Thursday, June 5, 2014

Gluten-free Shortbread Cookies

New experiment! I found a recipe here that looked worth trying, but couldn't resist tweaking it by adding in some almond butter. Since I was a little skeptical, I planned to make a 1/3 batch. In fact, I added the butter as if it were a 1/3 batch. And just realized that I only halved the rest of it... I should know better than to not write it all down! So now I understand why I had to add more moisture.

I also was skeptical of the cook temp/time. She says 300º for 20-30 minutes, but that surprised me. Since we had lasagna in the oven at the same time, I did half of them at the typical 350º for 20 minutes, and the other half at 300º for 25 minutes.

And good news! They turned out! The temperature really didn't seem to matter and there wasn't even a coffee flavor from my chosen milk substitute. In my opinion, they were VERY dry. Too dry. I guess because of all of the corn starch, so if I experiment again I will be sure not to use such a starchy recipe. They might be good with tea or coffee, I'll try that tomorrow.


Here's what I did in full batch amounts, in case you are feeling adventurous, too:

Gluten-Free Shortbread Cookies
Makes 32 cookies. 10 minutes to blend, 60 to chill, 20 to cook

1/2 cup cornstarch
1 cup brown rice flour (you can make your own!)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
6 Tbs butter, room temperature
2 Tbs almond butter
3 Tbs milk/replacement (approximate! I used a protein-enriched coffee dairy drink)

1. Sift together the cornstarch, rice flour and powdered sugar.
2. Cut in the butter and almond butter with a pastry blender (or knife and fork, that's what I had) at first, then mix with a big fork or a spoon.
3. Add in liquid about  teaspoon at a time and stir well between additions. You want JUST enough liquid to make it stick together.
4. Make a 'log' of cookie dough down the center of a piece of plastic wrap and roll up. Chill for AT LEAST an hour. These don't get as firm as typical shortbread cookies because of the lower butter content. They are a bit lower in fat, though!
5. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Parchment paper makes them easier to remove from the pan.
6. Let cool at least 10 minutes and enjoy!

Nutrition info per 3 cookies: 116 Calories, 5.8g Fat, 15.4g Carbs, 1.3g protein

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The bounty of the CSA!

When I was in Morocco I ate loads of really fresh, really local produce. Local produce is cheaper and better quality there, so there is no good reason to go to the grocery store and pay more for an inferior product. Unless you really don't feel like talking to someone that day, then it's understandable. Or you can skip the produce all together.

I missed all of that deliciousness after I got home and decided to seriously splurge on food: I got a CSA subscription. Ours delivers for only $3 extra per box, which is totally worth it to forgetful me and Mr. More Calories. I love opening the box and seeing what I am going to try to incorporate into our meals. Sometimes I really don't know and I give stuff away. It's super fun to me! So this week I cleaned off the counter and laid out our beautiful bounty before using any of it.


Mr. More Calories accused me of using too much flash. I pointed out that it is NOT flash, it's the reflection of our lights!

If you're curious, starting in the top row we have:
Cabbage
"Summer mix" squash (I like the fun green-tipped yellow ones!)
(Row Two:) Slicing cucumber, green beans, rainbow chard
(Row Three:) Leeks, banana peppers, orange and red carrots, flat parsley.

Actually, I should go throw some of that parsley into the lasagna MMC is making...

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Baba a l'orange - Or an easy, fancy-seeming French dessert

Last week I was watching a French competition show, "Who will be the next great pastry chef." I *love* it, it's a Top Chef kind of set up, with 15 or so people competing to be a master chef. I forget what the prize is, they don't repeat it ten trillion times. I happen to like the French version better because each episode is 2.5 hours, giving them time to really describe what's going on. They are also much less bitchy and dramatic, which is a nice change. With YouTube's 'watch later' function, I can easily pause when I have to do Real Things and then come back when I have time again.

