Category Archives: Dessertalicious

No Guilt Nutella: Chocolate for Breakfast Goes Legit

You say Nutella, I say…ain’t happening for breakfast in this house.

I grew up in a pre Nutella-For-Breakfast world. We had plenty of heinously unhealthy food, like pop tarts and cocoa puffs. But putting frosting on toast and calling it breakfast wasn’t a thing. Even if it happened (looking at you, chocolate Easter bunnies), it wasn’t sanctioned, let alone encouraged.

My kids grew up in a post NFB world, thanks to brilliant marketing from the Italians, who needed a real game-changer to dress up their melba toast and give their people a reason to get up for breakfast. Still, I did not serve Nutella to my kids. That may help explain why they so easily, dare I say eagerly, transitioned to sleepovers, camp and really any opportunity to leave home. There’s no need to get into my reasoning unless you really want a buzz-kill. I think we can all agree that commercial Nutella is not a solid foundation for the most important meal of the day.

But WHAT IF Nutella was made with no added sweeteners, fat or scary ingredients? What if it was made with the holy trinity of healthy treat ingredients—dates, nuts and cocoa—and nothing much else? Now that would be something I could get behind. And don’tcha know, I have. It’s not just for breakfast of course—it’s for any time you damn well please.

No Guilt Nutella soars past the teenage boy test, the teenage girl test, the man test and the “gimme that spoon I just need a chocolate fix ” test. If you are a Nutella connoisseur you will not be fooled by this, but the concept of a chocolate spread you can eat by the spoonful without a shred of guilt or secrecy may win you over nonetheless. Vegans, Paleos and Gluten-free peeps? Yeah, this is your jive too.

As with last week’s treats, your food processor earns its keep making these. It’s pretty foolproof though, as long as you make an honest attempt to skin the hazelnuts* and then process those babies until they really turn to butter. Be patient. It will happen.

No Guilt Nutella

Ingredients

  • 1 cup hazelnuts (or a mix of hazelnuts and almonds)
  • 1 packed cup medjool dates, pitted (or more, see notes)
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp flavorless oil
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup almond milk

Method:

  1. Roast hazelnuts at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Transfer onto a kitchen towel and roll with your hands to remove skins. (no need to remove skins on almonds, if using)
  2. Puree hazelnuts in a food processor for 8 to 10 minutes until a butter forms. Take the time to do it right! You’ll know when you’ve crossed from ground nuts to butter.
  3. Remove hazelnut butter, and scrape out food processor as best you can. Add dates and water. Puree until smooth and creamy.
  4. Add hazelnuts to date paste and pulse a few times.
  5. Add cocoa, vanilla, oil, and salt and blend. 
  6. With food processor running, slowly pour in almond milk. Scrape down the sides and pulse a few times to blend into creamy goodness.
  7.  

Notes

*To completely remove hazelnut skins (for the smoothest possible spread), boil nuts in a pot of water with few tablespoons of baking soda for 4 minutes. Immediately strain and place nuts in ice water for a minute or so, until the skins peel off easily. You still need to roast the nuts to loosen up all the oils and bring out the flavor. Google will not corroborate this, but I find this process takes a little mojo out of the nuts. I prefer the less perfect/more flavorful roasting and rolling technique. You will stain the dishtowel, but such are the sacrifices we make. See here for a THOROUGH demo.

If your dates are hard, or you are using Deglet dates, soak them in warm water for an hour or two before pureeing.

…and furthermore, depending on the sweetness of your dates and the strength of your cocoa, you may need to add more dates at the end to find your sweet spot. 

I swear the notes are done.

Store leftovers in the fridge, and put your guilt in the rear view mirror!

Breakfast in America, reimagined.

The real thing, at the breakfast table, on the dreaded melba toast, in its homeland.

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Cocoa Nutty Balls

This is the first of two posts featuring the holy trinity of healthy treat ingredients: dates, nuts and cocoa. Why so holy? If you can get your Vegan, Paleo and Gluten-free friends at the same table, eating the same thing and loving it, there’s some divine intervention going on.

I’m posting them separately so they each get full credit, and you can find them more easily when needed. Both recipes are quick, easy and 100 percent free of added sweeteners, dairy, or grains. This first one is slightly more labor intensive because, well, balls require some care. (sorry, couldn’t resist). Neither recipe requires one bit of cooking, but they both will give your food processor an honest workout.

