Dark Chocolate Tartelettes with Gingersnap Crust

This week it was time to use up the extra ginger crinkles I had sitting around. I was really excited to make this chocolate tart. The original recipe makes one large tart, but I decided to halve the recipe and make individual tartelettes. With the hint of cinnamon, these tarts reminded me of the cappuccino brownies I made awhile ago. The combination of the gingersnap crust and the dark chocolate is fantastic. Next time (I will be making this again, for sure) I plan on adding a tsp or two of espresso powder because I just love the combination of chocolate and coffee. I had some strawberries in the fridge (since they are finally in season) which I used to garnish the tarts. You can’t go wrong with strawberries, dark chocolate, and whipped cream.

Dark Chocolate Tartelettes with Gingersnap Crust
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Makes 4 tartelettes

For the crust:
6 oz gingersnap cookies (homemade or store bought), coarsely broken
4 Tbsp butter, melted

For the filling:
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ c heavy whipping cream
1 large egg
2 Tbsp sugar
1½ tsp flour
Pinch of sea salt
pinch cinnamon
Whipped cream for serving, if desired

Preheat oven to 325 F. In a food processor, pulse gingersnaps until finely ground. Add melted butter and pulse a few times until moistened. Press crumb mixture firmly onto bottom and sides of four tartelette pans (I think mine are 4 inch) with removable bottoms. Place on rimmed baking sheet.

Lightly whisk together egg, sugar, flour, salt and cinnamon in small bowl, and set aside.

Microwave chocolate and heavy cream in 30 sec intervals, stirring in between, until the chocolate is melted. (Or you could add chocolate and cream to a saucepan, whisking over low heat until chocolate is melted and smooth). Gradually, pour about half the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, whisking to temper the egg. Add rest of cream and chocolate into the egg mixture, stirring until smooth and blended. Pour chocolate filling into crusts. I wound up with extra filling, which I just poured into a greased ramekin and baked along with the tartelettes. It made a delightful, decadent pudding cup.

Bake at 325 F until filling puffs slightly at edges and center is softly set, about 20 minutes. Transfer to rack. Cool tart in pan 20 minutes. Gently remove tart from pan and cool tart completely on wire rack.

If desired, garnish with whipped cream before serving. Store any leftovers in refrigerator, allowing tartelettes to come to room temperature before serving.

Source: adapted from smitten kitchen

Mini Cappuccino Brownies

I love the combination of coffee and chocolate; I like to add espresso powder to regular chocolate desserts. While browsing Martha Stewart’s website these brownies caught my eye. I was intrigued by the addition of cinnamon and nutmeg. Usually, recipes just call for adding espresso or espresso powder to make a dessert cappuccino flavored whereas, this recipe also called for spices. I was anxious to make them and finally I felt well enough yesterday to make a simple dessert. They had great coffee flavor with hints of warm cinnamon; moist and almost fudgy. Even better the next day.

Mini Cappuccino brownies
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4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
6 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 Tbsp oil (I used flax seed oil, but canola would also work)
¾ c sugar
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ c flour
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
pinch salt
½ c semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325F, with rack in center. Butter two 4 ½ inch spring form pans, and line the bottom with parchment or wax paper. Coat paper with butter. Set aside.

Microwave butter 20-30 til mostly melted. Whisk in cocoa and oil until smooth. Then, whisk in sugar, espresso powder, vanilla, and eggs.

In a small bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add to the chocolate mixture, and stir until just combined (do not overmix). Fold in chocolate chips.

Divide batter between prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out slightly wet, 20-30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; cool completely. Run a knife around edges of pan before removing from pan. I used a small circular cookie cutter to cut my brownies into small, bite-sized pieces.

Source: adapted from Martha Stewart

Berry Crumble

I really haven’t done much cooking recently because I have been too sick to eat, let alone cook. I have wanted to post this crumble recipe for awhile, but haven’t because I can’t get a good picture. So here is a half-hearted post with a ho-hum photo. Once I’m better I’ll replace this version with a better post and picture. These are so good; I wish the picture did them justice.

I’m so glad spring is here and the weather is warming up. I love fresh berries and will be making these crumbles a lot. The topping makes too much, and I usually store the remainder in the fridge in an airtight container and make 2 more crumbles the next night. Or, sometimes, I’ll reduce the amounts in the topping to cover just the two crumbles. I left the original proportions in the recipe below.

