Monday, February 22, 2010

Chocolate Chip-Hazelnut Cookies, pg. 280

Yesterday I was feeling an extreme need to cook all day!  I picked up groceries on my lunch and after work and could hardly wait to start chopping, braising and baking.  Sometimes I really need these food filled nights to remind me why I quit my job and dove into cooking school...and I definitely rejuvenated that feeling amidst shredded pork tacos and these delicious Spelt flour cookies.

The cookies are awesome, and wonderful when eaten warm, melting right from the oven.  For this reason, I earned the coveted, "You're the best roommate ever" comment when delivering warm baked goodies to Brittany as she watched Jane Austin's Persuasion on Masterpiece Classics Theater...yes, this is how wholesome girls spend their and classic movies (and maybe NKOTB greatest hits CD)!  I realized after the fact, that I hadn't toasted the hazelnuts long enough, so don't skimp on that note, especially if you buy raw hazelnuts.  They're much better with a roasted flavor in baked goods.  Also, when baking, don't reach for the kosher salt on the counter you cook with'll definitely bite into an occasional salty spot in the cookies if you do that (oops, lesson learned!).  Take the extra minute to find the finely ground salt for baking in your cupboard!  I substituted Earth Balance "butter" for the real stuff, so other than the 1 egg, my cookies are almost vegan and still deliciously tasty.

On this beautiful Monday morning, I'm sitting in my room as the sun streams through the window while I put together my daily plans for this week at school.  Today will reach nearly 60 F and I am so excited to have this day off to enjoy the sunshine! -Vicki ;)

P.S.  If you would like to make delicious shredded pork tacos check out this recipe from Tyler Florence.  They're super delicious!

I must say these cookies hit the spot after skiing.  Diana, Elizabeth, Jackie, and I decided it would be fun to ski at Alta.  After the first run, I knew I was in for a workout. Groomers are not an option when Diana is leading on home turf!  At one point I resorted to hugging large boulders and using the butt scoot method because I was not about to jump my skiis off of a 3 ft. cliff.  Cheers to cookies after skiing and a delicious way to end a sunny Saturday!    

Ok, back to the cookies. I agree with Vicki to make sure the hazelnuts are toasted long enough.  I bought whole hazelnuts and pounded them with a meat mallet. This worked well and I enjoyed the flavor and texture of these nuts. 

One thing that really saved time with these cookies was that the butter needed to be melted....AMEN for not needing to let a stick of butter sit on the counter for 2 + hours.  Lastly, I love soft cookies.  I put 2 pieces of bread in the container which kept the chocolate chip - hazelnut cookies soft for several days. 

Husband Rating: 4.5/5 Grains     -amy

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Any-Grain and Honeyed Squash Casserole w/ Hazelnuts, Pg. 207

I usually don't get much of arm workout in the kitchen.  After grating 7 cups of butternut squash my bicept was feeling tired.

Squash Mix - butternut squash + honey + rosemary + dried currants + Marsala + salt + pepper

Topping - cooked grains (wheat berries) + honey + salt + butter + hazelnuts

Next time, I would consider cubing the squash rather than grating it.  I would cut back on the amount of rosemary.  This dish was rockin' a bit too much for my liking.  The casserole could be extremely interchangeble come Farmer's Market season.  Sweet potatoes, zuchinni, and egg plant would make excellent subsitutions.

Husband Rating: 2/5 Grains.  Not a huge squash fan!  - amy

Vicki's Version-With Buckwheat Grain Topping.
The combination of rosemary and butternut squash are delicious!  I was skeptical before making this dish, having most of my squash experience either roasted with butter and brown sugar or in pureed soup, I thought the suggested herbs would ruin the sweet flavor for me.  Completely the opposite happened.  This is one of those dishes that reminds me why I really need to start an herb garden, even if I only grow Rosemary.  I grows exceptionally well in Seattle's climate. There is nothing that compares to the fresh herb taste in a dish like this, so I guess Amy & I disagree a bit on that note :)  I didn't measure any of the ingredients, so I may have been a little light on the rosemary and heavy on the honey, but either way the combination with a little sherry vinegar is so sweet and savory.

