Carrot Oatmeal Cookies

Nov 23, 2012

Cookies, cookies, cookies. They're just about everywhere this time of year. 

Unfortunately all those cookies can mean refined sugar and refined flour over-load. These cookies are a nice break from all of that because they actually provide a hefty dose of nutrients. They're made with only wholesome ingredients and don't leave you feeling that yucky inevitable sugar crash associated with refined foods.

So let's take a look... We've got whole grain flour and oats; fresh carrots; healthy fats from the coconut oil, flaked coconut, and pecans; good-for-you-tasty spices, and some natural sweetness from maple syrup. Yum. I just love healthy snacks.

I've been making these cookies for a couple of years now and they've remained a family favorite to this day. We usually have the ingredients on hand and they're quick to throw together. No waiting for ingredients to come to room temperature or creaming involved - just two bowls, a whisk and a spoon. 

Convinced yet? You should be.

Notes: These cookies are easily adaptable. For example, you might experiment with different nuts, oils, flours, or even adding a little lemon zest. In the cookies pictured, I didn't add the optional raisins. Sometimes I throw them in, sometimes not. They're a great addition if you like baked goods with raisins. Enjoy!

Adapted from 101 Cookbooks
Carrot Oatmeal Cookies

1 1/3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour (or spelt flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1 cup rolled oats
2/3 cups chopped pecans
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut
1 cup finely grated carrot
1/3 cup raisins or currants (optional)

1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup virgin coconut oil, melted
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add the oats, pecans, coconut, and carrot. Stir to combine.

In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, melted coconut oil, and ginger. Add the maple mixture to the dry ingredients and gently stir just until combined.

Drop cookies onto prepared baking sheets, one tablespoonful at a time. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until cookies are set and slightly golden.

Yield: about 32 small cookies

Pumpkin & Feta Muffins

Nov 6, 2012

Now that our garden is literally overflowing with pumpkins, we're taking advantage of the bounty and trying to use as many as we can. Pumpkin is making its way into lots of things lately: bread, more bread, tarts (like this one), gnocchi, on dinner plates simply roasted with butter and salt, and now in these tasty little muffins.

I've had my eye on these guys for a while. I quite enjoy savory baked goods and these muffins do not disappoint. You'll notice a few interesting ingredients but I assure you that they are wonderful complimenting flavors. The squash lends a hint of sweetness, the feta a bit of salt and creaminess; the mustard is not overpowering, but rather hints in the background, as does the black pepper and Parmesan. Really, these muffins are a great way to use up a little more of that wonderful winter squash. I can imagine they'd make a perfect addition to a Thanksgiving meal, too! I hope you enjoy...

Notes: The first time I made these muffins I could tell the had a lot going for them... Unique, savory, wonderful flavor combinations, yada yada. BUT the only thing was that they were quite dry. Interestingly enough, the original recipe doesn't call for a speck of oil. Not one drop. I'm not sure why this is, but on my second batch I decided olive oil was definitely making its way into the mix. Cha-ching! That was all these little muffins needed. The olive oil adds the perfect amount of moisture and compliments the other earthy/savory flavors perfectly. I also increased the amount of pumpkin from 2 cups to 3, because pumpkin is delicious. Two more things: As noted in the recipe below, butternut squash may be used in place of the pumpkin. And, as usual, feel free to use exclusively all-purpose flour in place of the whole-wheat pastry, if you prefer.

Adapted from Martha Goes Green, as seen on 101 Cookbooks
Pumpkin & Feta Muffins

3 cups cubed pumpkin (or butternut squash), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1 1/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour (or spelt flour)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
1/2 cup sunflower seeds kernels
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2/3 cup crumbled feta
1 large handful spinach, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley (or cilantro)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Generously grease a 12-hole muffin pan with olive oil and set aside. (I always have a little bit of batter left after filling the 12 muffin holes, so you can choose to also grease 2 additional muffin holes in another pan, or grease a little loaf pan. I do the latter.)

Place the cubed squash on a baking sheet. Drizzle with a little olive oil and add a few sprinkles of salt and pepper. Toss to evenly coat the squash and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, olive oil, and mustard. Stir in the sunflower seed kernels, Parmesan, and 3/4 of the feta. Add 3/4 of the roasted squash cubes, then gently fold in the spinach and parsley.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and gently fold just until the batter comes together; be careful not to over mix. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan(s), filling each muffin hole 3/4 full. Top each muffin with a bit of the remaining squash and feta. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the tops and sides of the muffins are golden, and the muffins have set up completely. Let the muffins cool for a few minutes in the pan, then turn them out onto a cooling rack.

Yield: 12-14 muffins

Roasted Butternut Squash & Red Onion with Tahini Sauce

Oct 25, 2012

A little sweet and a little savory at the same time, butternut is easily my favorite winter squash. I love that it can prepared so simply and be so delicious on its own.

