Saturday, September 20, 2014

Chocolate, Cherry, Coconut Chunk Cookies

The rich, chocolaty flavor of these cookies is so addictive, and when you add in the sweet, tart cherries and crunchy coconut - you have a perfect cookie!  I couldn't stop snacking on them, so I had to give all of them away.  I love the combination of coconut and chocolate.  It's one of my favorite food pairings.   Gabby loves coconut but Mason hasn't always been the biggest fan.  He really loved these cookies though so maybe he is starting to like coconut a little more.  I think this is a really great cookie in the  fall and winter.  They are really decadent but not dense at all.  Mason told me that they tasted like the chocolate soufflé I recently made.  And on cold fall mornings, they are great with a hot cup of coffee!  Enjoy ;)

La Recette:

8 oz. unsalted butter*, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 extra large eggs, room temperature
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder - I really like Scharffen Berger
2 cups gluten free baking mix
1 cup unsweetened thick-flaked coconut shavings
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
3/4 cup dried sour cherries
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

4 - baking sheets lined with parchment paper
Stand or hand mixer (stand mixer use the paddle attachment)
Wooden spoon
Measuring cups and spoons
Medium bowl and a large bowl if you are using a hand mixer

-Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees and use the middle rack of the oven.
-In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment cream the butter until light and fluffy (3-4 minutes), then slowly add in the sugar and mix on a medium low speed for another 3-4 minutes.
-Add in the eggs one at a time and then the almond extract.  Mix until everything is well combined.  
-In a medium bowl, mix together the gluten free baking mix, cocoa powder, coconut shavings, chocolate chips, cherries, baking soda and salt.  Mix until well combined then slowly add it to the egg mixture on a low speed.  
-Mix well until everything is incorporated.  Take a spatula and scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl, getting the bottom too.  Mix again on a low speed for 1-2 minutes.
-Using a tablespoon, scoop the dough into balls and place them on the lined baking sheets 1- 1.5 inches apart.  It should be a heaping tablespoon (about a tablespoon and a half).  
-Place the baking sheet into the freezer for 10 minutes or the refrigerator for 20 minutes before baking.
-Bake for 12 minutes, remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the baking sheet.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

-Makes 36-40 cookies (depending on the size you choose to make)
*I like to buy European style butter or Earth Balance Vegan Sticks can be used for dairy free purposes.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Beet Carpaccio Salad with Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette

I love this salad.  It makes a great lunch or starter for dinner.  It's really simple to prepare, and a few steps can be done in advance to make it even easier!  The roasted red pepper dressing on this salad is one of my favorites, but if you are like my friend Natalie and can't eat bell peppers, a simple red wine or balsamic vinegar dressing will work beautifully :)  This salad is delicious but to be honest, my kids don't eat it.  They love feta and pine nuts but I am still working on everything else.  I'll keep putting it in front of them until they like it.  I'm nothing if not persistent!  
I was recently at a school event where one of the Moms speaking to the group mentioned that she didn't have to make dinner that night, which was a bonus.  I can't even express how much I dislike hearing comments like that, but I get it.  Some days I barely get a shower in so I really get it, but that's the reason I created this blog.  I want to help my readers find recipes that they can easily make and their family will enjoy.  So now I'm on a mission…I'm bringing family dinners back (insert Justin Timberlake music).  I want to challenge everyone to make dinner for their family at least twice a week.  And invite friends over to have dinner with you because hospitality is a lost art too!  To quote the greatest chef of all time, Thomas Keller, "When we eat together, when we set out to do so deliberately, life is better, no matter what your circumstances."  Cooking for your family is one of the healthiest things you can do, so let's get into the kitchen and start making some dinners!     

I used to shy away from cooking beets but you don't need to…they are super easy.  Just wash, trim, and wrap them in foil.  Place them on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and bake at 425 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  

Cooking beets is as easy is 1-2-3.  Trim, wrap, and place in the oven.  After the beet are cool enough to handle, the skin just peels right off and they are ready to slice.  

Mason and Gabby just finished their first full week of school.  The beginning of the school year is always bitter sweet for me and I find myself fighting back tears.  I am so happy for their milestones but  sad about how quickly time passes.  I try to enjoy every day…even the ones when I am screaming and pulling my hair out!  And if everything else fails, a glass of wine always warms my heart ;) 

La Recette:

4 cups baby arugula, washed and dried
3 medium sized golden beets* (red beets work too if you can find golden), roasted and thinly sliced
3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup crumbled feta
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (I like to do this in a toaster oven on medium high for 3-4 minutes.  Keep an eye on them because they can go from light to very dark brown in a second.  You are looking for a light brown).
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 red pepper, roasted and chopped - see my post from the week before about how to roast red peppers
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1 teaspoon good quality maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon sumac**
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Baking sheet
Aluminum foil
Chefs Knife
Measuring cups and spoons
Large bowl
Medium bowl
Blender, Vitamix, or food processor
Mandolin (optional)

