Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Quick Coconut Bread

This is the quick bread for those of us who despise the taste of bananas. It's also the quick bread for those of us who don't really plan ahead. Don't have the time to wait for the bananas to ripen? Don't want to grate zucchini for long periods of time?  No worries.

When my roommate left for the grocery store one block away, I hadn't even pulled the ingredients for this bread out of the pantry. By the time he returned with a small bag of groceries, I was slipping the bread into the oven and cleaning up the dishes.

And the results? Delightful. The bread had just the right amount of sweetness in it, and it didn't crumble too much when sliced. The crust was delightful golden. A light taste of cinnamon wove through each slice, catching me by surprise, and the coconut was a perfect textural contrast.

It was delicious eaten fresh from the pan, and it was an even bigger treat toasted with butter for breakfast. For the ten minutes this took to make and clean up from, this bread will be made regularly.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Salted Butter Kitchen Sink Cookies

I'm trying to create less waste. In cooking and in life. I'm trying to print off less papers from my computer, copy fewer unnecessary handouts for my students and reuse the sleeves on my coffee cups.

I'm trying to use my suitcase full of reusable bags instead of getting new plastic bags from the store.

And I'm trying to use up all the little extra bits of food I have lying around instead of throwing them away.  It's why I had vegetable fried rice for dinner last Friday (I used all the leftover rice from my Indian takeout dinner!). It's why I had barley risotto with sauteed cabbage instead of escarole.

And it's why I was desperate to do something with the three sweet treats I rarely buy: the Oreos I used to make this chocolate peanut butter torte, the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups I used to make these double chocolate oatmeal peanut butter cup cookies, and the M&Ms that filled these Valentine's Day blondies.

The situation felt particularly urgent because not only were these leftovers that needed to be used up, they were also particularly tasty snacks that called to me every time I entered the kitchen.

David Lebowitz's recipe for salted butter cookies called to me because I thought the extra touch of salt would be particularly nice with the overwhelming sweetness of all the mix-ins.

This is the perfect recipe for using up all those extra bits you have laying around. I can imagine coconut, any kind of nut, any kind of chocolate, and any kind of cookie working particularly well. A few recipes I peeked at really included everything--even Fritos and potato chips. If you get that creative, I'd love to hear about it.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Smashed Chickpea and Roasted Red Pepper Sandwich

Delicious, cold vegetarian sandwiches are hard to come by. Delicious, cold vegan sandwiches are even harder to find.

So many of the sandwiches I found lacked inspiration. The directions went something like this: Slice vegetables. Place on sandwich. Add slices of cheese. Top with hummus/mayonnaise. Eat.

Eh. I think this is the reason I never wanted sandwiches in my lunch box as a kid.

Last weekend we drove up to Portland, Maine, which meant we had about 7 hours in the car both ways. In an attempt to save money, and avoid rest stop food, I brought the sandwiches.

This was one of my favorites. Smashed chickpeas mixed with olives, red onions, lemon juice and zest, and parsley. Some hearty multigrain bread, a heavy smear of garlic hummus and a big slice of roasted red pepper finished the sandwich off.

Not only did it travel well, surviving a few days in our cooler before we ate it, but it was also cheap. Probably less than $2.50 of ingredients went in to the chickpea salad, which easily served four for lunch.

And, the leftovers were delicious on a toasted baguette rubbed with olive oil and garlic.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


I teach students who dislike chocolate.

I know what you're thinking. Really? They exist?

It's hard to believe, but they do.

They're the ones who turn down chocolate cupcakes during their classmates' birthdays and frown when I pull out brownies for a special treat.

So, I went to blondies for my last "bake for my students" project. I wanted a treat everyone would enjoy, and I also wanted to try something different.

I was also out of chocolate.

Deb calls these brownies infinitely adaptable, and I imagine that they are. I threw in M&Ms (I figured the few pieces of chocolate wouldn't distract the chocolate haters too much), but I would have happily included coconut, pecans and chocolate.

Easy. Easy. Easy.

Friday, February 17, 2012


I love that the madeleines sit in their pan in two straight lines.

Isn't that how they're supposed to do everything?

Twelve of them. In two straight lines. Just like in Madeline.

That's a book that has stuck with me for a long time. I think I'll always remember Miss Clavel sitting up suddenly in the middle of the night because something was not right. I particularly channeled her when I flipped my first ever batch of madeleines out of their pan.

Something was not right. They had little bumps in the center. Their backsides were far past the pale golden color I had anticipated, even though I had left them in for the minimum amount of time suggested. They were a little dry when I bit into them. They left a lot to be desired.

I flew into action. I started over, this time measuring out the dough for each madeleine mold carefully with a teaspoon, trying to approximate even amounts across the pan. I lowered the oven temperature 15 degrees (perhaps not necessary for you as my oven tends to run high). I lowered the baking time by two minutes, and I didn't leave the oven until they were done.