I definitely missed the grated part when I prepped my squash earlier in the week.  I automatically cubed the squash without giving it a 2nd thought, assuming that's what the recipe called for, but when I opened up the recipe today (which I've previously read it at least 3 times!) I finally noticed the "grated" part. I thought for sure I had screwed up and this wouldn't turn out.  I added a little water, covered the baking dish well and cooked about 35 minutes total and it was perfect.  I used buckwheat for the topping along with the hazelnuts. I also added about a tablespoon of Onion Powder to the squash, which seemed to have added more depth of flavor so it wasn't all rosemary you tasted.  I will definitely be making this again, and perhaps even for school this week as a vegetarian dish.
Totally agree with Amy's additional veg options as well...I think this is more of a concept to have learned that I will be applying in more ways.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Meet Lorna Sass

LORNA SASS is an award-winning cookbook author, food historian, and consultant. She is considered the country's leading authority on pressure cooking and writes regularly for Vegetarian Times and the Los Angeles Times Food Syndicate. She is author of the bestselling Cooking Under Pressure, and a dozen other cookbooks. She lives in New York City. Taken from

Lorna's Homepage     

Vicki and I are just getting started. Purchase the book and join us as we continue to cook through Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way!

Friday, February 12, 2010

School Lunch Reform!

I'm currently taking a course call Sustainable Food Systems Employment Seminar...basically 12 weeks worth of 2 presenters per week, all talking about what they do within the Food world.  We've had Farmers & Fishermen, Food Bank Directors, Transportation Coordinators, etc.  The list goes on and we're only half way done.  
Concurrently, we're writing a weekly paper on a specific job we're interested in potentially pursuing after our degree is completed.  I've chose to research becoming a Chef in a School setting somewhere in the K-12 bracket to bring healthy & freshly prepared food to school lunch rooms.  Through this project, I am learning this is a huge topic right now and many people are interested in my same passion! How exciting is that! 
Here is one blog I found that I find particularly interesting and wanted to share.  This anonymous, Mrs. Q, is eating the school lunch every day for 2010 as an experiment and blogging about it.  She's already gained local community attention and I'm hoping it continues to spread.  Check it out, it's a pretty sad story, but hopefully one we can change!

Amy, I promise I'll make the chocolate tonight ;)  And I'll pick 2 new recipes for next week's work.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Millet-Chocolate Crunch, Pg. 287

OK, sorry for the delay of my post in response to Amy's Post, but I finally shopped and made this delicious chocolate treat!  I loved it and so did some of my classmates.  Now the roommates...I can't say the same for.  Brittany & Karen weren't overly excited about the millet chocolate, comparing it to a rice cake covered in!
I loved it though!  I would also like to try it with almonds or peanuts too.
OK, planning for my Student Entree Station next week...the first time I get to make whatever I want in school.  Wish me luck.
Cheers!!   -Vicki

If a recipe calls for chocolate, I'm a fan!  Bittersweet chocolate + puffed millet + dried currants + sunflower seeds. Now this is what I call a healthy Rice Krispy treat!  I couldn't find puffed millet at Whole Foods so instead I went with Kashi Cereal 7 Whole Grain Puffs.  This blend included puffed wheat, rye, barley, buckwheat, sesame seeds, oats, and rice.  I love that I walk into the store and that day find out what I will be adding into my recipe; I had to ask where I could find the currants. So currants are much smaller than raisins and have a tart flavor.

Ben said he didn't like the "little tart things" and would prefer semi-sweet chocolate instead of bittersweet.  "If you want to improve on this recipe, it would be a better to follow the recipe on the box of Kellog's Rice Krispies."  After Ben ate his first "treat" he refused to eat anymore.  It's funny that he wants the normal version of Rice Krispy treats because look at all the weird ingredients listed on the box: Rice, sugar (glucose and fructose), salt, malt (corn flour, malted barley), vitamins (thiamin hydrochloride, niacinamide, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid, d-calcium pantothenate), iron, BHT added to package material to maintain product freshness. Husband Rating: 2/5 Grains! 

I snacked on these throughout the week and thought they satisfied my come home from work and eat a piece of chocolate craving.  I tried to eat the leftover Kashi cereal but could not finish the entire bowl.  I guess I'll need to melt more chocolate!   -amy


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Saffron-Basmati Rice with Chicken in Garam Masala Sauce, pg. 180

About thyme!! By far the most impressive dish so far.  This Indian inpired dinner was so simple yet rich in flavor. Let's first talk about the rice...Brown Basmati + chopped pistachio nutes + saffron threads = the pefect combination.  I will admit I was too cheap to buy the "real" saffron spice for $15.99/jar.  Instead, I stopped at the local Asian grocer to see if I could subsitute.  The gentleman told me they researched saffron after many requests and now sell a spice called Safflower for $.69.  Perfect....I didn't know the difference since I've never cooked with the real deal.

