Saturday, January 28, 2012

Non-Dairy Chocolate Sauce to Die For

Last night, we had a great dinner with friends. And I got to bring dessert--which paled compared to the meal, but every once in a while, I let myself get spoiled. Seriously, isn't it the most wonderful thing in the world when someone feeds you a home-cooked meal?! It was my first time making a chocolate sauce to go with an amaretto cheesecake. And we really liked this chocolate sauce. Of course, it comes from famed pastry chef, David Lebovitz. Apparently, he's been making it for 20 years. Yeah, it's pretty darn good!

Since Valentine's Day is coming up, I figured maybe some of you might be looking for a fast and easy chocolate sauce to drizzle over your desserts. You might have to resist eating it out of a jar. Keep it in the fridge and warm it up before serving. I made some small changes in parentheses. I used agave nectar instead of corn syrup--I have a feeling that corn syrup would give you a bit thicker and shinier texture. 

  • One thing I did do that did end up tasting pretty delicious, was do 1/2 cup coffee (strong, unsweetened) + 1/2 cup water. However, keep in mind that coffee is acidic--and that helped me understand why my sauce did end up crystallizing a tiny bit--the acid affected the integrity of the sauce--not enough to bother us, but enough to notice it visually. I think it would be better to add a tablespoon or two of coffee liqueur instead if you want a little mocha flavor.

By the way, we weren't the only ones having fun--check out our children having their first date--this cracks me up as they were even provided 'candlelight'...the only thing missing is a shared pasta noodle between those busy mouths. 

Love may be in the air.....I think it would be great to add a little peppermint extract to this chocolate sauce and serve it over ice-cream at Christmas...or Valentine's Day. Which we are DEFINITELY preparing for at this house. All I hear about is hearts...heart songs, prayers, books, crafts,

..we even watched a little open heart surgery on youtube ('that was cool, mom!'). Hope everyone can use a little chocolate in preparation :)

Adapted from
About 2 1/2 cups
  • 1 cup (250 ml) water
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (160 g) light corn syrup, agave nectar, or glucose (I used agave nectar)
  • 3/4 cup (75 g) unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-processed)
  • 2 ounces (55 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped--(I used 3 ounces of good quality semi-sweet chocolate chips)
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt (my addition)

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the water, sugar, corn syrup (or agave or glucose), and cocoa powder.
Bring to a boil over medium heat. Once the mixture has just begun to simmer and boil, remove from heat and stir in the chopped chocolate until melted.
Serving: You should let the Chocolate Sauce stand for a few hours before serving, which will give it time to thicken a bit.
Storage: Store the chocolate sauce in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. Rewarm before serving.
ENJOY! This sauce is delicious over cheesecake and when added to hot milk to make hot chocolate. Serve it over strawberries and ice-cream or dip bananas in it for a delicious treat. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Soft Granola Cookie Hearts

These little treats are vegan. I hesitate to say that as many people are still coming around to not being scared by the word 'vegan.' I was one of those people that would instantly shut down at the idea of veganism due to less than tasty vegan food I had previous eaten (and if anyone has good—I mean, edible, vegan cheese--I'd love to know about it because I have yet to find that). But now that the world is coming around more to the idea of vegan eating (obviously from my chicken & dairy recipes, I'm not fully convinced I want to be totally vegan), the public is finally getting exposed to eating BETTER vegan food/recipes. You know, things that don't taste like cardboard. And recipes that aren't just composed of raw vegetables (not that there is anything with raw vegetables!).

Well, my child has been sick quite a bit this winter already--mainly due to exposure to other kids with illnesses—playdates and Mother's Day Out/Preschool. Because of this, I tried to give her less dairy. And because of the reward system instituted last spring, she thinks she deserves treats for good behavior (thank you potty training). So, what's a mom to do? Make vegan treats.

I love this little recipe—I hope you will too! It's one of those that you won't feel guilty eating or giving to your children. It's a sugar-free treat, has plenty of fiber from the whole grains and dried fruit and protein from the nuts. You could use any dried fruit you like, I just happen to like dried pineapple in things lately. I would also like to replace the bananas with prunes or pumpkin in this recipe sometime. These come together really fast (despite that at first glance it seems to have a lot of ingredients).

I tried to make this particular one more appealing to my daughter by shaping the cookies into little hearts (use a cookie cutter). And in doing so, realized that this would be a great little Valentine's 'cookie' to make with your kids. However, I'm sure any cookie cutter would do or you could just drop the 'dough' onto the sheet and shape with your hands if you are a minimalist.

