil loosely over the pan until it's done.

Remove from oven and cool before filling with cold filling.

**If you want to use this for a pie whose filling needs to be baked, I would place it in the oven for at least 10 minutes to firm up the crust before adding the filling.  I haven't tried this yet with a baked pie filling so I cannot guarantee that it won't burn being in the oven that long!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Creamy Asparagus Soup with Coconut Milk

Well, if you're like me, you ate way too many double chocolate espresso cookies in the last week.  Like, way too many.  And then, maybe you made a chocolate cake with coconut samoa icing to bring to a party on Friday (recipe for the icing forthcoming!).  And then maybe you had a huge helping of brioche french toast for breakfast on Saturday morning.  Maybe by Saturday night, your body had had it.

This is a soup for a detox day.  When your body is screaming for some nutritious goodness.  When all it wants is a damn vegetable, for Pete's sake.

This soup is so simple to make, and I suspect you could substitute a variety of other vegetables for the asparagus, if you don't have any of that on hand.  Or, you know, if you hate asparagus.  Try it with broccoli, or cauliflower, for instance.  I bet it would be fantastic.  Just a warning - this is a batch for a girl living alone and makes only about two cups of soup overall.  If you're cooking for several people, or if you want to have a bunch leftover, consider doubling or even tripling the recipe.

I owe the creamy texture of this to my aunt, who introduced me recently to So Delicious Coconut Milk, a lower calorie option to regular canned coconut milk.  It doesn't have a super strong coconut flavor in my opinion, and that makes it quite ideal for making creamy soups like this one without detracting from the flavor of the other ingredients.  I used So Delicious Original, which has only 80 calories per cup (and I only used one cup in the whole recipe!), but the So Delicious Unsweetened only has 50 calories, for those of you who want to trim even a few more calories off of this recipe.  Compare that to regular coconut milk, which can have - gasp - 480 calories per cup, or even lite coconut milk, with 180 calories per cup.  Not that I don't love to use regular coconut milk in my Thai curries, but it's not the most detox-friendly option.

You can feel good about eating this soup, is what I'm saying.  Your body will thank you.

Creamy Asparagus Soup with Coconut Milk
Serves 2

1 1/2 tbsp. Earth Balance Buttery Spread
1 medium onion
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh ginger
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 1/2 cups chopped asparagus (about 350 grams, or 3/4 lb.), with ends trimmed off
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1/8 tsp. dried rosemary
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley + more for garnish
1 cup So Delicious Original Coconut Milk (or another creamy non-dairy milk)
1/2 tsp. salt + more to taste
Pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, melt the Earth Balance Buttery Spread.  Add the onion, ginger, and garlic and saute over medium-low heat for about 4 - 6 minutes, or until the onion starts to become translucent.

Clean and trim the asparagus and chop into small pieces (about 1 inch long).  When the onion is translucent, add the chopped asparagus and vegetable or chicken stock and bring to a simmer.  Add the dried rosemary and fresh parsley, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the asparagus pieces are very tender.

Using either an immersion blender or food processor, puree the soup until very smooth.  Return to the pot and add the So Delicious Coconut Milk and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately or chill in the fridge for a few hours before serving.  Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and drizzle with a little extra coconut milk before serving.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Double Chocolate Espresso Brownie Cookies

How much chocolatey goodness can you fit into a cookie anyway?  The eternal question of chocolate lovers.  And, as it turns out, the answer is: a lot.

These are fantastic.  Actually, that word doesn't do them justice.  They are....delicious?  Scrumptious?  Wonderful and comforting and lovely and addictive?  Hmmm.  Maybe there are no words to describe them well.

But, there are actions that can describe them well.  I brought half of the batch with me to share with friends over coffee today, and they were scarfed down.  Very quickly.  (It took all of my willpower to leave any to share in the first place.)

These are decadently full of chocolate and wonderfully chewy, with the hint of espresso peeking through, but not dominating, every bite.  They are rich, sort of like little brownies, which is why I switched to making smaller ones after the first batch.  I doubt this made any difference in the overall amount we consumed, though.  We just had to eat more of them to get there.  

I used a mixture of brown rice, tapioca starch, and potato starch in these.  But this recipe barely calls for any flour to begin with, so I think you will be just fine using whichever gluten-free flour your heart desires (or your pantry allows).  A starch would probably be a good bet, but in a pinch, a whole grain flour would probably work, too. 

