Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Double Chocolate Espresso Cookies

I've probably said it before, but I'll say it again... I run to eat. Really. While I'm running, I'm usually thinking of the next thing I want to make and consume.

Also, you know when you're at the gym and you look at the person next to you and see that they have the Food Network on the screen while they're hoofing it? Yeah. That's me.

That's where these cookies came from... a rainy day treadmill run with the Food Network. I love to run mid-afternoon, because it picks my energy back up, and because Giada at Home and The Pioneer Woman are on.

Between a hard six mile run, a caffeine slump, and a chocolate craving, my brain exploded when Giada made these cookies the other day. Ground chocolate-covered espresso beans, chocolate chunks, and deep, dark cocoa powder. Just... Boom.

I used the Trader Joe's dark chocolate covered espresso beans, which I know for a fact that Giada used on the show. How do I know?

I recognized the container, and only the front label was replaced. You could still read TJ's logo on the back of the tub. It makes me inordinately happy that Giada/Food Network suppliers shop at TJ's like normal human beings.

Make these little, rich, decadent beauties. Just don't eat too many before bed... unless you're planning on sleeping when you're dead.

Double Chocolate Espresso Cookies

Adapted from Giada De Laurentis

6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces (recommended: Ghirardelli)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature1/3 cup dark chocolate-covered espresso beans2 cups flour2 tablespoons unsweetened extra dark cocoa powder1 teaspoon baking powder1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt3/4 cup sugar2 eggs, at room temperature2 tablespoons water1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract1 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the chocolate and butter. Place the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and stir occasionally until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.

In the bowl of a food processor, finely chop the chocolate covered espresso beans. Transfer to a bowl of a stand mixer, and add in flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Mix until just combined. Mix in sugar, eggs (one at a time), water, and vanilla extract; stir until thick and smooth (dough will be thick and sticky). Fold in the melted chocolate mixture and chocolate chips. Scoop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake until slightly puffed and the tops begin to crack, about 10 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for one minute, then transfer to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

House Party: Morningstar Feel Good Grilling Party and a Giveaway!

So I was lucky enough to get awarded another House Party-- woo! This time around, it was to try some of the new Morningstar Farms veggie burger series.

There's nothing better than a party where the guests can get their hands dirty. Enter the three-bar party.

1. Burger Bar: Grillers Prime, the Mediterranean Chickpea, Spicy Black Bean, and Tomato and Basil Pizza burgers. Roasted veggies to top them (including Shutterbean's onion jam).

Condiments galore.

Tons of buns...

2. Chip and dip bar: Corn dip, guacamole, salsa, and hummus to go with them. And raw veggies.

3. Ice Cream bar. Seven flavors of Graeter's Ice Cream and frozen yogurt (Buckeye, Mocha Chip, and Toffee Chip were the favorites!).

Toppings: Thin mint cookies, Whoppers, sprinkles, marshmallows, homemade hot fudge and peanut butter sauce.

Cookies: Chocolate chip cookies, M&M cookies, double chocolate M&M cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies (recipes coming soon!).

Once you've lined up these three bars (four, if you count a drinks station), just add friends!

Get down with the veggie burgers. The Mediterranean Chickpea and Pizza ones were the favorites-- gone in a heartbeat!

Burger eating is serious business.

Thanks, Morningstar!

Are you a veggie burger fanatic? Do you want free Morningstar swag? Leave a comment below and share your favorite burger topping combination (I'm always looking for new combinations to try!) to win a Morningstar Apron and reusable grocery bag! Contest open until Friday, July 26th at noon. Winner will be chosen at random and contacted via email for mailing information. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Eating Boston: Flour Bakery and Bee's Knees

Being the huge Food Network fan that I am, I had to make a pilgrimage to one of the Flour Bakery locations while I was in Boston. Lucky (or unlucky) for me, there was one less than half a mile away from my hotel! 

For those not in the know, Flour Bakery was started by Joanne Chang, a smart chick who graduated from Harvard with a degree in applied mathematics and economics, then left the business world to start a bakery. She's best known for her great bakeries in Boston, her restaurant, Myers and Chang, her cookbooks (the first of which I often bake from here on this site!)... and for kicking Bobby Flay's butt in a sticky-bun thrown down.

(Side note: I totally initially typed "Booby Flay"-- whoops!)

The cafe is decorated with tons of chalkboard paint, weathered wood, and pops of yellow. So cute!

The cafe menu looked fabulous. Normally I'm not one to pass up on a good quinoa salad, but I was on a mission...

I bought a bucketload of treats (the response from the cashier was "is this really all for you?!"), and headed outside.

Oh, the anticipation!

(Not pictured: a second box of treats that the gentleman helping me so graciously wrapped in saran wrap so I could bring treats home safely to Minnesota!)

I chose a pretty wide selection of treats. Clockwise from left: Peanut butter cookie (chocolate chunk cookie underneath), double chocolate Tcho cookie, granola bar, and apple snacking cake.

I may or may not have spoiled my dinner by ripping off a piece of each and trying them.

