Archive for ‘Sweet’

August 15, 2014

Superfood Never Tasted So Good: Cherry Chocolate Chia Pudding

by Jen Wanous

Have you heard of chia seeds yet? They might ring a bell if you remember the popular: “Cha-cha-cha-chia Pet” from the 1980’s where the chia seeds sprouted and grew into cute pet-plants. Now chia seeds are hitting the market as the next big superfood.

Like their superfood cousin, the flax seed, chia seeds have a high omega 3 content which is an important fatty acid that reduces inflammation in blood vessels, protecting against diseases like arthritis and heart disease. Take away the kitschy clay pot pet and chia seeds are decidedly less fun, even with the health benefits…but that’s what chocolate is for.

Like chia seeds, chocolate also comes from a seed: the cacao seed. In its pure form, chocolate is a superfood too. Cacao is rich in two groups of antioxidants in particular, flavonoids and polyphenols, both of which are seen to protect against heart disease. Pure chocolate, or cacao powder, is bitter in its original form. The good news is that you don’t need all the eggs, butter, cream, and sugar to make chocolate taste good. You just need to creatively combine some superfoods.

When going dairy-free, one has to think outside of the box to achieve the familiar textures that dairy offers. Chia seeds can miraculously hold up to 12 times their weight in liquid when soaked. This makes for a gelatin-like effect which is useful for mimicking the texture of pudding.

The last ingredient in this superfood recipe are cherries. Cherries are summer’s sweetheart fruit. They are ripe when picked and promise a sweet seasonal treat. They are available for only a month-long window in late summer so grab them while you can. A superfood in a small package, cherries are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Here is a simple recipe that combines a seasonal summer fruit, cherries, with other superfoods: chocolate and chia seeds to make for a creamy and cool summer treat. Cha, cha, cha, chia pudding!

Chocolate, Cherry, Chia Pudding

Serves 4

Equipment needed: blender


1 can or 13.5 ounces coconut milk

3 tablespoons cocoa powder, unsweetened, non-alkalized

2 tablespoons chia seeds, ground

2 tablespoons maple syrup or agave syrup

½ cup cherries, pitted, roughly chopped


  1. In a blender, combine the first four ingredients. Blend on medium speed until well incorporated.
  2. Pour mixture into serving bowls, top with chopped cherries and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

If you don’t have cherries, try a berry like strawberry, blueberry, or raspberry instead.

Photo courtesy of Ella Leché, check out her incredible blog here:

Photo courtesy of Ella Leché, check out her incredible blog here:

February 11, 2014

Eat Your Heart Out: a Valentines Day Menu

by Jen Wanous

Valentine Chef

Did you know that garlic is an aphrodisiac? Yep, it gets your blood pumping. Its flavor can be too sharp sometimes, so I like to mellow it out with some slow roasting. Here, in this full menu, I’m inspired by Valentines Day. The menu starts off with a homemade pasta with shrimp in a tomato and garlic sauce. Of course, to simplify things, you can get a nice package of linguine and prepare that aldente, but making homemade pasta is a lot easier than you think. It’s a fun way to get hands-on with your meal and your sweetheart can help too! I always feel fancy when I eat shrimp, so I added some to this dish. Fancy. Oh and asparagus. Balsamic reduction, yeah, sexy.

Tiramisu tops off this sensuous menu. It is simplified from its original version but still has layer upon layer of creamy chocolaty sweetness. Go grab your Boo, Bestie or Bubbie and cook up this special meal for two.

Handmade Pasta with Shrimp in Tomato and Garlic Sauce

Serves 2-4

Fresh Handmade Pasta

Be creative with your pasta shapes, just be sure they all have the same thickness so they cook evenly. If you are making this with your sweetheart, divide the flour in half and you each can have one mound of flour and one egg.


1 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 extra large eggs


1. On a clean dry surface, mound the flour. Create a well in the center and crack the egg into the center. With a fork, gently beat the egg, slowly gathering in the flour as you go around in a circle. Try to keep the outer rim of the flour intact to keep the egg from running out.

2. When about half the flour is incorporated, begin kneading with your hands, adding in more flour as you go if it is too sticky. Once the dough comes together in one big mass, knead it with your hands for three minutes. The dough should be elastic and just a little sticky. Add dustings of flour when needed. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for 20 minutes.