If you are a chocolate fan, seriously...what are you waiting for?  These won't take you long to make, and you'll be glad with every bite that you did. 

Double Chocolate Espresso Brownie Cookies

1/4 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread (or your favorite non-dairy, gluten-free substitute)
¾ - 1 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you'd like them to be)
2 eggs + 1 egg white, beaten stiff
1 tbsp. finely ground espresso beans
1/6 cup sifted gluten-free flour (I used a pre-mixed combination of equal parts brown rice flour, tapioca starch, and potato starch, but you could just as easily use your favorite mix)
¼ tsp. gluten-free baking powder
1/8 tsp. sea salt
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips 

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper (you don't need to spray them). 
In a medium saucepan, combine bittersweet chocolate, unsweetened chocolate, and butter; heat and stir over low heat until mixture is melted and smooth.  (Or, you can melt it together in the microwave at reduced power - around 60 or 70%).  Remove from heat. Cool for 10 minutes. 
In a large bowl, combine sugar, 2 whole eggs, and ground espresso beans.  Beat with electric mixer on medium to high speed for 2 to 3 minutes or until well-mixed and color lightens slightly. Add the cooled melted chocolate, beating until combined. 

In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to chocolate mixture; beat until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. The dough will be thick like brownie batter.

In a separate bowl, beat the single egg white until stiff peaks form.  Fold very gently into the rest of the cookie dough, being careful not to overmix.  (Hint: after you drop them onto the cookie sheet, you can press a few chocolate chips into the top to make them pretty.)

For smaller cookies:  Place batter by heaping teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet. Bake for 11 - 13 minutes, just until the tops are set and the cracks on top do not appear moist.  They will have a slight sheen to them.   

For larger cookies:  Place batter by heaping tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet.  Bake for 13 - 15 minutes, just until the tops are set and the cracks on top do not appear moist.  They will have a slight sheen to them.

Remove cookies from oven and let stand on the cookie sheet on a wire rack for 1 minute. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; cool. Makes 24 large cookies or about 36 smaller ones.  

These are fantastic warm from the oven.  If stored overnight in an airtight container, they become wonderfully soft and chewy.  

To store: Layer cookies between waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature up to 3 days or freeze up to 3 months.

*Note: Be careful about how long the batter is left standing; if it is longer than 40 minutes – one hour, it becomes a lot stiffer and the cookies will look different when they’re done.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Spicy Thai Curry Soup with Bell Peppers and Pineapple

The warmth and spice in this lovely soup has been a welcome relief from the chilly maelstrom of snow that, more often than not, has swirled outside my window over the last month in Boston.  The trick to giving this soup the depth of flavor you'd expect from a Thai restaurant is to use a blend of curry pastes and a hint of brown sugar to complement and ease your taste buds into the spice.  Don't worry, though - this can be as mild or hot as you prefer, so don't be frightened away by the word "curry!"  Finely crushed pineapple works beautifully because the tiny pieces find their way into every spoonful, but you can use any cut of pineapple you like, big or small, and it will still taste fabulous.  Save this one for particularly horrible weather and have it ready to warm you up when you come in from shoveling.

Spicy Thai Curry Soup with Bell Peppers and Pineapple
Serves 2 - 3

1 - 1 1/2 tbsp. Taste of Thai red curry paste (add more or less to taste)
1 - 1 1/2 tbsp. Taste of Thai panaang curry paste (add more or less to taste)
1 can coconut milk (you can use lite if you don't mind sacrificing some creaminess)
1/4 cup soy creamer or So Delicious Original Coconut Milk (optional)
10 oz., or 6 boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins, fat trimmed and chopped into bite-size pieces
1 small or 1/2 very large red bell pepper, sliced into 2-inch pieces
1 small can crushed pineapple (with juice drained)
2-3 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. salt (more to taste)
Jasmine rice to serve (optional)

Put the curry pastes into a medium-sized pot and heat over medium heat for about 30-60 seconds.  Add the entire can of coconut milk and soy creamer and stir to mix with the curry paste.  Bring to a boil, then add the chicken.  Stir, then cover and simmer for at least 10 - 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.  After the first 10 minutes, add the chopped bell pepper.  Wait another 5 minutes, and then add the drained crushed pineapple.  Stir well, and simmer uncovered for another 5 - 10 minutes.  Add the brown sugar and salt to taste.  When the soup is the thickness you desire, remove from heat and serve immediately.  Serve with Jasmine rice or on its own as a soup.