Monthly Archives: September 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bars

Do you like to eat raw cookie dough? We do. Very much. Proof: when I make a batch of chocolate chip cookies, I cook about 8 for us to eat warm, then scoop the rest and put them in the freezer, meant to be cooked “à la minute.” This is a really good idea, especially if there are only two of you in a house and one of you likes to make cookies faster than they can eat them. But usually the thought of waiting for the oven to preheat and the cookies to bake is too much at the end of the day, and we just enjoy the frozen cookie dough balls as dessert.

Yes, raw eggs can be scary. I’ve taken plenty of microbiology and food safety classes and know all about the dangers of Salmonella. But. It’s never made me sick (that I know of. Knock on wood). My love of raw eggs and runny yolks outweighs any fears of food-borne illness. (it also helps my confidence to purchase local farm fresh eggs). But if the idea of eating raw eggs isn’t your thing, or you’re pregnant, a young child, or an older adult (the most susceptible groups to food-borne illnesses), this is the recipe for you. It’s also the recipe for you if you want to satisfy your cookie dough craving but with something you’ll feel better about eating. It’s also the recipe for you if you’ve always wanted to eat cookie dough for breakfast without shame. Pretty much its a recipe for anyone.

(This is my first recipe I’ve made from MamaPea, and I can’t wait to make more! Her post are hilarious and heart-warming, and her food always sounds soo good that it makes being a vegan sound easy and delicious!)

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bars

1 cup raw almonds
3/4 cup dried pitted dates (~14 whole dates)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 cup chocolate chips

Add almonds to a food processor. Process until they are the consistency of wet sand. Set the almonds aside, and add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor. Process until a paste forms, then add the almonds back in. Pulse until it all comes together and forms a dough. Empty food processor bowl onto a piece of plastic wrap and form into a rectangle. refrigerate for at least one hour and cut into bars. Enjoy without hesitation!

The only thing I changed from MamaPea’s recipe was using dried dates instead of fresh. Since the dried have less moisture, I upped the amount to make sure the “dough” would come together. I probably could have used up to 1 cup of dates, but I only got 14 from the bulk bin so I made do.

The processed almonds in the bowl, with all of the ingredients minus the chocolate chips. I haven’t had to buy vanilla extract for a year thanks to gifts from flavor vendors. This big of a bottle would have cost $10+, easy.

Everything chopped up before combining.

The dough poured out on plastic wrap.

And formed into a block!

After 1 unbearable hour I took them out of the fridge to cut into squares and taste.

Yum yum yummm! Seriously, these are so good you won’t even think about the stuff made with loads of butter and sugar and raw eggs. Really. Save that stuff for baking. I think its the vanilla extract that makes it. And the salt. As you can see, my 14 dates didn’t hold the bars together completely, but I rolled all of those little crumbs into a ball and it was still delicious.

MamaPea made these before she tried the new Cookie Dough Larabars, and once she compared the two she claimed she ended up making a better version. I 100% agree. Her bars just have the essence of cookie dough that Lara’s are missing.

And Larabars are good, but they’re expensive! I’ve seen them range from $1.29-$1.79 for one 45 gram bar. I made the equivalent of 8 bars with mostly organic ingredients (organic dates and almonds from the bulk bin at Whole Foods, organic chocolate chips) for approximately $5 total – less than half the price! I don’t think I’ll ever buy one again!

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Filed under Raw, Recipes, Snacks, Vegan

Tomato Sauce

To continue with the theme of having way too many tomatoes and needing a way to convert them into a food that would be consumed by both members of our household, I present you with a recipe for tomato sauce.

I adapted this recipe from a food blog idol of mine, Kath from KathEats. It is her mom’s recipe for tomato sauce that she always raves about, and since I had a million tomatoes to eat, and I recently picked up a bottle of sherry, I figured it was the perfect time to try it out!

I made just a few changes just because of  my lack of pantry-stocking; I didn’t have tomato paste so I substituted a tablespoon of pomodori agrodolci… not really the same but I wanted to add a little dense, cooked tomato flavor and that is what I had. I also didn’t have any sun-dried tomatoes but I think the pomag (my new nickname for the stuff – much easier to say & type) flavor made up for that as well. And I skipped the sugar since the pomag is so sweet on its own.

(Here is the link to Kath’s original recipe, along with much much better pictures of the process!)

