Lemonworld

It’s weird to ride public transit these days.  I look up from the pages of a book I’m reading only to be faced with a sea of iphones and kindles–hardly a printed paper or bound novel in sight.  Each device is plugged into a human who sits closed off in their own world.  While I do understand the importance of being able to remove oneself from the situation of a too-cramped BART car, the strangeness of having so many people in one space with such an absence of human interaction is a hard one for me to grasp.  Sometimes I get lost in the solitude without realizing that I am being rude and blatantly staring at the woman trying to apply mascara between the jolts of the train breaking or the man playing Words With Friends on his phone between sips of coffee or the mother trying to keep ahold of a little one’s hand while balancing what appears to be this week’s groceries on her hip.  Today I spent about five minutes looking at a man who had a can of beer concealed under his jacket, although not all that well I might add because his red face and labored movements evinced his intoxicated state and resulted in him showcasing his beer can to the rest of the BART car.  Though it was only three in the afternoon, I tried not to judge but considered where he was coming from and where he was going.  Did a bad day at the office lead to this early train home and a few too many beers?  Was he was headed home to a house full of screaming children and this was just a way to take the edge off?  A hundred other questions filled my mind before I realized I was staring and resigned to checking my email.  I am aware that I will never know any of these people and yet I feel oddly connected to them as I hurtle towards home after work, wedged between the icy window and a family of four’s set of rolling luggage.  We are all trying to get  somewhere.  All headed towards something.  All working to get to that next place, that next step, that next bus ride home. photo (10)

Advertisements

The KIS(S) Formula

Random containers of cookie-butter or jars of chile sauce often find their way into my cart when I shop at the much beloved Trader Joe’s.  The number and variety of options thrown at consumers when perusing the isles of a grocery store can be overwhelming and it becomes easy to purchase exotic and complicated pre-fab ingredients.  In order to keep my pantry from becoming too cluttered and my grocery bill from diminishing my bank account, I try to keep these kinds of purchases to a minimum–remembering one of my mom’s sayings–“Keep it simple” (the kis(s) formula).

2013-01-12 17.00.53

Trader Joe’s in all its glory

I’ve recently recalled this saying when looking at recipes.  I like to try new baking techniques and recipes but the idea of an oreo stuffed in a cookie, topped with icing and rainbow jimmies is just too much sometimes.  And I remember: keep it simple.  I decided on an uncomplicated cookie made with slightly unconventional ingredients–although almond meal is now trendy and coconut oil is becoming the norm.  These cookies do not possess the traditional crunch that cookies made with flour containing gluten have, but they are a satisfyingly chewy, sweet treat.

While simplifying my baking and overall diet, I am also seeking to expand the nutritional content of the food that I eat.  Packed with almond meal, these cookies are also a source of Vitamin E. Almonds are rich in Vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin that elicit anti-oxidant effects in the body. Because Vitamin E is fat soluble, it can integrate into cell membranes.  In this role, Vitamin E protects cell membranes from reacting with lipid radicals and thus prevents oxidation of the membranes.

799px-Tocopherol,_alpha-

alpha-Tocopherol (a form of Vitamin E)

Many foods and chemicals described in health blogs or medical journals are touted as having antioxidant effects–warding off DNA damage and the eventual formation of cancerous lesions.  The antioxidant properties are perhaps the most commonly known characteristic of Vitamin E, but there certainly exist other pathways through which this molecule acts.  Vitamin E is known to regulate the expression of CTGF (connective tissue growth factor), which increases synthesis of ECM (extracellular matrix).  In contributing to the control of this gene, Vitamin E can help repair wounds and alleviate tissue damage in diseases such as atherosclerosis.  It’s mind blowing that a compound found in the food I’m eating functions to repair tissue in my body by regulation of a target gene–CTGF in this case. But this is simply how the body works and it’s why I’m so interested in putting healthy foods into mine. (End science rant.)

Sources: Wiki (also source of image), CTGF paper

Now for the recipe!

