Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Chocolate Sesame Cookies

While I was browsing through my plethora of food and home magazines, I saw this recipe and it definitely spoke to me. It looked a lot like 煎堆, these pastries that my mom would make for the Chinese New Year holiday, so I knew these would fit right in.

When I told my sister about it, she thought it was weird, but I'm willing to try anything once. I'm glad I did, since these were quite tasty. The chocolate and sesame actually work very well together. Since mine were probably larger than the original recipe size and I baked it for about the same time, the middles were still fudgy and soft.

After reading the ingredients, the amount of flour was concerning me, however it looked like it worked for most people according to the reviews.

I've modified the directions to make it easier to handle. The first ball I tried to roll was still almost pudding like in my hands. I definitely couldn't roll those! I put it in the fridge for another half hour to set. Even then, although it was stiffer, it was still sticky. Then I just dropped the ball in the bowl of sesame seeds and shook it to coat it. It worked much better, my hands didn't get coated with chocolate and I was able to transfer to the sheets easily.

Chocolate Sesame cookies
recipe by cathy's kitchen journey
adapted from BHG Magazine October 2011

  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 2 TBSP butter (I used vegan butter)
  • 3 TBSP Tahini
  • 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted (I buy jars of toasted sesame seeds, much easier!)

  1. In a small saucepan melt chocolate and butter over low heat, stirring frequently until smooth. Remove from heat then stir in tahini. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a large mixing bowl beat eggs until frothy. Add brown sugar and vanilla and beat until well combined and light. Beat in chocolate mixture, then beat in flour mixture just until combined. Cover dough then chill at least 1 hour, until easy to handle.
  3. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  4. Scoop out dough with a cookie scoop, then drop into the bowl of sesame seeds. Roll the dough ball in the bowl to cover complete with sesame seeds. Place on cookie sheets 2 inches apart. Bake for 11-13 minutes, until puffed and set on the bottoms.
  5. Allow to cool mostly on the sheet, then twist slightly to remove from the sheet, so the bottom doesn't stick to the sheet. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely.
Yield: about 2 dozen (I got 26 using my cookie scoop, not the original 42 the recipe stated!)

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Healthy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have to admit, when I read over this recipe and saw that it no sugar, I was concerned of how it would taste. I love healthy options for everything, but I never thought for a cookie.

Well, this came out of the oven and the chocolate was all melty and gooey. I tasted it and it tasted like a crunchier version of a bowl of oatmeal I would eat in the morning, with the addition of chocolate. These ended up being a great breakfast option for me to grab on the go on the way to work, so I've also dubbed them as breakfast cookies.

I've never baked with olive oil, but I went back to the original source and saw that they used coconut oil. Since I always have that on hand and I've baked with it before, I used that instead.

The first batch came out as the shape of my cookie scoop, so while it was still warm, I pushed it down and it ended up like the shape of a mini hockey puck. The second batch, I flattened it before baking. I stored these in a zip top bag and they ended up a little soggy from the banana. I didn't mind the texture, and it made it seem more like little oatmeal energy bites than a cookie. Next time I try this, I might pack it into a pan to bake then cut into granola bars.

Remember to check out Sarah's blog for all the healthy recipes from the swap, including my contribution of lemon pepper salmon.

Healthy Oatmeal Cholate Chip Cookies
recipe by cathy's kitchen journey
adapted from Tastetastic Voyage originally from 101 cookbooks

  • 3 large, ripe bananas, well mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, slightly softened (or olive oil)
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 2/3 cup almond meal (or heaping 2/3 cup blanched almonds, ground)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut, finely shredded
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp fine grain sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 6-7 ounces chocolate chips or dark chocolate bar, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F, racks in the top third.
  2. In a large bowl beat the bananas, vanilla extract, and oil. Set aside.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the oats, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder. In a food processor, grind up heaping measurements of almonds and coconut, then add to the dry ingredients (if you already have almond meal and small shredded coconut, add it directly to the dry ingredients and skip this step).
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined. Fold in the chocolate. Drop dough, about 2 teaspoons in size, or with a cookie scoop, an inch apart onto a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet. Press down slightly.
  5. Bake for 12 - 14 minutes or until golden brown on the top.
  6. Allow to cool 5 minutes on cookie sheets before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely
Yield: a little less than 3 dozen

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Crockpot Turkey Sausage Wheatberry Soup

The day I decided to make this, I had a pack of sweet Italian turkey sausages thawed and ready to go from the night before. We ended up going over to my parents that night, so I had to use it or it would end up as trash. I hate to waste food, and since I had gone grocery shopping the day before to stock up on some staples, I had plenty of vegetables to use up. It was so easy to prep and prepare, and I love that I went out and came home to a dinner ready to eat!

A while back, I heard about wheatberries and its many benefits. Since Gary started liking quinoa, I decided to make a hearty soup using this other superfood. Since this is packed with protein and fiber, it's a great addition to this soup. It had a nice texture and blended in nicely. Although I thought it was just enough, Gary wanted to add even more wheatberries next time around.

Once again, Branny Boils Over is hosting a Souperbowl, and all soup entries each earn $1 to the ASPCA. Hurry up and make a soup recipe and send it over! The deadline is 1/31/12!

This year I'm dedicating my recipe to Matt. This little guy was found wandering around and causing traffic on the freeway until Gary's sister found him and brought him in. Check out the crazy before and after and what a little TLC does!

After a few weeks, nobody claimed him and he had nowhere to go. My sister in law already had 2 dogs, one which is a shih tzu as well. Luckily, Gary's other sister and her family came to the rescue and took him in. They named him Matt, because his hair was so matted when they first found him. He's great with the kids, and very protective of the family.

