Monday, January 28, 2013

What's Baking: Healthier Raspberry Crisp

Catherine from Pursuing Domestic Godess-ness, our hostess for What's Baking? this month, chose the theme of baking healthier.  How timely!  By this time of the month, the novelty of New Year's resolutions is starting to wear off, so this is a great way to indulge yourself but still stay on track!  Plus, you can get some great ideas for a lighter Valentine's Day dessert, as that's coming up soon--romantic dinners need not leave you in a food coma!  Better to have something a little lighter to leave you feeling better for after-dinner cuddling and smooching!  ;)

Fruit crisps are one of my favorite desserts, especially when I'm trying to make something a little healthier.  First off, they are insanely simple to whip up, especially if you use frozen berries, like I do here.  Also, fruit is healthy!  And if you use a nice sweet fruit, you don't need to use much in the way of sugar, although I add some honey here, since raspberries are pretty tart.  I always add oats to the crisp topping, so you get some protein and fiber from the whole grain.  In this recipe, since I cut down the amount of butter in the crisp topping, it won't end up being quite as crunchy, but you add some nuts instead to make up for it--these add more protein, too!  All in all, this is a pretty healthy you don't have to feel guilty about putting a scoop of ice cream on top.  Or eating it for breakfast.  Or both.  ;)

Raspberry Crisp (a Blondie original)

  • 4 c. raspberries (or any other fruit)
  • 1 Tbl. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbl. flour (only if your fruit is frozen or SUPER juicy!)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbl. honey (use less if you're using a sweeter fruit, like blueberries)
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. oats
  • 1/3 c. raw sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 c. cold butter, diced
  • 1/2 c. chopped pecans (almonds or walnuts would also work)

Toss the first 5 ingredients (fruit through honey) together until everything is well-distributed.  Pour the mixture into a greased 9x9" baking dish.

In a food processor, pulse the remaining ingredients (flours through butter) until the butter is in pea-sized pieces and is well distributed.  Mix the nuts into the topping mixture.  Sprinkle the topping over the fruit, distributing it evenly.  Bake at 375* F for 35-50 minutes (the longer time is if your fruit is frozen), or until the top is lightly brown, and the filling is hot and bubbling.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Compost Cookies

The ladies at my workplace always do a cookie and craft exchange every year around the holidays.  I always do my best for the craft part, but I'll be honest--it's not really my strong suit.  Last year, I attempted to crochet a rug out of t-shirt scraps...and it turned out shaped more like a table runner--too narrow to be a rug!  But, being the procrastinator that I am, I had waited until the last possible second to make it, so I had no time to re-do it.  This year, I got the brilliant idea to crochet a set of placemats from raffia, since many of the ladies wanted something that was more practical.  Again, I waited until the last minute, only to find out that raffia is a real pain to work with, and at about 8:45 pm on the night before the exchange, I realized that I had no hope of finishing the placemats in time (in fact, I only had about 2 rows of the first one done after working on it for 2 hours!).  After frantically checking my local craft store's hours, I gunned it to get there before they closed at 9 pm, picked up some chunky yarn, went home, got my biggest crochet hook, and cranked out a simple scarf in no time flat.  Thankfully, the recipient loved it.  Phew!

The cookie part of the exchange comes much more naturally to me!  I have a reputation for being a good cook and baker around the office, though, so I always do my best to bring my A game and to make sure I bake something slightly out of the norm.  This year, I included the molasses ginger cookies that I blogged previously (the darker cookie in the picture) along with these not-so-little gems.  These cookies are an addictive combination of salty and sweet, which is always a good thing!  And they're HUGE!  They're also very flexible--they're called compost cookies because you can use whatever mix-ins you have lying around the house!  You can use this recipe to finish up all those half-empty bags of baking ingredients and snack foods that clutter up your pantry (unless that's just me?).  I've included some ideas for mix-ins below, but the only limit is your imagination!  You'll want the mix-ins to be small enough that you can get a few per cookie, but big enough to get a contrast in texture between the different ones!  Do yourself a favor, though, and make these cookies!

Salty: potato chips, pretzels, salted roasted nuts, crackers, popcorn, cooked and crumbled bacon
Sweet: semi-sweet, milk, dark, or white chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, peanut butter chips, graham crackers, cereal, toffee bits, cookies, candy, coconut
Neutral: oatmeal, unsalted nuts

Compost Cookies (adapted from Christina Tosi, as seen on The Amateur Gourmet)

  • 1 c. butter
  • 1 c. white sugar
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1 egg plus 1 yolk
  • 1 Tbl. corn syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 c. all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. salt (yes, this seems like a lot, but it's right!)
  • 2 c. salty mix-ins (I used potato chips and pretzels)
  • 2 c. sweet mix-ins (I used mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, milk chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, and crushed graham crackers)

Thoroughly cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg and yolk, corn syrup, and vanilla until thoroughly combined.  Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and then stir the sifted ingredients into the wet ingredients until mostly mixed.  Very gently, fold in the mix-ins.

