Coffee Addicts

>> Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My husband and I are coffee junkies.

We might even be coffee snobs. We only like certain types of coffee! We definitely prefer Peet's Coffee to Starbucks, and you can only guess how we feel about Folger's or Maxwell House. BLECK!

We like our latte's - preferably with soy milk (splenda for him, cocoa powder on top for me) please and thank you!

Every morning, as we're getting ready, he'll always ask me, "do you want coffee?" I'm not even sure why he asks anymore, because the answer is most certainly, "yes". We have our own travel coffee mugs for each of us (I just happened to steal the good one because it doesn't fit into his cup holder. YES!), and each morning we fill it to go. But the sad thing is, this definitely isn't the only coffee we drink during the day. He makes more coffee at work (Peet's of course), and I often make coffee at my office or will stop throughout the day (I drive around a lot for my job) and grab a cup of brewed coffee at this coffee shop or that one, and we will even make it after dinner around 3 of 5 nights of the work week. We LOVE our coffee.

I saw this recipe for Dark Chocolate Biscotti, and immediately saw another excuse to drink some more coffee! :)

This is definitely a feel better about yourself recipe - whole wheat flour, flax seed, dark chocolate (antioxidants and flavonoids of course), and almonds make it a much better alternative! It really taste's yummy too, but what doesn't when you get to eat it with coffee!!!

Here are the stats:
Serving Size - 1 biscotti
Calories - 94 Carbs - 14.4g
Fat - 3.5g Chol - 7 mg
Protein - 2.7g Sodium - 49 mg.

Deep Dark Chocolate Biscotti (From Cooking Light)
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 Tbs. flaxseed
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 large egg whites
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 bar hershey's special dark chocolate bar (you can also use dark chocolate chips, but I couldn't find them)
3/4 cup unsalted almonds

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients in a bowl, stirring with a whisk.
3. Combine granulated sugar and next 3 ingredients in a bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed 2 minutes. Add vanilla, mix well.

4. Add flour mixture to egg mixture, stir until combined.

5. Chop Hershey's bar in food processor or blender.
6. Fold in chocolate and almonds.
7. Divide dough into 3 equal portions. Roll each portion into a 6-inch long roll. Arrange rolls 3 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with silpat or parchment paper. Pat to a 1-inch thickness. Bake at 350 degrees for 28 minutes or until firm.
8. Remove rolls from baking sheet; cool 10 minutes on a wire rack.
9. Cut rolls diagonally into 30 (1/2-inch) slices. Place cut sides down, on baking sheet.
10. Reduce oven temp to 325 degrees; bake 7 minutes. Turn cookies over, bake 7 more minutes. (cookies will be slightly soft in center but will harden as they cool).
11. Remove from baking sheet; cool on wire rack. YIELD: 2 1/2 dozen


Chunky Guacamole

>> Monday, March 22, 2010

YUM! Guacamole! The world's best "healthy" snack!! And this one is SOO super easy!

You know avocados are good for you right! I just heard on the Biggest Loser they are 50 calories per ounce of pure heart healthy fats!

Of course it doesn't count if you eat 15 ounces of avocado's right?!? All in the form of this super super yummy guacamole! (This recipe can easily be doubled, tripled, or even quadrupled! :) )

I lived on it during our Daniel Fast, because it was something that seemed normal when we couldn't eat anything! I won't tell you how much of it my husband ate! :) Especially after I taught him how to make it for himself! (P.S. That's how easy it is - sorry babe!)

By the way, did I mention my mom is coming in 16 days?? YIPPEE!!

Super Easy Chunky Guacamole: (By: Me)

1 large avocado
1 plum tomato
sprinkle of sea salt
juice of 1/2 lime (you can add more if you like)
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
5-6 small slices jalapeno from jar of sliced jalapenos, very finely diced
bunch of cilantro, chopped (use amount to your liking)

1. Peel avocados. Place in medium bowl and sprinkle with sea salt.

2. Using a fork, mash the avocados to desired texture - I like mine pretty smooth since the texture will be added by the other veggies!
3. Cut the plum tomato in half and seed the middle using an ice cream scoop. Discard seeds. Then chop the tomato and add to bowl.