Homemade Tomato Sauce

13 roma-size tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping tablespoon pomadori agrodolci (or 1 can tomato paste + 1 teaspoon sugar)
1/4 cup sherry wine
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 handful fresh basil (if you have it)
1 large roasted red pepper, chopped

Saute garlic in a large pan or dutch oven. Add chopped tomatoes and simmer until thickened slightly. Add all other ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes, or until desired consistency is reached. Process in a food processor or with an immersion blender if you want a less rustic sauce. Serve immediately or refrigerate and enjoy within a week.

First, I chopped all of the tomatoes we had. I didn’t count, but it was probably about 10 roma-sized tomatoes and one large heirloom tomato (the purple one!).

The chopped tomatoes with Kath’s recipe in the background – a typical sight in my kitchen.

Next I got the garlic going in some olive oil.

Then I added all the tomatoes to simmer for about 15 minutes.

Then I forgot to take any more pictures until I was done. Here is one to show the consistency of the final sauce.

The sauce and the vessel that made it all possible. I love my Le Creuset French oven. It almost makes cooking on electric bearable.

As with most first-time recipes, it needed a couple tweeks. The flavor was very good, but as with the pomag, I wish I had processed the tomatoes before cooking because the skins rolled up and formed pointy sticks in the sauce. I’m new to cooking tomatoes (I’ve never had so many at once!) so I’m learning as I go. Next time I would definitely add the tomato paste to give it some more body. Also, I would process it after cooking to make it less chunky and more Brett-friendly. We enjoyed this sauce in a yummy eggplant parmesan that I will share the recipe for soon (it is eggplant season!).

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Filed under Recipes, Sauces & Spreads, Vegan, Vegetarian

The First Signs of Fall

As soon as the summer sun starts to back off and the weather starts to change, I inevitably get a tickle in my throat and an ache in my head. And these products end up in my grocery bag.

Soup, citrus and superfoods. I feel better already.

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Filed under Food for Thought, Grocery Bag

Pomodori Agrodolci

There’s a tiny shop in downtown Lexington called Oliva Bella. We used to drive past this shop every week for three years and wonder, “How can an Olive Oil Shop exist??” (We were young and naive!)

When I moved just a few blocks away from the shop in my last semester of college, I finally decided to go in. And let me tell you, I wasted those three years not going into that store. The tiny shop is full of artisan breads, real, aged balsamic vinegar, beautiful chocolate truffles, and olive oil imported from Italy. The owners immediately welcome you in and feed you anything and everything they have to sample. Each of the three olive oils the shop sells come from a family farm that produces only enough oil for themselves and the store. Each has a distinctly unique flavor, all worthy of drinking straight from the bottle. They often create recipes with their products and allow people to sample them, including pastas, sauces, and these amazing sweet and sour jams, one tomato and one with Vidalia onions. As soon as I tried the sweet, dark, rich tomato jam, I knew I had to have more. I brought a jar when I moved home at Christmastime, and my mom and sisters and I devoured it within weeks. I bought a jar for my mom and one for myself the next time I was in Lexington, and before I knew it, my mom was calling me to commiserate over seeing the bottom of our jars.

Spread it on french bread, add it to tomato sauce, spread it on crackers and melt cheese on top, add it to mac & cheese, or just eat it with a spoon. The Oliva Bella website also has a page of recipe ideas using the stuff. The possibilities are endless, though unfortunately the jar is not.

A few weeks ago, we got 3 1/2 pounds of tomatoes from our CSA. Being the only tomato-eater in the house (Brett hates fresh tomatoes), I knew I had to do something drastic. After giving a couple away, we still had about 2 1/2 pounds left.

2 1/2 pounds of tomatoes and 2 pounds of  sweet peppers in one week?! Is this a normal portion for 2 people?

As I watched them slowly ripen more and more, I racked my brain trying to think of something I could do that would either preserve them, or at least make Brett interested in sharing the load. I finally remembered this stuff. My mom kept the label from the jar with the ingredient list, just in case she every felt like trying to replicate it. She gladly sent me the list and I got to work. After 10 looong hours of waiting and stirring and filling our apartment with wonderful smells, it was finally ready to taste.

