Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cocoa Chipotle Almonds

When I was little and I wanted a snack my Mom would tell me to eat a handful of almonds.  "Almonds are the king of nuts."  she would always say.  I would always wonder why they weren't the queen of nuts, and not want to eat them thinking the raw almonds were rather bland.  Now that I am an adult I appriciate almonds for their flavor, as well as their nutritional benefits.  Mom was right, they do make a great snack and keep the hunger monster at bay.  I was feeling like I needed some more good high protein snacking options as of lately, so what better then some sort of jazzed up almond?  The Mexican hot cocoa I often make, gave me the idea to put the same flavors onto an almond.  So I whisked together some cocoa, maple sugar, chipotle powder, cinnamon and sea salt and adhered it to the almonds with some agave nectar.  I then baked the almonds to toast them, coated them in more of the mixture, and as soon as they were just cool enough, I dove in!  Forget just having a snack I had a few...what can I say, toasted nuts right out of the oven are addictive!

Cocoa Chipotle Almonds
Makes 4 cups

4 cups whole raw almonds
2 Tbsp agave nectar
3 Tbsp maple sugar
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp  plus 1/8 ground chipotle powder
1 1/2 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, line a sheet pan with foil and spray with non-stick spray.  In a large bowl, toss almonds with agave nectar until well coated.  In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, chipotle powder, and sea salt, then pour 2/3 of the mixture over almonds (reserving last 1/3) and toss well to coat.  Spread out on prepared baking sheet and roast in the oven for 7-10 minutes until almonds are fragrant and toasted.  Toss with remaining cocoa mixture, let cool slightly, then dive in!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Bourbon Cherry Walnut Ice Cream

 Ice cream in the winter may sound a little crazy, especially in Minnesota.  But not when you think about enjoying it over a nice warm piece of pie or crisp, or maybe a warm brownie!  As far as I am concerned though, it has no season, and I always have to have some on hand, especially for accompanying warm dessert.  I was going to make some this weekend, but I grow tired of the same flavors, so I wanted to make something a little different.  Dried fruit is good in the winter, and nuts, so I was thinking somewhere along the lines of rum raisin.  But not quite, since I have no rum.  But I did have dried cherries and bourbon, so I thought, why not soak the cherries in bourbon and pair them with toasted walnuts!  I made a maple base for the ice cream, and it went wonderfully with the tart sweet boozy cherries and almost butter brickle like walnuts.  When I tasted some of this, I decided I needed no warm dessert to serve it with.  It was fabulous on its own and deserved to be the star.  So for all of you who are crazy enough to make ice cream in the winter here you go...and don't wait until summer to make this!

Bourbon Cherry Walnut Ice Cream
Makes 5+ cups ice cream

1 cup organic dried cherries

3 cups organic full fat coconut milk, chilled
3/4 cup agave nectar or maple syrup
1 tsp maple extract
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup toasted walnuts, broken into pieces

Cover cherries with just enough bourbon to cover, and let sit overnight.  Drain cherries well and set aside (reserve bourbon for another use).  Combine coconut milk and all ingredients except cherries and walnuts in a food processor, and process until well blended. Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and process according to package directions (mine takes about an hour, and is still a little soupy like the consistency of a malt, but firms up in the freezer later). Stir cherries and walnuts into the ice cream, pour into freezable container with a lid, and place in the freezer for at least a few hours, or overnight to firm up for best results. Makes about 4 cups of delicious ice cream!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Toasted Coconut Date Sandwich Cookies

When you think of cookies to make around Christmas, coconut date cookies probably don't come to mind.  But for whatever reason, I really wanted to make something with toasted coconut and dates and decided that I would include such a cookie in my Christmas cookie baking.  If anything, it would remind me of being somewhere warm and without cold and ice...very different from Minnesota right now. 

I came up with a toasted coconut cookie with triple coconut whammy in the form of toasted coconut, coconut oil, and coconut extract.  I made the cookies little, because when making Christmas cookies, you want to be able to eat more than just one! 

The cookie on its own was delicious, but I wanted to include dates as well, and not simply throw in chopped ones, so I made a citrus date filling to sandwich the little cookies together (those that were left after I snacked on some when they came out of the oven).  The cookies were wonderful.  The sweetness in them coming from the natural sweet flavor of the dates and coconut.  The toasted flavor of the cookie played well off the sweet citrusy date filling.  Christmas or not, coconut and date lovers add these to your cookies to make!