The classic of this is Baba au rhum, which is a cake that is allowed to sponge up a rum and simple syrup mixture. And I didn't have any rum. I like it well enough, but apparently I am more likely to buy tequila and vodka. Luckily, I also had orange liqueur, purchased to go with that tequila in a delicious margarita. Ah, summer!

This is a good dessert to make because it's simple, yet impressive-sounding. Plus the alcohol is added to a syrup that the cake is soaked in once everything is a bit cool, leaving it very noticeable! You could also use maple syrup if you prefer, I just wouldn't use so much. Oooooh, or coffee! Or coffee with kahlua and Bailey's.... I may need to make this again next week.

It was very simple to make, but at stages it was very surprising, too. The 'dough' at one point looked like Gak - that stretchy putty/clay stuff they sold on Nickelodeon when I was a kid. But it turned out delicious, so do not worry! Check out the original in the book for how to make it in a stand mixer, I used a hand mixer and detail that below.


Baba à l'orange (based on Dorie Greenspan's "Paris Sweets" recipe)
Makes 12 mini cakes     Bake time: 30 minutes      Prep time: 30 minutes    Wait time:  30 minutes
Total time: 90 minutes or less

Dough:
1/3 cup water, room temperature
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) yeast
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, room temperature
6 tablespoons unsalted butter

- Butter a 12-muffin muffin tin and set it aside. Melt butter and allow to cool while you do the next few steps.
- Stir water, yeast and sugar together in a deep bowl, that is unlikely to let things be 'thrown' by your mixer. (I ended up with dough all over!) Once the yeast is dissolved, add the flour and salt. Use the dough attachments to beat on medium low for two minutes, until the ingredients look like they are holding together more than falling apart. Mine varied in size from peas to tablespoons.
- Switch to the regular beater attachments. Add two eggs and beat on low for 3 minutes. Add the other two eggs and beat on low until they are incorporated, and turn up to medium for as long as you can. The dough was really climbing my beaters at this point, so even with pushing it down it only lasted about 1 1/2 minutes.
- Add the cooled butter and beat for as long as you can stand, up to five minutes. I probably lasted 1 minute here because the dough climbed the beaters almost into the motor!

This is when the dough was gak-like. The picture below is not an action shot, it really held together like that! It was hard to even separate some to put into the tin.

- Divide the gak 'batter' among the muffin tins, which will be 1/3-1/2 full. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 25-30 minutes.
- When almost risen, place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350ºF.
- Uncover the tin, and place in the oven. Prop the oven door open with a then wooden spatula or other heat-proof utensil. Bake for 23-28 minutes, or until golden brown. (Make the booze syrup while they bake!)
- When done, place tin on cooling rack. Let cool in tin for 5 minutes, then turn out to cool completely.

Syrup:
1 1/4 cup water
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup orange liqueur (Make sure you like the way it tastes! I used good stuff) (Of course, you could replace this with a lower amount of any flavoring you like.)

- Bring the water and sugar to a low boil in a saucepan. Pour the syrup into a deep bowl and allow to cool until just before you want to soak the cakes. The deep bowl is important to make soaking the cakes easier.
- Right before soaking, add the liqueur to the syrup and stir well.

To soak:
- Poke each cake 5-10 times with a toothpick, to help it absorb the syrup.
- Put each cake into the syrup and flip a few times, letting soak for about a minute each.
- Repeat with all of the cakes. If there is any syrup left, spoon it over the top of them!

Extra syrup spooned over the top, in a pan to help it all stay in
That's it! You can fill them with whipped cream if you like, but we enjoyed them as-is. Mr. More Calories was surprised at how different they are from things he's had before. I admit that they were time consuming, but very easy!

Monday, April 7, 2014

However you want' em brownies!