Pomodori Agrodolci

2 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup good olive oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 small onion or 3 small shallots, minced
Tabasco
salt + pepper

Combine all ingredients in an oven-safe dutch oven or baking dish. Roast uncovered at 275 degrees for 9-10 hours, stirring every two hours, until it reaches a thick consistency and a deep brownish-red color. Fill into an airtight containter, refrigerate and enjoy!

All the ingredients in the pot – too pretty to pass up a picture!

The final product – from 3 pounds of vegetables to not even filling a pint-size mason jar halfway. Not nearly as pretty but sooo good!

I cut the tomatoes in 2-3-inch dices, but next time would cut them smaller (or as my mom suggested use a food processor), only because the skin rolled up and formed little sticks. They don’t affect the flavor, just the appearance. Also, the only hot sauce I had at the time was Cholula Chile & Lime, which I didn’t think would compliment the other ingredients so I left it out. I didn’t miss it, but I would add a few splashes next time. Also, I don’t think I added any salt & pepper. It couldn’t hurt though!

If you’re ever in Lexington, I would definitely recommend stopping at Oliva Bella and trying everything they offer to feed you!

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Filed under Recipes, Sauces & Spreads, Vegan, Vegetarian

Wine & Jazz

Over the long weekend, Brett and I ventured to the Southern borders of Pennsylvania to Chaddsford Winery for their Labor Day Weekend Jazz Festival.

Our admission fee got us an etched wine glass for tasting, and a nifty neon orange wristband with 10 detachable tabs, each valid for a one-ounce taste of eight of the winery’s featured wines.

[Now, let me preface this by saying that we are by no means wine connoisseurs. We like wine that tastes good to us. We tend to enjoy whites more than reds, with Rieslings generally being our favorite varietal. Our wine knowledge is limited and something we are both interested in learning about and appreciating more. Now I will let you know how we felt about these wines.]

Our first taste was of the 2009 Spring Wine. According to the website, it is a “light, fresh, and fruity” wine, and according to the tasting station attendant, it was closest to a Reisling. According to us, it was blah.

The next station featured the 2008 Naked Chardonnay and the 2008 Pinot Grigio. We were both surprised how much we didn’t like these. The Naked Chardonnay tasted to me like rubbing alcohol (aging in stainless steel instead of oak has something to do with that, I’m sure) and the Pinot Grigio just wasn’t as refreshing as you’d expect one to be on a 90-degree summer day.

Looking at the rest of the list, we weren’t encouraged that the rest of the tasting would go in our favor, with the next three stations featuring reds. We have nothing against reds, we just really enjoy the simple refreshment and crispness of a cold white wine more-so than the warm complexity of a red. That’s just us.

However, we were surprised to very much enjoy two of the next three tastings – the 2008 Proprietors Reserve Red, and the 2005 Merican. The 2008 Pinot Noir wasn’t bad, but just a little too “inky” for my tastes (I felt like I was drinking a pen).

Encouraged by the promising reds, we finished the rounds with the 2009 Sunset Blush and the 2009 Niagra. Usually we enjoy sweet wines, but, wow! These were candy sweet. Hmpf.

At this point, we decided to get some food in our stomachs. Festival guests were invited to bring a blanket and a picnic lunch to enjoy whilst listening to the two jazz bands playing throughout the afternoon. We opted to see what was available from the advertised caterer, Pace One Restaurant (partially because the fridge was empty, but mostly because we can’t resist trying new restaurants!). Overall we were very pleased with the picnic-type food, with the highlight being the mushroom bisque. We also shared a Sangria Slushie and a cup of chocolate hazelnut gelato that were both extremely enjoyable.

We went back to the tasting stations to use up our last two wristband tabs on our two favorite wines, and decided to buy a bottle of each. I also threw in a bottle of the Apple Spiced Wine, because it just sounded too good and fall-ish to pass up. Can’t wait to try that one warm with a cinnamon stick on a cool fall night!

Overall we really enjoyed our day and were glad to be able to soak up some of the last rays of the summer sun. We’re always willing to try new foods and wines, and sometimes you have to take the good with the bad! Luckily we at least have good company in the experiences 🙂

And below, our one picture from the event! Enjoying the last sips of the Proprietors Reserve Red on our Big Blue blanket.

[FYI: We stink at taking pictures (we only have one from our honeymoon!) but we received a new point-and-shoot as a wedding gift, and we have a fancy-shmancy Nikon so hopefully their frequency of use will increase!]

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Filed under Festivals, Wine