Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Brownie Bites

Ironically, I have a bajillion (or at least four) delicious recipes waiting to be shared with you, but I have just not had the time to get them up. Tonight I was sorely tempted to skip this post as well and haul my little bum to bed. But no, the world deserves brownie bites. Especially when they are so easy and satisfying as this.

Sometimes, friends, I get a little bored by breakfast. We end up eating the same things over and over again. So one morning, even though these are supposed to be a sort of healthy dessert option (much like a Larabar), I whipped them up for breakfast. I didn't look back. They would also be a great healthy dessert (and are surprisingly satisfying as such). Or a perfect pre/post workout snack. I should, however, issue a warning here and say that they are not low-cal. If you're passing on the real brownies in favor of your waistline, then I would encourage you not to pop four or five of these into your mouth. Sure they contain fruit and nuts and cocoa and awesomeness. Sure, they could be considered good for you. But, well, let's just say they have more calories than air. Because they really really do.

These are raw and grain-free, potentially dairy free, and have a mere five ingredients. Enjoy.

Brownie Bites
from Paleo Grubs
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cost: $4.00
walnuts: 2.00-3.00, dates: 1.00, cocoa: .40, chocolate chips: .25

Note: Dates can often be found cheap at Asian markets/stores.

1 1/2 C walnuts
pinch salt
1 C pitted dates (get all those pits and stems OUT)
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 C cocoa powder
1/4-1/3 C dark chocolate chips (optional, but you know I added them)

Put walnuts in food processor and process until finely ground. You don't want them to become walnut butter and you don't want the oils to start separating, so go for a nice crumbly-looking finely ground. Add dates, vanilla, salt, and cocoa powder. Process until well combined--you shouldn't have big chunks of anything (unless you want them of course). You may need to add a few drops of water to get them to come together, but I didn't. You also may need to occasionally stop the processor and spread your stuff out again since sometimes it forms a huge ball or brownie bite that makes it hard to process evenly.

When it's just about ready, add your chocolate chips and pulse just a bit more to chop them a bit, but leave them so you get chocolate chips in there with your bites.

Roll them into balls. (Or press into a wax-paper lined pan, refrigerate, and cut.)

Store in an airtight container (and I refrigerated them).


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Lentil Chickpea Soup

Today it iced. Then it rained. Then it snowed.

I'm thinking soup. Hearty, warm-the-bones soup. I've tried several (SEVERAL) lentil soups that have never made it to this blog because while I liked them fine, I knew I didn't like them well enough to make them again. This one, however, is a winner. Lovely balance of bean, spice, and creaminess. To winter.

Lentil Chickpea Soup
from Mel's Kitchen
Serves 8
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Cost: $4.00 ($.50/serving and this is filling)
onion: .10, carrots: .20, curry: .30, broth: .50, lentils: .40, chickpeas: 1.00, sausage: .50-1.00, cream: .50

1 Tbsp oil
1/2 C chopped onion
1-2 large carrots
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp curry powder (or paste)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
6 C low-sodium chicken broth (if you don't have low sodium, then use part water--I used 6 C water and 4 tsp bullion and that worked)
1 C dry lentils (I just used boring old green)
1 can chickpeas, drained
1/2 lb pre-cooked sausage (something like polska kielbasa, or, well, whatever--also I used less than this)
1/3-1/2 C cream (I'd say NOT optional; I felt like this helped this soup go from decent to ooh-la-la for me)
almonds for garnish (optional)
cilantro for garnish (optional)

In a pot, heat oil. Add onion and carrots. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add garlic, curry, salt and pepper. Cook another minute or two (until nice and fragrant).

Add broth and lentils. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally until lentils are tender but not mushy.

Stir in sausage and chickpeas until they're heated through. Then add that cream. Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary.

You can garnish with crunchy almonds or sassy cilantro or both.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

My Favorite Lemon Bars

I really like lemon bars. Every time I'm pregnant (note: I am NOT currently pregnant just because I am writing about lemon bars), I crave lemon and lemony things like a lunatic and occasionally make a pan of bars that I eat half of that night, like even more of a lunatic (normally I'm a small treat kind of a girl). Nevertheless, you'll notice there's not a recipe on here for one yet. That's because even though I think most bars are decent, I have been looking for one to fall in love with for a very long time. Some of them get this kind of crusty thing going on up top. Some are too lemony (sometimes to the point where they almost burn my mouth) and some are just not very interesting. Then again, some are a little too interesting--I found a recipe a couple years ago where you just threw a lemon (seeds, rind, and all) into the food processor and processed it with all the other stuff. I loved that concept--the simple efficiency of it, and it actually tasted pretty good, but the bars came out with little chewy lumps of pith in them, and I didn't love that.