I had trouble finding 12 oz ramekins. I have some Emile Henry ramekins (I think they are technically called soufflé dishes) that were only 10 oz. After much searching, I finally found 12 oz ramekins at Williams-Sonoma. They are Apilco #3. I had to ask a sales associate for the 12 oz size and he found some in the back for me. I could not find them on the website, but if you go in to the store they should have them in the tableware section with the other Apilco porcelain. Again, I think it may be called a 12 oz soufflé dish. Just look for the #3 on the bottom. Of course you could just divide it among smaller ramekins and have smaller portions if you don’t want to buy new ramekins.

The lemon/lime zest is optional, but it really brightens up the flavor. In the future I may experiment with an orange. I top with either ice cream or freshly made whipped cream. Delicious.

Berry Crumble
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¼ c (1¾ oz) granulated sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
Pinch salt
2 c (10 oz) fresh berries* (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, or a mix)
1 lemon or lime, zested
1 tsp juice from lemon or lime
½ c (2½ oz) flour
1/3 c old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant/quick)
¼ c packed (1¾ oz) light brown sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
4 Tbsp (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces and chilled

Preheat oven to 375F. Put berries in a medium bowl. Combine sugar, cornstarch, pinch of salt, and zest and juice and add to the berries. Gently toss to coat berries. Divide evenly between two 12 oz ramekins (or in a 8½ x 5½ inch baking dish).

Mix flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Add butter and using your fingers or a pastry cutter, blend the butter into the dry ingredients until you get dime-sized clumps. Pinch together any powdery parts and sprinkle over berries.

Place ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 375F until filling is bubbling around edges and crumble topping is a deep golden brown, about 30 minutes. Rotate sheet half way through baking.

Cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Top with ice cream or whipped cream if desired.

*Note: Cooks Illustrated editors recommends not using frozen berries because they give off too much liquid and therefore will make the crumbles soggy. However, I have used frozen berries and had it turn out fine. I just completely thaw the berries in a strainer before adding the sugar and cornstarch. And if it seems too mushy, I add a bit more cornstarch to absorb the excess liquid.

Source: slightly adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2009

Crunchy Garlic Chicken

Jamie Oliver delivers another great recipe. Easy, simple, flavorful, and healthy. I used to watch his show “The Naked Chef” on the food network when I was in college. I remember upon first hearing the name of his show I pictured some gorgeous guy, wearing only an apron, making food. Hmmm maybe unsanitary, but definitely worth checking out. I admit I may have been a bit disappointed when I discovered the term “naked” referred to his simple, unadorned approach to food, not being physically naked. (Oh, how young and naive I was). However, his show did inspired me, I would watch and say to myself, that looks like something I could do. I love him and his recipes. Now that I’m attempting to eat “clean“, I have been getting into his recipes even more. Every time I make this chicken I wonder why I don’t make it more often. It is relatively easy and the chicken comes out really moist and flavorful. If my boyfriend is around I will sometimes have him cut the chicken breasts into strips so I can make chicken tenders. I have prepared this both ways, baked and fried, and I prefer baked (this also makes it more “clean”). Both methods yield the same tender chicken, but when I fry them, I find the coating comes off the chicken too easily. Maybe it’s because I don’t pat the crumbs onto the chicken breasts with my hands. I try to do it with tongs, since I cannot and will not touch raw meat, which probably isn’t the most effective method. Hopefully you are a stronger person than I am and will be able to do it with your hands and as a result have a beautiful coating that doesn’t slip off the chicken.

Crunchy Garlic Chicken
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Serves 2

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2-3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 lemon, zested
1/3 c bread crumbs
2 Tbsp butter
4 sprigs fresh parsley (or about 1 Tbsp dried)
1-2 Tbsp fresh grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese (opt)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 generous Tbsp flour
1 egg

Combine garlic, lemon zest, breadcrumbs, butter and parsley, cheese and a pinch of salt and pepper; pulse til mixture is finely ground and well combined. Pour onto a plate.

Add the 2 Tbsp flour to another plate. Crack the egg in a bowl, and lightly beat with a fork.

Take the chicken breast and dip into the flour to completely coat both sides. Then dip into the egg, then into the breadcrumb mixture. Push the crumbs onto the chicken so they stick.

Either fry or bake your chicken. To fry, just add some oil (I use grapeseed, but olive oil would be fine) to a pan and add the chicken. Cook 4-5 min on each side, until well browned on each side and cooked through. To bake chicken, preheat oven to 450F and cook chicken on a pan for about 15 minutes, until done. I like to put a wire rack on my pan and place the chicken on the rack, that way the bottom gets nice and crispy like the top.

