Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Peanut Butter Bars (Gluten Free)

Peanut Butter Bars are always a hit.  I've been making them since I was in high school, and there's never been a time when they weren't VERY well received.

This time around, I made them gluten-free so that I wouldn't leave out the gluten-free people that they would be shared with.  My recipe usually includes graham cracker crumbs.  I subbed in cashew meal and coconut flour instead.  If you want to make them the regular way, just replace the same amount of graham cracker crumbs back in.

What you need:

1 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
scant cup EACH cashew meal (or almond) and coconut flour
2+ cups powdered sugar

Ganache Topping:
8 ounces chocolate chips or bittersweet chocolate *see note
4 ounces heavy cream

Mix together peanut butter and butter until smooth.  Stir in the cashew meal and coconut flour.  Add the powdered sugar and stir until the mixture becomes a thick mass.  It WILL be very crumbly at first, but stick with it and it will form a dough-like mass.  Pat this into a deep-sided container (I actually used two smaller Pyrex containers this time, but a 11 x 7 inch pan works perfectly.  I've also done 13 x 9, but you will have thinner bars).

Now, for the ganache topping:  Melt the chocolate and the heavy cream together over a double broiler (place a metal bowl on top of a sauce pan with water in it to make your own double broiler).  Once smoothly mixed, pour over the top of the peanut butter mixture.  Refrigerate for an hour or two before cutting into bars.  Keep refrigerated.


*I usually get Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips- cheaper than the bars of bittersweet, but nicer quality than regular chocolate chips.  I was stuck with Tollhouse this time around, which works fine.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Chocolate Chip (M&M) Blondies

It's already the 19th of December and I had yet to do any holiday baking until today.  Various factors involved there, but one of the big ones is the size of my kitchen here in New York.  And the size of the oven, which does not accommodate the baking sheet I brought with me.  But I bought a smaller one yesterday, and came up with a plan to tackle the rest of the size issue: bar cookies!  I love doing fancier cookies at Christmas, but with a kitchen my size (and the fact that I didn't bring my cookie press or cookie cutters to Brooklyn) making them seemed like more of a hassle than it was worth.  Bar cookies are super easy and a time saver.  Mix it up, spread it out, bake, and done!  No rolling or shaping, or even plopping drops down.  I added Christmas M&Ms and a ganache drizzle to make them a little more festive.

What you need:

1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 coconut oil, melted (or just use more butter)
2 cups brown sugar (I used the natural brown sugar that is more granular, but regular would be fine)
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1/4 Frangelico( hazelnut liquor) or amaretto (or omit and add a little less flour)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups flour (I used white whole wheat flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips or mini M&Ms

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a large mixing bowl, mix together the butter, coconut oil, and brown sugar.  Add the eggs and egg yolk.  Mix well.  Stir in the Frangelico and vanilla.  Add the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Stir until the flour is mixed in.  Add the M&Ms or chocolate chips and stir.  Spread in a nonstick or greased baking sheet with low sides (mine was 10"x15"... you can use a 13"x9" pan or 11"x14" pan... increase the baking time for the 13"x9" pan).  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly golden.

Cut into bars and serve!  If you want, drizzle ganache on top to spiff it up (recipe below).

Ganache (optional):
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 heavy cream

Melt the chocolate chips and cream together in a double boiler (place a metal or pyrex bowl on top of a pan filled with water... bring water to a boil.  Chocolate chips and cream go in the top bowl).  That's it!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Baked Chicken Legs with Indian Spices

Chicken can get- let's face it- rather boring.  It's also economical, healthy, and versatile, so it makes sense to make it a weeknight staple.  Which results in lots of people very tired of eating plain old boring chicken.

That's where this recipe comes in.  When I saw the chicken legs in the store's natural section, I couldn't resist buying them.  So much more exciting than the tenderloin pieces I had in mind!  Something about chicken legs just seems festive to me... maybe because they are reminiscent of hit wings or the legs off of the turkey at holidays... I don't know.  They do have more fat than a lot of other pieces of chicken, but if you take off the skin, it's not too bad.  I do keep the skin on for baking, as it makes it bake more tastily and is there for the people who want it.

And this recipe is VERY easy and relatively quick.  You can change up the spice mixture to anything that complements the rest of your dinner.  I went with this because I was serving it alongside an eggplant curry.  You can also cut the recipe in half- I always make extra so I don't have to cook dinner the next night, and also have leftovers for lunch.

What you need:

3.5 pounds chicken legs (two 1.75 pound packets)
1.5-2 teaspoons salt
2-3 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon ginger
0.5 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
1.5 teaspoons onion powder
1.5 teaspoons cumin
1-2 tablespoons brown sugar (I used the Truvia Brown Sugar Blend to cut down on sugar)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  Mix together all of the spices.  Rub spice mixture on each chicken leg, making sure to go under the skin as well (especially if you aren't going to eat the skin!).  Place on a baking sheet, making sure that the legs are not touching each other.  Bake for about 35-40 minutes, turning halfway through.  They should be a nice dark brown and juices should run clear.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tomatillo and Poblano Green Salsa

Salsa is a wonderful thing.  Super flavorful, fresh, spicy, and healthy!  Obviously it's great with chips, but its possibilities do not end there.  Salsa also adds great flavor as a topping on all sorts of meat, chicken, or fish, is a great substitute for dressing on a salad, and can be used as a dip for fresh vegetables (try jicama slices or cucumber!).  This time around, mine accompanied a carne asada salad with a sprinkling of queso fresco.

We're fans of all sorts of salsa varieties around here, but lately have been on a big green salsa steak.  Sadly, most of the best ones we've tried can get pretty expensive (especially when you go through a jar in one sitting).  The good news: making your own is surprisingly simple and just (if not more) tasty.   It turns out a beautiful vibrant green color that definitely outshines store bought salsas.

This recipe is modified from the one I found here on the Food Network site.

What you need:
~7-8 small to medium tomatillos (around 1.25 pounds probably)
2 poblano peppers
1-2 cloves of garlic
1-2 tablespoons lime juice
large handful of cilantro (about packed 1/2 cup)
salt to taste
water (possibly)

Start by roasting the tomatillos and the peppers.  This can be done a couple different ways.  Either way, you want to leave them long enough that they get splotchy black blisters on both (or multiple) sides.

The first method is to place the tomatillos and peppers on a baking sheet and broil on high for about 5 minutes, flip over, and then broil another 5 minutes on the other side.  Probably the method I'd usually use, but my oven was otherwise occupied.

The second method is to char them on the stovetop.  This worked really well for me on my gas stove- I'm not positive it would work as well on electric since they don't seem to get as hot.  Simply heat a large frying pan over high heat and add the whole tomatillos and peppers.  Stir/flip every couple minutes, allowing them time to get a little char on the downside.  Once they are spotted with black blisters everywhere, they're good to go.

After charring, you can put the peppers in a brown bag to steam for 10-15 minutes so that you can peel the skin off.  I skipped this.

The next step is to puree everything together- the tomatillos, peppers, garlic, lime juice, cilantro, and salt.  I did this is batches in my new tiny blender since I had to leave my Vitamix behind for a little while :-( .  You could use an immersion blender, food processor, or regular blender.  I had to add 1/3-1/2 water, but if you're using a Vitamix or immersion blender, you might be able to skip that and have a bit thicker salsa.

And done!  Enjoy with everything. :-)