This recipe dresses the squash up a bit, and pairs it with a wonderful lemon-tahini sauce, toasted pine nuts, and caramelized red onions. The flavors in this dish compliment each of the others fantastically... not that you'd expect anything different from the incredible chefs behind Ottolenghi. (I've sung my praises of the London-based Ottolenghi in the past, here.) 

This squash is a great main dish for two, or a wonderful side dish for about four. Enjoy it for lunch, dinner, or in between. It is a simple one to prepare and I think you'll love it as much as I do!

Notes: If you don't have butternut squash around, sweet potatoes will substitute well. Also, za'atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend that can be a little hard to come by, so if you can't find it I've included a substitute blend in the recipe below.

Adapted from Jerusalem by Yottam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi also seen here
Roasted Butternut Squash & Red Onion with Tahini Sauce

roasted squash & red onion
1 large butternut squash (about 3 lb.), cut into 3/4 x 2 1/2-inch wedges
2 medium red onions, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt & black pepper

tahini sauce
3 tablespoons tahini
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2-4 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 small garlic clove, crushed

1/4 cup pine nuts
Sea salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon za'atar (To substitute: 1 teaspoon each of sumac & sesame seeds, 1/2 teaspoon each of thyme, marjoram, & oregano, and a pinch of salt. Whiz in a spice grinder for a few seconds.)
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
A few handfuls of arugula to serve over (optional)

roasted squash & red onion
Preheat oven to 475°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Put the squash in a medium bowl, add about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and some black pepper. Toss well. Spread squash on one of the baking sheets.

In the now-empty bowl, toss the onion with a tablespoon of the oil, a generous pinch of salt, and a little black pepper. Spread the onions on the other baking sheet.

Place both baking sheets in the oven. Roast the onions for about 15-20 minutes, until they are tender and caramelized. Remove onion sheet from the oven and set aside. Allow the squash to continue roasting for an additional 10-15 minutes (for a total time of 25-35 minutes) until the
vegetables have taken on some color and are cooked through. Remove squash sheet from the oven, add the squash to the sheet with the onions, then set it all aside to cool.

tahini sauce
While the vegetables are roasting, place the tahini in a small bowl along with the lemon juice, water, garlic, and salt. Whisk until the sauce is the consistency of honey, adding more water or tahini if necessary. Set aside.

Toast the pine nuts in a small frying pan over medium-low heat with a drizzle of olive oil and a 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir often, until the nuts are golden brown. Remove from the heat and transfer the nuts to a small bowl to stop cooking.

To serve, spread the vegetables out on a large serving platter over a bed of arugula (if using) and drizzle the tahini sauce over top. Sprinkle the pine nuts on top, followed by the za’atar (or substituted spice blend, if using) and parsley.

Yield: Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side

This post shared on The Nourishing Gourmet

Quintuple Chocolate Brownies

Oct 23, 2012

quin·tu·ple  [kwin-tuhp-uhl]   
1. fivefold; consisting of five parts.

Yes, I managed to put five different kinds of chocolate into one brownie. Why? Um.... Because chocolate is obviously the best food group ever invented. And also because brownies are obviously the best vehicle for consuming the aforementioned best food group. Obviously.

Let me explain...

Last spring my mom and I got to spend 10 days in England. We went in celebration of my graduation from college and it was one of the best trips ever. We had such a blast and loved every minute of our time there. It was wonderful to be back in the stunning country that we grew to love so dearly when we lived there years ago. It is our second home, you might say, and I daydream of it often.

While out in the country one day, we stopped at a little tea shop and had lovely lunch. After our yummy sandwiches were gone and the meal had been paid for, I stopped to oodle at the glass case full of delectable baked goodies. 

And then... She brought them out. From the back kitchen with a plate full of warm, deep, dark, eat-me-now-and-you-will-never-love-another-brownie-quite-like-me-again brownies she came. 

I just couldn't not. So I asked for one ("...without an edge, please."), paid for it in pounds, and walked out into the crisp England air. 

It has been since that very day, that very first nibble outside of Collington's Tea Shop on the  cobblestone street of Brampton, England, that I declared that I would recreate that exact brownie.

And now, over a year later, and... 20-ish (?!?) pans of brownies... Here they are. 

Oh my goodness. These are the most chocolatey brownies. (Remember the quintuple part?) They are so moist and rich. They are also perfectly thick, hefty, and not-too-gooey-but-still-gooey brownies you will ever meet. They are the brownies that remind you why the chocolate food group was ever invented in the first place.

A simple word of advice: I think the brownies are at their peak approximately 1.5 hours after being removed from the oven (but who am I kidding, they're insanely wonderful any time...) because then they've set up nicely, are still warm and oh-so-rich, and the milk and white chocolate chunks inside stay soft and melty.

Mmmm... Chocolate seriously doesn't get any better than this.

Go make yourself a batch of Quintuple Chocolate Brownies and you will never love another brownie quite like these again. 