First up, are these cocoa nutty balls. (If you do the highly recommended pro move and roll them in toasted coconut when you’re done you can call them coconutty balls. See how that works? ) These are well known and loved in the paleo world and for good reason. They get sweetness and smoothness from dates, heft and texture from walnuts and chocolatey goodness from cocoa. The pinch of salt gives them some sass and the optional coating lets you add your own customized cha-cha.

But wait there’s more! These can hang out in the freezer until you need them. They transport well for hiking, picnics, lunchboxes, road trips or any eating on the fly. I offered these to a bunch of burly ski racers between their runs and they inhaled them. Either the lodge had run out of cheeseburgers or they actually liked them. I hope you’ll like them too!

Cocoa Nutty Balls

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups walnuts (or a mix of walnuts and almonds or skinned hazelnuts*)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup pitted dates (Medjool if you can. Deglet if you must)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • (Optional for pro version) Toasted unsweetened coconut—or whatever added crunch you like—for coating.

Method

Add walnuts and salt to a blender or food processor. Mix until the walnuts are finely ground.

Add the dates, vanilla, and cocoa powder to the blender. Mix well until everything is combined. With the blender still running, add a couple drops of water at a time to make the mixture stick together. (If it really won’t stick together in a ball, add another date or two)

Slacker version: Using a spatula, transfer the mixture to a small (8″x 8″) pan and smoosh it flat, sprinkle optional topping/coating evenly on top and press it into the surface. (A layer of parchment paper makes this easy.) Let cool in the fridge and cut into whatever sized bites or bars you want. 

Semi Pro Version: Transfer the mixture into a bowl. Using your hands, form small round balls (I aim for walnut sized), rolling in your palms. They’ll come together and feel a little greasy, making them perfect for the…

Pro Version: Toast raw coconut flakes or shreds in a 350ish degree oven a few minutes (until just golden) and let them cool. If flakes, whirl them in the food processor until finely ground, but not yet buttery. Add a pinch of salt is that’s your jive (it’s mine).** Remove the blade from the bowl and drop in three or four balls at a time, rolling them around to coat.

You can store bars or balls in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week or the freezer for a looooong time.

*Skinning hazelnuts will be fully discussed in the next post. If you just can’t wait for this fascinating discussion (I know, you’re only human) check out this treatise on the topic.

**store leftover toasted coconut in a jar to sprinkle on yogurt, oatmeal, fruit, etc.

Just us fruits and nuts here, keeping our cool

 

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Heart of Darkness Chocolate Cups

Come to the dark side, for the good of your heart and soul.

I hit the food stash jackpot, when Sister A rolled into town with a carry-on full of Trader Joes nuts. I already had a decent stash of raw walnuts and almonds, but she brought in the exotics: pecans, pistachios, pepitas, cashews, macadamias. My pre-holiday ship had come in!

This happy event coincided with the other fortunate circumstance of having a lot of really good dark chocolate on hand. It’s not a huge leap to imagine what happened next. Yes my friends, I had a Reese’s ah-ha moment. Maybe I could make a slightly more mainstream yet totally healthy version of Reese’s Redemption Cups.

The revelation here is homemade nut butter, ever-so-gently spiced up, but not sweetened…and dark chocolate…and a pixie dust sprinkling of flaky salt, but only if you dare. Dark chocolate is just plain better for you than a whole lot of un-fun things, and when the health police serve up an opening like this you run through it!

The below list of directions is daunting, but basically you are doing this: Making nut butter by roasting raw nuts and whirring them in a food processor with cocoa, cinnamon, vanilla and salt. Then you are melting chocolate, pouring a bit in the bottom of lined mini muffin cups, adding a blob of nut butter then spooning more chocolate on top of the whole shebang. With that vision, read on bravely, and know that you will end up with something delicious no matter what it looks like.

Don’t over think this one. Just make up a bunch when you’re feeling it, and enjoy them as needed. You will not regret having this stash on hand.

Heart of Darkness Chocolate Cups

Adapted from betterwithcake

Makes 14-16 mini cups of joy

First, you’ve got to make your nut butter. See below. From there it’s just a matter of melting chocolate. Again, whatever darned chocolate you feel like. The darker the chocolate, the higher percentage the cocoa, so the slower it will melt and the more temperamental it will be to work with. If you’re going way dark, add some coconut oil. You can also use vegetable oil, but it will thin the chocolate more and you will have fallen off the superfood wagon. Don’t worry. You won’t be lonely there.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup or so of homemade, chocolate hazelnut almond butter (or store bought chocolate hazelnut butter if you must. The texture will be gooier)
  • 1 bag (10-12 oz) good quality dark-as-you-dare chocolate chips, Vegan if needed.
  • 2-3 tsp coconut oil (optional, but it makes your life easier)
  • Flaky sea salt
  • Optional toppings of choice: toasted shredded coconut, finely chopped toasted nuts, dried fruit, crushed peppermints, leftover candy corn, etc, etc, etc. 