I love the cocoa brownie recipe from Smitten Kitchen, most of all because it's so flexible. I've done loads of adjusting to this recipe for different reasons, but here's the way I made it tonight that has be excited again. The texture turned out pretty darn great - thick and fudgy - even though I used whey protein, which can make baked goods too cakey. I added some ground chia to combat that, since it absorbs water, and I think it worked!

However you want 'em cocoa brownies
Serves 16-25

1/4 c brewed coffee
5 T butter, melted
5 T applesauce (or yogurt, mashed banana, or pumpkin - each gives a slightly different texture and flavor)
3/4 plus 2 T cocoa
1/4 t salt
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c honey
2 T chia seeds, ground
2 eggs
1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder (27-30g)
3 T white whole wheat flour

Pre-heat oven to 325º F. Grease 8x8 pan
Melt butter. Grind chia seeds (in blender or coffee grinder). Mix first 8 ingredients (to chia.)
Add eggs, blend.
Add whey protein and flour and mix JUST until combined.
Bake at 325ºF for 35 (30-40) minutes until a toothpick inserted center keeps the brownie color, but doesn't look wet.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Chocolate Beet Brownies with extra protein!

Since I mostly put these up for me (notice there aren't any ads?) and I'm spending way too much time in front of a computer lately, I figured that I will put things up without pretty writing around it.

Goal: Treats that are food, not sugar and empty calories. More 'real' food and protein here.
Ingredients to use: Beets and chocolate

Inspiration recipes:
http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=1698774
http://thesmartcookieblog.com/chocolate-frosted-sweet-potato-beet-cake/


Chocolate Beet Brownies (cakey!)
Serves: 12-16

130g beets (3 small beets, about 1.5 cups of my shred)
1/2c unsweetened applesauce
2 eggs
2T olive oil
1/4 c maple syrup
2 scoops (54 g) vanilla whey protein
1/2c cocoa
1/2t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/4c white whole wheat flour
1/4 c mini chocolate chips

1. Grate the beets. Mine were finely grated. Preheat oven to 350 and grease a baking pan (8x8, 9x9 or 11x7 should all work)
2. Mix wet ingredients in a large bowl.
3. Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
4. Add dry to wet, mix to combine.
5. Bake at 350 for 25 min (or til toothpick is clean!)

Nutrition facts for bar 1/12th of recipe: Cal - 97     Fat - 4.2g      Carbs - 11.7g     Protein - 5.5g

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Quick Vegan Lentil TVP bolognese

I am a fan of both lentils and TVP to sub for ground beef. But either can get boring. Lentils have a nice texture, but... I don't know, they just aren't quite right. And TVP doesn't have quite enough bite to it for me. Luckily Mr. More Calories brought me some TVP from home and it's probably enough to last me comfortably for the next two months, hooray!

Tonight I thought about blending the two. I've been working harder to prepare things ahead here because there are so few convenience foods that I want to eat. Yes, there is plenty of inexpensive street food, but a lot of it is so salty and meat-based and it's just not what I want to be eating. I don't even like to eat at restaurants often at home. I keep frozen lentils on hand here because they take a while to cook, and it's not that much longer to cook 3 cups than it is to cook the one half I might possibly eat. If you drain them well before freezing, they are really easy to break up without thawing, too.

btw, yes, the name bolognese means it's got meat in Italian, but it's meat-substitute, right? Good enough for me.

Quick Lentil TVP Bolognese
Serves: 1

1/4 cup cooked lentils
2 T TVP
3 T tomato paste
1/4 t salt (or to taste)
1/2 t basil
1/2 t oregano
1/8 t paprika
dash cayenne
2/3 c water

Put everything into a sauce pan and heat over medium until hot.


I ate this with about a cup and a half of spiral pasta. I don't know the proper names for it, but it held the lentils and TVP really well!


