Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Super Power Cookies

In college, my girlfriends and I looked for any opportunity to dress up and have a party.  When I say dress up, I’m not referring to nice clothes; no I am referring to costumes.  And in college this all equates to an excuse to drink and decorate your dorm room.  Just like Halloween but multiple times a year.  As with Halloween, the costumes are, ahem, not the most modest. 
Sophomore year, a friend of mine was taking a course on super heroes (I know, it seems ridiculous, but I took two classes that involved quilts).  She managed to convince her professor that she should get extra credit if she threw, and documented, a “Super Heroes” party.  He agreed.  My friends all went into crazy planning mode, with mix tapes, theme drinks, and decorations. 
At the time, I found a recipe online for “power cookies” and I figured this would be appropriate fodder for keeping super powers up.  Now, this was before I had really honed my skills in the baking department, and needless to say these cookies were not very tasty.  Although, if you put enough intoxicated college students in a room with cookies – even terrible cookies – they will get eaten.
Recently, I had been thinking about those cookies.  One, because a friend mentioned that in London it is totally acceptable to have fancy dress parties, akin to our Super Heroes party, and I thought it would be wonderful if all of us know at the very end of our 20’s were to do something like that.  Ridiculous, but wonderful. 

Second, I have seen lots of recipes and even ads for something called breakfast cookies.  In looking at the ingredients or nutritional value of said cookies, I would not consider them acceptable for breakfast. And I suppose that some of these cookies probably are better than a pop tart, I still wouldn’t want to each that much sugar to start my day. 
In going back to the original power cookie recipe, I made some changes and when I tested these cookies – they were actually pretty good.  I brought them to a regatta this weekend for the rower’s to eat, and although I didn’t see too many get consumed while I was there, I heard good reports regarding the overall flavor and texture.  These cookies would be a great way to start your day, or an excellent and protein filled snack; especially if you need to keep up your super powers.

Please excuse the blurriness of this image, I took it with my phone at the regatta, while the cookies were still in the ziplock bag.

Power Cookies
As adapted from Sara Sue on

I highly recommend using dried beans rather than canned beans for this.  In the original recipe, I used canned beans, and the cookies then tasted like beans.  The dried beans also yielded less moisture, so I added unsweetened, spiced, applesauce.  If you can’t find that, just get the organic unsweetened kind and add spices to the batter.

1 c. dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight, and simmer for 2 hours until soft (should yield 2 cups beans)
½ c. granulated sugar
½ c. dark brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. unsweetened applesauce
4 cups oats
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
½ c. pitted dates
½ c. shredded coconut
½ c. raisins

Preheat oven to 375°. 

In a food processor, grind the oats into coarse flour.  It is not necessary for it all to be powder, as some larger bits will add texture to the cookies.  Move the flour to a bowl and add the baking powder, baking soda and salt, stir to combine.

Next, place the beans in the food processor (don’t worry about cleaning it between uses), and process until they are smooth, like a thick hummus.  Move beans into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add sugars, vanilla and applesauce and mix until well combined. 

Add the oat flour mixture to stand mixture and mix until just combined.  Next, pulse the dates in the food processor to chop them into smaller pieces, about the size of the raisins.  Add the dates and raisins to the dough and mix until incorporated. 

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Scoop dough with a heaping table spoon and loosely shape into a ball.  Press the dough down slightly on the board, but not to flatten the cookies.  The cookies will not rise or flatten while baking, so there is no need to space them out very much.

Bake for 15-17 minutes, rotating half-way through, until golden on top.  Allow to cool and store in an airtight container.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Best Bratwurst

Now that the weather has turned warm again, we can all spend a little more time outside.  If you are like me, then you want to combine being outside with eating and drinking.  Joe and I have developed a pretty good system of doing just that.  But when we take it on the road – that’s when things really get good.
Please let me explain.  I don’t mean that Joe and I are good at getting drunk in public (although…), I mean that we enjoy a long afternoon of eating a little, drinking a little and repeating.  We developed this while living in California.  There was a street festival in a little beach town that offered tickets to various restaurants at a discounted price.  For instance the Thai restaurant would sell you a spring roll for 2 tickets, and tickets were a dollar each.  The point was to wander around and sample food.  Joe and I just took it to the next level.  We would try a dish of something, then head in to a bar to try a drink of something.  Usually there were one to two drinks for every dish.  The whole event was called a “Stroll and Savor” but when you outpace the eating with imbibing it quickly becomes a “Stagger and Savor” which is what we affectionately call it now.
We do this still on nice evenings; walk to our bustling one block main street, sample various appetizers and happy hour specials, then stagger our way home.  How, you may ask, does this tie into being outside – well I like to sit outside while we are at restaurants.  So there.  Some people like to get sporty in the sun, I like to get full.
The first time I ever did something like a stagger and savor was in Germany at a wine festival.  There were booths of vendors giving away samples of wine and other vendors selling food.  After hitting two or 3 wine vendors, my friends and I would go to a food vendor and share something like a crepe or pastry. 
Where we decided not to share was at the Brat tent.  The traditional way to eat German sausage, was one sausage on a piece of rye bread with lots of onions, sauerkraut and mustard.  If you are lucky, like we were on this occasion, you will sit with Germans who ask you disparaging questions about America and American culture.  “No, not all women marry for money in America. Yes, I understand that all of our reality-dating shows are based off of that premise. No I cannot offer you any high-profile examples of for love marriages.  Yes, I suppose you are right; we are a pretty greedy lot.” 
But really, I would like to focus back on the food here.  This is super easy to prepare.  The hardest part will be in procuring the best ingredients.  It is best to enjoy this meal outside with plenty of cold beer or white wine.  And if you want to stagger around afterwards, please be my guest.