Notes: First thing: Use really high-quality chocolate (I prefer Callebeaut or Scharffen Berger). It definitely makes a difference. Second: Of course I had to create these brownies with whole-wheat flour, and yes, it works absolutely wonderfully here. I made a slight adjustment to the original quantity of flour because I added the whole-wheat, so if you are using all-purpose, increase the flour to 5 ounces. Third: I also found that, because of my addition of white and milk chocolate chunks, these are best with  slightly less sugar in the batter than the original recipe called for, so the recipe below reflects this adjustment as well (the original calls for 8 3/4 oz (1 1/4 cups) sugar). And one more thing: I bake these in a 7x7 baking pan so that they're even more thick, but an 8x8 also produces a hefty brownie just fine. Other than that... Enjoy your chocolate-loving hearts out!

Inspired by the brownies at Collington's Tea Shop in Brampton, England
Brownie base adapted from Cook's Illustrated's Chewy, Fudgy Triple Chocolate Brownies

Quintuple Chocolate Brownies

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into quarters
3 tablespoons cocoa

3 eggs, at room temperature
7 1/4 ounces (3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

4 ounces (1 cup) whole-wheat pastry flour
3 ounces high-quality white chocolate, cut into 1/4-1/2 in. pieces
3 ounces high-quality milk chocolate, cut into 1/4-1/2 in. pieces

Heat oven to 350°F. Butter a 7x7 in. (or 8x8 in.) baking dish, then line the dish with parchment so that there is an inch or two of extra parchment hanging over the sides (to help you lift the brownies out). Butter the parchment. Set aside.

Place a medium glass bowl over a pan of almost-simmering water. Melt bittersweet and
unsweetened chocolates with the butter, stirring occasionally until the mixture is smooth. Whisk in cocoa until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt until combined, about 15 seconds. Whisk warm chocolate mixture into egg mixture, then stir in flour with a rubber spatula until just combined. Gently fold in white and milk chocolate pieces until evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Spread batter into the corners and level the surface with the rubber spatula. Bake brownies until slightly puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a small amount of sticky crumbs clinging to it, about 33-38 minutes.

Allow brownies to cool completely on a wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours. Remove brownies from pan using parchment overhang. Cut into 9 or 12 squares and serve.

Yield: 9-12 brownies, depending on the size you cut them

:: A Thank You ::

Oct 13, 2012

Hello there, everyone! 

I just wanted to write a quick note to you all this morning to simply say THANK YOU so very much for your support. Today The Flour Sack reached 100 followers (!!!) and I am so excited about this milestone. 

I hope that each of you have been able to find some healthy and yummy inspiration here and I look forward to sharing much more with all of you. 

So... here's to the next 100 followers and lots more yummy stuff, too!

:) Cheers!

Tomato Bisque Soup with Orzo

Oct 10, 2012

One of my favorite things about the cooler weather is the reappearance of soups in the menu again. Soups are so versatile and usually quite simple. They're warm and comforting on chilly days. And they're also perfect for dipping fresh crispy bread - which is always a good thing.

This soup is so flavorful. It is extra tomato-y and wonderfully creamy.

A warning: This soup is also very addicting. My family polished this off in a matter of hours one afternoon... for, you know, that meal between lunch and dinner...

A huge thanks to our wonderful neighbor and friend, Michelle, for sharing this fantastic soup recipe! 

Notes: You could leave the orzo out of this soup, if you don't have any on hand, but I would strongly advise against doing such a thing. (Pasta makes just about everything better, IMHO.) Also, be sure to taste the soup as you're finishing it up to know if it needs any additional sugar or salt. Enjoy!

Adapted from Michelle's recipe
Tomato Bisque Soup with Orzo  

1/2 pound whole-wheat orzo pasta
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrot
1 medium onion, diced
sea salt
4 cloves garlic, pressed
8 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
2-3 cups water (or vetetable/chicken broth)
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 teaspoon minced fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3-4 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Generously salt it, then add the orzo. Cook just until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 2 cups of the cooking water. Set pasta and water aside in separate bowls.

In a large soup pot, heat butter over medium heat until melted and hot. Add the celery, carrots, onion, and a generous heap of salt. Cook the vegetables, stirring often, until just tender. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds. Stir in the chopped tomatoes, orzo cooking water, 2 cups water (or broth), tomato paste, basil, oregano, and black pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Let the soup simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, or until slightly thickened.

Working in batches, transfer the soup to a high-powered blender. Puree until very smooth, then return to pan. (You can also puree the soup right in the pot with an immersion blender, if preferred. I find that this doesn't get the soup quite as smooth as a stand blender does.) Add 3 teaspoons sugar, the cream, and the cooked orzo. Taste and add additional water (or broth), sugar, and salt as needed. Heat through, then serve with a little freshly ground black pepper to garnish.

Yield: Serves 6-8          

This post shared on The Nourishing Gourmet and Beyond the Peel

Spiced Honey Pumpkin Bread

Oct 6, 2012

Mission: To create a pumpkin bread that is just-my-kind-of-perfect pumpkin bread. 

