Tuesday, May 15, 2007

from 4/9/2007

First of all, as promised, the recipe for the Mesquite Chocolate Chip Cookies (from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking) that I made for book club last week. My notes are in [brackets].

Mesquite Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour [note: most "whole wheat flour" is pastry flour. Unless it says bread flour]
1 c. mesquite meal [sometimes called mesquite flour. look for the raw; it's healthier!]
1 t. baking soda
1 t. aluminum-free baking powder
3/4 t. fine-grain sea salt
1 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 c. natural cane sugar
3 large eggs
1 T. pure vanilla extract
2 c. rolled oats
2 c. semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Position the racks in the upper half of the oven, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper [I didn't have any parchment paper, so I just sprayed two nonstick baking sheets with non-fat cooking spray].

Whisk together flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy, then beat in the sugar until of a consistency like thick frosting. Beat in the eggs one at a time, incorportating each fully before adding the next, and scaping down the sides of the bowl a few times. Stir in the vanilla until evenly incorporated. Add the dry ingredients in three increments, stirring between each addition. At this point, you should have a moist, uniformly brown dough [okay, my dough wasn't really what I'd characterize as "moist" at this point. It was pretty stiff. I may leave out about 1/4 c. of the whole wheat flour next time, but they tasted great regardless]. Stir in the oats and chocolate chips by hand, mixing only until evenly distributed.

Drop 2 T. of dough for each cookie onto the prepared baking sheets about 2" apart, and bake for about 10 minutes until golden on both top and bottom [this took only 8 minutes for me, and do be sure to have the racks in the upper half of the oven or the bottoms of your cookies will burn]. Don't overbake these; if anything, underbake them. Cool on wire racks.

Makes 2-3 dozen chunky, medium-large cookies. [I got about 4 dozen really good-sized cookies. And, because the dough is pretty stiff, they don't really spread much during baking, so you can load up each sheet].

Man, those are some good cookies.

I did a little bit of cooking this weekend. On Friday my friend Alex visited. I just made a little salad when she got there since we were both starvin' marvin', but wanted to hang out and chat for a bit before running out to dinner. So, I made a salad with arugula, mixed baby greens, watercress, sorrel (roughly chopped), minced fresh basil and mint. With some diced yellow mango (it's the first time I'd tried it. it's tasty--pretty yellow color and a sweet-tart kind of taste), fresh blueberries, hunza golden raisins and some candied walnuts. I soaked about 2 c. of raw walnuts for an hour, then tossed them to coat in a bowl where I'd mixed some raw honey (1/2 c.), chili powder (1 T.?), mesquite meal (about 2 T.) and a little coarse ground smoked sea salt. When the nuts were well-coated, I spread them on a baking sheet, and popped them into the oven (at around 175 degrees) to dry for a couple hours. I then used them to top the salad. I made a dressing from toasted sesame oil (about 1/3 c.?), some rice vinegar (2 T.?), red chili flakes (1 1/2 T.?), 1 minced shallot, about 1 t. of ground ginger and some sea salt and black pepper. The toasted sesame oil really made this; such a fantastic flavor. Nice mix of textures and colors and flavors. Yum.

Then we went to the Quiet Storm for dinner, tonk and gin (the card game), and pink wine. I had some vegan black bean soup (that I made un-vegan by adding a dollop of sour cream) and a slice of sun-dried tomato/basil/spinach lasagne. Tasty. And, Saturday morning we went to Coca for breakfast where I got the egg white omelette (it had tomatoes, goat cheese and spinach) with pumpernickel toast and soysage.

Then, we hung out at the Beehive for a bit just chatting and surfing the internet (a rare weekend treat for me!), then she headed back to Michigan and I headed to a sprouting workshop at Mung Dynasty that was planned through Slow Foods Pittsburgh (http://www.slowfoodpgh.com/). Unfortunately, Mung Dynasty doesn't have a site since they were recently hacked and in-virus-ated, and such. But, anyway. It was AWESOME! They have a whole indoor farm where they grow several hundred varieties of sprouts and microgreens. We didn't see the upstairs, but the downstairs was great. There's a main room with tons of sprout trays in various growth stages (1-3 days), a small kitchen and some tables. When we came in, we were given cups of wheatgrass-lemon-apple juice, and were encouraged to mill around and check out the sprouts. We went into the dark room where other sprouts were growing (and we got to nibble anything we could reach--my favorites were garlic, radish, sunflower and lentil sprouts). Then to the microgreen room where we learned a bit more about them and what Mung Dynasty does, and got to taste some cilantro, thai basil, amaranth, buckwheat, etc. Then, back to the main room where we passed around buckets of about 30-ish kinds of sprouts and microgreens along with little cherry tomato jewels, soaked raw almonds, and Mung Dynasty's own Thai or Ginger-Miso dressings. We washed it down with more of the wheatgrass-lemon-apple juice. I sat between a local farmer (he participates in the Penn Corner farmers co-op; they have a CSA, too), a guy that organizes wine tastings (http://grapenuts.org/) and a woman that organizes events for Slow Foods Pittsburgh (including the Firehouse Farmers Market). And, we got a little gift bag when we left, too, with a pet grass plant (that I took home to my China-bear kitty who turned 15 years old yesterday!!) and I got to choose from a variety of sprouts. I took the "gourmet salad topping" with a giant mix of sprouts and microgreens. Yum. I felt like I'd had a giant health-infusion when I left there. Two hours of good clean fun! I highly recommend doing the tour, or at least stopping by for some sprouts/microgreens, or some of their prepared foods (salads, dressings, wraps, sandwiches, etc. They're open 7am-noon Monday through Saturday. They're in the Brewhouse in the South Side, around the side/back, in the alley. I took loads of pictures, and promised to send them to the Slow Foods folks, so you may see some of my photos on their site! Or, of course, you can email me if you want to see, and I'll hook you up. The workshop was $15, and worth it.

