Saturday, August 4, 2012

Chocolate-Dipped Macaroons

I'm reading "The Sweet Life in Paris" by David Lebovitz, and have become a tad obsessed. His tales of bribing convincing less-than-helpful French visa clerks with his decadent, homemade desserts has filled my dreams with visions of dark chocolate and Parisian société.
One of the recipes that has popped up in my near-stalking of his works is chocolate-dipped macaroons.  Not to be confused with macarons: the delicate, filling-enhanced merengues made legend by Paris' Ladurée.  No, these are the rustic cousins that require much less precision to make, and definitely less aloof attitude to enjoy.
And enjoy we have.
Funny thing...I recall distinctly disliking shredded coconut as a child.  I think my parents didn't care for it, and that opinion was somehow passed along to me.  Fast forward thirty years to a small get-together at some friends' where I enjoyed one of the giddiest, most-blissful little bouts of "the munchies," and what was served - none other than coconut macaroons!
Nothing tasted better.
Please tell me you know what I mean. :D
So, yeah.  Since then, coconut and I have had a renewed relationship.

Chocolate-Dipped Macaroons
recipe adapted from David Lebovitz
Makes about two dozen cookies

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 2 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  1. In a large bowl, mix together eggs, sugar, salt, honey, coconut and flour
  2. Transfer to a large skillet, and heat over low-to-moderate heat on the stovetop, stirring constantly, scraping the bottom as you stir.
  3. When the mixture just begins to scorch at the bottom, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.  Transfer to a bowl, and allow to cool to room temperature. *David notes this mixture can be left in the refrigerator for up to one week, or frozen up to two months.
  4. When ready to bake, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat, and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. Form the dough into 1 1/2 inch mounds, spacing them evenly on the baking sheet. (I used a small ice cream scoop - mine were a little larger, but it was OK)
  6. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until deep golden brown.  Cool completely.
For the chocolate bottoms
  1. Melt the chocolate in a clean, dry bowl - either by double boiler on the stove, or in the micro.  Place a baker's cooling rack over a cookie sheet.  Dip the bottoms of each cookie in the chocolate and set the cookies on the cooling rack.  When finished dipping all the cookies, place them in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes to set the chocolate.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Homemade Horchata

Let's get real right up front: I've actually never had horchata. Horchata (pronounced or-CHA-ta) is a traditional Mexican and/or Latin drink made from milk and rice, sweetened with sugar.  I stumbled upon a version from Rick Bayless that substitutes almonds for the milk, and was instantly intrigued.  You see, despite having a glorious food selection in Brazil, almond milk is not one of them, and I truly miss it.  So, I was stoked to attempt a homemade version.  
Horchata, here I come!
 Almond Horchata
(adapted from Rick Bayless)

  • 2/3 cup rice, medium or long grain (I used brown)
  • 1 1/4 cup almonds, blanched
  • 3-inch piece of Cinnamon Stick
  • 4 1/2 cups water, divided
  • 1 cup sugar  - I subbed in 1/3 cup raw agave syrup, but basically, sweeten to taste
1) Blanch almonds by pouring boiling water over them in a glass bowl.  Let sit in the water about ten minutes.  Drain the hot water, and rinse briefly with cold water.  The skins should peel off easily.
2)  In a large bowl combine rice, almonds, cinnamon stick and 2 ½ cups of hot tap water Cool, cover and refrigerate overnight.
3)  Pour the mixture into the blender, add sugar or agave, and blend on high for several minutes, until the mixture is as smooth as possible.
4)  Strain through a fine sieve (if yours isn’t very fine, line it with cheesecloth), pressing on the solids until only a dryish pulp remains. 
5)  Pour into a pitcher, add the remaining 2 cups (cold) water, taste and sweeten more if you wish.  Serve over ice.
 I was simply amazed at close to my fave Silk Almond Milk this tasted!  A splash of vanilla would be my next go-to, but since my husband and I had plans to share the creation, we opted for the adult version...
A spike of rum, instead.  Cheers!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

If it looks like a duck....

A couple weeks ago, my husband and I tried our hand at preparing duck breast.  When we bought the breasts (frozen), we had no idea what the task level involved, but we were eager to try something not in our usual beef/pork/chicken/veggie rotation.
Turns out, it couldn't be easier to prepare a (seriously delicious) breast of duck, but we did a little online research before diving in. There is a definite technique, that I believe, if used, is nearly fail-proof.
Since I was up to my ears in food prep for this meal, I didn't get any action shots, but we followed THIS BLOG'S instructions to a "T," and the duck turned out amazing. 
*following images courtesy of A Spicy Perspective*

Here's how it went down....
We took the breast fillet, and scored the thick fat layer all the way to the muscle.  Then, seasoned it with salt and pepper.