Method:

Line a mini muffin tin with 16 paper or silicone liners.

Melt chocolate, with coconut if you are using, by your preferred method. I do mine in a small, retro double boiler over simmering water. If you are among the tens of millions of people with a working microwave, you can try that method.

Use a teaspoon to drizzle some melted chocolate into each the muffin liner. Don’t use all your chocolate; save at least 1/3 of it to spread on top once your chocolate cups are filled. Adjust the number of cups you make accordingly.

(At this point, if you are making big cups (not mini), or if you going for perfection, put them into the freezer for a few minutes to set up. If using mini ones, you’re good to keep going.)

Drop a very scant (ideally a slightly flattened oval) teaspoonful of your nut butter into each cup (if you went pro and froze the first layer then go ahead and press down on the nut butter to level it).

Once all your cups are filled with the nut butter, use your designated chocolate spoon to cover the filling with the rest of the melted chocolate. Give the cups a sprinkle of salt and/or your garnish of choice and place them into the fridge to set, or the freezer to store longer term. They will keep in the fridge for several weeks and in the freezer for 3-6 months. Riiiiiiight.

Chocolate Hazelnut Almond Butter

The not very perfect but oh so delicious cross-section

~Vegan, Dairy Free, Paleo Friendly, Shazaam!

The beauty of this nut butter is that it’s easy, and the spices add cha-cha without any sweeteners. I go with cocoa and cinnamon but you can do a chai spiced one with cardamom, or a chile spiced one. Get creative and dream big here people. Once you’ve got the nut butter made you are totally set up for success.
Makes approx 2 cups of pretty darned healthy chocolate-hazelnut almond butter. This is way more than you need for a bag of melted chocolate chips, so you’ll be enjoying this on apples and toast, in smoothies and sandwiches, etc.

Ingredients –

  • 1 cup of raw almonds
  • 1 cup of raw skinless hazelnuts* (or use all almonds or sub hazelnuts with raw cashews or macadamias)
  • 1 Tablespoon of vanilla bean extract
  • 1 Tablespoon of cocoa (or cacao if you’re fancy)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt flakes

Method:

Preheat your oven to 350

Line a large baking sheet with baking/parchment paper (or a non stick silpat mat) and pour your raw nuts on, making sure they are spread evenly and not crowded.

Roast your nuts for 10 mins, until lightly roasted and slightly golden.

If you are unable to get skinless hazelnuts you’ve got an extra step here. roast them on a separate tray and once they are roasted, place on a clean dry hand towel and fold it in half. Rub it gently between your hands and the skins should come loose. Once the hazelnuts have shed their skins, discard the skins and proceed with the recipe as normal.

Pour your roasted almonds and hazelnuts into the bowl of your food processor or blender and process until smooth and creamy (or your desired consistency). It takes a minute or two to transform from ground nuts to creamy butter. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally as you go.

Once you’ve gotten the desired consistency, add the salt, cocoa (or cacao, whatev) and vanilla then process until combined.

Taste and adjust flavors accordingly – this is where you make you’re personal statement, adding extra salt or vanilla or maple syrup or whatever floats your boat. You can also lube it with a bit of coconut oil if you like.

Scrape that deliciousness into an air-tight jar and keep it in the
fridge for several weeks.

Bringing it:

My suggestion here is to keep a stash of this nut butter at the ready, and then, whenever you have a window of time and some extra chocolate lying around, make up some of these. With a stash of them in the freezer you are never without a healthy dessert, a peace offering, a hostess gift or just a little love bomb of chocolate.

 

 

 

 

 

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Loosey Brucey’s Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

From the rhubarb patch to the kitchen, with a little magic and a whole lot of forgiveness.

If you need exact recipes, do not read any further, because this recipe will irk you. If you can tolerate significant looseness with your dessert creations, read on.

Today we have strawberry rhubarb crisp, because if you don’t have a rhubarb patch, somebody you know probably does and it is time to take it down!

This one comes from Pierce’s Inn, more specifically from innkeeper Bruce Lingelbach’s head as he guides pinch-hitter food preppers in the kitchen. His instructions range in specificity based on food type and his degree of recipe ownership. They fall on the spectrum of extremely loose (fruit crisps you can’t possibly screw up), to highly specific yet humorously delivered (7 millimeter thick slices and the spread must completely cover the toast), to intentionally vague as when he is guarding a secret recipe (don’t mess with Bruce’s chili).