Requirements as follows: 

- obviously pumpkin-y
- whole grain
- naturally and lightly sweetened
- plenty of spice (especially cinnamon)
- very moist
- a strong, tender crumb
- crunchy top crust

Mission: Accomplished. Yessssssss.

Notes: This is a really great base recipe for pumpkin bread. You can certainly bake the batter in muffin tins or even double the recipe to bake in a bundt pan. I've included a three options for slightly different variations; one simply sprinkles a little sugar and some pumpkin seeds on top, another adds a cinnamon-oat streusel topping, and the last is a bittersweet chocolate chunk version. As for the sweetener, honey or maple syrup will do just fine. My reason for using honey (other than the excellent flavor and moisture it adds to the bread) is the fact that we have gallons of the stuff thanks to our busy bees out back. And as for the flour, I found a little white flour gave just enough structure to the bread. A substitution of spelt flour or even white flour may be replaced for the whole-wheat pastry flour.

A Flour Sack original
Spiced Honey Pumpkin Bread

1 1/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour (or spelt flour)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons freshly-ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (or melted coconut oil)
1/2 cup honey (or maple syrup)
2 eggs, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 8 1/2 x 5-inch loaf pan with olive oil. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the pumpkin puree, olive oil, honey, and eggs until well-combined. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and whisk for 10 seconds, just until the flour disappears and the batter is mostly smooth.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle with desired toppings (see below) and bake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean.

Let the bread sit in the pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack, then remove bread and finish cooling on the wire rack. Slice the bread once it has cooled for at least 1 hour.

Yield: one loaf

:: Variations ::

Crunchy Pepita Topping
Pour pumpkin bread batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle top with 2 tablespoons pepitas (pumpkin seeds), then 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Bake as directed above.

Cinnamon-Oat Streusel Topping
In a small bowl, mix together 1/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour, 1/4 cup rolled oats, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, and a pinch of sea salt. To the mixture, add 4
tablespoons of chilled unsalted butter that has been cut into cubes. Rub the butter between your
fingers, breaking it into smaller bits. Continue rubbing until the mixture feels coarse like cornmeal, with some larger chunks of streusel as well. Add in 1/4 cup chopped pecans. Pour pumpkin bread batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle top with streusel. Bake as directed above.

Bittersweet Chocolate-Chunk
Fold 6 ounces of coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate into batter after combining flour and pumpkin mixtures. Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle top with an additional 2 ounces of coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate, then 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Bake as directed above.

This post shared on The Nourishing Gourmet and Beyond the Peel

Baked Pasta with Zucchini, Corn, Tomatoes, and Basil

Sep 22, 2012

As today is officially the first day of autumn, I thought we'd say farewell to summer with this great end-of-summer pasta. It uses lots of fresh garden veges, includes a bit of melty cheese, and reminds us just how great the summer produce is. 

Until next year, dear Summer!

P.S. I'm so excited, though. Autumn is my favorite (!!!) season. Bring on the pumpkins, crispy leaves, and corn mazes!

Notes: I've adjusted the proportions in this recipe from the original because 1) it didn't make enough for us, 2) we like tomatoes and garlic, and 3) we also like cheese. Mmmm....

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma 

This post shared on Beyond the Peel and The Nourishing Gourmet

Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake

Sep 15, 2012

"This should be illegal. I mean, I should be arrested for eating this."

That's a direct quote from my mother, spoken yesterday at 8:42 a.m.

We consider this our new favorite dessert. 

Or breakfast, cause that's the way we roll sometimes. 

We haven't been arrested by the Incredibly-Dreamy-Cheesecake Police yet. And by Incredibly-Dreamy-Cheesecake Police I mean that the cheesecake is incredibly dreamy, not the police. I haven't seen them yet to make that judgement. 

The only judgement I have been able to make is that this cheesecake really is dreamy. It is decadent. It is smooth and silky with a slight crunch from the crust. Rich. Every layer compliments each of the others brilliantly. It is simple perfection. 

Yes, there are a lot of steps to making this cheesecake, but I guarantee it will be so worth it

... Even if the cheesecake police that come to arrest you aren't all that dreamy. At least the cheesecake you made was. ;)

Notes: Read through the entire recipe before beginning. I repeat: Read through the entire recipe before beginning! You'll need to plan a few things in advance, such as having softened butter and cream cheese around, time for the cheesecake to completely cool, etc.

Idea adapted from Mangio da Sola
Chocolate Cookie Crust adapted from Alice Medrich
French Mousse adapted from Tyler Florence
Creamy Cheesecake adapted from Dori Greenspan

Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake

bottom layer - chocolate cookie crust
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons milk

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place a piece of parchment on a baking sheet. Set aside. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with a parchment round, then lightly butter the pan and parchment. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat the softened butter and sugars until light and creamy. Add the vanilla and milk and mix until well combined. (Mixture may look curdled.) On low speed, add the flour mixture just until incorporated.