Then, in a pre-heated cast iron skillet, we placed the breasts fat side down.  The point is to render the layer of fat, which leaves you with an incredibly-rich, intense-flavored oil.  Be sure to save it for another recipe!
We let the breasts cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes.

Then, flipped them, and seared the meat side for another 7 or so minutes (our filets were small)
  We removed the breasts, and let them rest under foil while I made a small pan sauce using orange juice, a tad of port, and mushrooms.

Finally, it was slice, dress and serve

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Ultimate Chicken & Waffles

The other day, I pinned an incredible-sounding chicken and waffles cupcake.  Since then, I've had chicken and waffles on the brain. What?  You've not tasted Chicken and Waffles - you know, together?  Well, well, my friend.  Let me break it to you:  You haven't lived.
See?  There's nothing quite like a crisp-tender waffle topped with perfect fried chicken, then doused with real maple syrup.  Trust me.  This is soul food on its purest, divine level.  I had a vision, though, and wanted to up the ante on this great combo - make it an ultimate pairing with some hidden goodies that subtly stroked the palate.  Wow.  Waxing poetic, aren't I?

OK, so here's the deal - I won't lie - this is an involved recipe.  You need to have some equipment (waffle iron and cast-iron skillet), and the commitment, but I promise, it so, so worth it!

My vision was to make not just Chicken & Waffles but Fried Chicken & Butternut-Quinoa Waffles with Cinnamon Chipotle Maple Syrup. But I wanted there to be this baseline of....wait for it...
Oh. Yeah.
Here's how it went...

There's three main parts to this gig:  cooking the ingredients, frying the chicken, and making the waffles.  When it's time to make the waffles, you want the ingredients ready to roll, so it's a good idea to have them done ahead of time.  In fact, it would probably be great to make them a day ahead.  I tend to keep a cup or so of cooked quinoa in the fridge, so I just scooped some out for the waffles.  If you're working from the very beginning,  here's step one:
1)  Cook about 1/4 c quinoa according to package directions, then set aside

Meanwhile, get your butternut squash cooking.  
2)  Peel and remove seeds from a small butternut squash.
3)  Cut into 1" cubes, and place in a saucepan
4)  Dice two slices of bacon, add to squash

5)  Add water to saucepan to almost cover squash/bacon
6)  Cook on medium until squash is fork-tender - about 30 minutes - adding extra water if necessary
7)   Set aside when done

Now comes the heavy lifting - frying the chicken.  My husband did the dirty work for me on this one, and I'm sorry I don't have pics, but here's the process we followed:
  • 2 Boneless, Skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips or tenders
  • 2 c Plain, nonfat yogurt
  • 3 c All-purpose flour
  • 1 T Sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp Cayenne
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Canola oil for frying 
  1. Whisk together the yogurt, salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Place chicken in yogurt, stir to cover, and refrigerate 3-4 hours. 
  2. In a large baking dish, combine flour, paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper.  Stir to combine.
  3. Pour about 3 inches of oil into a deep cast iron skillet; the oil should not come more than half way up the sides of the pot. Put the pot over medium-high heat and heat the oil.
  4. To batter the chicken, remove tenders from yogurt, and dredge in flour mixture.
  5.  Working in batches, add the chicken tenders to the hot oil, 5 or so at a time and fry, turning the pieces occasionally, until evenly golden brown and cooked through, about 7 minutes on each side. Remove from the oil with tongs and transfer to a rack to drain; repeat to cook the remaining pieces. 
  6. Keep the chicken warm while making the waffles by placing it in the oven on the lowest temperature setting.
....and....finally, the Waffles
 This is my adaptation of the Basic Waffles recipe from the all-new Joy of Cooking.  If you have kiddos, and they're anything like mine, they'll laser in on the waffle part of this meal, and want nothing else.  By adding the quinoa and butternut, you can have the satisfaction in knowing they're getting a nutrient-dense vegetable in the squash, and important amino acids in the quinoa.  Win-win.

