Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cumin Curried Hummus & Pita Chips

Yay! Finally a healthier recipe!

I love hummus, whether its homemade or store bought. This is the first recipe I made on my own. What I like about this recipe it that its easy (uses canned chick peas) and doesn't use the canning liquid. That's just sounds gross to me for some reason. The first time I made this recipe it tasted bland, two tablespoons of tahini did the trick (without overpowering the curry flavor). It tastes better if it sits for a day in the fridge. This hummus goes well with pita chips, but you can also just use carrots or celery for healthier fare.

Aside from being healthy, it is also really inexpensive. Tahini may seem like an unnecessary item to have in your pantry, but I assure you it isn't. It can be used for salad dressings, sauces and more hummus.

Cumin Curried Hummus
Adapted from: Cooking Light 

1 tablespoon olive oil 
3 garlic cloves, chopped 
1 tablespoon curry powder 
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 cup water 
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons tahini 
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 (15 1/2-ounce) cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained

Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add curry and cumin; cook 30 seconds or until fragrant, stirring constantly. Place garlic mixture, water, and remaining ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth.

Garlic Pita Chips

12 medium-sized pitas
About 1/3 cup olive oil
Garlic powder
Fine sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Cut each pita in half, then pull apart each half (should be a single layer). Cut each piece into thirds. Lightly brush each piece with olive oil, Sprinkle with garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Bake for 15-20 min or until light golden brown and crispy.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Two Christmas Cookies

Christmas is a horrifying time for my family, I was never sure why but the stress is just unbearable for my parents. They cannot handle any sort of disarray or over-activity in the house without exploding in fits of rage. That disarray and over-activity is unfortunately what I live for.

For all the "stress" that the holidays produced, I can at least bring forth two decent cookie recipes. One is a Betty Crocker recipe that my mother has been using for years and the other is a cookie my distant relatives have made for even longer. These are my too absolute favorite holiday cookies. The Russian Tea Cakes (Mexican Wedding Cakes) are crumbly and not overly sweet. These Pignoli Nut Cookies don't taste artificial like in most bakeries. Happy Holidays!

Russian Tea Cakes
Pignoli Nut Cookies
Russian Tea Cakes
Adapted from: Betty Crocker

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter or margarine, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup finely chopped nuts
1/4 teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar or sprinkles for rolling

Heat oven to 400ºF.  
Cream butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and the vanilla in large bowl. Stir in flour, nuts and salt until dough holds together. Roll in sprinkles (if using).

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place about 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until set but not brown. Remove from cookie sheet. Cool slightly on wire rack. Roll warm cookies in powdered sugar; cool on wire rack. Roll in powdered sugar again (skip this step if you rolled them in sprinkles before baking).

Pignoli Nut Cookies
2 egg whites
2 8oz cans almond paste
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
About 3/4 cup pine nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Add almond paste (broken into pieces). Beat until almost smooth, scraping sides of bowl with a spatula. Add sugars and beat until smooth and creamy. Mix in flour and salt. Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm.

Dip hands in water and roll dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in pine nuts (if you can afford to do this) or sprinkle them on top. Bake 15-18 min or until slightly golden brown on the edges.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mexican Chocolate Icebox Cookies

I've never really enjoyed blurring the lines of sweet and spicy before, despite being a masochist when it comes to spicy food. It actually wasn't until I tasted ginger that I began to enjoy the combination, especially in desserts. I love almost any kind of dessert involving ginger and I now drink a lot of ginger tea. Recently, I even started to enjoy chocolate with chili in it. This recipe takes my love of sweet and spicy step furthur.

Because this was a recipe from Maida Heatter, I automatically trusted it (and rightfully so). The original recipe called for generous pinches of  of cayenne and black pepper, but I managed to find a slightly altered recipe from bakingsheet which switched over to a lovely site called Baking Bites in 2007. The spices were kicked up a bit and made for intriguing, intense, and layered flavors.

After making the dough, store in in the freezer for at least a week so the flavors can blend and mature, but they can be kept for a few weeks. Once baked, store them in an airtight container for at least two days before digging in (the spices will meld and intensify), they only get better with time. Upon first bit, you will taste the cinnamon and chocolate. After chewing for a few seconds, the cayenne and black pepper will kick in. I vastly prefer eating these cookies alone, but you can be awesome and make ice cream sandwiches with dulce de leche ice cream.