4. Juice 1/2 lime or more if desired and add to avocado/tomato mixture.

5. Add chopped onion and cilantro
6. Mix till desired and serve with warm tortilla chips (I also LOVE this in a black bean soup!) YUM!


Feels Like Home

>> Saturday, March 13, 2010

Maybe it's because my mom will be here in exactly 26 days....

And my sister and brother and law will be here in a month and a half...

Or maybe because several of my friends in Charleston have either had babies or getting ready to have babies....

Maybe it's because my nephew wants to come visit me because I "have 4 pools" (the apartments we live in do, not me personally)...

Or maybe because Southern Living is featuring Charleston this month...

Or even just maybe because I saw some pictures of my dad in some wedding pictures of some friends (he's a pastor and officiated the ceremony)...

All of this = me feeling a little homesick lately :(

So when I'm feeling a little homesick, I need to vent by cooking. And what better thing to cook than something that reminds me of my childhood. Peanut butter cookies. These aren't just any peanut butter cookies though - they're peanut butter sandwich cookies with peanut butter frosting. Yeah, I know, that's a whole lot of peanut butter!

I used to make these as a teenager all the time! People LOVED them so much, that they would literally pay me to make them - I told them they didn't have to. But then so many people would offer I started using it as a fundraiser to help pay for the mission's trips I would go on in the summer. My brother-in-law LOVES them. My sister has to make them for him frequently. Even people who claim to not like peanut butter somehow LOVE these cookies. So, I pulled out the P.B. and got baking.

These cookies are so stinkin' easy though, that it gives you even more of an excuse to make them. Not good! :) And FOUR ingredients for the cookies... FOUR. So easy, you can just memorize the recipe and make them all the time!

They are a little bit better for you than normal cookies though - they are flourless! So they are melt in your mouth good. I made half of this batch with Splenda also, just to see how it would taste. Still okay, like you could get away with it, but if you're going to enjoy eating a peanut butter cookie, than you might as well just go all the way and eat a peanut butter cookie! I made these for our small group game night last night, and the general consensus was definitely, regular sugar = better!

What makes you homesick? You know my triggers now! :)

Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies with Peanut Butter Frosting (By: My Family)

For Cookies:
1 cup JIF peanut butter (JIF is the ONLY way to go!!! and no I wasn't paid to say that! :) )
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. baking soda

For Frosting:
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3 Tbs. milk or cream


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl mix all ingredients for cookies together by hand until smooth, making sure there are not baking soda lumps. Dough will be very sticky.
Yes, I took a picture of the peanut butter, because using JIF is THAT important! :)

Splenda mixture on the left, sugar mixture on the right - the consistency was a bit different.

3. Roll into 1/2" balls (I make them super small so the sandwich cookies are almost bite sized, because they are so peanut buttery) and place on cookie sheets - I used my stones.

4. Using a fork, dip into small bowl of sugar, and make criss-cross pattern on top of cookies to flatten.

5. Bake for 8-10 min. or until golden brown. Allow to cool for ~ 1-2 min. and transfer to wire cooling rack - be careful they will be VERY crumbly until cool. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

1. Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl - mixture will be pretty runny, don't add more powdered sugar, it needs to be this runny so it doesn't break the cookies.
2. Once cookies are completely cool, carefully spread a generous amount of frosting onto inside of one cookie, and sandwich another on top. YUM!


Not Your Mama's Mac and Cheese

>> Thursday, March 11, 2010

My husband and I have started a new tradition in our dates. Yes, we still go on a date weekly (at least we try REALLY hard to go weekly).

We decided that each week we would switch and each be responsible for planning a date for the other based on what they would want to do and enjoy. It really makes you think about what the other would really like, makes you listen to them really hard throughout the week about what they have mentioned they really want to eat or do, and in general has been really fun for us to be creative with each other.
This past week was my turn, and I wanted to take my husband to the Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton here in San Jose. He's said several times he's wanted to go there, and he's a loyal fan of the History Channel, where he found out that Albert Einstein has actually studied there in order to create part of the theory of relativity. Pretty amazing.

