A “Healthy” Treat

Occasionally, my sweet tooth hits an insatiable level, as I’ve mentioned before. In those moments, when my sugar cravings are hulking out, I have been attempting to enjoy sweet treats that have some redemptive scrap of nutritional value. Having finally wearied of turning on the oven to bake chick-pea based cookies (which are still delicious, by the way), I decided it was time to look into a no-bake option – it is summer after all.

Ingredients to Assemble:

  • 1 cup creamy peanut-butter (I used the organic kind, because it’s supposedly better for you…)
  • 2/3 c. honey
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1 & 1/4 c. chocolate (I used semi-sweet chips, but whatever you have handy can work, as long as it’s chopped into small bits)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 c. flaked coconut

Step 1 of 2 (aka. this is going to be easy)

Mix everything but the oats and coconut in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring regularly, until it is one smooth, melted-together consistency. Healthy-ish

Step 2 of 2 (a no brainer)

Add in the oats and coconut and stir it up. Then scrape the whole gooey mixture into a pan that you have lined with tin-foil and non-stick-sprayed as much as possible! Throw this into the refrigerator to set before you slice them up!healthy . . . glue?

When they are done, slice them up and enjoy! Just remember to store these suckers in the fridge or they will melt!bites of fake-healthy goodness

It is probably worth mentioning that these are by no mean low-calorie. . . which is why the “healthy” is in quotation marks. HOWEVER, they have no butter, no straight sugar (except in those chocolate chips, I’m sure), no processed oils, and (probably arguably) some nutritional value (ahem: oats and protein, man).

SO . . . while not exactly guilt-free, probably better than your average candy bar, yes? eat them!!

Advertisements

Shake it, Shake-a-Shake Shake it!

This is my blender. I love it.

 

via

I am currently in love with making shakes, and not the Chik-fil-A/insanely delicious/add-five-pounds kind. I’ve been having some healthy smoothies to replace breakfast and as a snack here and there, and I’m loving them. Here are my two favorite healthy shakes of late:

The Breakfast Smoothie:

  • 1/2 Scoop Raw Protein Powder (I use Vanilla)
  • 2 Tbsp flax seed
  • 1 c. almond milk (or Soy, if you don’t like Almond – I love Trader Joe’s Unsweetened Vanilla almond milk!)
  • 1 c. frozen mango
  • 1 banana

The Sweet-Tooth Snack/Dessert Shake:

  • 1 banana, frozen in chunks in advance
  • 1 c. almond or soy milk
  • 1 Tbsp Cocoa
  • 1 Tbsp peanut-butter (you can go healthy or not here, I just use whatever is on hand!)
  • 1 Tbsp truvia/stevia (optional, but it makes it more of a dessert)

Give them a try if you’re looking for some healthy goodness this spring/summer, I promise you won’t be disappointed (unless you’re expecting a handspun Chik-fil-A chocolate milkshake – my personal gold standard for unhealthily decadent shakes, which these are not). Enjoy! I would love any suggestions from readers for other shakes . . .

Do you have any favorite combos?

Pink Cake

Today is a berry-flavor kind of day!

Sometimes, when you need to make something deliciously dessert-y, you just don’t feel up to the sexy-levels of chocolate or the stickiness of caramel, am I right? Lets face it, sometimes the last thing you want is MORE hot(t) or sticky! Welcome to the summer desserting dilemma . . . I know, I know, this post is slightly ahead of its season.  However, in case you are facing one of these moments of desperation, I would not want you to remain sans resources within my power to provide. (I’m like a recipe philanthropist?) On those rare occasions where I can’t stomach the idea of caramel or chocolate, I find myself turning to some new stand-by flavors, and a coworker of mine was gracious enough to share the delectable recipe for the decadent Raspberry-flavored goodness to follow.

Now, I believe this delightful delicacy originally had some fancy name that involved the words lace and layer, but I never remember it, so I like to simplify and call this Pink Cake.  Because . . .  its pink.

 Maybe it’s the primarily girly stereotype attached to this magnificent color, but the whole luscious confection (complete with layers of raspberry preserves, white cake, and pink frosting!) just screams “ladylike” and “delicious”. . .

Maybe I should start calling it Luscious Lady Cake. . .?