Makes 22-24

For Liquid Mixture:

  • 1 cup mashed bananas (about 3 medium)
  • 3 Tbsp. almond or soy milk
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup safflower oil (canola or another flavorless oil can be replaced)
  • zest of one orange (you could skip—but I like it in conjunction with the cloves)
Dried Fruit to add to liquid mixture—can replace with your favorites for 1 cup total of dried fruit:

  • ¼ cup chopped dried pineapple
  • ¼ cup chopped dried apple
  • ½ cup raisins (golden raisins fine too)
For dry mixture:

  • 1 ½ cups old fashioned oats (not instant)
  • ¾ cup shredded, unsweetened, coconut
  • 1 Tbsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. cloves 
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. baking powder (I like aluminum-free)
  • ¼ cup almonds (processed in food processor to make 'almond meal')
Nuts to add to dry mixture--can replace with nuts of your choice for a total of ½ cup chopped nuts:

  • ¼ cup chopped Brazil nuts
  • ¼ cup walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set aside cookie sheets with Silpats or covered with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, mix your liquids. Add the dried fruit and mix well. If need be, use a whisk and push down on any clumps of fruit to separate and stir again. Set aside to let the fruit soften while you work on the dry ingredients.

In a larger bowl, stir your dry ingredients together and add in the nuts.

Now, add your liquid mixture to your dry mixture and stir well.

Place a cookie cutter (or different shaped ones—use medium-big sized cutters) on the cookie sheet and fill with granola mixture until it reaches about halfway into the height of the cookie cutter. Pat down with a spoon and spread evenly into the cookie cutter. Lift up your cookie cutter leaving the shape behind. Repeat until you get your sheet(s) filled. The 'cookies' don't rise much so you won't need to worry that they'll spread out into each other.

Bake for about 15-20 minutes—keep your eye on them so they don't burn (try to swap cookie sheets halfway--the bottom one can go on top and the top one can go on bottom).

Let cool before eating. (I store these treats in a covered tupperware container in the refrigerator & freeze half) 

Oh yeah, they're also really good for breakfast with a glass of soymilk and some coffee.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Easy Little Bread (No Knead, 30 Minute Rise, Whole Grain, & Delicious!)

This bread is delicious! And it was SO easy! It is another one of Heidi Swanson's great finds (from 101 Cookbooks--great blog--here is the original post). Ran across this bread on Pinterest. It may be the fastest, easiest little bread recipe I've tried so far. You can literally have bread within a 2 hours of starting this recipe. Though, I prefer my longer wait method breads (from Kneadlessly Simple), this one is a great one if you're short on time and would be a perfect bread to 'cut your teeth on' if you haven't made any yeast breads yet. 

The best part of making this bread is that it uses ingredients you will most likely have on hand in your pantry. The crust is crispy, the texture is hearty, and the flavor is still light enough to not feel overly cardboard-healthy--but it is still healthy! I wish I had made THREE loaves and frozen two of them. Next time, I will. Seriously, this bread is NO knead (use your stand mixer to blend the ingredients). And requires only a 30 minute rise. Check out how beautifully this yeast proofed! (Don't mind my falling-apart measuring cup. Santa needs to bring me a new one next year. Also, this may be the first time I can tell my new camera may actually take better pictures than my old one...)

I'm hoping to incorporate this bread  into toasts for dinner, later this week, by topping it with mushrooms, bell peppers, and provolone cheese and broiling the toasts. This would be a great bread for that kind of thing. It is the perfect Sunday afternoon bread--the kind you want to eat while taking a break from doing laundry. I am assuming that's how everyone spends their Sundays....laundry and dreading going back to work the next day. So how to make Sundays better?? I have found three ways: 1) Bake bread! It's a cheerful way to greet the week. 2) Finish a creative project--thank you Pinterest for more inspiration!

And 3) Take your kids for a neighborhood ride in a wagon at sunset into the early evening. 

Here's to hoping everyone's Sunday nights get happier!

By the way, check out those air bubbles--keep in mind this bread does NOT rise much at all. I wouldn't say it's an impressive looking bread, but get past the fact that it's a little brick shaped (as was Heidi's if you go to her original post); slather some butter on it, hot from the oven, and you'll be good to go--yes, I know you're not supposed to cut it out of the oven, but who can resist? 