Crockpot Turkey Sausage Wheatberry Soup
a cathy's kitchen journey original recipe

  • 3 TBSP olive oil, divided
  • 1.25 lb sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 small bay leaves
  • 3/4 cup wheatberries, rinsed and drained (to sub rice or quinoa, add during the last hour of cooking)
  • 4 cups water

  1. In a hot skillet on medium-high heat, add 2 TBSP oil. Crumble and brown the sausage until no longer pink in the middle. Drain the fat and transfer to a 3-4qt crockpot. In the same skillet, add the remaining 1 TBSP oil, and sweat out the onions. Remove from heat and transfer onions to crockpot.
  2. Combine the rest of the ingredients into the crockpot and stir slightly.
  3. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours or until wheatberries are cooked through.
  4. Remove bay leaves, stir well to mix evenly, then serve.
Yield: 4-6 servings

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Over the holidays I wanted to give a few of my baker coworkers something they would be able to use. I confess, this was actually not the original plan I had. I wanted to make hot chocolate and homemade marshmallows, which then I changed my mind to hot chocolate on a stick with homemade marshmallows. In the end, after a long weekend of baking, I changed my mind once again and decided on the vanilla extract.

I actually started to second guess my decisions the previous week, that's why ended up buying some bottles. I thought they were good to have, just in case I needed a last minute gift :).

Months ago, I started a batch of vanilla extract in a 8.5oz flask with used vanilla beans. Although not as dark as the ones I bought before, it has still had that wonderful vanilla-y smell of the extract. I made was enough to fill four 2-oz bottles of extract. I also added half a split vanilla bean into the bottle, so whenever they run out, they can fill with more rum and it would be the never ending supply! I tied these printable gift tags to them as a final touch.

I used rum in my extract since that's what I have on hand. Since we don't drink, most alcohol I have in the house is reserved for cooking and baking. If you have vodka or bourbon, you can used that as well!

Homemade Rum Vanilla Extract
a cathy's kitchen journey original
inspired by the web

  • 8 ounces rum or vodka
  • 3 whole vanilla beans, slit open (or several used beans)

  • 8.5 ounce (or larger) glass bottle that seals tightly

  1. For every 8 oz of liquid, add 3 whole vanilla beans, split lengthwise. Store in a dark area and shake every few days. Vanilla is ready to use in 6-8 weeks.
  2. I made mine with 5-6 used vanilla beans, then transferred them to 2-oz bottles after a few months, and added half a split vanilla bean to each bottle.
Yield: 8 ounces vanilla extract

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Snickerdoodle Blondies

Time for another recipe swap! This time around, we weren't assigned specific recipes. We were assigned one blog, and we would choose whatever recipe we wanted. I ended up choosing these snickerdoodle blondies to take to my niece's first birthday party.

This recipe was a no-brainer for me. I love snickerdoodles, and I love blondies/brownies, so this was a win-win for me! The cinnamon sugar smelled so good while it was baking, and I couldn't wait to try it.

When I ran my bench scraper through it to cut, I thought it would be dense and hard to cut through, but it wasn't. It was light and fluffy just like a snickerdoodle would be. I brought the majority of it over, but I saved a few pieces for myself. Now I wish I saved more, but I guess I'll just find another excuse to make another batch.

Remember to go to Sarah's blog to see the rest of the recipes!

Snickerdoodle Blondies
recipe by cathy's kitchen journey
adapted from The Cookaholic Wife

  • 2 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt [I reduced this to 1/2 tsp, since I only had salted butter on hand]
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 TBSP vanilla extract
  • 2 TBSP granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 9x13 baking pan, set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl; combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add in eggs and vanilla and beat together. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  4. Transfer to prepared pan and spread with a spatula sprayed with oil (batter will be thick, so this will help).
  5. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl, cover and shake to mix well (or whisk together). Sprinkle evenly over the dough.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until dough is springs back to the touch.
  7. Let cool, then cut into 32 pieces (or however big you want them!)
Yield: 9x13 pan

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Monday, January 2, 2012

Tofu and Broccoli with Peanut Sauce

Happy New Year!

Here's to a new year, and a new you! I don't really make resolutions, but if I had to make one, it would be to eat healthier, less meat, and more whole foods. I've already started doing that, but I will continue to do so this year.

One of the things I've started reading up on and cooking is vegan meals. We've had a few good recipes for breakfast that are vegan, but we don't really have many vegan dinners. This meal was great because not only was it vegan, it was tasty and filling as well!

I made the mistake of using a stainless steel pan for this. I guess I missed the part about using nonstick! The tofu stuck a little and the sauce burned off a little. Next time I make this, I will definitely use a nonstick pan.

Tofu and Broccoli with Peanut Sauce
recipe by cathy's kitchen journey
adapted from Vegan Yum Yum, as seen on Made Just Right

  • 1 block extra firm tofu, pressed, cut into small squares
  • 1 TBSP canola or peanut oil
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp mirin
peanut dressing:
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • 1 TBSP soy sauce
  • 1 TBSP seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp hot chili oil (I omitted)
  • pinch of salt
for serving:
  • steamed broccoli
  • 1 grated carrot
  • cooked rice
  • crushed peanuts (optional)

  1. Whisk sauce ingredients in a small bowl until smooth (be patient, it’ll look curdle at first then smooth out) and set aside.
  2. Fry tofu in the oil over high heat in a non-stick skillet until browned on both sides. Drain and return to hot pan (turn off the heat). Mix soy sauce and mirin together and pour over tofu, mixing well. It will bubble up and form a light glaze.
  3. Plate rice, add broccoli, tofu, carrot, and crushed peanuts. Drizzle with sauce and serve.
Yield: 2 servings

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