-Make the dressing first.  Combine the red wine vinegar, red pepper, garlic, Dijon, maple syrup, sumac, salt and pepper, in a blender, Vitamix (I just bought one and it's incredible), or food processor.  Process until well combined.  With the motor running slowly add in the extra virgin olive oil.  Set aside.
-Pour half the dressing in the bottom of the large bowl.  Put the 4 cups of arugula on top and toss well so the dressing is evenly distributed over the arugula.
-Arrange the dressed arugula on a serving dish.  Layer the beets on top (see the above photos for how to cook the beets).  You can use a Chef's Knife to thinly slice them or I prefer a mandolin.  If you don't have one, a knife is just fine.  A mandolin gets them precisely thin.
-Next layer the tomatoes, pine nuts and feta.  Drizzle the remainder of the dressing over the top.

-Serves 4

*The dressing and the beets can be done ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 1 week.
**Sumac comes from the berries of a wild bush that grows in most Mediterranean areas.  The berries are dried and crushed to form a purple-redish powder.  It is a staple spice in Israeli cooking and has a rich, tart-lemony flavor.  I love it and I buy mine at Whole Foods.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Smoked Paprika Seared Salmon & Chickpea Hash

This is a great dish anytime of the year.  The flavors really pop in your mouth.  The red pepper and sun dried tomatoes compliment the capers and red onion, giving it a sweet and salty flavor.  Smoked paprika is one of my favorite seasonings.  The sweet, smoky flavor goes well with almost anything.  The last week was so hectic with school being back in session.  I apologize for not posting sooner.  Even though the days get really busy, I still like to make dinner for Jake and the kids and this dinner is easy, elegant and super tasty.  Mason is in first grade now, at a new school, and it's so difficult to get information out of him as to how his day went.  When we all sit down together for dinner, this meal maximizes the amount of information I can extract ;)  Dinner time doesn't always go smoothly but I've got to give it a try.  Having a tasty and healthy dish really helps!  I hope everyone's Fall is off to a good start!  

It's a great dish to eat al fresco with a glass of white wine.

Chickpea hash

Seared salmon going into the oven to finishing cooking…

La Recette:

4 - 6 oz. salmon filets
2 teaspoons smoked paprika (Trader Joe's has a great one)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 - 15 oz. cans chickpeas
1 roasted red pepper *, thinly sliced
1 jalepeño, finely chopped, seeds, stem and ribs removed 
6-8 sun dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
4 cups fresh spinach 
1/2 large red onion - finely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine (whatever you are drinking that night works)
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar (or another white wine vinegar if you can't find champagne)
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and dried
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of one lemon
Parsley for garnish

2 - sauté pans
Baking sheet
Aluminum foil
Measuring cups and spoons
Microplane zester or rasp
Chef's knife
Mixing spoon

-Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
-Remove the salmon from the refrigerator and let it sit out for about twenty minutes before cooking it.  Sprinkle each filet with a 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika, and kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
-While you are waiting for the salmon to come to room temperature, start on the chickpea hash.
-Pour 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil into a sauté pan on medium high heat.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.  1-2 minutes.  Keep an eye on it because garlic can burn quickly and burnt garlic tastes very bitter.
-Next add the onion and sauté for 4-5 minutes, add the jalepeño and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
-Pour in the 1/2 cup white wine and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan.
-Add the spinach and chickpeas and turn the heat down to medium.  Sauté for 5-6 minutes.
-Next add the roasted red pepper, sun dried tomatoes, and capers.  Mix well.  
-Finally, add the champagne vinegar, lemon zest and juice.  Mix well and continue to cook on low heat.
-In the other sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil until very hot.  Place the salmon in the pan two filets at a time, skin side up.  Cook for about 3 minutes or until you see the salmon is cooked about 2/3 of the way up (see above picture).
-Place the salmon on a baking sheet, skin side down, and bake in the oven for about 6 minutes.
-Remove from the oven and let it sit for about 5 minutes.  When you take the salmon off of the baking dish, use a spatula and the skin should come right off.  I like baking the fish with the skin because it adds a lot of flavor.  
-Turn the heat off on the chickpea hash and spoon into a bowl.  Place the salmon on top, garnish with a parsley leaf and serve immediately. 

-Serves 4 adults

*You can buy roasted red peppers but I like to do it myself, in the oven, grill or even the toaster oven.  If it's on the grill, just make sure the grill is hot and place the peppers right on the hot grill.  Keep rotating until it's lightly blackened and soft.  Then place in them in a bowl and cover for about 10 -15 minutes, so they continue to steam.  The skin should easily peel off.  If it's in the oven/toaster oven, place the peppers on a baking sheet and roast for about 25 minutes at 400 degrees.  Again, place in a bowl after and cover.   They keep in the fridge for about a week and are great in salads and sandwiches.  

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