3. With a rolling pin or wine bottle, roll out the dough on a floured surface making sure that the thickness is similar all around. Cut into your desired shape. (I like to make rectangles.) Set aside on a floured surface until you are ready to boil them.

4. To cook, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and gently boil for about 3-7 minutes. Test for doneness along the way. Your pasta is finished when it is cooked all the way through and has a pliable, yet not mushy texture. Gently drain and do not rinse pasta.

Shrimp in Tomato and Garlic Sauce


1 pound cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

6-9 cloves garlic, smashed

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt to taste

4 tablespoons butter

pinch of red pepper flakes

½ pound medium shrimp (15-20), de-veined, peeled, pat dry

¼ cup dry white wine

Salt to taste

Cracked fresh pepper

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Grated parmesan cheese, for garnish (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 350. In a large rimmed baking sheet, add tomatoes and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, tossing quickly with your hands to coat all. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the edges of the garlic turn golden brown.

2. Right before the tomatoes are ready to come out of the oven, heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Melt butter and red pepper flakes 2-3 minutes until butter is slightly nutty and light brown. Add the shrimp and sauté 3-5 minutes, until shrimp are entirely pink (no gray).

3. Take the tomatoes out of the oven and deglaze by pouring the white wine onto the baking sheet and with a wood spoon, scrape up any brown bits (this is where the good flavor is). Add the tomatoes and garlic to the butter and shrimp. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss with cooked pasta. Garnish with basil and parmesan.

Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Reduction Drizzle

Serves 2-4

1 pound asparagus, woodsy stem removed

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

½ cup balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon maple syrup


1. Preheat the oven to 350.  On a rimmed baking sheet, toss asparagus with olive oil and salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

2. While the asparagus is baking, in a small saucepan, combine the balsamic vinegar and maple syrup. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low until reduced by half, about 15 minutes.

Tiramisu for You and Your Boo

Serves 2-4

Assemble the dessert in a wine goblet or 6 ounce dessert cup. (You can also assemble one big tiramisu and scoop it out.) This is best enjoyed within a couple hours of assembling.


1 cup fresh, strong coffee (can be decaffeinated)

4 tablespoons bourbon, whiskey, or dark rum

8 ounces cream cheese (low fat is fine)

½ cup confectioners (powdered) sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon salt (optional)

½ cup whipping cream

12 ladyfingers

2 tablespoons unsweetened coco powder (optional)

6 raspberries, sliced in half vertically, for garnish (optional)

¼ cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, grated, for garnish (optional)


1.In a wide bowl, combine the coffee and 3 tablespoons of the liquor. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese, vanilla extract, salt, and 1 tablespoon of the liquor until well incorporated. Gradually add the powdered sugar until fluffy. If using a stand mixer, transfer mixture to a large bowl.

3. In a now empty bowl (no need to wash bowl), whip cream 2-3 minutes until the cream holds stiff peaks. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the two cream mixtures together.

4. In your dessert cups, begin to assemble the tiramisu starting with a few tablespoons of the cream mixture. Next, prepare the ladyfingers by quickly (2-3 seconds) dipping and flipping the ladyfingers in the coffee mixture. (Break the ladyfinger to fit your cup size.)  Add a layer of ladyfingers and alternate with a layer of the cream mixture until your cup is near full and you finish on a cream layer.

5. Garnish with a dusting of coco powder, sliced raspberries, and shaved chocolate. (To dust, put the coco powder in a fine mesh strainer and gently tap the edge over the top of the dessert. You might want to do this over the sink if you’re using small dessert cups.)

December 8, 2011

Sweetening the Deal – How to integrate natural sugars and why

by Jen Wanous

The other night, I was perusing (desperately searching) the isles of Trader Joe’s for a sweet treat. This was not a time when an apple or any other non-crack-like sugar would do. I went for the dark chocolate covered marshmallows…seasonally peppermint, of course. I proceeded to eat nearly the entire box. I say “nearly” because I offered a few to friends, who just had one or two, and I left two, so that I didn’t eat the entire box.  Dizzy and crashing hard soon after, I realized (yet again) that this needed to stop.

