Monday, January 27, 2014

Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Have you heard that the weather in NYC has been pretty brutal this winter? Almost every day this month has been below normal temperature-wise.
Thankfully, Jan 1 wasn't too cold. I decided to ring in the new year by splashing into the Atlantic Ocean as part of Coney Island's Polar Bear Club Plunge.
This is me afterwards. I DID IT! I did it along with thousands of other crazy people.
It actually wasn't too bad. I was already cold from waiting for my friends and the water was warmer than the air. I would definitely do it again. It was a fun way to start 2014!
I'm pretty sure that jumping into the ocean on the first day of the year has helped me deal with this extra cold winter. You know what else has helped?
There's nothing like a warm kitchen exuding lovely baked good smells on a chilly, winter evening.
I enjoyed baking these because they made my kitchen smell delicious and they were delicious. The whole wheat combined with dark chocolate chips brought a heartier depth to the tastes of these cookie bars. (And as an FYI, these go really well with scotch whiskey. If only I had a fire place...)
Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars (adapted from Completely Delicious)
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups dark chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line an 8 or 9-inch baking pan or 2 8x8 baking pans with parchment paper with overhanging sides.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium high speed until light and creamy, about 3-4 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add this into the stand mixer and mix until incorporated. (Mixture will be a little crumbly.) Stir in the chocolate chips and chopped walnuts.
Press dough into the prepared baking pan and bake until golden brown, 25-30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then lift bars out of the pan with the overhanging parchment paper and let cool completely on a wire rack. Slice into bars and serve.
Bake well and prosper!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

New Orleans

I didn't bake this past week because I was visiting the lovely, funky, jazz-filled city of New Orleans.
The weather was so lovely (especially after the 5 degree weather in NYC.) I spent a couple of afternoons in the sun in Jackson Square (photos below.)
That's Andrew Jackson, 7th president of the United States. If you want to know more about him, well, google him. Because I have more to talk about than history in this post. :)
I also sunbathed by the Mississippi River. I've been to the start of the Mississippi River many, many times. It has a humble, gentle start from a lake in MN. This riverboat is on the Mississippi near the end of it. Pretty mighty at the end, eh?
I also biked all over New Orleans. Seriously. All over. I biked every day I was there! Above is a photo from the pretty Audubon Park (which was 6.5 miles away from where I was staying. And I was on a cruiser. When I say I biked everywhere, I really did!)
Which brings me to biking to food. A couple of times I walked to restaurants, but I mainly biked. For lunch one day I biked to Mr. B's Bistro. My yoga instructor in NYC recommended it. Since it was Monday, I got the red beans and rice special. (This is traditionally a Monday dish in New Orleans, but you can find it on other days.) It. Was. AMAZING. It came with a lovely salad, bread straight from the oven, red beans with slightly spicy sausage, a small side of delicious pork chop, white rice, and corn bread. The mix of sweet cornbread and spicy sausage was so scrumptious. I enjoyed every bite. Also, the wait staff were all lovely. They didn't mind talking to me, a party of one. Since the meal was so good I just HAD to look at the dessert menu.
How cute is this menu?! I loved it.
I was pretty full from my meal so I kept my dessert order simple and went with the pear and ginger sorbet.
It was just as amazing as the meal and also complimented it very nicely. The ginger wasn't too strong, so the sorbet was a refreshing pear dessert.

If you are ever in NOLA, I highly suggest Mr. B's Bistro for lunch. You won't regret it!

