Roasted Chickpeas

In the health/natural foods section of our local grocery store while we were in Sydney, there was a jar of roasted chickpeas that we liked to buy and snack on once in a while.  I’ve seen a few recipes on how to make your own roasted chickpeas, so I decided to try it out for myself.

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I used garam masala and olive oil to coat the chickpeas.  The jar of roasted chickpeas we bought at the store were really crunchy, like we were biting into a peanut.  The ones I roasted myself were crunchy on the outside, but still a bit soft inside.

They were very nice though and make a great snack.  My husband thought they tasted like chicken skin (that means that he liked them!)!  Both of my chidren liked them as well, which was quite surprising.

Garam Masala Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients
1 16-ounce can chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2-1 tablespoon garam masala (totally depends your taste)

Method
Drain chickpeas and thoroughly rinse in a colander under cold water.  Pat dry with paper towels and place into a bowl.  Add olive oil and garam masala and toss to completely coat chickpeas.

Arrange chickpeas in a single layer on a baking sheet; bake at 350F for 35-50 minutes, depending on your desired level of crunchiness.

I’d like to note that these are best enjoyed on the same day as roasting; the chickpeas lose their crunchiness by the next day.

Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

I’ve been wanting to make these for quite a while now; they kept tempting me every time I opened Martha Stewart’s COOKIES book!  Finally this past week I made a batch of them, and the whole family loved them.

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They’re barely even two-bite size and so cute!  You can find the recipe here on Martha Stewart’s website (although the recipe is doubled in her COOKIES book).

Carrot Cake Cupcakes With Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

I made these cupcakes on impulse!  Only one day after I made the s’mores cupcakes!  The first reason I made these cupcakes was because I wanted to use the rest of the cream cheese leftover from my mint Oreo truffles.  The second reason I made these cupcakes was because we had a bag of fresh carrots in the refrigerator.

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This is the first recipe I’ve made from smittenkitchen.com, although I want to try all of Deb’s recipes.  The recipe for these carrot cake cupcakes are posted here on her website.

I had to do one substitution, and that was because we have no regular granulated sugar.  Luckily, brown sugar can be substituted, in equal amounts, for granulated sugar.  I had seen carrot cakes use all brown sugar instead of white sugar, so this is what I decided to do.  I used light brown sugar.

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When Deb said in her post that this was a killer recipe, she was totally right!  This carrot cake is so moist and flavorful, it’s just unbelievable.  I don’t think I will ever make any other carrot cake recipe again – this one is a keeper.

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The frosting is really full of maple flavor, and I’d recommend not going overboard with this frosting.  By that I mean, don’t pile on this frosting; just a little swirl or thin layer will do, else it might be a little overpowering and drown out the taste of that wonderful carrot cake.

I think these make a great breakfast cupcake as well.  I had one this morning, after a quick round in the microwave (about 9 seconds) to warm it up, with coffee, and it was very nice.  :)

S’mores Cupcakes

It’s almost s’mores season!  Of course, I wouldn’t restrict s’mores to any particular season, as they are enjoyed all year long, but it is about time to uncover the barbecues, start up some camp fires and enjoy summertime foods.  I got myself in the s’mores spirit by microwaving myself one!

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It has been years, at least 15 years, since I’ve eaten one of these.  Where have I been!  This was so good and I’m using leftover ingredients from my s’mores  cupcakes to make more s’mores.

I spent a while trying to decide how I wanted to build my s’mores cupcakes.  I’ve seen it done so many different ways.  I couldn’t decide between a graham cracker cake or a chocolate cake, or a chocolate graham cracker cake.

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I chose to toss out my ideas when I saw this recipe on the Martha Stewart website; it’s a recipe for chocolate graham cracker cupcakes and toasted marshmallow frosting from Trophy Cupcakes in Seattle.  It has a graham cracker crust base, a layer of bittersweet chocolate, chocolate cake, and graham cracker crumbs and chopped bittersweet chocolate baked on top.  The frosting is basically a marshmallowy 7-minute frosting.

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There had been comments on the recipe that it took a while to prepare; for me, I thought that the crushing of the graham crackers and chopping of the chocolate took the longest time.  If you had a food processor or similar, unlike me, I’m sure it would make the task quicker.

The recipe calls for whole milk, but we only drink skim milk.  So I searched for a quick substitute and ended up using a mix of skim milk and melted butter; 1 cup of skim milk, plus 2 teaspoons of melted butter.  I used unsalted butter.  It seemed to work fine.  The cupcakes rose nicely, they have a very velvety sort of texture and are really moist.

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I used the very last bit of sugar in our cabinets to make the frosting, so I hoped that I wouldn’t ruin it.  I haven’t made 7-minute frosting before, so I wasn’t familiar with the process.  As I was whisking the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar over a pan of simmering water, I noticed the mixture was very yellow and I thought for sure I had ruined it, but after 6 minutes under the care of the KitchenAid’s whisk it whipped up so perfect, so glossy and so white.  It is a really beautiful marshmallowy frosting.