Chocolate Chip – Almond – Coconut Cookies (Vegan/GF)

1 1/4 cups almond meal

1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate — chopped

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 large egg

3 tbsp coconut oil

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

photo 3

**Apologies: This is a terrible photograph of these cookies–I am in desperate need of a well lit area because my apartment is a cave.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the almond meal, chocolate, coconut, baking powder, salt and brown sugar.  Melt the coconut oil in the microwave and allow it to cool slightly.  Crack the egg into a separate bowl and whisk until the egg doubles in volume.  Add in the cooled coconut oil (You don’t want to cook the eggs so make sure that the oil is no longer hot!) and vanilla extract to your egg.  Pour the egg mixture over the dry ingredients and mix just until the dough comes together.  Cover the dough with saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.  (I opted for overnight.)

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and scoop out cookie dough into 1 inch balls.  Place cookies about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.  Press down on each ball of cookie dough to flatten slightly and bake for 7-10 minutes (the edges should be slightly browned when the cookies are done).  Allow the cookies to cool on the sheet–then enjoy!

Recipe adapted from The Sprouted Kitchen cookbook

Sparkling Ginger Cookies

Sometimes life calls for baking.  When I get stressed from job interviews and trying for the fifth time to make a doctor’s appointment, stepping back to measure, mix, and roll cookie dough in sugar helps bring the chaos of my life back under control.  Running through the hills also helps.  I captured this lovely image on my iphone while hitting the slopes yesterday.  Something about these trees and the early morning makes me feel calm even when I’ve got Sonic Youth pumping though my earbuds and I’m charging up an impossibly steep road.

onlythisandnothingmore

I was looking for a recipe with a twist when I came across Heidi’s recipe for ginger cookies with chocolate–a surefire win to any cookie is the addition of chocolate.  Armed with two types of ginger and a healthy chunk of a Trader Joe’s pound plus bar, I set to baking and making my apartment smell like Christmas.  These cookies are chewy because of the brown sugar and crunchy from being coated in turbinado sugar.  They are dark from the chocolate and molasses and refreshing from the ginger.  They are the perfect compliment to a cup of tea after dinner–or coffee if you can handle your caffeine at night.  I, for one, cannot and stick to decaf after four o’clock.

Sparkling Ginger Cookies 

1/2 cup turbinado sugar

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate–chopped

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 tsp baking soda

4 1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/4 cup unsulphured molasses

2/3 cup brown sugar (lightly packed)

1 tbsp fresh grated ginger

1 large egg beaten

Start by preheating the oven to 350°F and preparing two baking sheets by covering them in parchment paper.  Place the turbinado sugar in a small bowl and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and ground ginger in a large mixing bowl and set aside.  Melt the butter in a medium sized pot on the stove until just melted, then remove from the heat and stir in the brown sugar, fresh ginger, and molasses.  Make sure that the mixture is not still piping hot and then mix in the egg.  Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and mix until just incorporated.  Fold in the chocolate chunks.  Scoop out tablespoon-sized portions of dough and roll in the turbinado sugar, covering each ball of dough completely in the sparkling sugar.  Place cookies on the cookie sheets two to three inches apart.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through the baking time.  The cookies are done when they are slightly puffy and the edges are set.  Allow to cool on the baking sheets and enjoy!

afterglow

Makes approximately two dozen cookies.

Recipe adapted from 101 Cookbooks

Jam Studded Blondies

One thing I miss about college is the proximity of friends and the ability to text during class to meet for lunch in an hour. I took for granted my flexible schedule and being able to hang out with friends every day even if going out just meant sneaking in snacks and coffee into the library to cram for midterms together. Fortunately, when we scattered after graduation, many of my friends ended up in the same general area of California as me so I can still see them on occasion. This past weekend a few of us were free for lunch so we decided to grab food in the city.