Sugar is so addictive! I’ve been struggling with regulating my sugar intake for years. It’s a vicious cycle that feeds into itself: starting with just a piece of pie and then, before you know it, you’re in a dark ally looking to score a Twix hit. To wean myself off, I usually tell myself no chocolate for one week, no refined sugar for one week and then usually I’m back on track and not totally obsessed.

In culinary school, we learned the origins of sugar and its effects on the body. Refined white sugar is the extracted juice of sugar cane or beet sugar. It goes through an intense series of high-heat filtration processes that strips it of all color and most nutrients. The product is then pure sucrose, which is a simple carbohydrate and can easily throw your body’s balance out of whack. Here is an explanation from the founder of my school, Annemarie Colbin in her book, Food and Healing:

To metabolize refined sugar, [the body] draws the missing companion nutrients (needed in the digestive process) from other sources. These sources can be either other foods present in the same meal or the body’s own tissues. for that reason, when we consume straight white sugar, we lose B vitamins, calcium, iron and other nutrients directly from our own reserves. This siphoning effect of sugar is also what lies behind the gnawing hunger it can produce in some people; since the hunger is for the missing elements- fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein, water-it can provoke great binges as the sugar eater searches to satisfy it.

One way to help your body out is to eat sweeteners that are closer to their natural state. These sweeteners below have more of their natural vitamins, mineral and fiber intact – they are also more flavorful. I have also included some technical baking information on how to use the sweeteners as a substitute for white sugar. Most of the liquid sweeteners, you need less of and you need to increase the baking powder. This information is from the baking master: Chef Elliot at the Natural Gourmet Institute.

Brown Rice Syrup – is half as sweet as white sugar

  • Baked goods made with rice syrup tend to be hard or very crisp. Use in cookies, crisps, granola, pies and puddings. Substitute 1 1/3 cups for every one-cup of white sugar. Per cup of rice syrup, reduce liquid by ¼ cup and add ¼ teaspoon baking soda.

Date Sugar – ground, dehydrated dates

  • Can substitute like amounts for white sugar. Can use in crisps, some baked goods and sprinkled as a topping. Careful as it tends to burn easily.

Natural Cane Sugars – Sucanat (pure dehydrated cane sugar) and Rapadura

  • Relatively low cost; Use one for one of white sugar. Replace ¼ teaspoon baking soda per cup Sucanat.

Honey – 20% – 60% sweeter than sugar

  • Can use in all baked goods. Use ½ the amount called for in white sugar. For each ½ cup of honey used, reduce liquid by ¼ cup but if there is no liquid, add 3-4 tablespoons of flour. Also add 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda and reduce the oven temperature by 25°.

Maple Sugar – is from dehydrated maple syrup. Con is that it’s very expensive.

  • Can use in all baked goods. Use one for one for white or brown sugar. Per cup of maple sugar, add 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda.

Maple Syrup – it takes 40 gallons of maple sap to produce one gallon of maple syrup (that’s why it’s so expensive!)

  • Can use in all baked goods. Substitute 2/3 to 3/4 cup of maple syrup per cup of white sugar. Per cup of maple syrup: reduce liquid by 3 tablespoons and add ¼ teaspoon of baking soda.

Other alternative sweeteners include: agave(preferably low-heat processed), coconut sugar and stevia.

Sweeteners to Avoid:

-Artificial sweeteners like: Splenda, Equal and Sweet’n Low

-Brown sugar (is just white sugar with molasses added back in)

-White granulated sugar

-High-fructose corn syrup

‘Tis the season to cut down on refined sugar! Not likely, but here are a couple non-refined sugar cookie recipes that you can add to your mix this year.

Peanut Butter Balls

These couldn’t be easier to make: no baking required! It’s fun for little helpers to make too. Yields about 20 balls.


1 cup natural peanut butter (creamy or chunky, your choice)

1/3 cup honey

¼ – ½ teaspoon salt (depending on your taste and weather or not your PB is salted already)

1 cup crisp rice cereal (I used “Koala Crisp”)

Coco powder or powdered sugar for sprinkling (hey, it’s only a little bit. ;)


1. Add the salt to the honey then, in a large bowl, combine with the peanut butter. Add the rice cereal at the end.

2. Using a tablespoon or mini ice cream scooper, scoop out batter and roll in the palm of your hand.

3. Using a fine mesh strainer, add coco powder or powder sugar, holding above the balls and tap the side of the strainer gently until they are covered.