(But I feel like that sounds a little cannibalistic…or slightly awkward)

I could also just call it Magic By The Cake . . . since I’m pretty sure tasting this cake might possibly transport the eater to a magical tea-party where everyone is wearing pink hats, white organza, and spotless gloves with pearl buttons in a sunlit pavillion. That’s not all, the truly magic part is that nobody is uncomfortable in this strange tea-party world . . . and all this because you happen to be enjoying some Pink Cake. Probably accompanied by Pink Lemonade and cucumber sandwiches while the scent of peonies and lilacs wafts all around you. . .

In any case, what’s in a name? This cake is tasty. You should probably try it . . .

SO, please read on for the complete recipe for this cakely beauty. 

First, gather all requisite ingredients listed below:

Pink CAKE!

Then it’s time to follow directions! 
2013-01-23_19-53-54_857

After that, all that’s left is to don your white gloves (literally or figuratively) and sink your teeth into a bite of this fluffy, raspberry-filled goodness!

Feel free to sip tea from a china cup, and go ahead and crook your pinky while you’re at it . . . this cake deserves all the fancy ceremony  you might feel like giving it. 

Let me know if you give it a try!

Chinese Dumplings

Once upon a time, when I lived in France, I studied with a girl from China named Wenxuan.

(Say “oo-en-shh-won” really fast and you’ve got it.) 

One day, Wenxuan agreed to teach myself (and two other friends from class) how to make true Chinese Dumplings. . . So we gathered in the little quintessential southern French kitchen, and began the process. I took copious notes . . . and a few pictures!

A Recipe For Chinese Dumplings

A Note on Dumpling Filler or “Stuffing”: It’s really a matter of taste! You can make stuffing out of whatever suites your taste: beef, fish, pork, chicken, even sweet things . . . basically the only rule is that the dumpling filling must be chopped very finely.

The mixtures that we tried:

Stuffing #1:    Pork, Black Mushrooms,  1 egg, Chopped Leeks, Salt, Sesame Oil

Stuffing #2: Fish (cod or tuna, I believe), CornLeeks, egg yolksome Sesame Oil  (As a whole, the fish filling was less sticky, less delicious and, ultimately, more watery) 

Making the Dough:

Ingredients: All purpose flour and Water.

***There are no real measurements in this recipe, just keep adding and mixing and kneading! I know, this is ridiculously frustrating, but it’s just the way Wenxuan did it! I would start with two cups of flower, if you’re feeling stuck . . .

Directions:

1.) Pour flower into a bowl.

2.) Make a hole in the middle of the pile of flour and fill with Tepid water

3.) Knead FOREVER: you’re trying for a very supple, hard, smooth dough

4.) Add water as needed, it’s good to keep a little cup on hand!

5.) When you have a good dough consistency, leave in a round and let sit for 30 minutes.

6.) Get out a flat cutting board (wooden if possible) and a knife.

7.) Role dough out into a long snake like roll.

8.) Put flour on the board and slice the dough-snake into more manageable pieces (see below!). Using the palm, press them down into flatter rounds. Then, using a rolling pin, roll out thin rounds in desired size. We did about 3 inch rounds. Make sure the edges aren’t too thick.

9.) Put as much stuffing as you would like in the center of the round and fold in that wonderful flowery way of the Chinese Dumpling (sometimes called “potstickers”)!

(My pathetic attempt at explaining how to fold: First fold the circle it in half over the filling, creating a half circle with a pillow-full of whatever you’ve put inside – a little like a canolli that you seal off. Then pleat the edges twice on each side, starting from both of the ends and forming the two pleats inward toward the middle of the dumpling! It’s hard to explain, and it took us a little while to figure it out, even with a helper. The good news is:  I’m sure there are some pretty boss tutorials out there somewhere, if you feel like you need to youtube search to give you a hand!)

10.) Tip: Get a finger-bowl of water and use to help stick the edges of the dough together.

11.) When all is prepared, dumplings can be frozen or immediately cooked… Also, there are multiple ways to fold dumplings . . . Wenxuan was awesome at it and showed off a little after much encouragement!

12.) If preparing the dumplings immediately, you must bring a large pot of water to a boil (kind of like you would for Ravioli!).

13.) Add dumplings to hot water, stirring as they are added to avoid sticking.