Squeeze lemon juice over chicken before serving, cut into strips if desired.

Source: adapted from Jamie’s Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver

Low Fat Carrot Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

My GI doctor has requested that I eat more sugary foods to try to gain some weight, so I have been eating a lot of desserts. It’s killing me; one can only take so many brownies or chocolate cake with ice cream and whipped cream. Don’t get me wrong, I do like sweet things, but usually a square of bittersweet chocolate does the trick. When I eat a lot of desserts I get a ‘too sweet’ feeling, and my teeth ache. I decided I needed to make a ‘healthier’ dessert. Immediately this recipe came to mind.

I haven’t made this cake since I made cupcakes years ago for a friend’s birthday. After one bite I could have kicked myself. Why did I wait so long to make this? Dense, delicious and divine, that’s how I describe this cake. I have tried other carrot cake reicpes (including this version) but I always come back to this recipe as my ultimate favorite. My mom cut it out of a magazine years ago, I think it was actually from a Ford advertisement of some kind; weird I know. But who cares where the recipe comes from with cake that tastes this good. Mr.Surly, who hates cream cheese, actually said that this frosting was amazing. Of course I didn’t let him know it was cream cheese based, I need him to help me eat these things. In college I would make this recipe in cupcake form and they were always a huge hit. I only have one cupcake pan and still had left over batter after filling it. I didn’t feel like baking in batches so I divided the rest of the batter into two 4 ½“ springform pans.

Here are the cupcakes:

The frosting is green for two reasons. First, St. Patrick’s Day was this week, and second, my alma mater, Ohio University, is playing in the NCAA basketball tournament this year, and green is our school color. OU is known more for it’s Halloween Bash and bar riots than for its sports, so anytime they even make it to a tournament I get excited. They actually upset Georgetown last night, go Bobcats!

The cupcakes took about 20 minutes, the cakes went a little longer. The recipe yielded 12 cupcakes and a mini 4 1/2″ cake. If I were to make this again I would double the frosting; I had enough to cover everything but I wasn’t able to add a nice, thick layer of frosting. Make these today and your friends and family will thank you.

Low fat frosted carrot cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
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for the cake:
1 ½ c all purpose flour
2/3 c whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 c firmly packed brown sugar
2 c grated carrots (I buy matchstick carrots from the grocery store because I’m lazy)
1/3 c golden raisins
1 whole egg
1 egg white
¾ c nonfat buttermilk
1 can (8oz) crushed pineapple in juice, drained
3 Tbls applesauce
2 tsp vanilla
Vegetable cooking spray for greasing pan

Combine first 8 ingredients (the dry ingredients: flour thru raisins); set aside. Combine the wet ingredients (buttermilk, pineapple, applesauce, and vanilla) in large bowl. (I mix by hand with a wooden spoon, no need to get the mixer out for such a small job). Gradually add dry ingredients, stirring til well blended. Pour into 13×9 inch pan coated with cooking spray (or into a cupcake pan, or smaller cake pans, greased with cooking spray). Bake at 350 for 30-35minutes (or til wooden pick inserted comes out clean). Cool completely on wire rack. Spread with orange cream cheese frosting. Cover and chill. Keep refrigerated.

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz light cream cheese, softened
1 c powdered sugar, sifted
2 tsp vanilla (for fun I used my bourbon vanilla)
1 tsp grated orange zest (usually zest from a whole small orange)

Beat cream cheese til creamy. Gradually add in powdered sugar, beating til blended. Stir in vanilla and orange zest.

Note: If you like a lot of frosting, and/or are making a layer cake, I would recommend doubling the frosting so you have enough.

Guinness Beef Stew

I’m not really a meat eater. Ever since I was a little girl the texture of meat, both beef and chicken, has grossed me out. The thought of biting into and consuming a muscle is sometimes just too much for me. To this day I still will not touch raw meat with my bare hands. I either use tongs or, if there is no way around touching the meat, I wear some of my lab gloves to handle the raw meat. However, meat is full of protein and minerals, so I do try to eat it on occasion. I usually crave red meat about once every 3-4 months. I figure my body is crying out for a boost of iron. Well, yesterday was one of those days. But I haven’t been feeling well, so I wanted an easy meal that would require little to no prep work nor be too involved. I bought some ingredients that I thought would make a simple, tasty stew. I tend to cook more by ratios rather than by exact amounts, so I can’t really say for sure what amounts I used. But the end result was so good, exactly what I wanted. I get my meat from Whole Foods; at their meat counter they have lean stew beef that is already chopped so all I have to do it put the meat in the pot (carefully avoiding actually touching the meat, of course). Perfect. I wanted pearl onions so that I could just dump them in the pot, but they were out of them at Whole Foods.Instead, I bought a container of shallots that were already peeled, since I was feeling too lazy to peel my own. I love a dinner that just requires dumping everything in a pot and walking away.