The recipe suggested using a kitchen blow torch to toast the frosting, but as I have no kitchen blow torch on hand, I put them under the broiler (on a low setting) in the oven for a few minutes (but moved the oven rack to the center of the oven).  It didn’t toast them like a blow torch would, but it did give them a toasted appearance and crunch.

Unfortunately, I have heaps of frosting left and am not sure what to do with it.  Egg whites don’t freeze well, I’ve heard, and I’m not sure how long it might keep in the refrigerator.

Anyway, these cupcakes taste so nice!  I wouldn’t say they taste like the traditional s’mores sandwich, however.  With the addition of bittersweet chocolate, instead of the traditional milk chocolate, I would consider this a grown-up’s s’mores cupcake!

Updated later: As there are egg whites in the frosting, it’s best to refrigerate your leftover cupcakes.  Let them warm up to room temperature before enjoying, or give them a quick zap in the microwave; I put mine on defrost for 10 seconds and it warmed up the chocolate pieces to make them nice and gooey again.  :)

Panko-Encrusted Tofu With Fried Rice

I went grocery shopping yesterday and had on my list the ingredients to make vegetarian sushi.  I’m not a vegetarian, but since I am pregnant I want to avoid raw fish and also ready-made sushi due to the risk of listeria.  So I set out to make my own.  However, my store didn’t have nori (I know I’ve seen it there before!)!  I kept all the fresh ingredients already in my cart anyway and decided to do something else with them.

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I made up this recipe completely on my own, and while it could probably use a few tweaks, I thought it was quite nice!  What I came up with were tofu “fingers” (fingers, meaning that I cut the tofu into long slices) marinated in soy sauce, ginger and garlic, then coated in panko bread crumbs and baked in the oven.  The fried rice is long grain white rice (of the instant variety!), garlic, onion, fried egg, carrots, peas, broccoli, cauliflower and green onion.

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I’ll go ahead and post the recipe, but I don’t have exact amounts.  This is pretty much close to how I made it, though.

Panko-Encrusted Tofu With Fried Rice
Serves approximately 3

Ingredients

Tofu:
1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
7 ounces extra firm tofu, drained and cut into 6 fingers
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

Fried Rice:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups cooked rice
1/3 cup frozen peas and carrots (purchased in the same bag)
1/3 cup frozen chopped broccoli and cauliflower (purchased in the same bag)
1  scrambled egg
2 green onions, sliced
dash reduced-sodium soy sauce

Method
For marinade, mix soy sauce, ginger and garlic in a ziploc bag and gently toss in the tofu fingers to coat.  Let sit in the bag in refrigerator at least 30 minutes.

Using a clean ziploc bag, pour in panko bread crumbs.  Remove tofu fingers from marinade and gently toss them in the bread crumbs to evenly coat.

Place tofu fingers on a baking sheet and bake at 400F for 20 minutes or until crunchy and golden brown.

For fried rice, heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat; add onion.  Cook until onion turns transparent.  Add garlic and cook one minute longer.

Add cooked rice, scrambled egg, peas and carrots, and broccoli and cauliflower.  Heat through – I think I cooked this about 10 minutes.

Pour in a tiny dash of soy sauce and stir to evenly distribute.  Add green onions.  Serve with tofu fingers.

And there you have, I believe, a nice very vegetarian dinner!  :)

Strawberries & Chocolate

Just one month ago, my mother-in-law, who lives in Australia, surprised us with an Easter cookie bouquet; she surprised us again yesterday by sending me a Mother’s Day gift – two boxes full of huge fresh strawberries and two jars of fudge dipping sauce!

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They were packaged nicely from Cherry Moon Farms.  In each box were 16 strawberries, so 32 strawberries in all, and in each box was one jar of fudge dipping sauce.

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And when I said they were huge, I did mean that they were huge!

The fudge dipping sauce is an award-winning gourmet chocolate sauce from Fudge Fatale.  It is a very nice sauce that is not too sweet and goes perfect with the strawberries.  The sauce is spreadable at room temperature and needs a quick zap in the microwave to achieve a dipping consistency.  It would also be nice over ice cream, I imagine!

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There are recipes on the Fudge Fatale webiste that are worth checking out as well.  I have two jars of this sauce and will definitely have some leftover, so I hope to try out a couple of those recipes.

This was a very sweet and totally unexpected Mother’s Day gift!  What sweet treats have you received or given for Mother’s Day this year?

Peanut Butter Toffee Cookies

This recipe for peanut butter toffee cookies was recently a Cookie of the Day at the Martha Stewart website.  I’ve been interested in toffee lately, so I thought that this recipe might be a good way to incorporate some toffee into my baking.

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I used 2 Hershey’s brand Heath bars for this recipe, just the regular 1.4-ounce size you can find in the grocery store’s checkout lane.

I contemplated on using a different peanut butter cookie base, one that I knew and loved, but decided I’d go ahead with the one in the recipe.  A different cookie recipe could definitely be used, as long as the cookie will be thick enough to distribute and hold the toffee pieces nicely (i.e. not a thin cookie).

