Thursday, September 27, 2012

For the Chocoholics and Nutella Obsessed (Nutella Stuffed Brown Butter and Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies)


A few weeks ago someone asked me if I followed a particular diet (other than, obviously, vegetarianism) or if I subscribed to a special food philosophy. Other than trying to incorporate seasonal (and most of the time organic) foods into my diet, I couldn't really think of anything off hand. But then I was reminded of the 90-10 rule when I discovered this blog (one of my new favorites), so I guess that would be my answer. Except in the interest of full disclosure, my ratio is probably closer to 70-30. Or maybe it's 65-35 (that gets us to 100%, right?). 
While these ratios are not an exact measurement, I try to eat food that is healthy and delicious most of the time, and the rest of the time I eat food that is delicious, but not necessarily healthy. I think life is about balance. And that's my balance-philosphy in the kitchen.  
So while Theodore slept, Otis and I made these Nutella-Stuffed Brown Butter + Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies
I first saw these posted on a Cup of Jo, which linked to the original recipe source, Monique from Ambitious Kitchen...

The recipe yielded about 2 dozen cookies, so I was looking to unload a few. I mean there are only so many cookies I can eat myself, or pawn off on Otis and Theodore. I identified two groups of people who would be the beneficiaries of my cookie-bounty. The first was my new neighbor. I only met her a few weeks ago, and I haven't had many conversations with her, but I can tell you that she went out of her way to help me.
When we moved into this new townhouse (that's the one we're leasing for 6-months, in case you're keeping track), I was surprised to find the unfinished part of the basement missing 2 key items: (the promised) washer and dryer. I complained a few times in person, called the main office as well, but I tried to keep my cool-- you know, because I'm a Coloradan now and I didn't want to appear like an overly aggressive New Yorker (which I may or may not be). 
After 3 weeks sans washer and dryer, the dirty clothes and towels were really piling up. I was loosing my cool and shared my frustration with my neighbor, who happens to work for the company that operates our development. She pleaded my case. And apparently, quite forcefully. The maintenance staff installed the machines within 24 hours of her "conversation" with the higher-ups. Thank you cookies she will get.
I unloaded a few more at a Sunday football get-together. I knew there'd be beer and chips...and I thought these cookies would be a welcomed treat. They went fast.
In a tremendous display of generosity, Otis insisted on giving a few to his close friends Luke and Cecelia, so we dropped off a bag at their house too. Cookies for everyone! 
I hope you like these as much as we did. This is my new go-to cookie recipe.
Happy day and enjoy the sugar high. Then you can go back to that 90-10/80-20/70-30...
Nutella Stuffed Brown Butter + Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies (Courtesy of Monique, Ambitious Kitchen-- she also provides a  Simply Recipes link on "How to Brown Butter?")
Total time: 2 hours 10 mins
Serves: 2 dozen cookies
Nutella is stuffed between a hazelnut brown butter flavor enhanced chocolate chip cookie then sprinkled with sea salt.
Ingredients
2¼ cup all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon of salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
1¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon plain greek yogurt
¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup milk chocolate chips
½ cup dark chocolate chips
1 jar of Nutella, chilled in refrigerator (Note: you use 1 teaspoon per cookie, so you don't need a whole jar.)
Coarse sea salt for sprinkling
Instructions
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. The butter will begin to foam. Make sure you whisk consistently during this process. After a couple of minutes, the butter will begin to brown on the bottom of the saucepan; continue to whisk and remove from heat as soon as the butter begins to brown and give off a nutty aroma. Immediately transfer the butter to a bowl to prevent burning. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.


With an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk, vanilla, and yogurt until combined. Add the dry ingredients slowly and beat on low-speed just until combined. Gently fold in all of the chocolate chips.

Chill your dough for 2 hours in the refrigerator, or place in freezer for 30 minutes if you are super eager, although I cannot promise the same results if you do this.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Once dough is chilled measure about 1½ tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball. Flatten the dough ball very thinly into the palm of your hand. Place 1 teaspoon of chilled nutella in the middle and fold dough around it; gently roll into a ball — it doesn’t have to be perfectly rolled! Make sure that the nutella is not seeping out of the dough. Add more dough if necessary. Place dough balls on cookie sheet, 2 inches apart and flatten with your hand VERY gently. (Really only the tops need to be flattened a bit!)

Bake the cookies 9-11 minutes or until the edges of the cookies begin to turn golden brown. They will look a bit underdone in the middle, but will continue to cook once out of the oven. Cool the cookies on the sheets at least 2 minutes. Sprinkle with a little sea salt. Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets after a few minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.
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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Rocky Mountain National Park: Fall Foliage, Hiking and Elk (and some good news)

Last year, around this time, our family visited Rocky Mountain National Park for the very first time. We purchased an annual park pass at the main entry gate, knowing full well that we would try and visit several more times over the upcoming year. 
We went once more in the fall, skipped the winter, and visited again in the spring. At that time the park was magnificent, but it was still pretty cold and a lot of the trails we had intended on hiking still had snow on them. So we waited a bit...
This summer was really crazy-- my husband was still commuting back-and-forth from Brooklyn to Denver, we hosted visiting relatives and friends, and then there were those heat-waves and wildfires. Before I knew it, the final days of summer were upon us.
So this past week, while my husband was in town, we decided to head back to this spectacular national treasure...which just happens to be located only an hour and a half away from our home.