Let's move on to the sauce, coconut milk + 1 can of diced tomatoes + chicken broth + garam masala + fresh ginger, onion, and cilantro = delicious.  Anything coconut flavor I usually avoid.  In tonight's dish, I fell in love with the suttle sweetness.  Instead of garam masala, I used a cashew and cream gourmet Indian cooking sauce found at my new favorite market called Liberty Heights.

Husband Rating: 4.5/5 grains!!  Ben thought the sauce was outstanding with a well round texture and flavor.  He said having whole cashews and pineapple would have made it even better.  He's just copying ingredients from his favorite Thai dish.    -amy

Once again...Nice Photos Amy!! And you said you weren't a good photographer...I love it!  Since my pictures make the chicken look less than exciting, I'll leave you with the ones above for a visual.  I too absolutely loved this dish! It is a great balance of flavors and textures.

When picking the recipe for this week's cooking, I chose a chicken dish knowing very well that I would be doing some knife skills practice on chickens with my classmate, Nikita.  At the end of this quarter, we'll be expected to break down a chicken into 8 lovely pieces, including some de-boning, in under 9 minutes.  Considering that 2 months ago I was terrified of cutting apart a raw carcass of meat, I feel this is quite a challenge.  Niki and I got through 5 chickens that night and took all the chicken tenders for this dish.  Then we set out to cook the recipe...I realized halfway through that I didn't have any pistachios on hand like I'd thought, so we replaced with a can of chickpeas that were in my cupboard and it was a great switch. (Nikita's idea :).  We both thought the sauce could have reduced down further and become creamier if we'd let it meld for longer, but it was still deliciously flavored.

I haven't heard of the Safflower as a substitute for Saffron, so I'll look into that one & try it.  I managed to find a small portion for $5 of the real stuff that I went with, but I'm definitely up for a cheap swap-out!  We are doing more chicken cutting practice tomorrow, so I'll try to remember to take photos this time of what it takes to break down chickens! I spent all of last week in school on the "butcher station"...much more familiar with large pieces of meat and letting go of my discomfort with the whole practice.  Happy Cooking!

Melt-A-Way Muffin/Cupcake Liners

My friend Jen from the studio told me about her sister Victoria well over a year ago (pictured second from the left). Victoria was part of a competition at Purdue University that focused on new uses for corn and soybeans.

"...Melt-A-Way Cupcake Liners are designed to become part of the cupcake during the baking process therefore taking the hassle out of removing the paper liner while reducing paper waste." Click on the link below to view the write up.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Date-Nut Muffins, Pg. 266

I think when Lorna said, the best eaten warm, she meant wait more than 30 seconds before prying them out of the pan because they smelled so good! One thing I hated when I was little, but fully appreciate as an adult is crunchy things in my baked goods. There are dates, walnuts and tiny pieces of crystallized ginger & I love all the flavors and fillings in these muffins! I just devoured it!

I did make a few small changes…well a big one. I used Rice Milk instead of buttermilk and added about a teaspoon of vinegar to make up for the missing acid. I don’t notice any lacking in texture or flavor lacking, so it appears that my substitution worked. The other fat in the recipe comes from Canola oil instead of butter so I didn’t have to swap it out. I chopped my ginger into very small pieces to help spread out the flavor more because it is a flavor I don’t like in the raw form, but it works in this recipe very well. I used very fresh spices and ground my allspice from the full seed which helped the intensity of flavor come through in the muffin. I also used whole grain spelt flour, so the texture was hearty and healthy…but totally delicious J

These muffins are definitely a crowd pleaser! Everyone that tried them, thoroughly enjoyed the spicy and sweet flavors throughout. Definitely a new favorite! -Vicki


What girl takes back a beautiful pair of earrings and matching necklace for a Nutrimill grinder?  Apparently a gal that loves to cook, buys 50 pounds of wheat, and grinds whole grains in her spare time.  I was secretly waiting for Vicki to pick a baked good recipe so I could use the Nutrimill.

Loved the muffins!  I would ommit the crystallized ginger. I've come to terms that I'm just not a fan. Husband Rating: 3.5/5 grains.