Guinness Beef Stew
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Serves 4

2 lbs chopped lean stew meat
1 can/bottle Guinness
5-6 shallots, peeled (pearl onions would be good, too)
5 yukon gold potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
Half a 16 oz bag of baby carrots
Your favorite seasonings, to taste:
dried thyme leaves
dried rubbed sage
dried marjoram
worcestershire sauce
sherry cooking wine
flour, to achieve desired thickness

Put everything in a crockpot and cook on low for several hours. I cooked mine for 6 hours and every couple hours would check the seasonings and give it a gentle stir. I like my stew thick, so I would toss in a bit of flour each time I stirred as well. Also, I didn’t cut the shallots up, I just added them whole and they melted down and were delicious.

Black Beans and Brown Rice

I’m sure everyone has some version of a recipe for black beans and rice. It’s so easy to make, the ingredients are inexpensive, the dish is filling, healthy and, most importantly, delicious. This recipe is based off a dish my aunt made for a family reunion years ago, after some members of the family became vegetarian. My sister used to make this for me during the two years we spent attending the same college, and it has always been a food staple for me. I make sure to have the basic ingredients on hand all the time because this is such a quick, easy dinner. My boyfriend has never been a fan of this dish until last night. He declared it to be the best black beans and rice I have ever made; therefore, I had to record what I did so I will remember it in the future.

Cuban Black Beans and Brown Rice
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Serves 3-4

For the rice:
1 c brown rice (preferably soaked all day or overnight to boost nutritional value and cut down on cooking time)
2 c water
1 tsp chili powder (opt)

For the black beans:
Olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 or 2 bell pepper(s), diced
2 cans black beans, partially drained
4 Tbls apple cider vinegar
Italian seasonings, to taste
Cumin, to taste
Lime (opt)

Optional toppings:
Fresh cilantro or parsley
Diced raw onion
Sour cream

First get the rice cooking. Rinse the rice and put it in pot or rice cooker with water. The chili powder is optional, but seasoned rice is so good.

Add about a Tbl or two of olive oil to a pot over med-high heat and sauté onion and garlic until soft and translucent, a few minutes. Add the bell pepper and sauté a couple minutes more.

Add the black beans, apple cider vinegar, about 2 Tbl of Italian seasonings, about 2 tsp of cumin, reduce heat to med-low, cover and let simmer about 15 or 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

If there isn’t enough liquid when you go to stir it and the beans are drying out just add some water to m0isten things up. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary.

Before serving, I added some zest from small lime, squeezed out the juice and stirred in some chopped parsley. I wish that I had cilantro instead, but oh well.

To serve, just put some rice in your bowl, then top with beans. I prefer a little rice and lots of beans, about 1/4 c rice to about 1/2 c beans.

You can top with cheese, sour cream, raw onion, and/or salsa. I eat mine plain with a fork, but my boyfriend likes to add salsa and scoop his up with tortilla chips.

Spinach and Lentil Soup

Lately I’ve been making a lot of soups/stews because they’re quick, easy, and we can eat leftovers another night, thus saving me a day in the kitchen. I have been looking through a lot of cookbooks, magazines, blogs, etc looking for soup recipes that look interesting. I read good reviews about Jamie Oliver’s book Jamie’s Diet Revolutionand decided to buy it. It’s really good. He gives great tips and the recipes are basic enough that you can adapt them to your own personal tastes; I love recipes that are adaptable to what you have in your kitchen. I’ve only had time to try a few recipes and thus far they have been great. However, this one really stood out as being extra delicious. I saw that it served 6-8 and decided not to halve the recipe because I planned on freezing some of it to have on a night that I didn’t feel like cooking. But once I made it, Mr.Surly ate so much of it that there wasn’t enough left over to save. I added some of my favorite spices to the recipe to liven it up a bit. We really liked the cumin flavor. I can’t wait to try more of the recipes in this book.