  • 1 1/4 cups / 300 ml warm water (105-115F)
  • 2 tsp. active dry yeast (one packet)
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 cup / 4.5 oz / 125 g unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup / 5 oz / 140 g whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup / 3.5 oz / 100 g rolled oats (not instant oats)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, melted, for brushing

In a medium bowl, sprinkle the yeast onto the warm water and stir until the yeast dissolves. Stir in the honey and set aside for a few minutes, until the yeast blooms and swells a bit - 5 - 10 minutes.
In the meantime, mix the flours, oats, and salt in a large bowl. Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir very well.
Brush a 8-cup loaf pan (just a regular loaf pan you have around, really!) generously with some of the melted butter. Turn the dough into the tin, cover with a clean, slightly damp cloth, and set in a warm place for 30 minutes, to rise.
Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C, with a rack in the middle. When ready, bake the bread for 35-40 minutes, until golden and pulling away from the sides of the pan. (Heidi says: I finish things up by leaving the bread under the broiler for just a heartbeat - to give the top a bit deeper color.)
Remove from oven, and turn the bread out of the pan quickly. Let it cool on a rack so it doesn't steam in the pan. Serve warm, slathered with butter.
Makes 1 loaf.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Curried Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

It's been a while since I've posted on a soup and I have been looking for a chicken and wild rice soup that wasn't super rich. I try not to make meals that require heavy cream or a lot of cream cheese--and found most chicken and rice soups to be very rich due to those ingredients. When I stumbled upon this recipe, I decided to give it a go. I have adapted this recipe to be even lighter and don't miss the heaviness at all! But, feel free to make it as 'creamy' as you wish by adding a fuller fat dairy. We enjoyed it and I even sent some home with my dad when he came to visit. They said they loved it.

The soup calls for a little curry powder and many people think that curry powder brings out the flavor of chicken. I do not find it overpowering, but you can always add a little less. We really loved the texture of this soup due to the sliced almonds--how neat is that? Crunch in a soup. And almonds are so good for you! My husband said it reminded him of our avocado curry on brown rice. This is really great comfort food. And I may also try it with vegetarian 'chicken' next time.

  • If you really in a hurry, you can buy one of those frozen mirepoix bags in the freezer section of your grocery store--one bag is a fine substitute for the chopped onion, celery & carrot required in the recipe (or so it seemed for me anyway!) 
  • In the comments section of this recipe, someone said they used the food processor to chop the onions, carrots, and celery--so I may try that next time. It's a forgiving recipe so a little more of this and a little less of that won't kill the flavor.
  • Also, in the comments section, someone said they put everything in the crockpot, raw chicken & I'm assuming uncooked rice (EXCEPT for the cream/milk), left it on low--I'm assuming for 4-6 hours, and added the milk/cream when everything was cooked through. That would be easy, wouldn't it?


Adapted from

Serves 6-8
  • 1 Tbsp. butter (+a little olive oil, if necessary)
  • 1 finely chopped onion (about 1 medium onion)
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup sliced carrots
  • 1/2 pound fresh sliced mushrooms (I used 1 lb. sliced mushrooms because we LOVE them!)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups cooked wild rice
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp. mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 3 Tbsp. dry sherry (vermouth would work well too)
  • 2 cups half-and-half (I USED 2% milk—but you could go even lighter with 1% or skim or fat-free half & half)

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion, celery and carrots and saute for 5 minutes (add a little olive oil if necessary to prevent sticking). Add the mushrooms and saute for 2 more minutes. Then add the flour and stir well. 

Gradually pour in the chicken broth, stirring constantly, until all has been added. Bring just to a boil, reduce heat to low and let simmer.

Next, add the rice, chicken, salt, curry powder, mustard powder, parsley, ground black pepper, almonds and sherry. Allow to heat through, then pour in the half-and-half or milk.

Let simmer for 1 to 2 hours. (Note: Do not boil or your roux will break.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Dark Chocolate Lavender Truffles....LOVE at First Bite

WOW. I have been dreaming of lavender recipes lately....and finally, I tried something with my dried lavender (courtesy of the bulk spice department in Whole Foods). Chocolate & lavender are an amazing team. If you like the smell of this herb, then you will like the taste of this treat. If you don't...then maybe you should still try it--but make 1/2 a recipe. Lavender is native to the Mediterranean region. I've heard a lot of people say that they can't imagine lavender in food--that it just reminds the of soap. I suppose it is clean & relaxing. And the word does come from the latin, lavare, which means 'to wash'...It's one of those herbs like cilantro or tarragon--you either love it or hate it. I happen to love it. My aunt and I dream of visiting lavender fields across the globe!