Bake well and prosper!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Dark Chocolate Dipped Peanut Cookies

My room mate and I exchanged Christmas gifts to each other a couple of days after Christmas. He was a little baffled as to what to get me but I was ready for this question. I told him that I desperately needed new cookie sheets. Mine were over 4 years old!
Not only did he get me amazing Nordic Ware cookie sheets, he got me wire racks. I didn't have any proper ones. I only had makeshift ones. I felt so spoiled!
The cookie sheets came with a recipe for cookies. So, naturally, I decided to christen the baking sheets with the recipe that came with them.
I used 90% organic products and I highly suggest using at least organic peanut butter and dark chocolate when making these. These cookies weren't too soft and weren't too hard. They were just right. Dipping them in chocolate and then sprinkling on the peanuts makes them appear more gourmet (like they came from a candy shop.) And of course the pairing of peanuts and chocolate is a win-win, just like this recipe!
Dark Chocolate Dipped Peanut Cookies (adapted from the recipe that came with Nordic Ware cookie sheets)
1/2 C butter, room temperature
1/2 C peanut butter
1 C and 2 Tblsp flour
1 C brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped peanuts, divided (Erika's Extras: I used salted peanuts)
8oz dark chocolate
Preheat oven to 375° F. In a mixer bowl, mix butter and peanut butter on medium speed until combined. Add 3/4 C flour and the sugar, egg, baking soda, baking powder, and vanilla. Mix until combined. Add remaining flour (1/4 C & 2 Tblsp) and mix to combine. Stir in 1/2 C chopped peanuts. Place level scoops from cookie scoop onto baking sheets. Flatten slightly with a fork. Bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly brown on the edges. (Might take up to 12 minutes.) Cool on wire racks.
Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Dip the cooled cookies in the chocolate and place on baking sheets lined with waxed paper. Sprinkle the chocolate with chopped peanuts. Refrigerate cookies until chocolate is set.
Erika's Extra: I had left over melted chocolate and chopped peanuts, so I mixed them together and placed the mixture on waxed paper in a ramekin. Then I placed it in the fridge to harden and I ended up with a lovely chocolate bar to snack on.
Bake well and prosper!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Raw Dessert: Chocolate Mousse Tarts with Cashew Cream

Happy New Year! Did you make a resolution? I had figured out one of my resolutions in the middle of December. I wanted to eat raw foods for all of Jan. But then I realized that I'll be visiting New Orleans in January, so I was a little behooved since I knew I'd be enjoying the traditional NOLA food (which is far from raw).
But then I realized that I could view every day as the start of a new year! Thus, on Dec 26, I started eating my raw foods diet and have been on it every day since (minus one dinner.)
It's been so helpful within the past couple of cold days to be eating raw foods. My skin usually gets really dry in the winter, but if I eat my raw foods diet of mainly greens, nuts, and fruits, my skin has no problem (even in this 5 degree weather). Yay!
A couple of months ago I discovered a wonderful raw food blog: This Rawesome Vegan Life. You guys should check it out. It contains tons of beautiful food and photography.
Anyway, I visited it again this past weekend to find a dessert and voila! I made this tart. I really like its creamy and sweet filling surrounded by a firm crust. Next time I think I would double the crust and mousse recipe and then put it all in a springform pan.
Chocolate Mousse Tarts with Cashew Cream (adapted from This Rawesome Vegan Life)Crust: (Erika's Extras: I would double this and put in a springform pan.)
3/4 cup oats, buckwheat groats or nuts
3/4 cup raisins
1 heaping tablespoon cacao powder
1 tablespoon of raw honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
Lemon cashew cream:
1 cup soaked cashews
Juice from 1 lemon
1/4 of a banana, sliced
pinch of Himalayan pink salt
Chocolate mousse: (Erika's Extras: I would double this as well.):
1 avocado
1 cup dates
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons cacao powder
1/2 cup water, more or less as needed
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
To make the crust: pulse the oats, buckwheat groats or nuts in a food processor until they turn into crumbs. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until it all sticks together. Press into two lined tart tins and put in the fridge.
To make the cashew cream: blend all the ingredients until smooth. Set in the fridge.
To make the mousse: blend all the ingredients until smooth. Spread into the bottom of your tart crusts and cover with the cashew cream. Put back in the fridge overnight or for at least a couple hours. Dust with cacao and serve!
Erika's Extras: Make sure you have soaked cashews (which takes a couple of hours) before you start assembling. Recipe takes about 20 minutes to make and then a couple of hours to set.
Bake well and prosper!