I love this recipe because, along with being seasonal and delicious, it is among the loosest, with easy to remember, even proportions that can be grown and shrunk without higher math skills. If there is any wavering on amounts, Bruce will shrug and say, “Who ever complained about too many strawberries? …or maple syrup/crumb topping, etc. The crumb topping would work with whatever berries or softish fruit you have on hand, and the process could not be easier. It’s all about filling a dish with fresh berries, pouring molten rhubarb over it, then topping it all with your crisp mixture and baking it. Best of all, it requires no more than a baking dish and a pot.

This recipe is really more about process than exact amounts or baking time. The amounts here are good for a big 9” x 13” baking dish, and you can adjust according to the size of your dish. (Up it to 2 sticks butter, 2 cups of all else. Downsize it to 1 stick butter, 1 cup of all else. You’ve got this!) The recipe, like Bruce, is mighty forgiving, and also lends itself to special diets. Use gluten free oats and flour mix for the GF’s, and Vegan butter sticks for the Vs. No special diets? Then go for it and toss in some chopped walnuts or almonds.

The only place I freelanced on this was by adding a bit of salt to the crisp and a hefty squeeze of lemon to the cooked rhubarb because, “who ever complained about a dash of salt or fresh squeezed lemon?”

Pierce’s Inn Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Ingredients:

For the fruit:

  • 2 pounds strawberries
  • A whole lot of rhubarb (5 stalks or more) cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Big slug of maple syrup
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • Juice from half a lemon (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla

For the topping:

  • 1 ½ sticks (12 Tbsp) butter, melted or very soft (Pierce’s uses only Kate’s Sea Salted. See Bruce’s comment below)
  • 1 ½ cups brown sugar
  • 1 ½ cups oats
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • ½ tsp salt (optional)
  • roughly chopped nuts of choice (optional)

Method:

Preheat oven to 350.

Cut the rhubarb into one-inch pieces, put into a pot with sugar and maple syrup. Give it all a stir and turn it on medium high so it gets bubbling along. Let it cook for 20 minutes or so, until rhubarb falls apart when stirred. Give it a taste for sweetness and add some sugar or syrup if desired.

Meanwhile, quarter the strawberries directly into baking dish. When rhubarb is done, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and lemon juice. Pour molten rhubarb over the berries and give it all a stir.

In the rhubarb pot you have rinsed or wiped out, melt the butter and combine with the rest of the ingredients. Distribute evenly across the fruit and bake.

Of course there is no exact time, but give it a solid 30 minutes before checking. It should look, well, awesome— golden brown on top with sweet red lava of goodness bubbling up. Let cool a bit before serving. If made ahead, gently rewarm before serving.

Top with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream…because whoever complained about too much of that?

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Rubble: A Beautiful Mess of Ice Cream

This is it people. The opening weekend of summer is upon us, and we need to be ready. We’ve got three months of picnics, drive ins, hikes, sleepovers, pool parties, campouts, BBQ’s, road trips, beach trips, lake visits, river running. In short, this is when you need to get your Bring It on!

You don’t just want to bring “something” to all these occasions. You want to bring the thing that keeps people coming back for more. Here are a few faves:

My number one recommendation is, of course, Hero Slaw, but there are other salads that will stand up to travel, and make you popular once you arrive. Panzanella and Shrimp and Bulgur salad are hard to beat for ease and deliciousness. If your numbers are smaller and you can handle a little on-site assembly, let them eat pineapple avocado salad.

Casually plunk People’s Choice Cornbread on the table and watch the kids move right on in. Use the same casual approach with a loaf or two of Easiest French Bread Ever, which you can also slice up for bruschetta or make in a well-buttered loaf pan and use for sandwiches (hellooo road trips!)

If you are on cocktail duty for a crowd, bust out your Tupperware pitchers and freeze up a big batch of frosé or frozen daquiris. Nobody’s going to send you away with a pitcher of watermelon sangria either.

And fergawdsakes don’t forget the cookies! Champion chip cookies and these cinnamon-y oatmeal raisin ones will do the trick.

And speaking of dessert…I recently met a totally Memorial Day worthy recipe. “Rubble,” is a creation straight from Squaw Valley, courtesy of Treas, the Squaw of Granite Chief. She made it for us with chocolate, vanilla, coffee and strawberry ice cream, and with chocolate and caramel sauce. (Overachiever!) Eminently adaptable Rubble can be made with any combo of ice cream and sauce, and it can be expanded to fit the size of the group. Perhaps best of all, it can be sourced at pretty much any market— even a decent mini mart.

