Crunchy Mediterranean Grain Salad

   

So it’s been almost 3 weeks since I made my last post, but not without good reason! Of course the holidays have a way of absorbing up all of your free time, but that’s not the real excuse. I’m sure that by looking around this page a bit (at least if you’re familiar with my blog from before) you can notice that I have a new awesome site design! For Christmas my boyfriend began this project as one of his gifts to me and when I saw the preview of what was in store by the time it was done, I nearly exploded with excitement. He put a ton of his free time into seeing it through and I couldn’t be happier with the result.

Once I realized the new design was incoming I really wanted to wait to make a new post. I have a few more recipes lined up as a result of the mini hiatus (including roasted cauliflower soup and limoncello), but I knew that my first post of 2014 had  to be something healthy. This is, after all, the one time of the year that the human race unanimously decides to improve their well being (at least for a couple of weeks until someone caves and shows up at the office with donuts).

Crunchy Mediterranean Grain Salad 

A while back someone commented on how much they enjoyed looking through my blog. She pointed out that she particularly loved the Mediterranean influence she often sees in my recipes. I thought, “Wow… I guess I do have a tendency to cook with lemon, chickpeas, parsley, etc…” And who wouldn’t? The fresh flavors so commonly associated with Mediterranean food are incredible. This salad brings some of those influences together into one filling dish for under 350 calories. There is protein. There is fiber. There is nutrient dense broccoli. It’s definitely a recipe to ring in the new year and kick start your healthier eating habits.

Crunchy Mediterranean Grain Salad

Crunchy Mediterranean Grain Salad
Serves 4
A quick, healthy lunch inspired by the fresh flavors in Mediterranean cooking.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
3 min
Total Time
13 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
3 min
Total Time
13 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups of pre-cooked whole grain blend (I used the red quinoa and brown rice blend by Village Harvest, which is found in the freezer section)
  2. 3 cups raw broccoli, chopped
  3. 1 can chickpeas, drained
  4. 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  5. 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  6. 1/2 tablespoon water
  7. 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  8. 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  9. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  10. 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  11. 1/4 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
  12. 1/4 cup chopped pecans
Instructions
  1. Prepare grain according to package instructions. In my case I just popped it in the microwave for about 2 minutes.
  2. Place broccoli in a bowl and microwave a couple of minutes until no longer raw, but still crunchy and green. I combined my broccoli with the grain to save time while heating.
  3. Whisk together olive oil, lemon, water, and spices to form the dressing.
  4. Combine all ingredients with the dressing in a large bowl and toss well to combine.
  5. Eat slightly warm as is or transfer to the refrigerator for about 15-20 minutes first (my preference).
Calories
  1. 341
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Crunchy Mediterranean Grain Salad


Chocolate Chip Cookies

   

I have had my blog running long enough now that it’s finally time to do this. Yessiree – it is time for the good ol’ classic chocolate chip cookie recipe. The characteristics of the ideal CCC vary from person to person, so there is no real way to determine the best recipe in the cookiverse. What I can tell you is that this is MY favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. I’ve done the New York Times’ version and although they were fantastic, the 24 hour wait time is too much for my impatient taste buds. Once I smell butter and sugar creaming together in the bowl I gotta have the cookies in my belly yesterday. This enhanced version of the original CCC recipe from Ruth Wakefield’s Toll House cookbook was dreamed up by Laura aka The Cooking Photographer. Almost 4 years ago I left a comment on her blog revering her as the ultimate CCC goddess, and I stand by that statement. I. LOVE. THESE. COOKIES.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

A couple of things set this recipe apart. A few extra steps that take just a little more effort but have a huge payoff in the end. First off there is the browned butter, which as any sane person will tell you makes just about anything 10x better. Laura also uses ground up oatmeal in place of some of the flour, which makes these cookies extra chewy and flavorful. The tiniest amount of vinegar helps keep them tender, and you’ll never know it was in there if someone didn’t tell you. She uses walnuts in her recipe but I’m partial to pecans, so that’s what I’ve used in mine. All of these things work together to create an absolutely heavenly chocolate chip cookie, and I’m excited to finally share it here.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Serves 36
My favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, made with brown butter and toasted pecans.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup old fashioned oatmeal
  2. 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  3. 3/4 cup fresh light brown sugar, packed
  4. 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  5. 1 teaspoon salt
  6. 1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
  7. 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
  8. 1 tablespoon Ener-g egg replacer mixed in 1/4 cup of water or 2 large eggs
  9. 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  10. 2 cups all purpose flour
  11. 1 cup pecans
  12. 3/4 of a 12 ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a nonstick skillet, melt 1 stick of the butter over medium heat until foamy and lightly golden brown. Pour into a bowl and wipe out the skillet. Place butter in the refrigerator and cool to about room temperature.
  3. In the skillet over medium heat, toast the oatmeal stirring often until fragrant and some of the oatmeal is light golden in color. About 3 minutes. Transfer the oatmeal to a food processer and grind until fine and powdery. Set aside.
  4. Toast the pecans in the same skillet that you toasted the oatmeal in. Let cool slightly and chop to desired size.
  5. Mix in a stand mixer the softened butter, browned butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, vanilla extract, and vinegar and beat on slow to combine, and then on high speed until fluffy and lighter in color.
  6. Add the egg replacer (or eggs) and mix until combined. Add the oatmeal and baking soda and beat for another minute. Next, add the flour half at a time and mix on low speed just until incorporated.
  7. Gently fold in the chocolate chips and toasted pecans.
  8. With a size 50 cookie scoop or a generous tablespoon, drop the dough onto parchment paper 3 inches apart.
  9. Bake for 11 minutes or until golden around the edges. Remove from oven and let set on the cookie sheet for 3 minutes before moving to a cooling rack.
Notes
  1. If omitting nuts, add 1/3 cup more flour to the batter and the whole bag of chocolate chips. These cookies freeze extremely well after they’re baked. You can take a few out at a time and microwave them. Or just let them thaw on the counter.
Adapted from The Cooking Photographer
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Chocolate Chip Cookies