We met an elk calf at the entrance of the park...
Last year we fell in love with Colorado's fall foliage-- the orange, golden and yellow shades of the Aspen trees... 
Aspens at Bear Lake...
This year we decided head back to the park and do a hike near Hidden Valley. We were told that the hike was appropriate for a toddler--and we felt pretty confident since our 3-year-old son can climb boulders at high altitude.  
Somehow we unintentionally strayed off the path in search of a bull (elk) male that was rumored to be in the area. We pushed ourselves up a steep hill, kids in tow, for a strenuous climb. I struggled and I shvitzed! But looking back, the off-the-beaten-path part of the hike was really the best part of the day. 
When people ask me what I love about Colorado, I can list the things I like the most: the people, the local farms, the burgeoning food scene, the neighborhoods in Denver and quality of life we are enjoying. And how can I forget those awesome, positively breathtaking, mountains? I love the beauty and the nature of the state...and the fact that our oldest son looks forward to long treks and shlepping his "hiking bucket" up the mountain. I think we are doing right by our kids by raising them in this environment.
I don't know, I just feel like this is where we are meant to be. And now it looks like we are going to stay! After one (exhausting ) year of networking and job applications, the ups and downs of not knowing whether or not we could stay, the 7 months my husband commuted back-and-forth from Brooklyn to Denver...well, all the hard work has paid off. A job offer was made. We are officially staying. We are Coloradans! I am thrilled. I am hopeful. And I am happy. 
That being said, you will never, ever, ever, find me wearing a fleece. I can only go so far, you know?! You can take the girl out of New York City, but you can't take New York City out of the girl. 
I'm (now) learning the rules of footballs and this season I'll be rooting for the Broncos. Who knows, I might even exchange my pinot noir for a locally crafted beer! Am I turning "native?" You betcha! 
          
A street pigeon it's not...
Hopefully we will get to visit once more before some of the roads close for the season...as peak fall foliage is still a few weeks away. 
Enjoy the autumn in your neck of the woods. Or you can come visit us here in Colorado and enjoy ours! xoxo
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Friday, September 21, 2012

Back in the Kitchen: Mushroom and Brown Rice Burgers (with Lemon and Herb Hummus)

the sprouted kitchen: a tastier take on whole foods is a  recently published cookbook and it's my new go-to. Sara and Hugh Forte, the husband-and-wife team behind the very popular Sprouted Kitchen, have put together one of the most beautiful collections of recipes I've seen since Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty hit the scene. The photographs are gorgeous and the food tastes delicious. Some day, one day, I hope that I can improve upon my food photography. If and when that (ever) happens, I hope my pictures will look something like Hugh's. I wouldn't mind having Sara's taste instincts either…and this is one cookbook you should own.