Beer Brats
As with most things in life – local is always better.  If you are fortunate enough to find local sausage, local bread, local sauerkraut and local mustard – do it! If not, try to get the best quality of all of them.  For instance the kosher sauerkraut in the refrigerated section of the grocery store is far better than the canned version.

4-6 bratwursts, uncooked
2 large yellow onions
1 large keg can of beer, or 2 bottles of beer (dark or medium lager is good)
4-6 slices of 100% rye bread – or dark whole grain loaf
Fresh sauerkraut
Strong whole grain mustard

Poke the sausages with the tip of a sharp knife several times; this will help prevent the sausages from exploding while you cook them.  Place them in a large saucepan.  Cut one onion in half, and then into slices, add to the sauce pan.  Next, cut the remaining onion in half and cut off top, but leave the root end intact.  Peel off the skin, and add the onion halves to the pot.  Cover with beer.

Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer for about 10-12 minutes.  Check back frequently to make sure the beer doesn’t boil over. Meanwhile, prepare your grill for the sausages and the onion halves. 

Drain the sausages and onions from the beer.  Reserve the slice onion pieces for the sandwiches.  Grill over medium-high heat the sausages and onion halves until the sausages are golden.  Set out a platter with the rye bread, sauerkraut, boiled onions and mustard. 

To serve, each person makes and open-faced sandwich using the above ingredients; the more mustard and sauerkraut the better.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Pie Fail

I’ve been in a slump recently.  I must admit, these last few weeks have resulted in some epic fails in the kitchen. When that happens I tend to lose my temper and begin to throw stuff (equipment, food, etc.) around the kitchen.  I also then decide not to eat dinner but to have multiple glasses of wine instead.
Joe really enjoys it when that happens.

Case in point, I decided to use up some of the frozen fruit from last summer that is residing in my freezer.  I had a bunch of frozen strawberries, rhubarb, blueberries and raspberries.  So I figured that a strawberry-rhubarb pie would be very nice for dessert on Easter.  In fact, I have a lovely recipe for strawberry-rhubarb pie that I came up with a few years ago, that I wanted to try and make again. 
I got out my bags of frozen strawberries and rhubarb, added them to a sauce pan and began to cook them.  I thought this would help release some of the juices and extra water from being freezer-burned.  Nope, I got juice.  Just straight juice.  The strawberries completely disappeared and I had a saucepan full of liquid.  So I added some corn starch and let it bubble.  Then I added some fresh sliced strawberries.  Nothing.  I had a bright pink warm fruit soup.
So then I turned my attentions to the crust. It was perfect.  Figures. The one time I actually manage to crush the cookies fine enough and not add too much butter, my filling is what doesn’t turn out.
Not to be deterred, I decided to add egg yolks to the mixture hoping that when I baked it, it would turn into a custard. I poured the watery mess into my crust, shut the oven door and proceeded to pace around the kitchen for the next 45 minutes.  I opened the oven door approximately 40 times, which I am sure helped in the cooking process.
I reported back to Joe every time I peeked at the pie, “I think it’s gonna work!” Five minutes later, “It’s not going to work.” Another 2 minutes later, “I think it might just work!”  As you can see I was delightful on Easter Sunday. 

After the crust started to turn dark brown, I knew I needed to take the pie out and hope for the best.  It wasn’t jiggly, so I took that as a good sign.  But I fell asleep with a full belly of Easter dinner before we could try the pie.  Which I should have taken as a bad sign (for the pie that is).
The next day, after dinner I cut into my pretty pink mess and it slumped all over my pie server.  It failed.

But it tasted ok, and I have not gotten sick from it.  So I’ll take this as not quite an epic fail, just a normal sized fail.

Spiced Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie with Gingersnap Crust
Don’t worry this is the original pie recipe, and if you use fresh fruit your results will be much better. 


25-30 Gingersnaps
¼ c. sugar
¼ c. flour
¼ c. butter, melted


1 c. slice rhubarb (about ¼” thick)
1 pint strawberries, sliced
½ c. sugar
½ tsp. cardamom
¼ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
2 Tb flour

Preheat oven to 350°.  Pulse the gingersnaps in a food processor to begin to crush.  Add sugar and flour, continue pulsing. Drizzle in melted butter until the crumbs have all changed to a darker color (moistened from the butter). 

Press the crumbs firmly into a pie plate, spreading evenly.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until the crust is fragrant and crumbs are no longer loose.  Cool crust slightly.

While the crust bakes, combine rhubarb, strawberries and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat.  Cook for about 5 minutes to release some moisture.  Add spices and remove from heat.  Toss filling with the 2 Tablespoons of flour.  Pour mixture into crust and bake for 35-40 minutes.  Let pie cool to set about 2 hours.