Using a 4-oz (1/4 c.) ice cream scoop, scoop the dough out onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Refrigerate at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, or freeze.  To bake, make sure the dough balls are spaced at least 4 in. away from each other on parchment paper-lined baking sheets--these cookies spread!   Bake at 350* F for 15-18 minutes, or until edges are set.  Let cool on the baking sheet, and then taste test your new favorite cookie!

*Note: if you're not using mix-ins that will absorb a fair amount of moisture (oatmeal, graham cracker crumbs, pretzel crumbs), you may need to add an additional 1/4 c. of flour to the dough.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Molasses Ginger Cookies

So, I mentioned a few posts ago that the Boyfriend had graduated to Fiancé status!  Just in time for our two year anniversary, I'm finally getting around to telling the whole story...and what a story it is!  Several months ago, Fiancé mentioned that a coworker of his had reservations at the Palladio, one of the nicest restaurants in town at one of our favorite wineries--I was pretty jealous!  It has always been on my bucket list to go there.  Fast forward a few months...we had been planning on having a weekend to ourselves, and Fiancé had promised to take me out to a nice dinner as a belated birthday celebration that weekend.  Well, a few days before our weekend, I came down with a terrible case of tonsillitis!  And that's when Fiancé told me that his coworker couldn't use his reservations at the Palladio and had offered them to us, so we had a reservation for the next day for my birthday dinner!  I promptly cleaned out every sore throat remedy at the drug store and spent the whole rest of the day hemming and hawing over whether I felt up to going out.  I finally decided that I thought I could swallow a few bites, so we headed out.

When we got there, they couldn't find our reservation (part of the plan, apparently) and had us sit and wait for a few minutes before they said they had figured out a place to put us.  We were informed that they had found a table, and we started to head back when the hostess asked Fiancé if he had a jacket, since jackets are required for the men, but he wasn't wearing one (again, part of the plan)!  He said "um....yeah, but it's at my house and would take me an hour to go get!"  He then asked if they had anything he could use, and the hostess said she would check.  She brought out a jacket for him, and I made a joke about it fitting him better than his (30 year old, second-hand) jacket.  They seated us at a table with place settings for 3 and assured us that they would get the extra place setting cleared right away.  Fiancé and I chatted a bit, and then he said, "There's something in the pocket of this jacket!"  I figured someone had forgotten a cigar case or something in there, but he pulled out a small box and got down on one knee!

But it gets better! After I had said yes, he said that we needed to call my best friend (who lives in New York) to tell her.  So, we did.  Except, I was hearing an echo or hearing her voice twice.  Then, she stepped out from around the corner!!!  She had driven down to surprise me and be part of it!  Apparently Fiancé had bought the jacket in secret and had my best friend deliver it (containing the ring box) to the restaurant when she arrived, shortly before we arrived.  She had also been taking pictures during the proposal--I was peripherally aware that someone was taking pictures but was so excited and so focued on the Fiancé that I didn't even see that it was her!

It was an amazing evening that got off to an amazing start!  And the food was just as spectacular!  We sampled rabbit, lobster croquettes, goat cheese croquettes, beef tongue, white bolognese, butternut squash ravioli, gorgonzola gnocchi, savory pumpkin bread pudding, flank steak, pork cheeks, and more during the amuse-bouche, appetizer, pasta, and entree courses.  For dessert, we enjoyed our orders of cranberry cake with cinnamon ice cream, tiramisu, and peppermint mocha lava cake.  And to make the evening even more special, the waitstaff brought over a plate of chocolate-dipped fruit with mini chocolate chip cookies and molasses cookies with "Congratulations" written in chocolate on the plate.  It's the little touches that really make it special.  And given that molasses cookies are favorites of both of ours, we really appreciated it!

And, so you guys can share in this excitement with me, I would like to share an awesome molasses cookie recipe!  I made these ones full-sized, rather than mini bite-sized ones, but feel free to make them whatever size your heart desires.  Just adjust the baking time!  ;)  My roommate's boyfriend declared these cookies to be the pinnacle of perfection, so don't be skeptical of the black pepper!  The molasses cookie is in front, and the cookies behind it are Compost Cookies (to be published next week!).

Molasses Ginger Cookies (adapted from Bon Appetit)

  • 1 c. unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. blackstrap molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 c. all purpose flour.
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 c. minced crystallized ginger
  • Raw sugar
Cream together the butter and sugar.  Beat in molasses, egg, and vanilla extract until smooth.  Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.  Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ones until mostly combined.  Add in the crystallized ginger and stir until combined.

Scoop dough out by tablespoonful, and form into a ball.  Roll the ball in raw sugar, and place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.  Bake at 350* F for 10-12 minutes or until edges are set and cookie appears crackled.  Share with those you love.