I've made a bunch of Sara's dishes, including her recipe for Lentil "Meatballs" with Lemon Pesto, and it has become one of my favorites.
It's been a few weeks since I've been in the kitchen. And I've missed it.
We managed to move (without incident) from the northwestern section of Denver, all the way over to the eastern side of the city. I'm not really sure what section of town we are in-- some people call it Hilltop, some refer to it as Crestmoor, and Lowry gets thrown in there too. We've signed a short 6 month lease, so maybe I'll figure it out before we move (again)...hopefully to a place of our own... 
Anyway, take-out dinners were the norm the week before we moved. The packing seemed endless and, having two boys under the age of 3 to care for, just added to the juggling act. I managed to eek out a Tomato Tart and Fresh Tomato Cream Soup, but that was pretty much it.
Unfortunately, two days after we moved, a devastating family emergency brought me back to NYC. I'm reluctant to write more about the seriousness of what happened, mostly because my writing can not possible convey the ordeal our family faced over the past few weeks. While the events that transpired aren't a secret, I have to respect that fact that my parents and brother might prefer a bit of privacy, not wishing to broadcast every detail on a public forum such as a blog. As of now though, things are much better than they were two weeks ago. For that we are thankful. And we continue to maintain a positive outlook. We truly appreciate all the good thoughts and prayers that have been said on our behalf. 
That said, it has been a crazy few weeks. There has been very little time to cook and not much time to eat a real meal.
This is pretty much marks my foray back in to the kitchen after almost a month away.
This mushroom and brown rice burger, while a bit time consuming to put together, hits the spot. It's really fantastic. I topped it with sauteed shallots and a lemon and herb hummus. The dip is positively delicious. Since I had a bit of avocado salsa already made, I added that to the burger too. But feel free to experiment; you can really add whatever condiments and toppings you like or have at your disposal. 
A note on the ingredients: I am sensitive to the fact that purchasing certain ingredients can get expensive. But I think that the taste that comes from these specialty flours, herbs or seeds, enhance the dish exponentially. They are well worth it, in most cases. 
It took me quite a bit of time to build up my pantry (with things like flax meal, for example). But now I seem to have most of the ingredients I need on hand. Unless you want to go all-out and buy everything at once (which can be pricey), build up your pantry by prioritizing what you will use the most and what tastes you favor. This requires a bit of patience, but it beats boring, bland, unhealthy food, right?! 
Hope you enjoy this vegetarian burger and the first few days of fall! 
Happy cooking...
Mushroom and Brown Rice Veggie Burgers (Courtesy of Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods, Sara and Hugh Forte)
Serves 6 (I halved the recipe and it made 4 burgers)
Ingredients
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 cups stemmed and finely chopped cremini mushrooms (about 1 pound). (I used baby bella mushrooms, which work, because...)
5 cloves garlic, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup ground flaxseed (flax meal)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup cooked chickpeas, drained well (I used organic canned)
3 Medjool dates, pitted
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1 egg
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 1/2 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
2 cups coked and cooled brown rice (Generally speaking, I use a ratio of 1:2-- rice to water. I then add more water as needed, usually ending up with closer to 3 cups, but that might be because I cook at altitude. I add a splash (or two) of veggie stock for more flavor.)
1 to 2 tablespoons old-fashioned rolled oats, as needed (I didn't need them.)
4 large shallots, sliced thin
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive-oil or coconut oil
6 whole grain English muffins
3/4 cup hummus (recipe below)
2 avocados, peeled and sliced (I used avocado salsa, recipe below)
2 cups arugula
Preparation
Melt the butter in a large sauté pan. Add the mushrooms, garlic and a pinch of salt and sauté until the mushrooms are softened and the excess water has cooked off, 8 to 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool.
Combine the ground flaxseed, Parmesan, chickpeas, dates, parsley, egg, fennel seeds, tahini, tamari, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper in a food processor. Give the mixture a few pulses to combine well and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Once the mushrooms are at room temperature, add them, along with any juices in the pan, to the bowl along with the rice and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. At this point the mixture should be pretty moist, but if it seems too wet to form into a patty, stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons of oats to soak up some of the moisture. The recipe can be prepared to this point up to a day in advance.
Arrange a rack in the upper third of your oven and preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. 
Form the mixture into 6 patties, each about 1 inch thick. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick silicone baking mat and arrange the patties on the baking sheet with space in between. Bake them in the oven until toasted on top, 14 to 18 minutes. 
While the burgers cook, prepare the shallots. Warm the oil in sauté pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and a pinch of salt and sauté until the edges begin to brown, 5 o 7 minutes. Set aside for assembly.
After removing the patties from the oven, toast the English muffins while the burgers rest for a moment. Put a swipe of hummus on each muffin half and assemble the burgers by layering the patty, avocado slices, arugula and sauteed shallots. Serve immediately.
 * * *
Lemon and Herb Hummus (Courtesy of Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods)
Serves 6-8
Ingredients
3 cups cooked chickpeas (about 2 15-ounce cans)
1 roasted shallot (To roast the shallot, peel it and cut into quarters. Rub a bit of olive oil on the surface and roast in the oven or a toaster oven at 400F for about 20 minutes.)
3 tablespoons tahini
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh parsley
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (I omitted the dill because I didn't want to shlep back to the supermarket.)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
Optional Garnish (Not for the burger)
1/2 English cucumber, sliced paper-thin
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
Preparation
In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, roasted shallot, tahini, lemon zest and juice, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and the red pepper flakes and pulse to combine. With the motor running, pour in the olive oil in a steady stream. Stop the food processor when the hummus reaches the desired smoothness. (I thinned mine out with a few tablespoons of water at this point.)
Add the herbs to the hummus, and pulse a few times until combined.
Taste and add more salt and pepper, if you'd like. Pulse the processor while adding 1 to 3 tablespoons of water to thin out the hummus, as needed, remembering that it will firm up in the fridge.
To make the optional garnish, toss the cucumber with the parsley and vinegar. To serve, put the hummus on a serving plate, top with the cucumber mixture and feta, and garnish with fresh chopped parsley and fill. 
* * *
I never did get around to posting Ezra Pound Cake's Summer Corn Cakes (above), but here is a slightly modified version of her recipe for Tomato and Avocado Salsa (seen in the blue bowl above). I dolloped it on top of the mushroom and brown rice burgers, but please note that I added this particular topping because I already had it in my refrigerator. Sara, (of Sprouted Kitchen) adds sliced avocado to her burger, so feel free to do that if you are: a) short on time or b) don't really feel like adding a step to this meal.
Enjoy!
Avocado Salsa, adapted by Ezra Pound Cake from Sara Foster’s Southern Kitchen
Makes about 2 cups
Ingredients
1 scallion, trimmed and minced
1/2 jalapeno pepper, cored, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 small clove garlic, minced
juice of 1/2 a lime
1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 avocados, peeled, pitted and diced
Preparation
Place all of the ingredients (except the avocado) in a bowl, and stir to mix. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to serve, for up to 2 days.
Just before serving, add the avocado, and mix gently. Adjust salt. Serve!  Follow Me on Pinterest