Deciding where to eat is a difficult task for three indecisive girls–especially in a hub of delicious eateries. Somehow it usually gets pushed to me to make a decision, possibly because I am terrible at the “nose game,” but today my friend took charge and decided on Burma Superstar. I hadn’t eaten there before but I had heard only good things about the food. Judging from the spicy aromas clouding the entryway and the apparent but bearable line of people awaiting tables, it was a good choice (and worth the wait!). We decided on three entrees–a soup, a salad, and a tofu eggplant dish–and shared them. All three were delicious and though the crowded restaurant was bustling, we managed to catch up between mouthfuls of eggplant curry.

photo (6)

Not wanting to show up empty-handed, I made blondies to bring to my friend’s apartment. I baked a lot during college. It was a good way to de-stress and bringing cookies to study groups generally resulted in friendship…or bewildered looks when I showed up with a truckload of tupperware containers. I was searching for a recipe that would be low-key and called for ingredients that I had on hand. Lucky for my friends and me, Joy’s Brittle and Jam Blonde Brownies fit the bill. Chewy and tasting slightly of caramel, they are everything that a blondie should be. The swirls of jam take them up a notch but don’t make them overly sweet. It’s a delicate line with blondies and sweetness, but I think these have just the right amount. Even after our three course meal, we still had room for a few blondies!


photo (5)

Jam Studded Blondies

1 cup of all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp of baking powder

1/4 tsp of baking soda

1/4 tsp of salt

1/4 tsp of ground cinnamon

1/2 cup of unsalted butter (1 stick)

1 cup of packed light-brown sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp of vanilla extract

1/3 cup of jam (I used Crofter’s superfruit spread in the North America variety–it was really tasty!)

Prep: Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line an 8×8 inch baking pan with parchment paper and then butter/flour the parchment paper–these extra steps have a huge payoff after baking because the blondies come out of the pan easily and the cleanup is cake!

Start off by mixing the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together in a bowl. Then melt the butter in a medium sized pot on the stove. Add the brown sugar to the melted butter and mix to combine. Allow the butter/sugar mixture to cool before adding in the egg and vanilla–and then mix those into the batter. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just incorporated then pour into your prepared pan. Add the jam to the top of the batter in three dollops and use a knife to swirl in, then bake for approximately 20-23 minutes. The top should be a golden brown and the edges will pull away from the pan slightly when the blondies are done. I also used the toothpick method to check that the center was fully baked. Allow to cool in the pan on a rack–slice and enjoy!

photo (4)

Recipe from Joy the Baker

Tagged ,

Chocolate-Chocolate-Chip-Coconut Cookies (Gluten-Free)

I started out the new year reading Eat & Run by Scott Jurek (a book I devoured in two days and one that I recommend) and promised myself that 2013 would be full of awareness of the food that I put into my body. The book is inspiring–it made me think of all the processed foods I usually consume and how when I do consciously eat better, and more locally, I feel better. I think more clearly. I feel lighter on my morning runs. And then after finishing a chapter at a coffee shop what did I do? I ran across the street to the grocery store, then promptly went home and baked these awesome cookies. So much for limiting my sugar intake…

In reality, I do hope that in 2013 I will be more aware of the foods that I’m eating but I’m not going to cut out sweets or processed foods entirely. I love chocolate way too much for that nonsense.

I went into baking these with the idea that they would taste like the cookie I bought on a whim at a Nabolom Bakery a few days prior. I hit up the bakery late in the day so there was a limited selection of sweets left behind the case. There were, however, a large platter of gluten-free chocolate cookies lying by the register so I thought, why not? They were chocolate after all and it’s hard to go wrong with that. The guy working the counter smiled and said they were his favorite but there were so many left at the end of the day that I thought he was probably just trying to make conversation. I was wrong. These cookies are amazing. The lack of flour makes them have an intense chew and the chopped walnuts add a richness that is balanced nicely by the sweet chocolate. In short, I have found a new favorite.