Here's one in Tasmania (photo from Wikipedia):

and one in Provence (photo from Lizzie Shepherd: Photography):

There is something incredibly decadent about combining these two flavors--the peaceful, calming nature of lavender--with the explosive, luxurious, and deep flavor of chocolate. It's like having a vacation in a bite! Truffles are an easy, but heavenly, treat to make.

When making these heady treats--read my recipe all the way to the end first--I wrote a note on whether to include or eliminate the lavender flowers.

I made a double recipe of these awesome truffles (so I'd have something to give out at the tail end of the Christmas holiday) and tried hard to remember the yield....I think 25-35 for a double recipe. But of course, it also depends on how big you make your, I can't wait to try other flavor possibilities--these chocolates are otherwise expensive at the store! Somehow, they tasted expensive at home too.....

Adapted from

  • 8 oz. dark chocolate (53% cocoa or above), chopped--the better the quality, the better the truffle
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tsp. dried lavender buds
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder or 1/4 cup blanched almond crumbs (I needed more like 1/3 cup)

Chop chocolate into small chunks (I actually didn't even bother to chop them!), place in medium size bowl and set aside. Simmer cream in small sauce pan. Once simmering, pour in lavender buds and vanilla, whisk together. 
Now, this is just my suggestion-- let sit a few minutes to let the lavender flavor fully set and then strain the lavender pieces out through a sieve (RESERVING HOT CREAM!) Some people don't like their chocolate to have anything in it--like herb leaves/buds. I prefer my chocolate smooth so I can be undistracted during my afternoon moment of bliss as I tune out the cats that are in heat on my porch, the crashing of some dish off the countertop my toddler has pulled on, or the sound of the garbage truck dragging my recycling across the street. But, that's just me and my untethered moment (bliss).
Add cream/lavender mixture to the chopped chocolate. Let sit for a few minutes before stirring until smooth. (I just stirred immediately until it was all combined.)
After the mixture is smooth, place in fridge for 3 hours or more.
Remove bowl and with a teaspoon or melon baller, roll out balls of the chocolate, placing on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Place the cookie sheets back in the fridge for another 30 minutes. When truffles are firm, roll in your (clean) hands quickly to form small spheres (the temporary heat of your hands helps the cocoa/almonds to adhere to them better). Roll these round spheres in cocoa powder or the chopped almonds, and either serve or return to the fridge for safe keeping. 
Store in refrigerator. They save for at least several weeks!!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Quinoa Burgers

If you're on Pinterest, you may have seen these quinoa burgers. I have had two friends make and love these burgers. They really are delicious! How in the world have I never thought to try something like this, even after making the black bean-millet burgers? I didn't use a lot of oil to fry them, but hope to figure out how to bake them next time.

If you're new to using quinoa, don't be scared--it's a really, healthy and delicious new food to add to your diet. Here is a great little article on the awesome benefits of quinoa. Did you know that quinoa is super high in protein? You can use quinoa in exchange for rice in many recipes (though it is more expensive). I'm still looking for ways to incorporate it--a few months ago, I made stuffed bell peppers with quinoa and black beans and corn. They were so delicious and I'm kicking myself for not writing down how I made them. I'll have to try them again to blog about because I was convinced that in some recipes, quinoa is even better than rice!

I've made these burgers (or patties, if you wish) twice now and both times, the first few burgers I put in the frying pan, fell apart. So, after the first time this happened, I added an extra egg to the rest of the composition and they held up fine. The second time, I added two egg whites (actually eggbeaters) to the composition and they stayed firm again. I don't know why they didn't hold up for me as they did for the creator of the recipe (Linda). Maybe it will work for you to leave the recipe as is--but if it doesn't, you'll be able to tell after the first few burgers go in the pan--well, when you flip them. I, however, am always going to be adding another egg or 2 egg whites when making these again. I love them too much to waste 3-4 burgers. Also, you can also add one handful of chopped fresh parsley to the composition if you like. I did it the first time, but didn't add the parsley the second time and they were still very good!

Another curious thing about the recipe--the creator (Linda) calls for sweetener. I found it sort of strange, but added it anyway (agave nectar instead of splenda). But, sometimes quinoa can have a slightly bitter aftertaste and this sweetness balances the flavor out. It's a well-rounded tasting burger. Yum, yum, yum! You can even serve them as patties with a salad or with some sauteed veggies.

We put them on a whole wheat bun with lettuce, tomato, gouda cheese, and mustard/mayo. Really love these burgers and they will be put into our regular dinner repertoire. 