The cookies were incredible-- perfectly baked and tender, and just so soft that they fell apart in your hands. The peanut butter had the right hit of salt and a crunch of peanuts. Both of the chocolate chip cookies were the best I've ever had from a bakery-- deep, dark, and rich. You can tell Joanne uses only the best chocolate-- I didn't even need more than a bite or two of these HUGE cookies to satisfy my craving.

The "Granola Bar" was amazing, but not a granola bar in the traditional sense... more like a fancy, hippie-fied fig newton. The cakiness was divine, and the filling that the right amount of chew. Definitely not a health food, though. I can't wait to try my hand at this one soon.

The apple snacking cake was incredible. Moist, packed with fresh apples, and generously spiced. I'll be adding a bit of honey to this and calling it my Rosh Hashanah cake this year, for sure!

(Of course, I grabbed one of the famous sticky buns and am consuming it in the airport as I write this. You can see that it's on my lap-- but not for long!)

The sticky bun was very nice, but not what I expected, to be honest. It was a delicious, sweet brioche dough, topped with a VERY vanilla-y syrupy caramel and bucket loads of chopped pecans. Very good, but I could only have a few bites before I was done. It was SO sweet, and the vanilla was so strong... I normally like a more caramelly caramel and a bit of salt in mine. Still, very good-- I can see why it has such a strong following. I'd probably pick the apple cake or the cookies over this next time, though.

I then went next door to Bee's Knees Supply Company, since I had heard great things from a friend about their chocolates.

Super-cute, quaint, boutique food store.  I killed an hour just poking around. I hate checking my suitcase, but I almost did so that I could bring home some of the local sauces and treats they sold!

But I was on a mission... to the chocolate bar!

I have yet to try these truffles (trying to extend the Boston experience until I get home), but I am quite excited. Peppermint patties, salted caramels, chai-spice truffles (which they dub "The Bengal Tiger"), and peanut butter and jelly candies! 

Until next time, Boston! Thank you for feeding my

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Eating Boston: Barrington Coffee Company

Dear friends, I am writing to you from the lovely city of....


I'm here for a workshop/conference, and the days have been so incredibly packed that the only time to explore is first thing in the morning. Lucky for me, that means that I can watch a sunrise while drinking coffee on the harbor.

I wandered around this morning, and found a hole-in-the-wall restaurant called "Top Secret Sandwiches" at the end of the Boston Fish Pier. I was so excited, and was hoping to grab a bite there tomorrow, but alas, it just closed its doors. Still, I wonder what a top secret sandwich tastes like...

Boats were just coming in while I went in search of coffee...

Barrington Coffee has a reputation for being one of the best roasters on the east coast, and is known for its high-scoring roasts and dedication to ethically sourced coffee. So I had to find it and get my fill!

The sign may have made it easy to find, even for someone who gets as pathetically lost as me.

The shop is minimalist in terms of decor, which was a bit off-putting at first, as I wasn't sure I had walked into the right shop-- that is, until I smelled the coffee.

I ordered a simple iced coffee, which is my go-to summer drink. It's also how I gauge whether coffee is good (yes, I'm a snob)-- if I have to add cream and sugar to it, then chances are it's been way over roasted (at least for my taste). 

The coffee here was no joke. The best I've had in a while. I didn't have to add anything to it-- in fact, I didn't want to. The roast they used had chocolatey undertones, and the brew was sweet enough naturally that it felt downright decadent. Good enough to get me through last minute readings for the workshop early in the morning.

Truth? It was so good that I went back and told other conference attendees about it while standing around the break time buffet complaining about the hotel coffee. I kept talking about the coffee so much that I'm pretty sure one girl wanted to punch me....

I picked up a pound of a lightly roasted single-origin bean to bring home as a souvenir. I know I'll be back there tomorrow-- and may have to stock up.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Farmer's Market Fridays: Esquites (Mexican Corn Salad)

This is what you turn into if you eat too much of this fabulous corn salad. Not kosher.

I made this sweet corn salad last week for a barbecue at a friend's house on the 4th-- and it didn't last five minutes. Seriously, if you want to make friends and win over enemies, this may be better than any cookie you could ever bake.

(Don't quote me on that. I'd be out of a job.)

This salad is straightforward: corn, cotija cheese, garlic, lime, hot pepper. The trick is roasting the corn before you assemble the salad. I removed the kernels from the cob and cooked the heck out of them in a skillet-- and it was magic.

The wonderful thing about this recipe is it can easily be scaled up or down, and can be eaten as a salad or as a dip.

Me? I'm a dipper. The crunchiness of tortilla chips goes beautifully with the creamy cotija and the sweet, smoky corn that's in season now. Totally the right move.


Adapted from The Kitchn

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups fresh sweet corn (from about 6 ears)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 serrano pepper seeded and minced
4 tablespoons crumbled cotija cheese
2 tablespoons olive-oil based mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons Mexican-style chili powder
Juice  and zest from two limes
Kosher salt, to taste

In a large skillet, heat oil on medium until "shimmering". Add the corn and cook, stirring occasionally, until the corn is toasted and golden brown (about ten-fifteen minutes). Remove from heat and stir in garlic; allow to cool for a few minutes.