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I got exactly 24 cookies.  They’re pretty good, although as I suspected, I’m not totally fond of the peanut butter cookie itself.  It’s a slightly crunchier sort of cookie with softer insides; I think the crunch of the toffee goes well with the crunchiness of the cookie, though.

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I really do like the idea of toffee pieces in cookies now, and I suspect I’ll be making different varieties of cookies with toffee in the future.  :)

Pizza With Mozzarella, Mushrooms & Spinach

I really like making my own pizzas because I can add as much or as little of any ingredient that I like.  I really like mushrooms and cheese, so you’ll see a lot of those on any pizza that I make!

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I used a store-bought refrigerated pizza dough as the base for this pizza, and a simple tomato sauce.  I sprinkled two minced cloves of garlic on top of the sauce and a sprinkling of dried thyme.  Then, I added a good layer of shredded mozzarella cheese, chopped fresh baby spinach and sliced cremini mushrooms.  On top of that I added a sprinkling of dried oregano and a little bit more cheese.  I baked the pizza for 12 minutes at 400F.

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I don’t have exact measurements of each ingredient that I used, like I said, that’s the great thing about making pizzas – you don’t really need a recipe.  My pizza was a little too herby because I went a little crazy with the oregano, but it’s a nice change from frozen store-bought pizzas.  :)

Mint Oreo Truffles

This is my first go at Oreo truffles – it probably won’t be my last!  I decided to use mint Oreos, after I couldn’t find strawberry Oreos (I thought they had quit making them, but I’ve seen people using them again recently).

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I cut the popular Oreo truffles recipe in half – you can find that recipe in this post – because a package of mint Oreos is smaller than a package of regular Oreos.

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I used 21 mint Oreos, 4-5 ounces cream cheese and 4 ounces Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate.  I believe the extra cream cheese I added to the crumbled cookie mixture was a little too much – the truffles are gooier than they’re supposed to be (but that’s fine with me, they’re still very yummy!).  Also, 4 ounces of the Ghirardelli chocolate wasn’t quite enough to coat all the truffles.  I ended up with 20 truffles.

Rustic Apple Tart

This recipe comes from a KitchenAid stand mixer instruction manual; the photo looked so nice that I knew I would eventually get around to making it.  It’s a rustic apple tart and includes making your own pie crust, which is something I’ve never done before.

It actually ended up being quite easy, although I wish I would have added one more tablespoon of water to the dough (it says to add 5-6 tablespoons of water and I added 5).

For the apple filling, the recipe calls for 2 1/2 pounds, or 6 large tart apples.  I found that this was way too much apple.  I mounded the apples in the center of the pie crust, thinking that it must cook down and shrink quite a bit.  The tart in the photo does not have a mound of apple filling anywhere near as large as mine was!

Well, everything turned out quite nice, except I didn’t get a nice brown pie crust.  Maybe I should have brushed it with egg before baking?  I didn’t get a photo of the freshly baked tart because it was late at night and there wasn’t enough light to get a post-worthy photo.  I did get this photo today though at lunchtime of a slice of the tart with a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream.

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It is a really nice-tasting apple tart though.  It was definitely worth making and I’m quite sure I’ll be making it again, although I’m going to use less apples; maybe I’ll try 4 large apples, instead of 6.

KitchenAid Pie Pastry
Adapted from KitchenAid stand mixer instruction manual
Makes 2  8- or 9-inch pie crusts

Ingredients
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening, well-chilled
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, well-chilled
5 to 6 tablespoons cold water

Method
Place flour and salt in mixer bowl.  Attach bowl and flat beater to mixer.  Turn to stir speed and mix about 15 seconds.  Cut shortening and butter into pieces and add to flour mixture.  Turn to stir speed and mix until shortening particles are size of small peas, about 30 to 45 seconds.

Continuing on stir speed, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing until ingredients are moistened and dough begins to hold together.  Divide dough in  half.  Pat each half into a smooth ball and flatten slightly.  Wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill in refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Rustic Apple Tart
Adapted from KitchenAid stand mixer instruction manual
Serves 8

Ingredients
2 1/2 pounds (about 6 large) tart green apples, peeled, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust (see above recipe, or use your own)

Method
Toss together apples, lemon juice and granulated sugar.  Set aside.

Place all remaining ingredients, except pie crust, in mixer bowl.  Attach bowl and flat beater to mixer.  Turn to speed 2 (or low) and mix until crumbly.  Set aside.

Roll out pie crust into a 13-inch circle.  Transfer to baking sheet (it’s okay if pastry hangs over edge of baking sheet).

Gently mound apples in center of pastry, leaving a 2-inch border of dough on all sides.  Sprinkle apples with cinnamon sugar mixture.  Fold pastry up over filling, pleating as necessary to fit snugly around apples.  Gently press dough to filling, reinforcing shape.

Bake at 400F until pastry is golden brown and apples are tender, for about 30 minutes.  Cool tart on baking sheet on wire rack for 10 minutes; serve warm.