14.) When the water comes to a boil, add some cold water and continue stirring. Repeat this step 2-3 times. Before removing all dumplings from the water, test one to make sure the dumplings are well cooked.

15.) Serve warm (sauce optional) and Enjoy!

Sunday Afternoons and Chocolate Chip Cookies

There is something about Sunday afternoons. They are an exquisite blend of relaxation, nostalgia, and productivity. Usually by Sunday afternoon I have already done my weekend cleaning and laundry routine and can dance towards slightly more indulgent (but still handy) pass-times; like baking. My family never did “Sunday Dinners”. . . in fact, Sunday was the “fend-for-yourself” dinner day. I distinctly remember going through a phase of eating potato-bread and peanut-butter toast. Exclusively. Lack of Sunday dinner didn’t mean lack of tasty food, however, and Sunday afternoons were always an opportune time for baking. Today, after my Mom headed home following her visit chez moi, I got home from church and gave into my nostalgia-driven baking urges with a classic.

Now, not to toot my own horn or anything, but I consider myself something of an accomplished chocolate chip cookie-baker. Once, during college, while on a quest to find the greatest chocolate chip cookie recipe, I baked over a thousand chocolate chip cookies. Friends came through the apartment, offering to taste (so accommodating) and giving opinions. I have a very fond memory of one apartment-boyfriend coming in with his own jug of milk in hand, ready to put all 4 recipes heartily to the test. Although reviews were mixed, and the challenge results were inconclusive, the above recipe was rated highest in overal taste and appearance, both before and after cooking! And you wouldn’t believe how in-depth these evaluations were. .  .

As an added perk, they’re also one of the easiest recipes to whip up! Just set the oven to 350 degrees, cream together butter, margarine, crisco and sugars, add in all other ingredients in the order listed and then pop them into the oven for about 11 minutes a tray. They always turn out beautifully!

The trick to these cookies is that, like with most baked goods, over-baking is the kiss of death. Take them out of the oven just before you think they’re really done and they will stay nice and chewy!

Voilà! Or, as the car in front of me on the way to church put it:

It’s just that easy! Now ditch the potato bread and that jar of Skippy and whip up some tasty cookies!

You won’t regret it!

How to Make A Millionaire!

Dorothy Parker, a female writer before female writers were “de jour”, once said,

Well, I completely empathize with Dorothy, but sadly I can’t give you the secret to making millions. HOWEVER, I can give you my new favorite recipe for Millionaire Bars that will make you swoon like preteens at a Twilight Premiere.

Ingredients to Gather:

milk chocolate (I used chips, one big bag or two small ones)

2 cans sweetened condensed milk

2 sticks plus 2 Tbsp butter

2/3 c. sugar

2 c. flour

1/2 tsp. salt

Sea Salt ( for sprinkling on top of chocolate if you want it!)

Just so you know, this whole recipe should probably be prepared a little in advance of when you’d like to serve them. Millionaire Bars are not highly hands-on or time consuming to make, but there are definite steps to this process which involve cooling time, so if you’re looking for a last-minute wonder-dessert, I’d try something else!

First, make the shortbread. Wash your hands, because you’re gonna get up close and personal with these guys. Put the 2 sticks of softened butter, the flour, and the sugar into a bowl and then mush it all together with your fingers until it looks like a coarse sand. Then, spray down a pan and press the crumbles down so that they mush into a dough. Bake these for 20 minutes at 350 F (or until the edges start to look golden!)

Set these out to cool, because you’ll want them pretty chilled for the next step. When they’re room temp OR (if you’re like me and highly impatient) in the fridge, pull out a heavy-bottomed saucepan (I used a wok, because that’s what was handy) and throw in the 2 cans of sweetened condensed milk and the 2 Tbsp of butter. Stir these slowly over medium heat until the sugary goodness starts to turn more caramelly colored. The longer you stir, the more of a caramel-like consistency you will get. I’ve heard about 15-20 minutes recommended, if you’re going to shoot for a ball-park time, but it really does depend on your oven-heat and what consistency you’re going for. I recommend less time for people of the fragile tooth persuasion! 20 minutes was chewy. Like, hang-with-Han-Solo-speak-in-strangely-llama-like-sounds Chewy.