I used pecans in my cookies because that’s what I had on hand but I think any nut would work well (the original recipe calls for almonds). These cookies have all of the same qualities that I love in Nabolom’s. Plus they taste just as good even a day or two after baking as they do right out of the oven!

cookiemug

Chocolate-Chocolate-Chip-Coconut Cookies (Gluten-Free)

3 cups confectioners’ sugar (sifted)

3/4 cup natural cocoa powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup chopped pecans (toasted)*

3/4 cup dark chocolate chips

3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut

4 large egg whites @ room temperature

*Preheat your oven to 350°F and spread out pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake pecans for approximately ten minutes, stirring once during the baking process and keeping a close eye on them towards the end of the baking time to ensure that they do not burn. Set pecans aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 325°F. Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a large mixing bowl. Add the cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt and whisk together. Add the pecans, chocolate chips, and coconut and stir into the mixture. Mix in the egg whites until combined but be sure not to overmix the batter. Drop the cookies onto a parchment paper-covered baking sheets in rounded tablespoons approximately two inches apart.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through the baking time. Allow to cool on the baking sheets and enjoy!

Makes approximately two dozen cookies.

Adapted from Shutterbean

Tagged ,

The Cookie Equation

The glass in this photo–the one with the fish on it—always makes me think of scotch or Bridge or the Brady Bunch…I dunno…something about those retro fish.  While the glasses belonged to my great grandmother, and I have no idea what her drink or game of preference were, I am certain that anything tastes better when drinking from them (especially when accompanied by chocolate pecan cookies).

I can always count on this cookie recipe to deliver and often fall back it on because it produces cookies with the perfect balance of crunch and chew. Plus, the cookies are slice-and-bake so they are perfect for making ahead of time and then baking as needed from the fridge/freezer.  The only downside that I can see to this recipe is that it requires a 24 hour rest time for the dough to chill out in the fridge–which usually results in me eating far more of the cookie dough than I’d like to admit over the course of the next day.  The cookies are worth it though–promise!

The recipe is adapted from David Lebovitz’s book, Ready for Desert, a cookbook worth investing in.  I use this book all the time, both when I need a good recipe or a drool-worth food photo to pine over.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour

3/4 tsp baking soda

a pinch of salt

1 cup of unsalted butter — @ room temp.

1 cup of packed light brown sugar

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp of vanilla extract

2 large eggs — @ room temp.

2 cups of pecans — chopped

14 ounces of chocolate — chopped*

*Trader Joe’s pound-plus bars are awesome/affordable.

First things first–I always start off by chopping and toasting the pecans because they can sit and chill on the counter while I mix up everything else.  This way they are pretty much cool by the time I need to add them into the batter.  Soooooo….pre-heat the oven to 350° and chop up the pecans.  Then spread the chopped pecans out on a baking sheet. (I always cover my baking sheet with parchment for easy cleaning.)

Put the cookie sheet into the oven @ 350° for 10 minutes, tossing the pecans part of the way through and keeping a close eye around minute marker 8 to ensure that they do not burn.  Take them out of the oven and place them on the counter to cool while prepping the rest of the dough.

Mix the butter and both sugars until combined–you can do this in an electric mixer or by hand.  I’ve done it both ways and either works fine.  Add the vanilla and the eggs, one at a time.  In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, and salt together.  Then add the dry mixture to the wet, mixing until just combined.  Mix in the chopped pecans and chocolate then divide the dough into four portions.  Place each portion onto plastic wrap and roll out into a log ~1.5-2 inches in diameter and allow to hang out in the fridge for at least 24 hours.  These cookie logs keep in the fridge for up to a week, at which point I move them to the freezer if I haven’t baked them or eaten all of the dough–not likely but it does happen…occasionally.

When ready to bake, the logs get sliced into 3/4 inch rounds and put on a cookie sheet several inches apart.  They get baked @ 350° for approximately 10 minutes.  I take them out of the oven when the edges start to darken slightly and the centers are done and then allow them to cool on the sheet before moving them to a cooling rack.

Enjoy!

Tagged ,

The night was humid…

I am not quite sure how to start off this whole blogging thing other than to just dive right in (equipped with coffee, of course)–so here goes:

I hope that this space becomes a store for creative impulses, tasty eats, and things that inspire me. In starting wildflourchild, I aim to try new things, take chances, and share my adventures as a post-graduate trying to figure life out. My daring venture for today was to try making a sourdough starter and while I’m about a week away from knowing if it will work out…here’s to hoping that it does!

Tagged