But as fate would have it, this Christmas, one of my sweet sweet piano students brought me a plate of lemon bars that she herself had made. And they were perfect--lemony and acidic, but nothing that'd burn your mouth off.  A perfect custardy filling with a lovely shortbread crust. I also liked the crust to custard ratio. They were it--the one--the lemon bar I'd been looking for.

I admit that I was almost scared to try to reproduce them. What if it had just been a fluke? What if they didn't work out for me? What if I messed them up?

But then, another friend, in another simple act of friendship gave me a whole bagful of lemons that her mother had grown. They were the most fragrant, beautiful juicy lemons I've ever seen. You could just squeeze them by hand and get nearly 1/2 cup of juice from them.

And then I knew that the time had come to make the lemon bars. And so I did. And they were just as perfect as they'd been when my piano student brought them.

I hope you like them as much as I do.

My Favorite Lemon Bars
Makes 9x13 inch pan
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes, (20 for crust; 30 for filling)
Chill time: a couple hours--you'll chill the crust before baking and then you'll want to give yourself time for these to cool since warm lemon bars just seem weird (and too gooey).
Cost: $2.40 (that's about $.10/bar)
flour: .20, cornstarch: .05, sugar: .40, butter: 1.00, eggs: .40, lemon juice: .35

Note: This recipe is for a 9x13 inch pan. I didn't trust myself not to eat all of those, so I halved the recipe. If you make a smaller batch like I did, know that your cook times will be a little shorter. You'll probably cook your crust a wee bit less and your filling for about 20 minutes whereas mine was closer to 30 minutes.

1 3/4 C flour (all-purpose)
1/4 C cornstarch
1/2 C granulated sugar (NOT powdered sugar)
1/4 tsp salt
1 C cold butter

4 large eggs
2/3 C lemon juice (can be fresh-squeezed of from a bottle, but must be 100% lemon juice)
1 1/2 C granulated sugar
1/4 C flour
1/8 tsp salt

I made the crust in the food processor and recommend this. You just throw everything in and give it a few whizzes. It will end up looking crumbly, but it can be pressed together (kind of like a graham cracker crust actually).

However, if you don't have a food processor, just add all the dry ingredients and then use your fingers to rub the butter in until it forms fine crumbs. [Note: You could possibly melt your butter and stir it in for simplicity. I did NOT do this, since I followed my student's recipe perfectly. It might affect the texture of your crust and make it a bit denser, but then it might save you 10-15 minutes and that might be worth it--just an idea if you don't have a food processor].

Press this into a 9x13 inch pan. (I used parchment paper in my pan so that I could cut and remove the bars easily. Also, this makes it easier to freeze some of the bars so you don't eat them all immediately--this is always a good thing. Unless you are a pregnant lunatic, in which case you should just grab a spoon and have at it.)

Chill the crust for 30 minutes. [Note: Again, you could possibly skip this step. I didn't--I wanted the bars as I'd had them, so I followed the directions. But next time I will skip this step and see if it makes a big difference or not.]

When you're ready to go, heat the oven to 350 and bake the crust for 20 minutes. Then--without opening the oven door--turn the heat down to 300 and bake for another 2-5 minutes.

While it's baking, make your filling.

Whisk the eggs and then add the rest of the ingredients. Whisk it good.

Take your crust out when it's done (you don't want it super cooked--it's going back in with the filling and I just hate a burned crust; don't you?). Let it cool for 2 minutes and then pour the well-whisked filling over your crust (you want the crust still hot when you pour the filling in).

Bake for 25-30 minutes at 300 degrees until filling is set. When you take it out it should not be liquid, although a very soft jiggle is okay.

Cool it completely. When it is COMPLETELY cool, sift powdered sugar onto the top, and cut those babies up.

These keep well for several days and freeze extremely well. I just leave them on their parchment paper (cut into pieces) and put them in a large Ziploc bag in order to freeze.



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