Use a small cookie scoop to drop little mounds of dough onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Using lightly floured hands, press the mounds of dough into 1/4-inch flat disks. (Don’t worry about making these too neat - you’ll be grinding them up shortly.) Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, until the cookies puff and then settle slightly when done. Remove cookies from the baking sheet and let cool to room temperature.

Place cooled cookies in a food processor. Process until cookies are evenly and finely crushed. Pour the melted butter on top of the crushed cookies and pulse until well mixed. Dump the cookie mixture into the parchment-lined springform pan. Press the mixture evenly up the sides of the pan, then evenly over the bottom.

Wrap the bottom of the springform pan in a double layer of aluminum foil. Place the crust in the freezer for 10 minutes. Remove the crust from the freezer and bake for 10 minutes, until set and dry to the touch. Let the crust cool on a wire rack while you make the cheesecake.

layer 2 - creamy cheesecake
1 pound (2 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup heavy cream

Decrease oven temperature to 325°F. Put a pot of water on the stove top boil.

Working in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until it is very soft and smooth, about 4 minutes. Add the sugar and salt, and continue to beat at medium speed for another 4 minutes or so, until the cream cheese is light. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one by one, beating for a full minute after each addition to yield a well-aerated batter. Reduce the mixer to low speed and mix in the heavy cream.

Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula to make sure that nothing has been left
unmixed at the bottom of the bowl. Scrape the batter into the cooled cookie crust. The batter should fill about half way up the pan. Place the springform pan in a roasting pan large enough to give at least a 1-inch space between the cheesecake and the roasting pan. Place in the center of the oven and then carefully pour the boiling water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

Bake the cheesecake for about 45 minutes, at which point the top will be ever so slightly browned and the cheesecake will have puffed a little. The best way to tell if your cheesecake is done is to insert a thermometer into the center; it should read 150°F.  Remove cheesecake from from the roaster pan - be careful of the hot water - and remove the foil. Place cheesecake on a wire rack. Prop a large bowl over the cheesecake, leaving a 1-inch crack to let the cheesecake cool slowly.

When the cake is cool, cove with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

*** Make the mousse once the cheesecake has cooled.***

layer 3 - french chocolate mousse
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream, cold
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Set a heat proof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Put the chocolate and butter into the bowl. Melt the chocolate and butter together, stirring with a whisk, until smooth. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Add the egg yolks to the chocolate one by one, beating with a whisk until incorporated. Set aside.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat. Gradually add in 1/4 cup granulated sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

In another bowl, beat the heavy cream until it begins to foam. Add the vanilla and remaining
2 tablespoons  sugar. Continue to whip the cream until it holds soft peaks. Set aside.

Gently fold 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Fold in the remaining egg whites. Then, delicately fold in the whipped cream. Take care to not over work the mousse, but make sure the cream is blended in well.

Using a rubber spatula, spread the mousse on top of the cooled cheesecake while still in the springform pan. Cover with plastic wrap.

*** If making the ganache immediately, place the mousse-covered cheesecake in the freezer as you make the ganache. (The cheesecake should NOT be in the freezer for more than 30 minutes.) If making the ganache later, place the cheesecake in the refrigerator for a few hours. ***

top layer - ganache
1/2 cup heavy cream
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla

Place the chopped chocolate and vanilla in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat the cream in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat until the point just before it boils. Pour hot cream over chocolate and vanilla. Whisk the mixture until smooth. Allow ganache to cool for about 15 minutes.

Remove mousse cheesecake from the freezer or refrigerator. With an offset spatula, smooth the ganache while starting at the center of the cake and working outward. Be aware that the cold temperature of the cake will cause the ganache to firm up, so work fairly quickly.

Release the springform pan and cut cheesecake with a sharp knife to serve. Store cheesecake in the refrigerator, covered tightly with plastic wrap.

Yield: 1 9-inch cheesecake, serving 10-12

Buttery Tomato Pasta with Garlic & Basil

Sep 3, 2012


Oh, and some salt. (Very important, that salt.)

This is one of those recipes that is deceptively simple. So simple you might wonder how it could be so great. Well, you see, that's just it! The simple flavors shine here and this pasta dish is just the perfect thing for a quick summer meal.

Notes: Since this dish uses just a few ingredients, make sure they are as fresh as can be.

Adapted from Lottie + Doof, originally from Michael Ruhlman

This post shared on The Nourishing Gourmet

Raw Chocolate Peanut-Butter Bars

Aug 3, 2012

A nice little snack bar that requires zero oven-turning-on-ness, good-for-you ingredients, and a simple food processor...

It's summer, aka it's hot. We like healthy things. And there's a food processor in the pantry.

Sounds good to me. 

Let's get going.