Toasted Coconut Date Sandwich Cookies
makes about 2 dozen

1 cup maple sugar, or granulated organic sugar
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup Earth Balance vegan buttery spread at room temperature
1/2 cup pureed silken tofu
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp coconut extract
1/2 cup agave nectar
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup toasted finely shredded unsweetened coconut
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt

3/4 cup pitted medjool dates
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp lemon zest
3 Tbsp orange juice
2 tsp orange zest
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
a large pinch of sea salt

In a large bowl, combine buttery spread and coconut oil with sugar and beat until fluffy and well combined. Beat in the tofu, vanilla extract, coconut extract, and agave nectar until well combined. In a smaller bowl, whisk together flour, coconut, salt, baking powder, then add to the large bowl, and mix until well combined, and place in the fridge to chill until firm (preferably overnight). To bake, Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll balls into about 2 inch balls, and place on prepared cookie sheets a couple inches apart (refrigerate unused dough while baking the other trays). Bake for about 10-12 minutes, until puffed and just starting to brown slightly (but do not overbake!). Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan a few minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining cookies.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Bread...Julekake

My Grandma Lyons always made many wonderful baked goods around Christmas.  Lots of cookies were always available for enjoyment at her house, and she always gave them away by the tin to friends and family members.  But that wasn't the only thing she made around the holidays, she made a Scandanavian Christmas bread, called Julekake as well.  It was studded with jewel like fruits and had subtle hints of cardamom, only slightly sweet, but delicious!  She has been gone for a few years now, and I haven't had a slice of julekake since, so this year I decided to make myself some!  I do not have her recipe, so I created my own. 

It is different than hers in that I did not use the neon bright candied fruit with the red and green food coloring, I opted for the more natural dried fruit.  Also, she used to put a powdered sugar glaze atop hers, and I went for simply sprinkling sugar on top to simplify but still give sweetness.  I am sure in hers she used butter milk, and eggs, but mine contains only coconut milk and oil to give it richness.  It was fun making the bread, and imagining what my Grandma would have said if we had been making it together. 

As different as it ended up being from her bread, it was good, and still remeniscent of hers.  It still had the little pops of flavor from the jewel like fruit, the subtle sweetness and hint of cardamom.  I think Grandma Lyons would have been proud!  Here is my recipe if you would like to make some!

My Julekake
makes 2 loaves

1/2 cup coconut oil
2 cups coconut milk
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
3 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups bread flour
2 pkgs rapid rise yeast
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dried apricots, quartered
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup crasins
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried currants
coconut oil
turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Warm coconut oil with coconut milk and agave nectar and extracts. In a large bowl, combine 4 cups of flour with dry ingredients. Add milk mixture and mix until well combined. Stir in fruit, and gradually add remaining flour; knead dough until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Shape dough into a ball, and place in a greased bowl. Cover. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Punch dough down and shape into 2 loaves. Place each in a greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Brush tops of loaves with coconut oil, and sprinkle with sugar. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk, 45 to 50 minutes. Bake at 375 degrees F for 40 to 50 minutes or until lightly browned and internal temperature registers 190 degrees.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Minty Melting Moments

When discussing which type of cookies I should make this year for Christmas, my Mom suggested melting moments.  She told me I had to make them.  She said they were so good and so melt in your mouth with the cornstarch and powdered sugar along with their subtle sweetness!  Of course she suggested them, I remember when I was about 5 she bought a cookie press to make a cute design in the top of cookies like melting moments, and that press came with a recipe for them.  She made them for years after that, and they became one of her favorite Christmas cookies.  In my mind, they were good, but never really stood out.  But I thought, what the heck, I can make them this year anyhow, and put my own spin on them.  I searched forever for the recipe she used to use but came up empty.  I found another one in a magazine, but wasn't quite happy with it so I tweaked it a little to my liking (since I never leave recipes alone).  When my Mom made melting moments, she did not make sandwich cookies, but I have seen that some people do.  I wanted to do this with mine this time. 

I decided that I wanted a vanilla mint cookie with a mint fudge filling...Christmassy all the way, but non-traditional.  I am never traditional when it comes to recipes.  I wanted to tint the dough a lovely light green to hint at the presence of the mint...and it was a beautiful hue! 

I thought it would be even more beautiful if I rolled the cookies in this light green finishing sugar I had in my cupboard, but it was nowhere to be found.  I must have used it in another recipe a while back, so I used plain sparkling white sugar instead.  I feel that every cookie tray at Christmas should have some sparkle.  The melting moments sans the filling were delicious.  The light mint and vanilla flavor married well with the light cookie.  But the finished cookies with the fudge were amazing!  The fudge was a simple mixture of agave nectar and cocoa powder enhanced with vanilla and mint.  So simple but so decadent tasting and perfect for the inside of my cookies. 

They were scrumptious, and I ate way too many.  But you are allowed extra cookie tasting around the Holidays. Now I know why they are called melting moments.  It takes only a moment to devour them.  Here is my recipe so you can bake up a batch if you wish!

Minty Melting Moments
Makes 16 sandwich cookies

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup (12 Tbsp) Earth Balance vegan butter
about 6 drops natural green food coloring (plant based)

3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp peppermint extract
granulated sugar for dipping

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup agave nectar
a good pinch of sea salt
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp peppermint extract

Preheat oven to 300, and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and sea salt. In a large bowl, beat butter, green food coloring, powdered sugar, vanilla, and peppermint until smooth, then beat in the flour mixture until well combined.  Roll the dough by the rounded Tbsp into balls. Dip top half of balls in granulated sugar, and place on baking sheet, sugared side up.  Press down slightly with the bottom of a glass, and bake for 10 minutes until just set.  Cool completely on a wire rack.  To make filling, whisk all ingredients together in a bowl until smooth.