In a mixing bowl, combine the toasted corn mixture with the remaining ingredients. Adjust seasonings, as desired. Serve at room temperature with additional cotija cheese.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Monster Cookie Granola Bars

It's summer. We've got things to do, places to go, people to see... Let's keep everything else easy, shall we?

This weekend is going to be a doozy. On the docket: Relay for Life, lab work, Color Run, lab work, packing for a trip to Boston, lab work, running errands, trying to relax a little bit and enjoy the weather...

Oh, and more lab work.

All this to say, food will need to be quick, easy, and satisfying. Let's take ten minutes and make our own wholesome granola bars to sustain us through all the crazy, shall we?

These granola bars come together quickly and easily... and end up being cheaper than buying them at the grocery store. You can throw whatever you want in these bars... the only really necessary ingredients are oats, some cereal, and brown rice syrup (as a binding agent). I just was craving monster cookies, so I decided to take that delicious spin on it. I also threw in some soy protein powder to bulk up the bars and make them slightly more meal-worthy (slash balance out all the chocolate in them!)

Wrap the bars individually in wax paper to grab and go. They'll keep this way for about a week, but will last two if you throw them in a ziploc bag once wrapped.

Monster Cookie Granola Bars

Inspired by Super Natural Cooking

1 1/4 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 cups chopped salted peanuts
1 cup oat bran
1 1/2 cups fiber cereal (I used Fiber One's Honey squares)
1 cup raisins
1 cup M&Ms
1 cup miniature chocolate chips
6 scoops soy protein powder (I used one from Trader Joe's, unflavored)
3 tbsp peanut butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups brown rice syrup

In a large bowl, toss together the first eight ingredients; set aside. Line a 13"x9" pan with wax paper.

In a medium saucepan, heat the peanut butter, brown rice syrup, and brown sugar, stirring constantly. Once close to bubbling, remove from heat, drizzle over the previously mixed ingredients, and stir until everything is well moistened.

Transfer the mixture to the lined pan and press into the pan evenly. Allow to cool to room temperature, or chill in the fridge; cut into desired bar sizes, wrap individually in wax paper, and store up to two to three weeks in an airtight container.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins

Sometimes, when things get hard, luck comes through and smooths over some things.

Laptop not working (i.e., dog knocked over a cup of coffee?) Turns out some parts were covered, so your computer now is mostly fixed (though technically a desktop now).

Driver's license lost in the woods during a race? Turns out the race director found it and returned it, so you don't have to hassle with the DMV while out of state.

Good things always come in threes... I'm waiting...

In the meantime, pay it forward. These muffins are little, delicious nuggets of good karma. Nutty brown butter meets deep, dark chocolate chips, with a crunchy sugar topping. Possibly better than any thank you note I could write.

The tech who fixed my computer? My hero-- have some muffins.

The race director who found my license and returned it? Needs a cape... or a half dozen treats.

I have a few left... who will be lucky enough to get these?

Get lucky. Make muffins.

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins

Adapted from the Joy the Baker Cookbook

8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup almondmilk
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup miniature chocolate chips (I used semisweet)
Sanding sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Place muffin liners in a 12-muffin tin and set aside.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Swirl butter occasionally, and listen for crackling. Remove butter from heat when solids become a light brown color and butter starts to smell nutty. Pour into a heatproof bowl to stop the cooking.

In the stand of a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk together the almond milk, egg, egg yolk,and vanilla. Add butter and mix.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Slowly add in to butter mixture, and stir until combined. Fold in chocolate chips.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 of the way full. Top with sanding sugar, and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven, allow to cool for 15  minutes, and serve with a cold cup of iced coffee.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Farmer's Market Fridays: Grilled Sweet Potato and Snap Pea Salad

When it rains, it pours. It's been a rough week, friends-- and unfortunately, my friends and family have had to deal with me going bonkers left and right. They all have the patience of saints... thank you!

Given how draining it is to try and get a new driver's license while out of state, deal with a damaged computer, mend a broken heart, and increasing responsibilities at work, I have nothing witty to write here, other than to say that grilling up sweet potatoes and onions basically is the best way to stress eat and not feel guilty.

The sugars in the veggies caramelize and become nature's candy. Really. Plus, there's something so therapeutic about chopping up veggies and throwing them on a grill pan, and the colors are amazing.

Get on it. Feel virtuous. And ignore the fact that you pounded a pint of cookie dough ice cream right after eating this.

Grilled Sweet Potato and Snap Pea Salad

Adapted from Food Network Magazine

4 sweet potatoes
8 green onions, cut into large pieces
1 pound snap peas, trimmed
1 tbsp whole grain mustard
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375F; pierce the sweet potatoes with a fork, and roast until they can easily be cut into with a knife. Remove and set aside to cool before cutting into large pieces.

Preheat a grill or a grill pan to high. Brush the onions, sweet potatoes, and snap peas with olive oil; grill until tender and nice marks appear on the produce. Remove from grill and toss together in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Drizzle over the salad, toss, and serve warm, or chill and serve cold later (equally good!).