Slice them to about 1/4 inch thick
Try to restrain yourself and let them sit for a few days before eating
Serve alone or with ice cream for amazingness

Mexican Chocolate Icebox Cookies
Adapted from: Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts and bakingsheet
Makes about 4 dozen

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
3/4 cup natural cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (rounded)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg

Sift together flour, cocoa, cinnamon, cayenne, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in vanilla extract and egg. Gradually add flour mixture until dough is uniform in color and no unmixed flour remains.

Shape in two 9" long logs and wrap tightly in plastic wrap or foil. Make sure your wrapping is airtight. Freeze overnight or up to 6 weeks.

When ready to use, let dough thaw for for about 30min., preheat your oven to 375F, and bake for 8-10 minutes. Cookies should feel a bit firm at the edges. Store in an airtight container when cool.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Spicy Baked Chickpeas

When I saw this recipe of the Food Network, I knew I was destined to try it. I'm a sucker for recipes that take under 5 minutes to prepare. It livens up boring canned chickpeas and fills your kitchen with delicious aromas for little to no effort. This is an excellent vegetarian power snack or side dish. I would like to see how many different spices would work with this. The possibilities are endless, seriously!! I'm not exaggerating at all!!!

For this recipe, make sure the chickpeas are dried completely before they are coated in the oil/spice mixture. This will result in a crunchier outside. Rolling them around in a kitchen towel (as suggested in the recipe is a great idea. For this recipe I decided to increase the spices a little bit for some extra flavor and they came out really well. For myself, I use 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne because I like the heat. However, If your not a fan, use 1/8 teaspoon.

Make the oil and spice mixture
Boring canned chickpeas
Toss chickpeas in oil and spices
More exciting canned chickpeas
Goes nicely with a salad for a healthy lunch/dinner
Spicy Baked Chickpeas
Adapted from: Claire Robinson

2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 heaping teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
1 heaping teaspoon ground cumin
Scant 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Fine sea salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Rinse and drain the chickpeas and dry by rolling them around in a kitchen towel. Combine the oil, paprika cumin, cayenne and salt in a large bowl. Add chickpeas and toss to coat evenly. Transfer the chickpeas to a parchment-lined baking sheet and spread them out in a single layer. Bake until golden and crispy, 25 to 35 minutes, shaking the tray to toss after 15 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the chickpeas to a serving bowl.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Rugelach, rugelakh, rugulach, rugalach, ruggalach, rogelach, rugalah, rugala, are all spellings for the popular treat of Jewish origin that eventually spread throughout Eastern Europe. Recipes that use cream cheese are American innovations, traditional recipes use sour cream. The recipe I made is an American version from the famous Sarabeth's Kitchen.

As I discovered, making rugelach is really easy and fun. Every step of the process is visually beautiful, from rolling out the soft dough and spreading the filling to rolling them up and watching to filling bubble in the oven. I tried my best to not deviate from the original recipe, only adding a full teaspoon of cocoa powder and cinnamon for additional flavor. I used apricot jam (a full 10oz jar instead of 1/2 cup), but any kind would work here. In, my over, I discovered that it was very important to rotate the tray halfway when half the baking time passed. Otherwise, they will brown unevenly. The recipe produced a flaky and buttery, but not too greasy result. I will definitely make these again as holiday gifts.

Roll out chilled dough to an approximate 13 inch circle

Spread out the jam like so

Sprinkle nut filling on top

Cut into fourths

Cut into twelfths

Roll up, and off they go into the oven

Good results, I'd say

Sarabeth's Rugelach
Adapted from: Serious Eats
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into ½-inch cubes 
8 ounces cream cheese, softened, cut into ½-inch cubes 
2 tablespoons superfine sugar (regular is fine too)
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt 
2¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour 
Approximately ½ cup raspberry or apricot preserves 
Confectioners’ sugar, for serving  

For the filling: 
¼ cup (1 ounce) finely chopped walnuts 
1 tablespoon superfine sugar 
1 tablespoon light brown sugar 
1 teaspoon cocoa powder 
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Beat the butter and cream cheese in the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until evenly combined, stopping the mixer once or twice to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, about 2 minutes. Beat in the superfine sugar, vanilla, and salt. Reduce the speed to low. Add 1¼ cups of the flour and mix just until incorporated, then repeat with the remaining 1 cup of flour. Do not overmix.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Flour your hands well and gently knead to be sure that the ingredients are evenly distributed, about 10 seconds. Divide the dough into thirds. Shape each portion into a 1-inch-thick disk and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled and firm, 1-2 hours.