  • 1 3/4 c Whole Wheat spelt flour (you can use all-purpose or whole wheat, no worries)
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs, well beaten
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 c milk
  • 1/4 c cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 c cooked butternut squash, mashed
  1. Preheat waffle iron
  2. Whisk together in large bowl flour, baking powder, sugar and salt
  3. In another bowl, whisk together eggs, butter, and milk *If your melted butter is hot, be sure to temper it in the milk before adding it to the eggs
  4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients
  5. Gently whisk together to combine.
  6. Fold in quinoa and butternut *Just the cooked butternut, not the bacon
  7. Spoon 1/2 cup batter onto the hot iron, spread slightly, close lid, and bake until iron indicates "ready," or until waffle is golden brown


  • 1/2 c pure Maple syrup
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground chipotle 
  1. Mix syrup, cinnamon, and chipotle, and warm in a saucepan over low heat until slightly thickened.
The idea is to get all the amazing flavors in one bite, so it works well to slice a chicken tender, and place it over a plated waffle.  Cover it with a second waffle if you like, then drizzle the waffles and chicken with a generous amount of syrup.
Enjoy (and try not to swoon!)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

"Spring" Chicken Meat Loaf

Meat loaf typically finds itself settled in the annals of Comfort Food, which is all good - except when calories are being considered.  The good news is, the traditional fare can be lightened up significantly.  This recipe is an adaptation from a Cooking Light version calling for ground turkey breast.  I used ground chicken, as it is more readily available where I live in Brazil, but the results were the same:  a food good for the soul, easier on the belly.  Because it also calls for a nice amount of colorful and nutrient-dense vegetables, I'll call it a "Spring" Meat Loaf.

 Spring Chicken Meatloaf


  • 2 lbs ground chicken 
  • 1 c grated onion
  • 3/4 c dried Italian bread crumbs
  • 1/2 c chopped parsley
  • 1/3 c finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/3 c grated carrots
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 T minced garlic
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 c ketchup + some for topping
1)  Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2)  Place chicken and breadcrumbs in a large mixing bowl
3)  Prepare vegetables - I tend to have a one-tool-does-it-all approach with my processor
4)  Mix onion, parsley, bell pepper, carrots, salt and pepper with meat mixture
5)  Slightly beat eggs; add to meat/veggie mixture
6)  Mix in 1 cup of ketchup
7)  Place meat mixture in an oven-safe dish, shape into a loaf form
8)  Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes
9)  Remove loaf from oven, and drizzle with a good amount of ketchup to coat the top
10)  Place back in oven for additional 15 minutes

Of course, serves perfectly with garlic mashed potatoes - Chow time!

**NB - I imagine this recipe could easily be adapted to a crock pot - I'd do 4 hours on high, or 8 on low, with maybe a tad more ketchup to coat and keep moist.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Zucchini Bread "Whoopie Pies"

Sandwich cookies are almost always a good thing.  When I can make myself feel they're somehow good for me by way of a vegetable ingredient - well, of course, they're that much bettah!
This one is an adaptation of zucchini bread - turning it into a cookie, then going one step further by adding a rich, sweet filling.  It's from Martha.  Oh, Maaaatha!

Zucchini Bread "Whoopie Pies"


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour *I substituted Whole Wheat*
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, divided (Need at room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup finely grated zucchini
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted


  1. Sift flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt into a bowl. 
  2. In a separate bowl or stand mixer, beat 1 stick butter and the sugars until pale and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla.
  3. Beat flour mixture into butter mixture. Mix in zucchini, oats, and walnuts. Place batter in refrigerator until set or firm - about 15 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  5. Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop (about 2 tablespoons), drop dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart. Bake until edges are golden, about 17 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.
  6. Beat together remaining 1/2 stick butter, the cream cheese, and confectioners' sugar until smooth. Spread 1 heaping tablespoon filling onto the flat side of 1 cookie, and sandwich with another cookie. Repeat with remaining filling and cookies.
*Makes about a dozen average-size cookies.  If you want a smaller version like I did for my kiddos, use about 1 tablespoon of batter. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Meatless Monday: Loaded Veggie Burgers

We tend to fall off the Meatless Monday wagon, but we make up for it other days of the week.  My friend referred me to this recipe for Veggie Burgers - she said they were amazing, but honestly, she had me at "throw it all in the processor." 
...And you do!

Shall we? OK, here goes:

Loaded Veggie Burgers
adapted from here

  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 red bell pepper
  • 15 ounces cooked black beans, drained
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned dried breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  1. Cook quinoa according to directions - set aside.
  2. In a food processor, pulse carrot until finely chopped. Add cooked quinoa, onions, garlic, bell pepper, beans, breadcrumbs, egg, cumin, salt, and pepper; pulse until combined but still slightly chunky.
  3. Form mixture into patties - mine made about six. 
  4. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium; cook burgers until browned, about 8 minutes per side.