First of all, a few deets: These bars are not "Reese's Peanut Butter Cup" copy cats. Nor do they want to be. They just want to be themselves. And they are totally delicious as themselves. Also, they are also just sweet enough and just rich enough - consider it a perfect balance of goodness. The bottom chocolate layer may seem familiar to you because it is almost identical to the Raw Cacao Truffles from a few weeks back. The ratio of ingredients is a little different from the truffles but is similarly rich and chewy. The middle layer is a scrumptious oat and peanut butter mixture and it's all topped with a creamy chocolate ganache.

Told you it sounded good.

But wait! There's more! These bars are made with all-natural, healthy ingredients... including the sweeteners. Win, win, win.

Okay, now let's get going.

Notes: I use this high-quality expeller-pressed coconut oil because it has no trace of coconut taste or scent, as does virgin coconut oil. In a bar like this, I prefer the chocolate and peanut-butter flavors to shine, and virgin coconut oil would bring another subtle flavor into the mix. 

** Update: I've been playing around with this recipe a little more and have discovered that I like to add more hemp and chia seeds. Here's what I've been doing: 1/2 cup hemp + 1/2 cup chia ground in a spice grinder (to get it all very finely ground). Add this to the oats after they've been processed in the food processor. This hemp+chia mixture substitutes for 1/2 cup of the walnuts, so decrease the total amount of walnuts to 1 cup.

Adapted from Nouveau Raw
Raw Chocolate Peanut-Butter Bars

bottom chocolate layer
1 1/2 cups walnuts (preferably soaked and dehydrated)
1 1/2 cups oats
1/4 cup hemp seeds
1 tablespoon chia seeds
2/3 cup raw cacao (or unsweetened cocoa)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
10-16 Medjool dates, pitted
2 teaspoons vanilla
1-2 tablespoons water (if needed)

Place all ingredients in a food processor except the dates, vanilla, and water. Blend on high until everything is finely ground, a minute or two.

Add the vanilla to the food processor, then drop the dates in one at a time through the feed tube of the processor while it is running. You should end up with a mixture that appears as cake-like crumbs, but when pressed will easily stick together. If the mixture does not hold together well, add a few more dates or a couple drops of water.

Press the mixture evenly into an 8x8 baking pan with your hand. Place the pan in the freezer while you make the peanut-butter layer.

middle peanut-butter layer
1 1/3 cups oats
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2/3 cup natural peanut-butter
1/3 cup raw honey
2 tablespoons expeller-pressed coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla

Place oats in the food processor with the salt. Process until it becomes a fine powder.

Add the remaining ingredients and blend until well mixed. You may need to stop the processor a few times and scrape the sides with a rubber spatula to make sure the dough thorougly mixes.

Remove the pan of bars from the freezer. Place the peanut-butter mixture on top and press firmly with your hand to create an even layer. Return the pan to the freezer while you make the ganache topping.

ganache topping
6 tablespoons raw honey (or light agave nectar)
1/2 cup raw cacao (or unsweetened cocoa)
1/4 cup expeller-pressed coconut oil, melted
1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Place all ingredients in a blender and process for a few seconds. Stop to scrape the sides with a rubber spatula, then continue to blend until smooth.

Remove the pan of bars from the freezer. Pour the ganache over the top and spread evenly. Cover the bars and chill in the refridgerator until ready to serve.

Yield: about 16 bars, depending on how large or small you cut them
This post shared on The Nourishing Gourmet and Beyond the Peel

Zucchini Rice Gratin

Aug 1, 2012

I state the obvious when I say that zucchini season is in full swing. Every day around here we are bringing in armfuls of fresh squash and zucchini from the garden. So goes the wonderful summer bounty, and we are so grateful for it. We're also bursting with plump, red tomatoes (my personal fave... sliced and sprinkled with a little salt... mmmm). So this dish was the perfect way to use up a good quantity of the fresh produce piling up on the kitchen counter.

Not to mention that it's also simply delicious.

This gratin is quite simple. You cook your rice, roast your veges in the oven, mix up a few eggs with some cheese and fresh thyme, then layer it all in a dish. A little more cheese. Bake. And voila! A yummy, healthy, fresh summer meal in no time.

I hope you all are getting to enjoy the fresh summer produce as much as we are! Enjoy :)

Notes: Upon reading the original recipe, I could tell two things: 1) it was going to be good and 2) there was no way the it would feed our whole family for dinner. So the recipe below is exactly how I prepared it for our meal. It is double the original. If you want to cut it in half, feel free to, but just know it will yield side-dish serving sizes. I also used a few yellow squash along with zucchini, and that worked just fine. Use what you've got!

Adapted from Gourmet, and can also be seen on Smitten Kitchen

This post shared on The Nourishing Gourmet

Baked Ziti

Jul 3, 2012

Today I'd like to share one of those dishes that easily becomes a family favorite. Filled with a rich tomato and cream sauce, oodles of noodles, and plenty of melty cheese, this Ziti is simply the bomb. 

Dot com. 