Lentil and Spinach Soup
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Serves 6

2 carrots, sliced (I used about 1 c sliced baby carrots)
2 celery stalks, sliced (I used about 1 c )
2 medium onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced (I used 4 cloves because I love garlic)
1 ¾ quarts vegetable broth (I only had 1 qt veggie broth, so I used that plus 3 c water)
Thumb sized piece of ginger, thinly sliced (I grated mine with a microplane)
½ to 1 fresh red chile, sliced (I used a Serrano pepper)
10 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
2 c red lentils (I used green lentils)
7 c (7 oz) spinach (I used a 10 oz bag of fresh organic spinach)
cumin, to taste
curry, to taste
ancho chile powder, to taste
turmeric, to taste
Sea salt
Olive oil

Add about 2 Tbl olive oil to a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat, and add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Sauté until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add broth and water cover and simmer while you chop up the ginger, chile, and tomatoes.

Add the ginger, chile, lentils, to pot. Cover and cook until lentils are soft. I was in no hurry to eat, so I simmered on med low heat for about an hour. If you crank the heat up, it could be done sooner.

Taste the soup and season with salt, pepper, and any spices of your choice. I felt it needed some flavor, so I added a couple palm-fulls of cumin, curry, a bit of cayenne, turmeric, and some ancho chili powder.

When ready to serve, if desired, add a dollop of yogurt (I used greek yogurt). I had some chives that needed to be used up, so I chopped those up and sprinkled them on top for garnish.

Source: Adapted from Jamie’s Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver

Pork and Sauerkraut

Everyone, I’m sure has their own New Year’s traditions. Southerners eat black-eyed peas (which resemble coins), Italians eat lentils (which, again, look like coins), some eat fish (fish swim forward, therefore, by eating fish you can move forward in the new year), greens (kale, cabbage, collard greens, because green=money) and of course pork (since pigs root around and push their snouts forward). Growing up in my family, my grandmother, who is of German descent, believed firmly in eating pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s day. Grammy’s secret to making sauerkraut more palatable was to sprinkle brown sugar over it. Any New Year’s that I stopped by for a visit this dish is what she would have in the oven. As kids, my sister, brother, and I were never really excited to eat sauerkraut. It smelled so bad, kinda like sweaty feet. But my sweet Grammy would make all of us eat at least one bite of sauerkraut (which was usually mixed in with mashed potatoes) to give us luck in the coming year. As I got older and my tastebuds changed, I began to warm up to sauerkraut, happily eating it on New Years. Sadly, to this day, neither of my siblings upholds the tradition of pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s. I have been faithful to this tradition, though. Even in college, I would make pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s day for myself and any friends who wanted to join me. Grammy would be so pleased when I would call to wish her a happy New Year and to let her know that I was being a good German girl by eating my pork and sauerkraut.

Now, it’s my turn to make sure that my boyfriend, who isn’t a fan of sauerkraut, eats at least one bite on New Year’s for good luck. Usually, I’m the one who ends up eating the sauerkraut leftovers, but this year that all changed. My boyfriend actually willingly ate 2 servings of sauerkraut, and even ate most of the leftovers. I was shocked and happy. I tweaked my methods slightly this year and came up with how I will probably prepare my sauerkraut next year. Also, I noticed that this year my kitchen didn’t reek of cabbage, nor did the refrigerator. I’m not sure what my luck was, but I’m going to guess it was from the apple and apple juice I added this year.

Pork and Sauerkraut
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Serves 4

4 boneless pork chops
1 bag sauerkraut
1 apple, cored and sliced (I used a gala)
Brown sugar, to taste
Cinnamon, to taste
Apple juice or apple cider

Season both sides of each pork chop with salt and pepper. Sear in skillet over med-high heat until each side is lightly browned.*

Put some sauerkraut in the bottom of a baking dish, and sprinkle with brown sugar, then assemble the pork chops in dish. I laid the apple slices around the pork and sprinkled them with cinnamon and brown sugar. Then top the pork chops with the rest of the sauerkraut, and sprinkle with brown sugar.

Pour some apple juice or cider over everything (I didn’t measure, but I think I used about 1/3 c). Cover with foil and bake in oven at 350F until the pork is cooked through. My pork chops were thick so this took about 45 minutes.

When I check the pork for doneness (after about 30 min), I also test the sauerkraut to make sure it’s no longer sour, but nicely sweetened. If it still tastes sour I just sprinkle more brown sugar over it.

I baked the pork uncovered for the last 5-10 minutes to reduce the apple juice a bit. Serve and enjoy a New Year filled with luck.

*Note: sometimes I don’t sear the pork, I just put it into the dish and let it bake. It’s up to you and if you want to dirty another dish