To make the filling, combine the walnuts, superfine sugar, brown sugar, cocoa, and cinnamon in a small bowl; set aside.

Position racks in the center and top third of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper.

Working with one disk of dough at a time, unwrap and place on a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour, and roll out into a 13-inch-diameter circle. Using a small offset metal spatula, spread with about 2 tablespoons of the preserves, leaving a 2-inch-diameter space in the center of the dough, and a 1-inch border around the edge. Sprinkle the jam with about 2 tablespoons of the filling mixture. Using a sharp pizza wheel or large knife, cut the dough into quarters, then cut each quarter into 3 wedges, to give a total of 12 wedges. One at a time, starting at the wide end, fold the corners in about ¼ inch and then roll up. Do not roll the rugelach too tightly or the jam and filling will ooze out. Keep the outside of each cookie free of the jam and filling, or they’ll tend to burn. Wipe your fingers clean after making each rugelach, or you will transfer the sticky interior of the last cookie to the exterior of the next one. Place each rugelach on the pans about 1 inch apart, with the point of each facing down. Curve the ends of the rugelach slightly toward the point to make a crescent. Repeat this process with the other two disks of dough.

Bake until lightly browned, about 30 minutes, rotating tray after 15 minutes. Cool completely on the pans. Dust with confectioner's sugar, serve. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Basic Potato Leek Soup

Sitting home on a Saturday night is never fun, except when you get to make potato and leek soup. This version had a total of 6 inexpensive ingredients, and still came out pretty good. Not to mention, it was ridiculously easy to make.

You could add a few additional accoutrements like bay leaves or thyme, or even puree it.  I used canned unsalted chicken broth for this, but it would have been an excellent way to highlight a homemade broth.

Despite its simplicity, it was perfect for a cold winter night. I just curled up with a book and a blanket and sipped its warm goodness. Gotta love the excitement.

Use only the pale green and white parts
Wash them in a bowl of cold water because they might have sandy soil between leaves
Saute the vegetables for a few minutes first, then add the broth
Simmer for about 20 minutes and enjoy!

Basic Potato Leek Soup
3 tbsp. unsalted butter or olive oil
3 leeks
3 russet potatoes
4 cups chicken broth
Freshly cracked black pepper

Heat butter in a large saucepan until melted. Add vegetables, salt, and pepper. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Add chicken stock, simmer for 20 minutes. Serve.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Chocolate "Ice Cream" Cake

I am usually known for despising the use of cake mix. They're texture and flavor is blatantly artificial and use of monocalcium/dicalcium phospates and partially hydrogenated soybean/cottonseed oil. However, when I saw this recipe on Omnomicon via StumbleUpon, my curiosity got the best of me. The original recipe used a bundt pan, but I made them in two 9-inch cake pans and they can out pretty good.

This recipe involves an ordinary box of chocolate cake mix with the addition of a pint of chocolate ice cream. The result was a very moist cake that still tasted somewhat artificial. Topped with a light whipped cream frosting, it was quite a sinful indulgence. I would save this recipe for any time a need to make a really delicious cake in a short amount of time. Not to mention, it has an interesting quirk that is fun to talk about.

This is a really easy recipe
Gross looking now, but you will be thankful later
Moist deliciousness
Camera smudges aside, it was a beautiful cake
Chocolate "Ice Cream" Cake
Adapted from: Omnomicon

1 box chocolate cake mix (or any other flavour)
1 pint chocolate ice cream, softened (again, any other flavour)
3 eggs
1 cup water

Preheat oven to 350o. Line two 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper, grease, then dust with cocoa powder.

Beat all ingredients together for 4 minutes, pour into pans and bake for 25-30 min (or according to package instructions). Serve with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar, a thin icing, whipped cream or the frosting of your choice.

Vanilla Whipped Cream Icing
2/3 cup confectioner's sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream

Combine confectioner's sugar, vanilla extract, and heavy cream in a large, chilled, non-reactive (ex: glass or stainless steel) bowl. Beat until stiff peaks form. Spread on cake.