And my little brothers agree. And sisters. So does Dad. And Mom (she gets a kick our of calling this Zitty [zit-ee].... "Oooh! Good! You made Zitty for dinner!" *Insert my eye-roll here because Mom likes to think she's rather hilarious.*)

Anyway. Thanks to the ever-dependable Cook's Illustrated, we have ourselves a lovely dish of scrumptious Ziti [zee-tee].


Notes: I've added a touch of cinnamon to the sauce because I think it adds just a hint of extra flavor without being easily detected as cinnamon. You can leave it out if you prefer. Also, I like to use whole-wheat pasta, but you can obviously use whatever's on hand. I baked my ziti in some of these individual cast iron dishes, just to up the cute factor. Go ahead and bake this pasta in whatever your little heart desires.

Adapted from Cook's Illustrated, March & April 2009
Baked Ziti 

1 lb. whole milk cottage cheese
2 eggs
3 ounces grated Parmesan (about 1 1/2 cups)

1/4 cup kosher salt
1 lb. whole-wheat ziti (or other short tubular pasta)

2 tablespoons olive oil
7 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 28-ounce can tomato sauce
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

1 cup heavy cream (or whole milk)
1 teaspoon cornstarch

10 ounces low-moisture mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1 3/4 cups)

Heat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9 x 13 inch baking dish and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Stir in kosher salt and pasta. Cook pasta unil it is just beginning to soften but is not yet cooked through, about 5 minutes. Drain pasta and leave in colander. Leave the pot out for use again later.

Whisk cottage cheese, eggs, and 1 cup Parmesan together in medium bowl; set aside.

Heat oil and garlic in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until garlic is fragrant but not brown, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, oregano, salt, pepper, and cinnamon (if using). Simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Off heat, stir in 1/2 cup basil and sugar. Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed.

In the now-empty pasta pot, whisk heavy cream (or whole milk) and cornstarch until combined. Heat over medium and bring to a simmer. Cook until thickened, 3-4 minutes. Remove pot from heat and add cottage cheese mixture, 1 cup tomato sauce, and 3/4 of the mozzarella pieces. Stir to combine. Add pasta and stir to coat thoroughly with sauce.

Transfer pasta mixture to the baking dish and pour the remaining tomato sauce evenly over pasta. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella and remaining Parmesan over top.

Cover dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer. Cool 15 minutes before serving.

Yield: Serves 8-10

Raw Cacao Hemp Truffles

Jun 16, 2012

Brooke's 12 reasons to rejoice as of late:

1. I planted my very first little herb garden. Eeek! So cute. I'm slowly learning how to take care of my little plants. Last night I noticed all but one (apparently oregano is pretty hearty) were completely wilted... Oops. I promptly watered them and this morning they've perked right back up. The herbs are now on a strict every-other-day watering schedule. Cross your fingers.

2. Springtime is glorious. I can't get enough of it. 

3. One of my best friends from high school is having her first baby in just a few weeks! I am honestly going to burst with excitement for her. 

4. Speaking of cute bellies and babies in them, another of my best friends is also expecting her second little one this fall! Her first is a handsome boy. I just love that my friends are having babies because then I get to hold them... Sigh. Favorite thing in this world.

5. My brain has adapted well to typing with precisely nine fingers. While cutting some things for school with one of those huge cutter things, I, um, well, chopped the end of my left index finger off. I know. Not a pretty thought. I will spare you the pictures of the injured digit. It's healing well... Enough said?

6. Four days from now my cousin, Nathaniel, is leaving for a two-year church mission to Denmark. He is seriously going to be an incredible missionary and I am so happy for him. 

7. My almost-eight-year-old brother and I had a little date night last night. We went "scootering" and he taught me how to jump with my scooter. Yes, the boy's got skillz. We also explored the so-called forest at the end of our street and found a little stream with some cute snails. We played for a while in the dirt and then headed home for ice cream sundaes complete with fresh cherries on top and a classic movie, Peter Pan. Love date nights with my little brother!

8. Summer break is two weeks away! That said, there is a major downside to this fact. I am really, really going to miss my sweet 4th grade students.

9. I am signing up for watercolor classes and I CAN'T WAIT! 

10. This summer I will be living vicariously through pictures and stories of my sisters' world-wide, awesome adventures. Sister #3 is in Peru as I type, and sister #2 is going to Ghana in a week. I'm so excited for them! And also extremely jealous, obviously. Growing up and having a real career is so hard... Wah, wah, wah.

11. I am actually updating my blog.

12. And it includes chocolate.

Oh my goodness. These little chocolate truffles are so awesome. Like, so. They are completely delicious and are super, duper, ooper healthy. Go make them now. And then also later, because you'll want to.

Notes: If you are interested in knowing the amazing health benefits packed in these little chocolate bites, head on over to Sarah Britton's post here. She explains the great benefits of raw cacao, walnuts, and dates. You can use either chia or hemp seeds in this recipe. Both are delicious and wonderfully good for you. To learn about chia seeds, which are also amazingly packed with nutrition, check out this page. And for some info on hemp, see here.  Enjoy!