When this ambrosia is finally to your desired consistency, spread it over your (relatively)chilled shortbread to set a bit. It will still look gooey when you pour the chocolate on, so don’t stress! Get ready to melt down your chocolate with your favorite chocolate-melting process. I know double boilers are highly recommended, but seeing as I don’t have a real one (substitutes aren’t my favorite since I always end up grabbing the scalding-hot bowl when using the improvised version), and impatience is my vice, I usually go for the microwave-40-seconds-at-a-time-stir-repeat-til-melty method.  Highly effective.

When your chocolate is melted and spread over your gooey caramelly, shortbready goodness, sprinkle a little sea salt on top before sticking the whole lot into the fridge until the chocolate has set. Slice into bars (or little candy bite-sizes if you want a fabulous finger food!) and serve with enthusiasm. Your audience will LOVE them. Or you can just hoard them.

They’re fairly simple to make, right? And highly tasty. You can store them at room temp (so no worries, making these is not renouncing your fridge space for a week!) if there are any leftover!

Anybody know why these are called “millionaire” bars?

A Bark You’ll Want To Bite!

Post-holiday confession: I don’t really like candy-canes. 

via

I mean, of all the sugar in the world to ingest, they’re at the bottom of the totum poll. I actually would rather have roasted brussel sprouts than candy-canes. . . but there is just something so darned festive about them! I can’t seem to go through a Christmas without buying at least one box, and – let’s face it- there’s only so much peppermint hot chocolate a girl can take!

via

After throwing away a near-full box last year, I decided that I would be much more clever this year and I set about Project Candy-Cane Upcycle 101 with vigor.

After rifling through my pantry, I found (among other and sometimes scary things) a bag of white chocolate wafers and a bag of red chocolate wafers. Clearly, I should be looking in my pantry more often. But that aside, I immediately set about making my very first PEPPERMINT BARK!

First, I melted the white chocolate, about 45 seconds at a time (my microwave is a little weak), stirring in between with a spoon because white chocolate has this bad tendency to become hott clumps of burning chunky lava that just won’t melt if you’re not watching. (While I impatiently waited, I took the time to crush up some of my extraneous candy-canes!)

Then, I melted the red chocolate the same way that I did the white (carefully!), but I made sure to stir the white chocolate so it wouldn’t harden again while I wasn’t paying attention. I also crushed up a few more candy canes at this point.

I recommend the old put-them-in-a-zipbloc-beat-them-with-a-rolling-pin trick.

So effective; gets the job done AND relieves any stress or angst you might be feeling while you’re at it!

When the red chocolate was almost melted, I laid out the wax paper and started to pour the white chocolate.

That looked just great, but since the whole idea was to get rid of as many candy canes as possible, I put a thin layer of candy-cane dust (maybe I was a little stressed or something, because I definitely had lots of the too-small dust variety “pieces) over the white chocolate.

Next, I unceremoniously dumped all of the melted red chocolate over the spread-out layer of white chocolate. I spread it out as evenly as I could without blending chocolates (I wasn’t going for the pink look) and THEN (my favorite part), I got to use my favorite fake-decorating technique to make the colors blend. To achieve this technique you take a typically-tined salad fork and artfully (playfully, even) twirl it through the layers of soft chocolate. This is so simple that, should you feel disinclined, you could probably let a two-year old do it. But people will still be impressed.

See?

The only thing left to do is sprinkle it GENEROUSLY with peppermint crumbles (shards/dust/etc) and pop it in the Fridge (or onto your back porch) to harden!

Isn’t it beautiful? I wish I could take more credit for it, but it really isn’t that hard.

Once it is nice and hard (don’t rush this part or try to cheat with the freezer or it’ll look funny – SERIOUSLY!) then you get to essentially undo all your putting-together-work and break it up into delicious and aesthetically pleasing shards of peppermint bark!

I like that this peppermint bark is especially bright and that the chocolate is mostly layered by color – it makes for a nice overall “look”.

See the layers?

Now the only thing left to do is to box it up and give it as a fun gift!

Or, you know, if you’re feeling like sticking it to your New Years Health Resolution, go ahead and eat it. . . I had a piece (you know, just to make sure it was edible) and it was DE-licous!

Far better than a mere candy-cane, if you ask me.