Saturday night I was feeling like nesting, so I just watched a couple netflix movies that I'd had for, like, two months, made a quick salad (spinach, arugula, green onion, steamed asparagus with a ginger-soy dressing) and some roasted potatoes. For the potatoes, I made another batch of the dressing I'd used on the mango salad, added a little more of the chili flakes and a pinch of cayenne, and tossed the potatoes (I used about a pound of russian banana fingerling potatoes chopped into 1-2" cubes), and baked them at about 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, stirring/flipping occasionally. I actually used Heinz ketchup as a condiment with these fries, but I wouldn't again. I have always loved ketchup--so much so that I've used foods just as a vehicle for ketchup before. But, I haven't had any in months, and I was kind of shocked when I tasted it. It tasted way too sweet and almost kind of chemically when I tasted it. I think my tastebuds have just become accustomed to not having that kind of thing. Kinda crazy, huh? When I had some of the potatoes later as a leftover, I made a kind of a faux aoili with silken tofu, sea salt and minced garlic, and it was much tastier, and also balanced out the spiciness of the potatoes nicely.

I made myself brunch on Sunday around lunchtime. I used the same type of fingerling potatoes, but this time I sliced them in thin circular slices (about 1/8" thick), and fried them in the skillet with about a 1/2 c. of onions, diced small, a little olive oil and some smoked sea salt and pepper. Along with those, I made some gimme lean veggie sausages and an omelette with some roughly chopped sorrel and goat cheese.

Yesterday afternoon I just looked through cookbooks, and started getting a hankering for some banana bread. I'd seen a recipe on Heidi's blog (http://www.101cookbooks.com/) from a Stephan Pyles recipe she'd made where he roasts the bananas in their skins before using them. So, I used that method, but also drew inspiration from a recipe for Banana-Oat Muffins in Recipes From the Old Mill: Baking With Whole Grains by Sarah E. Myers and Mary Beth Lind (a West Virginia cookbook!). So, I ended up making some muffins, and here's the recipe I came up with. [Changes that I think I'd make next time are in brackets].

Roasted Banana-Oat Muffins

3 ripe bananas, in their skins
2/3 c., plus 1 T. whole wheat flour
1/3 c., plus 1 T. mesquite meal
1/4c. cane sugar
3 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 T. maca powder [I'd actually leave this out next time, and just add another T. of mesquite meal]
3/4 c. rolled oats
1 T. coconut oil
1 egg (at room temperature)
1/2 t. pure vanilla extract
1 c. plain soy milk

2 T. cane sugar [I'd use brown sugar next time]
1 T. whole wheat flour
1 T. mesquite meal
1/4 t. cinnamon [you could up this to 1/2 t., for sure]
1/2 T. melted butter
1/4 c. roughly chopped sunflower seeds (it's okay if lots of them are whole) - lightly toast them to really bring out their flavor in a dry skillet. About 8 minutes, stirring frequently over low heat. You could also used chopped pecans.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease 12 large muffin cups.

So, first you need to roast the bananas. Place them on a baking sheet, and roast in the oven for about 12 minutes. The skins will darken, and the bananas will start to ooze liquid as they're carmelizing in their skins. After you remove them from the oven, set aside, and let them cool a bit.

In the meantime, mix the flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, maca. Stir in oats. Set aside.

When bananas are somewhat cooled, squeeze them out of their skins into a bowl. Mash them up, and mix with the coconut oil, egg, vanilla and soy milk.
Add the banana mixture to the dry ingredients, and mix just until moist. Spoon into prepared muffin cups. Mix topping ingredients together, and sprinkle over the tops of the muffins. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out mostly clean.

These muffins, I think, would've been better without the maca powder. I'm still figuring out what to do with this stuff. It's got an odd/strong flavor, and I'm just not digging it, but I am digging its fantastic nutrition profile. But, anyway, the muffins came out really moist, and tasted both really decadent and really healthy. They have tons of banana, and the roasting seems to have really brought out a deeper, caramel kind of flavor, along with the mesquite flour really playing that up. Tasty.

So, all that cookin', and I forgot my packed breakfast and lunch this morning! Dang!

Tomorrow's my birthday! I like a fuss, so some friends are taking me out to Abay for dinner. YUM! I can't wait!

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