Saturday, March 23, 2013

Flourless Chocolate Coconut Cookies

When my sisters and I were little, we'd beg my mother to make boiled chocolate cookies, which were more like candy than cookies and made with cocoa and oats.  They were the perfect way to satisfy a sweet tooth when we didn't want to wait for cookies to bake.  These flourless chocolate coconut cookies remind me a bit of them--though these are baked and not boiled.  They're rather candy-like in a chewy way and they come together very quickly.  I did have to wait 10 minutes for them to bake, but it was worth it!  I'd make one tweak to the recipe:  the cookies were a bit too big and they'll be smaller the next time I make them.

I found this recipe on a blog called Healthful Pursuit, which is the creation of Leanne Vogel, a holistic nutritionist.  Though I wouldn't make a meal of these, the basic ingredients--cocoa, honey, coconut, eggs and vanilla extract--make them at least seem like they're good for you. Make up a batch for your Easter basket!

Flourless Chocolate Coconut Cookies

1 cup coconut (I used unsweetened, but you could use sweetened if that's all you have)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup honey
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Combine the ingredients in a bowl and mix well to combine.  Using a teaspoon, drop cookies onto a cookie sheet, forming cookies that are about the size of a walnut.  Bake for about 8-10 minutes until the cookies are firm to the touch and can be easily lifted from the sheet.  Makes about 12-15 cookies and the recipe is easily doubled.

Well, I couldn't mention Mom's Boiled Cookies and not give you the recipe. These cookies don't have a lick of honey in them, but they're very good!  (Mom's secret ingredient is peanut butter.)

2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 cup milk
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, cut into chunks
3 tablespoons peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups rolled oats

In a sauce pan, mix sugar, cocoa and milk until well combined. Add butter.  Place pan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a rapid boil, stirring to mix in butter as it melts.  Boil rapidly for one minute.  Remove from heat.  Add peanut butter and vanilla and stir.  Add oats and mix until well combined.  

Drop by teaspoons onto wax paper. Cool.  Makes enough for three sisters and a mom! :)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Spinach Orange Salad with Honey-Sesame Dressing

This is another great recipe from the Vegetarian Times.  The dressing also makes a nice dipping sauce for spring rolls or Asian dumplings or pot sticklers.  Though it seems as if spring really has sprung in these parts, this is a nice winter salad that can help to chase the winter blues away.

Spinach Orange Salad with Honey-Sesame Dressing
1/4 cup toasted almonds, chopped
6 cups baby spinach
2 oranges, peeled and sectioned
1 or 2 very thin slices of red onion, cut in half and broken apart
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Arrange the spinach, orange slices and red onion on a platter.  Sprinkle with almonds on top.  Drizzle about 1/4 cup of the dressing and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Honey-Sesame Dressing
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons vegetable oil (or extra virgin olive oil)
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
Blend honey, vinegar, soy sauce and red pepper flakes in a food processor.  With the processor running, drizzle in the oils and keep the processor running a minute or so more to emulsify.  Unused dressing can be kept in the refrigerator for about two weeks.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Sourdough Honey Whole-Wheat English Muffins

This recipe is not a lot of work, but it does require a bit of a commitment, so if you're a commitment-phobe, you might just want to buy a package of whole wheat English muffins and be done with it.

Ah, but where's the fun in that, especially when you can make your own sour dough starter and then cook up a fresh batch of whole wheat English muffins that will have your family and friends saying, "You made these?"

So, bear with me here (or, if you prefer, just go ahead and laugh at me and move on!).  The biggest commitment comes with creating the sour dough starter, which takes three days.  Once you have the starter established, you can keep it going in your fridge and, with a little thinking ahead, can whip up a lovely plate of English muffins that are so much better (and likely better for you) than store bought.

The recipe for the sourdough starter and the English muffins both come from Vegetarian Times.  You'll find more sourdough recipes there, too!

Sourdough Starter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon quick-rise (not regular) yeast

Use a quart glass jar with a wide mouth.  Stir the flour and yeast together and then add 1 cup of warm water (about 110 degrees).  Place the lid loosely on the jar and let sit a warmish (70+) spot for 12 hours.

Stir the starter and discard half (or, if you're ambitious, use the half you'd toss out to start another jar).  To the remaining starter, add 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup lukewarm water and stir to combine.  Repeat this step every 12 hours for the next three days (72 hours).  (Hey! I said it was a commitment!)

The starter is now ready to use for the English muffin recipe.  Any remaining starter can be put in the refrigerator.  It should be fed and/or used within a week.  To feed the starter, stir it down and then remove half (use this starter in a recipe or discard).  If you have 1 cup of starter left, then stir in 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of warm water and put it back in the fridge.  (If you have 1/2 cup starter left, stir in 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water.)

Sourdough Honey Whole-Wheat English Muffins
The dough for this recipe needs to sit overnight to develop, so it takes a little planning ahead (that is, once you've made the sourdough starter).
1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup whole-wheat flour
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt.
cornmeal for dusting (the finer the cornmeal, the better, but use what you have)

In a large bowl, stir the starter, whole-wheat flour, honey and water until well combined.  Cover loosely and let sit overnight.  This mixture will get very bubbly!

The next day, stir together 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt.  Add this to the whole-wheat dough.  Stir until well combined.  Add more of the remaining 1/2 cup of flour and knead until the dough is no longer sticky.

Roll dough out on a lightly floured board to about 1/2 inch thickness.  Cut out muffins using about a 3-inch round cutter (I used the top of a large, wide glass).  Depending upon the size of your cutter, you should get between 6 and 8 muffins.  Dust tops and bottoms with cornmeal, cover loosely and let sit for about an hour until the muffins are a bit puffy.

Heat a heavy bottomed skillet over high heat for about a minute.  Lightly spray with cooking oil and turn heat down to medium.  Cook muffins about 3 to 5 minutes per side, until they're nicely browned on both sides.  You'll be surprised by how much they rise while they're cooking!  Let cool for about 15 minutes before serving.  Makes between 6 and 8 muffins.