Originally inspired by The Raw Brownie at My New Roots
Raw Cacao Hemp Truffles

1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup oats
1/4 cup hemp seeds
2 teaspoons chia seeds
1/4 cup raw cacao
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
6 to 8 Medjool dates, pitted

Place all ingredients in a food processor except the dates. Blend on high until everything is finely ground, a minute or two.

Add the dates one at a time through the feed tube of the processor while it is running. You should end up with a mixture that appears as cake-like crumbs, but when pressed will easily stick together. If the mixture does not hold together well, add more dates or a few drops of water.

Scoop out tablespoon-sized portions of the dough and gently roll into balls. Dust with a little cacao, if desired.

Store truffles in a sealed containter in the fridge.

Yield: 12-14 small truffles
This post shared on The Nourishing Gourmet

Swiss Chard, Sweet Potato, & Feta Tart with Teff Crust

Apr 12, 2012

Hi there! Isn't it a lovely day? The tulips have bloomed into an array of pastel shades, the birds are singing outside my window this morning, and the sun is bright and beautiful. Sigh...

There's not much to share this morning that can compare with the loveliness outside. Mother Nature is an undefeated competitor in my book. Though I am feeling rather brave today... How about a delightful little tart? It's a fave. (As is basically everything I share here on this little bloggity.) But when you're craving something a little bit sweet and a little bit salty, a little bit crunchy and a little bit creamy, and a lot a bit delicious, here it is.

Savory tarts are one of my weaknesses. Especially since the discovery of a fantastic tart crust. I enjoy filling this crust with almost any combination of lovely things. Pop it in the oven for a bit and it becomes hearty, healthy comfort food at its finest.

I do hope the weather in your neighborhood is as gorgeous as it is here. Spring has sprung! And although is seems that Mother Nature has won yet again, I'd say this tart comes in pretty darn close. So go make a tart and enjoy the sunshine and blooming flowers :)

Notes: The original recipe calls for chard in the filling. If you don't have any on hand, I've also had great success with spinach in its place. I've also switched out the original tart crust for the one I mentioned above. It comes from Maria Speck and is simply wonderful. I did adjust Maria's recipe to include the teff flour of the original. Once again, if you don't have any teff on hand, regular white whole wheat flour will substitute just fine.

Adapted from Fine Cooking and Maria Speck's Ancient Grains for Modern Meals 

Brown Butter Hazelnut Marble Cake

Mar 4, 2012

Hello there! Things have been a bit busy around here (hence the lacking posts lately). But work has gotten back to normal (at least for the next two-ish days...) and the sun has finally decided it's a good idea to stay a while longer each day. It's rather tricky trying to cook and take photos all in a matter of 1.4892 hours after returning from work. So thank you, Mr. Sun

By the way! It's now March. Which means... Spring is that much closer. Yay!

Okay, I'm just rambling now. On to cake, shall we?

Have I yet mentioned the gloriousness of browned butter? I don't believe I have... Well, in case you haven't discovered it yet, I now tell you that browned butter is liquid gold. All sorts of amazing things start to happen when you simply leave the butter in the pan on the stove for a minute or two past its initial meltation. (Yes, I made that word up. I think it's a pretty useful one.)

Also, hello. Roasted hazelnuts are glorious. Any nut that's roasted takes on such a more complex, deep, nutty flavor. Simply fantastic.

And finally, there's really no need to mention the gloriousness of chocolate. That's a given.

What I'm trying to say here is this: That when you combine all of these glorious things into one large bundt pan, well, what do you expect? Glorious things happen. This is absolutely one of my very favorite cakes. Probably in the top three. Or two. It was inspired by a cake I found a couple of years ago and has morphed into this lovely you see today. I've tweeked almost all the ingredients - adding more nuts and chocolate, browning the butter, playing with the sweetener and flour combinations, increasing the overall batter amount, practicing my batter-swirling skills - all very important things to master, especially in the name of Brown Butter Hazelnut Marble Cake. 

I hope you enjoy this cake as much as I do. It's a beautiful every-day cake, as well as a sophisticated celebration cake. I make it whenever the fancy strikes. So basically daily. (Well... not really. That would be a little much.) It's a very fun cake to put together. There are several steps, but really, it is a pleasure to create.

Happy baking!

(Is the Mr. Sun song stuck in anyone else's head right now?)

Notes: If you want, you can use exclusively all-purpose flour in the cake. I enjoy the combination of a bit of whole grain, but the cake is quite forgiving either way. Also, I've tried this without the chocolate swirl, just not melting any chocolate for half of the batter, and it was also nice. But you know, I believe there can never be too much chocolate, so I prefer it with the swirl. On a similar note, the ganache can be totally optional. The cake is so rich and flavorful on its own that it really doesn't need the ganache. (I can't believe I just said that. No such thing as too much chocolate pour moi.) Your call.

Heavily adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Mocha-Walnut Marbled Cake in Baking: From My Home to Yours

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