Treas aspires to make this in more grown up flavor combos, but I can attest that the straight up chocolate, coffee, vanilla, strawberry is fantastic. As a bonus it can be assembled by kids or adults with no real regard for exact instruction or amounts.

You will need, from the bottom up:

Equipment:

  • Parchment Paper
  • Baking sheet
  • Freezer

Ingredients:

  • Biscotti or any hard cookie (Treas uses Nonnis biscotti)
  • Ice cream, in amounts and flavors you desire
  • Fresh berries of choice
  • Ice cream sauce, again in flavor or flavors of choice.
  • Smoked almonds, roughly chopped (Treas holds the line here. Smoked almonds really make the difference, and yes they probably have them at the mini mart)

Method:

Line the baking sheet with parchment paper.

Smash/break up a few biscotti (do not crumble them too much. You want to be able to identify them), and scatter them across the parchment.

On top of that, start layering up: scoops of ice cream, a good drizzle of sauce, a smattering of berries and a sprinkling of chopped almonds over the whole shebang. Depending on the size of your crowd you may need to make more layers. Use your best artistic dessert instincts on this.

Put your masterpiece in the freezer so it coalesces into one frozen pile.

A few minutes before serving take out the rubble and let it soften just enough to be penetrable.

Have at it!

Bringing it:

Once frozen, rubble can take a short trip in the car with no ill effects. It’s not exactly tailgate fare though.

Happy Memorial Day all, and welcome to summer!

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Snow Day Lemon Mousse

Light and fresh, like the snow we dream about!

This comes straight outta Steamboat, from Rocky Mountain Tania, who describes this lemon mousse as, “Amazing. Easy, light and such a counter balance to heavy winter food.”  Tania says she’s  embarrassed how much she makes this, but who in the world would be embarrassed by this thing of beauty?

The coolest thing about it is that it involves fresh snow. I just got back a trip west, where there is plenty of that, and I have high hopes that the return of cold temps to the east this week will bring some of the white stuff here as well. To all of you who are wishing for the opposite…C’mon man! Just give us one more month. Then we can all feel good about the meltdown.

Chilled Lemon Mousse

Adapted from Cook’s Magazine, with full photo, recipe and commentary credit to food and photo sensei Tania Coffey.

You will need:
A one quart soufflé dish (or any 1-1½ qt serving bowl)
A Kitchenaid with whipping attachment (or this recipe could be a real pain)
snow (or a good ice-maker) to put in a big bowl for chilling custard quickly

Ingredients:

  • Juice from 3 lemons (1/2 cup)
  • Zest from one lemon (3 tsps)
  • 1 packet (1/4 oz) gelatin
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar divided*
  • 2 large egg yolks (3 small) plus 5 large egg whites at room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp cornstarch
  • pinch cream of tarter
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream chilled
  • mint, raspberries or finely chopped pistachios for garnish

Method:

Leave eggs out for a couple of hours to bring to room temperature.
Zest one lemon
Add zest to the 1/2 cup of lemon juice and sprinkle pack of gelatin over juice.  Stir and set aside to soften.

Heat milk and 1/2 cup of sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.
stir occasionally until the sugar dissolves (5 min)
Meanwhile, whisk together the yolks, 2 Tablespoons sugar and the cornstarch in a medium-large bowl until pale yellow and thickened.
Whisking constantly slowly add the hot milk to the yolks (a rubber bottomed bowl is so great here so it doesn’t move while you are whisking and pouring).
Return the egg yolk-milk mixture to the pan and cook over medium low heat, stirring constantly until the foam dissipates to a thin layer and the mixture thickens to the consistency of heavy cream (185 on an instant read thermometer).  About 4 minutes. Do not over cook here or it will get lumpy or worse.

Pour the mixture into a medium-large bowl (I use the already dirty one) and add the lemon/gelatin mixture and stir.

Chilling’ in the snow. Sooooo cool!

Set the bowl in a larger bowl of snow (sorry, if you don’t have fresh snow ice water works well).  Stir occasionally to cool.

While the custard is chilling crank up the Kitchenaid with the whipping attachment.
Beat the egg whites and cream of tarter at medium speed until foamy (1 minute)
Increase speed to medium high.
*Add 2 Tablespoons of sugar (I usually skip this addition because I like the mousse super tangy not sweet) and beat until glossy and the whites hold soft peaks.
Don’t over beat.

