Flourless Double Chocolate Cookies

Double Chocolate Flourless Cookies
I’m going to post about chocolate, again on Saturday, most likely.  Because a friend from Matt’s old job just paid us $25 to bake him something for their company Christmas party.  We thought it would be last Friday, so I made these flourless chocolate cookies.  You can win any gift exchange or White Elephant situation with chocolate.  Unfortunately (but fortunately) the party was cancelled due to ice and so I had to make a different chocolate indulgence today.  It was hard, but I got through it.

These cold days beckon rich, dark, warm chocolate.  One of my favorite things in the cooking world is the moment when you’re stirring hot cream into chocolate chips and you think it’s never going to melt the chocolate, but then suddenly, a rich pool of blackness forms in the center of the bowl and in about ten more seconds, the whole bowl is transformed into ganache.  This happened, today, as I was making the ganache to go on top of my little brownie creation (to be posted this weekend!) and I found myself grinning like an idiot.  Transforming something good into something even better is one of the perks of working with chocolate.  It never fails to please.

Like these little cookie gems!  Flourless, fudgy, dense, chewy and melty bits of chocolate throughout.  My one and only friend with celiac disease will be so happy 🙂 You’re welcome, Heather.  I can’t imagine a world without flour, but if I had to, these cookies would be repeat visitors to my kitchen, for sure.

Flourless Chocolate Cookies

Flourless Double Chocolate Cookies*

makes about 2 dozen
2 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder, optional but good
1 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
3 large egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets. Stir together all of the ingredients till smooth. This is hard.  The batter gets so gluey, you will be certain you have made a mistake.  You haven’t.  Just keep stirring.  If I could do it over, again, I’d use a stand mixer. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, and stir again till smooth.
Drop the batter-like dough onto the prepared baking sheets by heaping tablespoons.
Bake the cookies for 8 minutes; they should spread, although mine didn’t much, become somewhat shiny, and develop faintly crackly tops.

Remove the cookies from the oven, and allow them to cool on the pan.

*recipe from King Arthur Flour

Parsnip Puree with Coriander Brown Butter

parsnip002

I remember the months of making Olive’s baby food with great fondness and happy farewells.  While it was fun to show her new foods, I was all too glad to stop blending and pureeing things like chicken pot pie or beef stroganoff.  Because while certain foods look nice pureed, others look like…gray.  And gray just isn’t an appealing color in the food world.

Whenever I see recipes for purees, I instantly think, “That’s baby food” because it was to me.  I never followed the rules of how to feed your baby what at what age, except for the standard “biggies” like honey, peanut butter and strawberries.  I just always blended up whatever we were having and it always worked out great.  Her first foods weren’t bland cereals, but full flavored vegetables.  Olive ate and enjoyed nearly everything my trusty immersion blender wanted to create and I think, because of that, she isn’t very averse to strong flavors, spices and seasonings.  I always seasoned her baby food.  I’d hold back on the salt more than what my palette would prefer, but I felt that her food should taste good and that if we enjoyed it, she’d enjoy it!

Today’s recipe fits a lot of current trends.  Substitutions for those evil, fear-inducing potatoes?  Check.  Browned Butter?  Check.  Calling baby food a puree and feeling fancy while serving it for dinner?  Check.  I made this dish last night as a side to lamb chops and roasted broccoli.  (Olive gnawing on the lamb chop ranks up there with Greatest Moments Ever.)  We all enjoyed it and I think it will make an appearance again during the fall season.  Those crusty bits that Olive called bacon?  Yeah, that’s roasted garlic.  Totally awesome.  If I could do anything, I’d make parsnips not so sweet.  And then, by George, they’d actually taste like mashed potatoes!  🙂

parsnip003

Parsnip Puree with Coriander Brown Butter*
serves 4-6 as a side

2 lbs parsnips, peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces
5 TBS unsalted butter
2-4 TBS milk
Salt and fresh ground pepper
1/4 tsp ground coriander
2 cloves chopped garlic

Boil the chopped parsnips in salted water until tender.  Transfer to a food processor, or to a large bowl if using an immersion blender.  Add two tablespoons of butter, the milk and salt and pepper and blend until smooth and creamy and no chunks remain.  Add a dash more milk if you want.  Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

In a stainless steel skillet over medium heat, add the remaining three tablespoons of butter, coriander and chopped garlic.  Swirl the butter around until bubbling and starting to brown.  Keep the garlic moving around so it doesn’t burn.  Remove from heat and pour over the parsnip puree to serve!

*recipe from Real Simple magazine this month, in which they gave us four entire weeks of dinner planning.  I’m not going to squander that work done for me, so we’re eating through Week 1 and enjoying it very much.  Especially the lack of effort part.

Strawberry Pots de Creme

Strawberry Pots de Creme

Here’s a beautifully simple dessert that is silky and rich and bright with the last memories of summer strawberries.  Fresh is always best if you can find good ones, but if they’re out, or have already sky-rocketed in price, frozen would work just fine.  It’s a custard kind of week here on the Family Meal blog.  I get good use out of my cute little ramekins and I have really embraced them as they are a perfect little size for toddler hands.  Oh yeah, and that spoon is part of this set, which I really just couldn’t resist.  I love them for Olive and for dips and jams and even my morning coffee.  Plus, what little girl wouldn’t feel excited to get to eat her oatmeal in the morning with a gold glitter spoon?  Olive couldn’t really care less.  It’s for me.  🙂

Strawberry Cream Pots

 

Strawberry Pots de Creme (pronounced: poh-duh-crem)
makes 4-6 depending on your vessels

  • 8 ounces strawberries (7 or 8 large berries), hulled
  • 3 tablespoons superfine sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or extract)
  • 1 tsp Cointreau (I left this out for Ollie)

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. In a tall cup or blender, combine strawberries, sugar and egg yolks. Process with your handy immersion blender (or regular blender) until pureed.

Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Pour the strawberry mixture into a large bowl.  Add 1 cup cream and the vanilla and Cointreau if using. Mix well. Divide mixture evenly among four 1-cup ramekins. Place ramekins in a baking dish, and add enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of ramekins.

Place baking dish in the oven, and bake until the custard is just set, about 1 hour. Check by jiggling the pan – if they still look pretty liquidy in the center, rotate the pan and let it go another 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven; place ramekins on a rack, and cool. Cover with foil or plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 6 hours. To serve, top with diced strawberries or whipped cream and enjoy with your sparkle spoons!  🙂

 

Crustless Asparagus Quiche and the End of All Dieting

asparagus custard

I was first introduced to a savory custard by the wonderful food blogger, Helene Garcia of French Foodie Baby.  The first savory custard I made was her leek and chive flan and I was a bit afraid at first because we just have ingrained in our minds that custards and flans are supposed to be sweet, but this was a very happy and luxurious surprise.  Basically, in American terms, this is a crustless quiche.  Only waaaaay better of a texture than the quiche of your childhood.  Please do refer back to my quiche post on how its texture should be.  I was happy that it was such a silky texture and that Olive could eat it just fine with her limited spoon wielding skills.

I stumbled upon this asparagus and bacon custard in a book called French Women Don’t Get Fat, which I’m reading and working my way through the steps to reshape my life and my patterns of eating.  The book presents a bit of a strict start (a cleanse, which I don’t think is totally necessary for success, just optional) followed by three months of self evaluation of the patterns you’ve made over the years and ways in which you could cut back without feeling deprived.  After three months, by the book, you should only be HALF WAY to your goal weight.  If you are, then she advises to add back a few more pleasures and get on with your life!  If not, then keep going with the plan, making additional adjustments if necessary.

I’m happy to have finally found a book that doesn’t restrict you, doesn’t say that a particular food or food group is bad, and doesn’t push supplements.  I’m DONE with that vicious cycle of crash dieting and then giving up, gaining back and doing it all over again because every new diet makes a new promise.  Why do we keep doing this to ourselves?  I found myself having an epiphany the other day that a diet that promises you’ll lose all the weight you need to lose in a few weeks will only work if it only took you a few weeks to gain that weight.  And like me, I’m sure most of us with serious weight issues have struggled a BIT longer than weeks or even years with our weight.  So why does it not register in our minds that in order to keep a good, healthy weight, we should logically change the way we do things for 10-15 years at least?  Personally speaking, I’ve struggled with my weight for about twenty two years and most of that time was wasted, going through diet after diet that restricted too much, left me wanting and frustrated and ultimately, feeling like I am a loser and can never succeed.

After 11 days of following this book and eating what I personally feel was a bit too indulgent of a menu, I’m down seven pounds.  I know what you’re thinking: all water weight, and besides, wasn’t she just preaching that weight loss shouldn’t be sudden?!  You’re right, it shouldn’t.  But for one, I have a lot to lose and the more you have to lose, generally, the quicker you will drop pounds (at first).  Second, I’ve completely cut out all snacking and all second helpings.  Man, that adds up to a lot with just those two bad habits!  Especially if you snack several times a  day!  The only other thing I’ve given up has been cream in my coffee and that, for me, was the biggest challenge because I love my coffee.  But, for these first three months of “readjusting” how I do things, I don’t consider it that much of a burden to give up roughly 200 calories a day that used to be dedicated to cream in my coffee!  I have even started to prefer it black with just a little sweetner (stevia, for those concerned).  I haven’t been stressed about working out – I just have been taking more walks and enjoying the new, cooler fall weather and I’ve been pulling a few weeds here and there.  This is my new life.  I was done with diets a few years ago, but I was still engaging in bad habits.  It’s hard to undo years of emotional eating, but I’ve found that the distraction of Olive is a grand one.  Or, if I just HAVE to ingest something in the afternoon, I make a cup of cinnamon tea (it’s naturally sweet) and get productive!

This custard recipe was breakfast for a few days last week.  Again, I know what you will say.  This has cream, eggs, bacon AND it’s in a “diet” book?  Yep.  Moderation + Fulfilling Meals = Success.  Moderation + Drab, Restrictive Meals = Failure. I really recommend you picking up this book IF and only if you are done yo-yo dieting,  if you like to cook and you are ready to stop restricting yourself and feeling guilty for eating things like butter.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress and I hope that I can encourage some of you to stop the fad madness and just start “eating real food, not too much, mostly plants.” (from the omnivore’s dilemma) 🙂

Asparagus custards

Asparagus Custard (crustless quiche, if it makes you feel better to call it that)
makes 6 – 1 cup ramekin servings

16 asparagus spears, tough ends cut off and peeled
4 ounces bacon, coarsely chopped
8 eggs
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
8 sprigs chives, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 350F. Boil the asparagus in salted water for 5 minutes. Drain and let cool. Chop each stalk into a small dice and set aside.  Saute the bacon in a nonstick frying pan till crisp. Drain on paper towel and set aside.  Mix remaining ingredients in a large bowl (reserving some chives for garnish). Pour the egg mixture into individual ramekins. Sprinkle in the asparagus and bacon. Bake for 15-20 minutes till the custard is set but not dried out.  Serve with pieces of toast, crackers, or with some fresh fruit and enjoy your day!