Almond Cranberry Cookies

Yield 20 cookies.


1 ¼ cup whole wheat pastry flour (can use regular flour too)

¾ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup butter, room temp

1 cup sucanat

1 egg

1 teaspoon almond extract

zest of one tangerine or clementine or orange

¼ cup dried cranberries

1/3 cup slivered almonds


1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly grease two cookie sheets, or line with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt, set aside.

3. In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter and sucant until fluffy (about 5 mins). Add the egg and beat for one more minute. Add the almond extract and zest. Next, on medium speed, add the dry ingredients, gradually, doing 1/3 at a time. Once combine, manually stir in the cranberries and almonds (so you keep their shape intact).

4. On your prepared cookie sheet, place about 2 tablespoons of dough. Bake for 8-10 minutes until light brown. Remove from the cookie sheet and place on a cooling rack.

November 14, 2011

A Birthday Brunch

by Jen Wanous

Scorpio season is in full effect! I spent the weekend celebrating these passionate and piercing people. Being the Gemini that I am, I accidentally double booked my Saturday night with two birthday dinners. Dang. As much as I have tried in my life, I actually can not be in two places at once. What’s a girl to do? Well, host a birthday brunch of course!

We feasted on both savory and sweet dishes. That morning, I found the most fragrant bunch of mint at the farmer’s market. Adding some slivers of the mint made for a special fruit salad with apples and persimmons.

~ Pumpkin Bread (gluten free)

~ Kale and Goat Cheese Frittata

~ Yam Home Fries with smoked paprika

~ Lemon and Thyme (star :) Biscuits

~ Apples and Persimmons with Mint

Jealous? Don’t be. Plan a brunch for your next special occasion. If you would like other brunch ideas or recipes, just ask, I’m happy to post them. A friend had requested a gluten-free, sugar-free pumpkin bread recipe. I took a try and it turned out soft and full of seasonal flavor. It stays moist in the fridge, thanks to the pumpkin puree. You can substitute gluten-full flour (2 1/2 cups ww flour) and real sugar if you would like. This recipe makes two small loafs.













Pumpkin Bread ~ Gluten Free

1 ½ cup brown rice flour

½ cup coconut flour

¼ cup tapioca flour

¼ cup ground flax meal

2 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

(or ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom)


¾ cup melted butter (unsalted)

1 cup maple crystals (or date sugar, or any dry sweetener)

¼ cup agave syrup

6 eggs

2 tablespoons molasses

1 ½ cup pumpkin puree

1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

zest of one lemon


1. Pre-heat oven to 350°. Grease a small loaf pan (7 x 4 x 3 inch).

2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flours, flax, baking powder, spices and salt.

3. In a large bowl, combine butter, sweeteners, eggs, molasses, pumpkin, vanilla and lemon zest.

4. Add the dry mixture to the wet. Stir until combine. Pour into the greased loaf pans. Bake on 350° for 35 minutes rotating the pan midway through baking. Let cool in the pan for 20 mins after baking. If you’re feeling pro-sugar, frost it! If not, make a pot of tea and enjoy!

October 24, 2011

How to De-Seed a Pomegranate & A Tasty Tart Too

by Jen Wanous





Pomegranates can be very perplexing (especially while wearing white!). I have a trick to share on how to get the tangy ruby seeds out without making a Dexter-worthy mess.

Walnut and Pear Tart with Pomegranate Glaze

This tart, full of fall’s bounty, will hit the spot for your gluten-free fans and everyone else too.


For the Crust

2 cups walnuts, raw

5-7 dates, pitted

1/3 cup maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Fruit Topping

juice of one lemon

3 pears, thinly sliced

For the Glaze

1 pomegranate, seeded


1/4 cup sugar (brown sugar is ok)

1/4 cup water


1. Oil and parchment line a tart pan or pie plate. Pre-heat the oven 350.

2. Toast whole raw walnuts on a cookie sheet for about 15 mins or until fragrant and a deep golden brown. In a food processor, coarsely grind the walnuts, dates, maple syrup and salt. Press into the pie plate/tart pan.