  • 2 rounded cups cooked quinoa (see cooking instructions below)
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or other variety, if you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1 medium carrot, finely grated (OR 1 cup shredded zucchini, squeezed-though I haven't tried it yet)
  • 3 eggs + 2 egg whites (the egg whites were my addition)
  • 3 Tbsp. all purpose flour 
  • 2 green onions, including white parts
  • 1 /2 tsp. Splenda or sugar (I used agave nectar)
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/8  tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
  • Olive oil for frying

To cook quinoa:
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

In a medium saucepan bring the 2 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil over high heat. Add quinoa and reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 18-20 minutes, or until all water is absorbed and the seeds are tender. Allow to cool for a few minutes.

To Make Burgers:
In a large bowl combine the cooked quinoa, cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, carrot, eggs (and egg whites if using), flour, green onions, Splenda (or sugar), pepper, cumin, salt, and garlic powder.

Heat a frying pan and a couple teaspoons olive oil over medium-low heat. Mixture will be slightly sticky, so using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, drop mixture into pan and lightly flatten to 1/2 inch thick.

Fry until golden-brown, about 4 minutes on each side.

Makes approximately 10 burgers.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Quick Cranberry Cake (with our without Lemon Curd)

Time for some cake! Even though Christmas has come and gone, a treat here and there should still be allowed, right? Plus, the New Year is here! Welcome 2012! Let's continue to celebrate. Cranberries should still be in season at your grocery store...

I love the change in seasons--all seasons have something so wonderful to contribute to our lives--I can even stomach the shorter days of winter knowing that I can come home, cuddle with my loved ones, have candles burning, or be forced to read--but I just can't take the illnesses from winter anymore! And we've been sick some more. Baking cheers me up, so I wanted to post on this super easy cranberry cake I tried in between rocking my daughter for comfort, doing laundry, and trying to pack for a trip that no longer happened (thank you viruses)--then again, this may also have saved me from another speeding ticket...

Hope everyone had wonderful holidays! Here is what I've enjoyed so far in this winter season:

I had my husband take some of this lovely cranberry cake over to the neighbors on Christmas for good cheer and made a second one for us just to use up the frozen cranberries in my freezer. The first batch I made with the addition of lemon curd and the second, just plain. I loved them both. However, here is what I learned:

  1.  I preferred to use the 9X13 pan better than the 10-inch round pan. The 10-inch round pan will give you more of a gooey center--which is alright--almost pudding-like. But, I think I preferred a more sponge-like cake and settled on the longer, thinner pan. But, either way is wonderful. 
  2. For the second cake, I sprinkled a little Turbinado sugar on top before baking. I love the crunch! 
  3. I'm sure the cake would also benefit with the addition of lemon or orange zest--but it's also nice to not have all cranberry recipes taste the same and this one really pulls out the freshness of the berry when it stands alone.
  4. I used half light butter and half regular fat butter for the first recipe and all light butter for the second recipe and preferred the first version better due to the moistness (so, it's fine to use a little light butter--probably not for the whole cake, though if you do, you will still like it a lot).
  5. You could also replace the cranberries with blueberries if you prefer--but I love the tartness of the seasonal cranberry! YUM!
  6. *Like my first cake, you could add 2-3 tablespoons of lemon curd (add 1 extra Tbsp. of flour if you add lemon curd)

This is a wonderfully rustic dessert with vanilla ice-cream or with a hot drink like cocoa. Or eat it on its own. Though not terribly healthy, it is tart and sweet, and seems to fill the need for comfort. Enjoy!


  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter, slightly softened and cut into chunks (I used salted, but original recipe calls for unsalted)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp. kirsch (optional)--I skipped this even though I had it
  • 1 tsp. of salt
  • 2 Tbsp. of milk
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups cranberries (1 bag)
  • *2-3 Tbsp. lemon curd (OPTIONAL--see Point #6 above)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9x13 pan or a 10" springform pan.

Beat eggs and sugar together for 5-7 minutes; the eggs will increase in volume quite a bit, streaming into ribbons when you lift the beaters. They will also turn pale yellow.

Add butter and extracts (and lemon curd, if using). Beat for 2 minutes. Add the milk and salt and mix for another 30 seconds.

Stir in flour and fold in cranberries. Pour into greased pan.

Bake 45-50 minutes for a 9x13, or a little over an hour for the springform. You may need to tent the cake with foil in the last 15 minutes or so to keep the top from browning. Cool completely on a wire rack before serving.

Hello my little bright spot in a dreary day.