Then came the moment of truth. Martha requests that you remove the madeleines from the pan and then almost immediately flip them out.

There they were. The madeleines I had dreamed of. Soft and pillowy. A light golden brown on both sides. Moist. Pretty delightful.

To save the others, I dipped them in Schaeffer Berger bittersweet chocolate. Yes. I do think chocolate fixes most problems. A few minutes in the fridge to let the chocolate harden up, and I almost forgot how sub-par they were compared to the second batch.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mexican-Inspired Coleslaw

We often sit around at dinner and ponder what cuisine we would choose if we could only eat one nation's cuisine for the rest of our lives.

My go-to response is Mexican (think the general family of foods, not terribly country specific). 

I love pupusas, arepas and enchiladas. I'm a sucker for plantains, both tostones and maduros. 

There are just two things that make me nervous: the overabundance of cheese and fried foods and the the lack of fresh vegetables. 

This coleslaw is one small attempt to rectify that problem and convince myself that fresh vegetables can make their mark in my Mexican cooking. It's loaded with fresh vegetables. I kept mine simple with cabbage, red onions, cilantro, and red and yellow peppers. However, the Rebar recipe called for jicama and carrots chopped up as well. I'm sure it's a delicious combination, but I was trying to simplify my cooking night. 

It was the perfect contrast with the heavier, cooked dishes I served it with. Each bite was fresh and crunchy. I was immediately a fan. 

What about you? One cuisine for the rest of your life. What would you choose? 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Baked Sunday Mornings: Peanut Butter Chocolate Whoopie Pies

I just can't resist chocolate and peanut butter together. I know we've been over this recently, but it's all that's been on my mind lately. I decide to make muffins, and I can't stop searching for chocolate peanut butter ones. I see these cookies, and I imagine them filled with chocolate.

I made these no-bake chocolate and peanut butter bars recently, but they disappeared so quickly that I completely forgot to photograph them for you. I made chocolate peanut butter scones, which you'll see in a bit, and I ended up with several pictures of the last scone, half eaten, because before I had just focused on eating them instead of on my photography.

So, with all that in mind, I feel pretty good that I managed to get one picture of these chocolate whoopie pies with peanut butter filing. I made the large whoopie pies--the Pennsylvania Dutch-sized ones--and they were too massive to actually eat. Each cookie was about three inches in diameter and overflowing with peanut butter filling. We couldn't get through more than half a whoopie pie in a sitting, but that did give us leftovers for later. 

I'd recommend making much smaller whoopie pies. They don't seem big at first, but when you combine two cookies and a few tablespoons of filling they just start growing and growing!

Visit Baked Sunday Mornings to get the recipe and see all the different whoopie pies that were created this week! Next up: caramel popcorn with peanuts and chocolate! 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Brown Sugar Sandwich Cookies

As a kid, Valentine's Day was always an opportunity to express my creative side. I was never a fan of the store-bought, generic Valentine's Day cards. They never had the styles I wanted, and matching the pre-written messages to my classmates never seemed to work the way I imagined. 

So, I made my own. I'd spread the table with doilies, red and pink paper, and more stickers and glitter than you could image. For hours, I'd create one valentine after another. A good chunk of my time was spent recreating the same style of valentine again and again, but occasionally I'd add extra doilies or stickers and create one for a teacher or best friend. 

I may not spend hours creating my own Valentine's Day cards anymore, but I bake instead. These cookies are my Valentine's Day treat for my dearest friends and myself. They're more complex than your typical sugar cookie since they're filled with dark brown sugar and studded with poppy seeds. The specks of salt and sugar dusting the top of each cookie add an element of surprise to each bite. 

In true Valentine's Day style, I stuffed mine with vanilla cream filling and raspberry jam, but they would be equally delicious stuffed with a bittersweet chocolate. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette, Valentine's Day Style

This is not my year for planning ahead for holidays. I did all (all) of my Christmas shopping in the two weeks leading up to Christmas. I made my New Year's Eve plans in the hours leading up to New Years. I posted Thanksgiving recipes onto my blog the day before Thanksgiving, long after everyone had planned their menus. 

This heart-shaped tart is my attempt to get back on the right track, to be prepared for holidays as they come and to be able to share my musings about them with you. 

While it is beautiful as a round galette, that just wouldn't do for Valentine's Day. In the 30 extra seconds it took to shape this galette into a heart, I ended up with something that looked like it was planned specifically for the occasion (which it was). 

It's loaded with an entire roasted butternut squash, slowly caramelized onions and some shredded fontina cheese. The sour cream-infused crust is tender, yet it withstands the weight of all the vegetables piled inside. 

A slice of this and a nice light salad make a delicious, vegetarian-friendly Valentine's Day dinner.