Remove custard from snow/ice bath.
Gently whisk in one third of the egg whites.
Then fold in the remaining whites with a rubber spatula.

In the same mixer bowl (don’t bother cleaning it) beat the cream on medium high speed until soft peaks form when whisk is lifted (2-3 minutes).
Fold the cream into the custard/egg white mixture until no white streaks remain.

Pour into a 1 quart soufflé dish (or any 1 1/2 quart serving bowl).  Refrigerate.

For best texture chill for 1-2 hours

Garnish as desired. PS. This recipe makes you look like a pro—try it quickly!

Squaw Valley USA, a looooong way from meltdown.

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Morning Paper Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

The oatmeal cookie lid: one of many ways to keep warm this winter.


One of the greatest sources for food and drink recipes is the Wall St Journal. Who knew? Really, cocktails are their sweet spot, but they have a sophisticated spin on pretty much everything. Consequently, you don’t find a lot of cookies there, but when you do, you know they’re going to be good.

These cookies delivered, and turn out to be somewhat addictive, even for someone who is not a huge oatmeal raisin fan. It may have been the overdose of cinnamon, or the salt, or the plumped up raisins. It probably had little to do with the oats, but you never know. They even passed the suspicious kid test. 

I waited a long time to post these because the recipe, when strictly followed, asks you to leave the dough in the fridge for four days. Four DAYS. This is really handy for those tough Monday afternoons when you say to yourself, “Boy I feel like a warm oatmeal cookie…on Friday.” Needless to say, I have made many batches of these, and it took until today to achieve the recommended four day incubation.

Was it worth the wait? I did indeed notice the flavor was even better than the young, unseasoned cookies. BUT they are also really good with a one day rest, and even a zero day rest. I will leave the waiting up to you.

A few notes here: The mixer with the paddle attachment is real, as is the extra large egg. This dough is pretty crumbly, so pro mixing and the extra bit of egg both help. If you only have large eggs, just beat up another one and add a bit of it in. Then have yourself a hearty ¾ egg omelet or cook it up and add it to your salad. Or, if you are not pathologically averse food waste (as I am), just put it down the drain.

On cookie size: The original calls for a ¼ cup scoop. Those are massive cookies. I prefer to make mine golf ball sized and smoosh them as suggested, with a bit of parchment paper.

On refrigerating: It says to scoop them first. If you don’t happen to have that kind of real estate in your fridge, refrigerate the batter in a bowl and scoop just before baking.

Finally, on cooking time: 14 minutes was about right for my normal sized cookies, but start checking them at 12. Err on the side of underdone and they will firm up a bit as they cool.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

From Adapted by the Wall St. Journal from Sadelle’s, New York City.
Active Time: 10-15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, plus 4 days for chilling dough
Makes: 14 massive cookies. Or wayyyy more normal sized ones.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (yes this is a lot, and it is key!)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1½ teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1½ sticks slightly softened butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 cups old-fashioned or rolled oats
  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

 Method:

  1. Soak raisins in hot water for 30 minutes, then drain.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.
  3. Using an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, scraping down frequently. Take care not to overbeat.
  4. Add flour mixture to creamed butter and sugar and mix on low speed until combined. Mix in oats, followed by drained raisins, egg and vanilla.
  5. Use a ¼-cup measure to scoop dough onto a parchment-paper lined baking sheet. (See note above. Golf ball sized makes a regular-sized cookie.) Flatten each blob with base of measuring cup or your hand and a square of parchment paper. Cover baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate 4 days (optional).
  6. To bake cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake until cookies are golden-brown on the outside but still soft in the middle, about 17 minutes (12-14 for smaller cookies). Remove from oven and let rest on baking sheet a few minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool.

A whole plate of yum, looking a little funky with a filter.

 

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Salted Peanut Butter Cookies: Gluten-Free and Mini-Mart Sourced

Gluten-free, marmot approved.

Gluten-free, marmot approved

Here’s a hypothetical situation. It’s Christmas Eve, you gave away all your homemade cookies (if you happen to have made them in the first place), and you just found out Santa (or a guest) is gluten-free. There’s no way you’re going to the grocery store for special ingredients but you may be able to pull off a mini mart run. What if all that happened? What would you do?

You would make these cookies.  These are barely adapted from Smitten Kitchen who got them from the Ovenly cookbook. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Here’s hoping you don’t need these tonight, and you stay clear of mini marts, but in case of emergency, you’re covered. Have a good one all, enjoy your people, and see you on the other side!