Nutrition info: Cal - 250   Fat - 1g    Protein - 21g    Carbs - 42g

Monday, October 14, 2013

New recipe try - but fail

I went to start lunch at 11:40.
Kinda later than I meant, but still before I was actually hungry.
Put the pot on with water for lentils (b/c I had looked up a decent soup recipe) and then got out the lentils to sort them.
Sorting them is important always, according to my mom, but I have definitely found rocks, etc in them here.
I noticed some sort of white speckling on them, but honestly didn't think much. Picked out two rocks.
Until I saw a dead bug. The kind I've seen on my bottom shelf and put bags, etc around the sugar, flour and cookies to combat.
But it wasn't in the sugar/flour/cookies, maybe because they were protected. It was dead. In the lentils.
Didn't think much, continued, and saw second Mr. Dead Bug. Probably Ms, actually.
Then I looked more closely at the speckles because they certainly weren't there before.
And at the bag of lentils, about 2/3 full. And could see from the outside many other nasty, annoying dead bugs. And lots of holey lentils.
So apparently there is some kind of little weevil thing that likes lentils and other 'pulses.' Jerks.
Googled it, apparently those speckles are eggs and the holes may have more. Or, better yet, larvae.
Some people say cook it and they'll be dead, you can skim them off.
Or freeze 48 hours to kill them, then sort, cook and eat as usual.
Lentils into trash. Next bag will be stored in freezer, as this is apparently a decent option and it's not like you can buy a lot of frozen foods here anyway.
Ate tuna melt, particularly pleased that I had though to pick up tuna on the way home last night.
And more than a bit grossed out by the lentil guys.

What would you have done?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Ovenless Carrot Cake!

I am having an amazing afternoon snack of freshly baked Carrot Cake. I am thrilled by it.

When I was little, my mom almost always had an after school snack for us. Cookies or cake or popcorn or who knows what. To be honest, I mostly remember cookies. There may have been other things. It was so consistant that we would sometimes have other people drop in. They were boys, just older than my sister, and I kind of wonder if she was the one to make it sometimes to get them to come over...

In Morocco lunch is the main meal of the day, often around 1 or 2pm, and dinner might not be until 9 or 10. So there is a 'casse-croute' around 5 or 6pm a lot of times, because who can last 8 hours between meals?? Coffee or tea and bready treats with jam or butter or olive oil or honey. I need to learn how to make a bunch of those things, but that will take time. I have also been bemoaning the typical lack of oven, as you saw with the biscuits, and found a crazy idea to bake on a panini press. For whatever reason panini press-like electric grills are common, and one came in my furnished apartment, so I headed out today to buy ramekins!

I started with the brilliance of CCK's single serving cakes, since I know they work well, and had to adjust for availability of ingredients and 'baking' method. Luckily I found a bunch of spices at a store nearby, including whole nutmeg! Awesome.  For all of you with access to a microwave, feel free to use the original recipe here. You can also find suggestions to decrease the calories and fat. For anyone else without an oven, or with a taste for odd methods, continue on.


Carrot Cake, 'baked' in ramekins on a panini-press 
Serves 2 (or 1 me)

1/3 cup flour (I happen to have cake flour, but at this amount I doubt it matters)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp fresh nutmeg
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 Tbs white sugar
1 tsp vanilla sugar (or use 1/4 tsp vanilla extract)
1 egg (original uses just half an egg's worth of replacer, so mine is certainly heavier, but I had no good way to keep half an egg!)
1/2 cup finely grated carrots, 
2 Tbs milk
2 tsp oil (or more milk if you'd rather)

- In a small bowl, mix dry ingredients (not carrots).
- Mix carrots and wet ingredients in a separate bowl. 
- Mix wet and dry ingredients and mix well.
- Pour into four greased ramekins (mine are 1/2 cup)

- If on press, 'bake' at just under 2 (or medium-low) for 10-15 minutes. Let the top of the press sit on the tops of the ramekins, which is why mine have the lovely grill marks on top. If using microwave, Katie says 1 minute, 20 seconds, or 350º for 15 minutes.


- Let cool a bit before wolfing down.