 


Vanilla Bean Semifreddo with Caramel & Pecans

   

Once again it’s been a while since I updated my blog. Though previously I had wanted to avoid posting two sweet dishes back to back, this recipe is so easy that I really wanted to share it. The first time I made it I decided to make the caramel sauce from scratch following David Lebovitz’s recipe. Making caramel seems to be hit or miss with me. Sometimes I will get the batch right on the first try, but other times I’m likely to turn an entire bag of sugar into charcoal. Ree Drummond (the Pioneer Woman) has a great fool-proof recipe for caramel sauce as well, if you’re not prepared to tackle the daunting task of creating molten sugar syrup the old fashioned way. And of course if you want to take the easiest way out, get thee to a local grocery store and buy a jar of their tastiest caramel. Ideally you’ll want something with pouring consistency that can easily be swirled throughout your vanilla mixture, but let me just say that I tried this with a jar of super firm dulce de leche and it was awesome. While you don’t get the beautiful marbled appearance that comes with using a more liquid sauce, the finished product is chock full of hidden caramel treasure globs. Yeah, that’s right – treasure globs. Whichever way you decide to do it it’s gonna taste incredimazing.

 

Vanilla Semifreddo with Pecan Caramel on a Chocolate Pecan Crust

 

Some of you may be sitting there asking yourself, “What the heck is semifreddo anyway?” Well, it’s basically a frozen dessert similar to ice cream, except it is served slightly soft… which makes sense when you consider that semifreddo literally translates to “half cold”. The texture is silky and creamy and wonderful… but that’s not even the best part. The really great thing about it is that there is no churning required. It is a fine day indeed when an apartment dweller with limited storage space for single use appliances learns how to make a delicious no churn ice cream. Honestly I am torn between feelings of righteousness and guilt over sharing this recipe. On one hand you’re going to learn that you can make a super awesome dessert that people will think you slaved over (when it’s actually in the freezer in about 20 minutes), but on the other hand I’m giving you the key to a vault that holds eleventy billion scrumptious calories. You know what? I’m over it. Go make this and thank me later.

 

Vanilla Semifreddo with Pecan Caramel on a Chocolate Pecan Crust

Vanilla Bean Semifreddo with Caramel & Pecans
Serves 12
A delicious no churn ice cream pie swirled with caramel and nuts.
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Prep Time
25 min
Total Time
6 hr 25 min
Prep Time
25 min
Total Time
6 hr 25 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 half sleeve chocolate wafer cookies (about 15-20); I used Nabisco’s Famous Chocolate Wafers
  2. 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  3. 1/2 cup of roasted, salted pecans
  4. 1/2 stick of unsalted butter, melted
  5. 1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  6. 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  7. 2 tablespoons spiced rum
  8. Pinch of salt
  9. 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  10. 1 cup caramel sauce
  11. 1/2 cup roasted salted pecans, chopped
  12. Chocolate sauce for drizzling (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In food processor add wafer cookies, 1/2 cup of pecans, and brown sugar. Pulse until coarse and crumbly then add in the melted butter and pulse until mixture is just moistened. Press into bottom of a round springform pan and bake for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  4. In a large bowl whisk together sweetened condensed milk, rum, vanilla bean scrapings, salt, and 1 tablespoon of your caramel sauce. Set aside.
  5. Whip the whipping cream until soft peaks form. I prefer to do this in my food processor, but you can always use a hand held beater or even good ol’ elbow grease if you like.
  6. Very gently whisk half of the whipped cream into your sweetened condensed milk mixture. When combined gently whisk in the rest until smooth.
  7. Stir chopped pecans into prepared caramel sauce. Depending on how much “swirl” you would like in your ice cream you can always adjust the amount of caramel and pecans to suit your taste.
  8. Pour half of the cream mixture onto the baked and cooled crust. Follow by spooning half of the pecan caramel on top of it. Repeat this step so you have cream, caramel, cream, caramel in the pan. Gently swirl a knife through it to create a marbled effect.
  9. Transfer to the freezer, cover, and allow to set for a good 6 hours, preferably overnight. To release it from the pan run a sharp knife along the edges and pop the springform clasp so the pan opens up. Top with additional caramel, chocolate sauce, or chopped pecans if desired (trust me, it’s desired). It should keep in the freezer for about a week, but holding onto it any longer could risk the formation of ice crystals and the loss of that silky texture.
Calories
  1. 438
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