Salted Peanut Butter Cookies

Yield 26 to 28 cookies with a 1 2/3 tablespoon or #40 scoop.

  • 1 3/4 cups (335 grams) packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups (450 grams) smooth peanut butter (see note at end)
  • 1 cup (or so) of your favorite chocolate chips (optional)
  • Coarse-grained sea salt, to finish

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the light brown sugar and eggs until smooth. Whisk in the vanilla extract, then the peanut butter until smooth and completely incorporated; you shouldn’t be able to see any ribbons of peanut butter. Stir in chocolate chips, if desired.

Scoop or spoon the dough into balls — from a heaping Tablespoon to monster 1/4 cup sized. Place on prepared pan. For the tallest final shape, place the tray in the freezer for 15 minutes before baking.

Sprinkle the dough balls lightly with coarse-grained sea salt just before baking. Bake smaller cookies for 14 to 15 minutes and larger for 18 to 20. When finished, cookies should be golden at edges. They’ll need to set on the sheet for a minute or two before they can be lifted intact to a cooling sheet. With any luck Santa hits your house late enough to let them cool completely so the crispy outside/soft inside thing can really happen. 

Do ahead: You can make the dough in advance and either refrigerate it for a couple days or scoop out the cookies, freeze them, then bake them right from the freezer.

About chilling the dough: You can scoop and bake the cookies right away, but they keep their shape better if you chill them in the freezer for 15 minutes first.

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Blueberry Dutch Bunny

Blueberry Durch Bunny

Fresh from the field and hot from the oven.

Sometimes you just get lucky. Friday was my day. I took a flyer and called Super Acres in Lyme to see if they were open for blueberry picking and learned it was opening day. Hallelujah! If you’ve never been to this PYO paradise it’s an Upper Valley rite of summer, and well worth a trip up River Rd.

Blueberry pints

The fruits of your labors

I coerced a friend— Super Acres newbie— to make the trek and he was suitably impressed.  This is not tedious, back-breaking work in a scorching field (I’m looking at you, strawberries). These are grassy rows of high bushes laden with so much ripe fruit that you can pick them like grapes. Somehow you can always seem to find a shady spot. Sheer brilliance! In about a half hour we easily picked four lbs each, without even taking a rest in the Adirondack chairs. Berry picking is about digging deep.

Super Acres provides picking buckets and pint baskets, though the pros bring their own giant Tupperware to make their pies and fill their freezers at home. Despite my aspirations, the allure of fresh berries is too much to resist in our house, and I have yet to freeze a single blueberry.

As for what to make, I had been angling for an excuse to make a blueberry version of Dutch Bunny, inspired by a recipe in Yankee magazine. Dutch Bunny (known outside my household as Dutch Baby, Sunday Pancake and Swedish Pancake) is my go-to weekend breakfast when I’m aiming to win friends. (Lifelong friends have been made over the magical emergence of Dutch Bunny on a vacation morning. True story) It’s hard to imagine a dish that is easier, more impressive or more appreciated by a houseful of guests.  Baking fresh blueberries into the whole shebang takes it over the top.

This is simply my standard Dutch Bunny recipe with fresh blueberries added to the mix. I linked you up but this saves you the trouble of hunting. You need your strength for blueberry picking.

Yield: Serves 4, or one hungry teenager.

 Ingredients

  • 3  Tbsp butter
  • 3  large eggs
  • 3/4  cup  milk
  • 1/2  tsp vanilla
  • 1/2  cup  all-purpose flour
  • 2  Tbsp sugar
  • 1/8  tsp salt
  • 1/2-3/4 cup fresh blueberries
  • Powdered sugar and fresh lemon wedge for topping
  • Whipped cream for topping, optional

 Method

  1. Melt butter in a 10-inch ovenproof frying pan over low heat. Remove from heat.
  2. In a large bowl or blender, beat or whirl eggs until light and pale. Beat or blend in milk, vanilla, flour, sugar, and salt.
  3. Pour batter into prepared pan and sprinkle blueberries on top (they will plop and sink—it’s all good).
  4. Bake in a 425° oven until pancake is puffed and lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Dust with powdered sugar and squeeze fresh lemon on top. Slice into wedges and serve immediately.

Top with more berries, and whipped cream is you’re feeling it.

If you’re in the Upper Valley and want to visit Super Acres, it is located at 722 River Rd, north of Lyme. For more info call the hotline at (603) 353-9807. Unsprayed and awesome blueberries are $3/lb at the self-serve slot. Do the right thing and round up if you’re belly hurts from all the sampling. Oh, and it wouldn’t be a crime to save some room for a little detour to Whippi Dip in Fairlee on your way home.