So, we went on Saturday, because it's only open during the daylight. It takes an hour to drive up the mountain in the most nausea-inducing curves you've ever seen! Apparently it was created for horse and carriage so they could deliver materials, and it couldn't be too steep, so I'm pretty sure we did at least 3 or 4 FULL u-turns, even though we were just following the road. Did I mention I'm scared of heights!

After the fun at the observatory, we came home and I cooked dinner rather than going out. I have been wanting to try this amazing macaroni and cheese recipe listed in the Top Chefs cookbook my friend Patrick gave me for my birthday last year. I've been kind of chicken to try it though, mostly because 1) every time I try a form of mac and cheese it ends up really dry and 2) this is one of the signature recipes from one of the guys on Top Chef - not just something he came up with on a whim during the show - he cooks this at his restaurant, etc. Scary stuff.

Like I mentioned, it's definitely not your mama's mac and cheese - Truffle and Cognac Cream Macaroni and Cheese - amazing! Seriously, amazing! How can you go wrong, why was I so stinkin scared! :)

I changed it up a little, because the recipe actually calls for black truffles, which run up to $1,000/pound - yeah right! I love my husband and all, but date nights are usually pretty inexpensive - like I would buy them EVER! Maybe if someone paid me $2,000 to eat it. HA.

So I used white truffle oil which my hubby bought me for Christmas as a stocking stuffer. Hadn't used it yet, and was super excited to give it a shot. I added shiitake mushrooms to the dish to make it feel like truffles. I also substituted part romano cheese for the parmesan, because I only had half the amount of each, so I just combined them. Lastly, I also substituted half the amount of cream with fat free half and half. I would love to say that it was for health reasons (it really was! ), but it was because I didn't have enough cream. Be prepared, this makes ALOT!!!

What do you do for date night? Do you plan it, does your spouse? What's your favorite date night activity? I'm always looking for new ideas!

White Truffle and Cognac Cream Macaroni and Cheese (Adapted from Chef Dave - Top Chef Season 1)

Unsalted butter for the baking dishes
1 cup cognac
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
6 garlic cloves (roasted)
1/2 cup chopped shiitake mushrooms, if desired
1 Tbs. sherry
2 Tbs. white truffle oil (can be purchased at Whole Foods)
+ 1 Tbs. white truffle oil for bottom of baking dishes
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups fat free half and half
1 cup finely grated Parmesan (plus more for sprinkling)
1 cup finely grated Romano cheese (you can do just Parmesan or just Romano if desired)
2 tsp. Tabasco sauce
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound penne - cooked al dente
2 1/2 cups finely grated fontina cheese
2 cups sourdough bread, cubed

1. Place small amount of truffle oil in bottom and sides of 8 medium sized ramekins or 9x13 baking dish

2. Place the cognac in a small saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced by half, 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. Finely grate cheeses and set aside.

4. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic, and mushrooms and cook until the vegetables are softened but not browned. Add the sherry and stir until evaporated.

5. Add the cream and reduced cognac. Then add the truffle oil.

6. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is reduced by half and the truffle flavor is infused, about 20 minutes. Add more truffle oil if desired. Watch the pot carefully, so the cream doesn't boil over.

7. While the cream is reducing, cube bread, drizzling enough olive oil over to cover each piece of bread, sprinkle with salt and pepper.

8. Bake in single layer on baking sheet for 15 min.

9. Place croutons in food processor or blender and process until broken down into crumbs.

10. Once cream is reduced, add Tabasco, Parmesan and Romano cheese, salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine until cheese is melted.

12. Add the cooked pasta and fontina cheese and stir until all cheeses are melted. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

13. Divide the pasta among the baking dishes and top with the crouton crumbs and grated cheese. Bake for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees for ~ 20 minutes, or until bubbly and browned on top.