First attempt - heavier than the final recipe

Nutrition info: Cal: 227    Fat: 7.4g    Protein: 5.7g    Carbs: 35g    (Also has 94% of your vitamin A needs!)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Fried Apples

After looking around the interwebs, it looks like the secret to these is typically bacon grease. And of course that is an ingredient that I will have less than no access to for the next four months. Even if it sounds pretty likely. So I went with what I could get - margarine. Not exciting, but you do what you can. I suppose I could call it vegan then, eh?

With four apples I had sitting in the fridge, I used three of them.


(Vegan) Fried Apples
Serves 3-4

3 medium apples (green apples are said to be best)
3 Tbs margarine
3 Tbs sugar (brown if you have it, I had white)
1 tsp cinnamon (you could add nutmeg if you have it)

- Cut apples into thin slices (mine were 20-24 per apple.) and then in half so they're kind of small squares.
- Melt margarine in a skillet over medium-high.
- Add apples to hot skillet and make sure they are not fully stuck together. Unless you have an insanely large pan they'll be on top of each other, but that's fine.
- Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon over apples. And let cook for a several minutes.


- Stir occasionally for 10 or so minutes, until the juices are all bubbly and the apples smell amazing.
- Enjoy while still hot, preferably with some buttermilk biscuits!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Stove-top biscuits

Being in another country means adjusting ingredients and cooking methods. Let me show you around my kitchen.

First, here it is! The fridge is to the left, and there is a small set of shelves that you can see on the right. I think the stove and oven are recognizable, and to the right of those is the sink. That's right, no cabinet. Those who are more observant may notice a large bottle of gas under the counter and next to the stove. Yep, that's what we use for cooking.

And here is a closer look at my oven. You see those knobs at the top? They don't have any really levels. Just a sort of more or less. But it's not at all precise or very helpful. And you see the row of white dots in the back across the top and down the left? Those are the vent holes. I mean, I know that ovens need vents, but.... I don't think I'll be trying this thing out until it's cooler outside.


So my solution was to find a way to 'bake' on the stovetop. I easily found a recipe for "Cowboy biscuits" and decided they looked worth a try!

Of course, I haven't gotten a big enough mixing bowl yet, so I had to halve the recipe. And when I end up at a one of those "homey" chain restaurants, I like fried apples. And happened to have 4 in the fridge that are in danger of going bad. It's hard to buy less than a pound of fruit, or else you end up paying a lot more or getting lesser quality, so I have only been getting one kind at a time.

But back to the baking! Or cooking. Or whatever I should call it. First, the Stove top biscuits. You can have fried apples another day.

Stove Top Biscuits
Made 8 little biscuits (2-inches roughly)
All measurements are rough, due to lack of measuring implements

1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup butter (I had to use margarine, but butter is always better and all)
1/2 cup buttermilk (mine was vanilla flavored, lol)
- Preheat your skillet to medium if you are quick enough, or leave this until you have the biscuits almost ready.
- Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Cut in the butter however you can - pastry blender, fork and knife, or your fingers. Blend until the butter chunks are smaller than peas.
- Add the buttermilk and mix until JUST blended. Dryish spots are fine.
- Flour your counter or table and put the dough onto it. Make it stick together, and pat until it's about half an inch thick, if you don't have a lid, or a full inch if you do.
- At this point, you could cut it out with a biscuit cutter, but I just cut it into eight pieces.
- Put the biscuits into your heated skillet. Add lid if you have one.
- Cook until they start to look done at the bottom and soft on the top. The butter in them will look all wet and melted. Flip and cook until they look done through. If you are using a lid, take it off toward the end so they can get a nice crust.
- At this point, mine didn't quite look done. I actually opened up the first one, and it was basically baked, but I decided to cook the others on their sides to help them finish. Yes, I lost track of one and it got burned.
- Serve with fried apples, or whatever else sounds delicious to you.