Thanks to Olivia the great for her awesome pictures!

Super acres-kisk

Weighin’ and payin’ on the honor system.

 

 

 

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Watermelon: Summer’s Cheap Sweet Thrill

watermelon-sorbet-glass

Call it sorbet, or granita, or just pure refreshment.

The big blockbuster summer weekend is creeping up on you like a kid with a loaded super soaker. Be ready! When agonizing over what to bring to any summer occasion you just can’t go wrong with watermelon. Whoever had too many of these, especially when they can be eaten at any meal, stored at room temperature and, when really unnecessary for nutrition, greased up and used for water games?

So here’s what you do. Get a watermelon every time you go by the bin at the grocery store and then figure out what to do with them. I suggest saddling up to a big cutting board for some watermelon prep, because one melon can really go a long way and satisfy many cravings. Here are some options:

Instant gratification: Cube it and eat it. If you have a crowd or just a couple of teenage boys it will disappear and everyone will have a dose of fruit and fiber.

Instant gratification, fiesta style: Sprinkle your cubes or wedges with chili powder. It’ll take you right back to that first trip to Tijuana. Or maybe this will spare you that trip to Tijuana.

Gourmet Move 1: Cut it into rounds then quarter rounds and make a shmancy arugula/feta/pepitas (or whatev) salad on top, using the watermelon as a plate. Here’s one from Simply Scratch for inspiration.

Gourmet Move 2: Make this watermelon and goat cheese salad that won the watermelon contest at Food52. If you don’t happen to have a crop of lemon verbena out your window use some lemon zest instead.

Drink Your Dinner: Watermelon Gazpacho involves some chopping, but otherwise this refreshing soup is about as easy as it gets. Plus it travels well and enjoys paper cups. Hello picnic!

Just Drink: Scoop watermelon into your food processor or blender, then strain it for watermelon juice. The juice can be used in things like watermelonade (basically watermelon juice and lemonade) or in the ever wonderful watermelon sangria.

As you can see this is not our first watermelon rodeo. For the 2016 edition though my focus is on the simple straight watermelon, cubed, pureed and frozen into a sorbet. It is known across the internet as “one-ingredient watermelon sorbet.” The thing with one-ingredient miracle recipes is that they are all a little better with, say, two or even three ingredients. This is the case here. Frozen pureed watermelon is pretty dang good, but it’s even better when you stir in some mint simple syrup and a splash of lime juice. A fourth ingredient, should you be inspired, could most certainly involve your liquor cabinet. You be the judge there.

1 ish Ingredient Watermelon Sorbet

Notes: Texturally this is more granita than sorbet. Save yourself the anxiety of expecting it to make pretty scoops, and just serve it in a cup with a spoon.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 large seedless watermelon, peeled and cubed
  • 1-2 Tbsp fresh lemon or lime juice (optional)
  • 1/4 cup mint simple syrup* (optional)
  • Hootch of choice (optional)

Directions:

1. Arrange the watermelon cubes in an even layer on a baking sheet. Transfer the baking sheet to the freezer and freeze until the watermelon is solid, about 2 hours.

2. Working in batches, transfer the watermelon cubes to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. (My processor fits about half the cubes at a time)

3. Divide the puree among two loaf pans (or put it all in one deep baking dish), packing it down as you add more on top.

watermelon sorbets

Straight up watermelon on left; with lime syrup and mint on right

4. Transfer the pans to the freezer. Freeze until the sorbet is scoopable, 1 to 2 hours more. You can also scrape it with a fork. If it freezes too firm let it sit out for a few minutes.

5. To serve, scoop (or scrape) the sorbet into dishes or cups and eat immediately. Or top with hootch and drink immediately.

*Simple syrup 101:  Combine equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan. For a minted version, add a bunch of chopped or torn fresh mint. Heat to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and let steep for 30 minutes or so. Strain into container and chill.

 

Sneak Preview of late summer watermelon edition:

As a half Yankee by blood (thanks Mom) I am cursed with the urge to use every scrap of any ingredient. This leads me to watermelon rind pickles, a thing in the south, and watermelon rind jam. I’ve made one version of the pickles and do like them, though my tastes admittedly tweak towards science experiments—guests be warned. I am just now making the jam, which I suspect will have wider appeal. Either way, this is making something edible out of something that was going straight into the compost pile. If it all ends up in the compost pile, at least you tried.

The many forms of watermelon, including pickled science experiments.

The many forms of watermelon, including pickled science experiments.

 

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