3. Toss pears with the lemon juice. Arrange in a Rocket circular pattern on top of the crust. Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of sugar on top. Bake for 25 mins or until pears are soft.

4. In a small sauce pan, combine pomegranate seeds, sugar and water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 mins. Using an immersion blender or blender,  process the seed/water/sugar mixture for a min. Strain through a fine mesh colander. On the cooked tart, brush on the pomegranate liquid. Bake for 10 more mins.







October 18, 2011

Reflections on a Year’s Supply of Bacon

by Jen Wanous

Bacon changed my life.

It’s not often we’re handed pivotal moments on a platter… but one fateful day, one year ago, I won the Bacon Takedown of New York City. This set me on an irreversible path of culinary adventure.

I took the competition with my California-inspired concoction of goat’s milk avocado ice cream topped with candied bacon and sea salt. It was an ode to my home state and my favorite animal product, pork. I was an underdog novice and didn’t think I’d stand a chance against the reigning champ and fresh, fried bacon doughnuts. With a bright pink t-shirt proclaiming, “Bacon is the New Black,” in iron-on letters, I wowed the bulk of the 300 tasters who voted my dish their favorite against 22 others.

Part of my prize was a year’s supply of bacon, which quickly became my ingredient du resistance for the next 12 months. Dinner parties, potlucks, cupcakes and even Christmas stockings were tinged with the good grace of bacon. However, more than an endless supply of the rich pork product, I received an invitation to actualize my long-coveted dream of becoming a chef: the win was the universe saying, “Cook! Like, for real!”

Just after the competition, I remember sitting on the subway… coming home from my job managing events… still high from the thrill of the win… and I thought, If this one thing can bring me so much joy, I’ve gotta go for it! What was I waiting for?

I listened to the message. Just one month after the takedown I resigned from my job; 60 days after that I started culinary school. Now, after a 12-month whirlwind, my business card says, “Freelance Chef.” I love how life sends signals. I got it, loud and clear.

Today, at the annual event, I handed over my crown and sat in as an expert judge. It was an honor to be back in that role, tasked with deciphering which dish was most quintessentially bacon. The competition was stiff but I swooned for a bacon-wrapped s’more. It was the perfect salty pairing for this camping classic.

Navigating the world now, I know I’m one step further along the path of actualizing myself because I had the courage to listen to my heart (and the universe). The path isn’t always clear or easy, but it unveils many gifts along the way (some in the form of a BLT). I will anticipate the signs I know must lay ahead… trusting their returns will be just as savory.

I have included the recipe from my auspicious creation below. Enjoy.

Baco Avo Goat-Lato

(serves six)

Goat’s Milk Avocado Ice Cream

3 cups goat’s milk

1 cup goat’s yogurt

1 cup sugar

3-4 avocados

1 pinch sea salt


Combine all ingredients until smooth in a blender. Chill in the refrigerator until 40 degrees. Set according to your ice cream maker’s settings (about 15 minutes).

Candied Bacon Topping

1 pound bacon

1 cup dark brown sugar

Fresh ground black pepper

Pinch of coarse sea salt


Set oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cover bacon with brown sugar and pepper. Place on baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes (until a yummy-looking caramel dark brown color). Let cool and then chop.

Top the ice cream with the bacon topping and add a generous pinch of coarse sea salt.

October 9, 2011

On a Chilly Morning: Granola

by Jen Wanous

A fellow friend from California just told me that she is in denial about winter coming. We walked out of a dinner party, it was brisk out, but she didn’t put on her sweater. She said that if she put it on then it would actually mean that the season is changing–and she wasn’t ready.

I hear you sister! Winters are scary for us West Coasters. This will be my fourth galosh-wearing winter on the East Coast. Though my jacket that resembles a sleeping bag does give me great me peace of mind, I’ll never quite adjust. My mom has never owned an umbrella. I saw snow fall for the first time when I was 22. On a San Diego Christmas morning, I’d be playing on the driveway with my new toys, no jacket required.

Like my post from last week reminded me, there is magic that happens when you’re outside of your comfort zone–and by golly, if winter doesn’t get you out of your incubated comfort zone, then I don’t know what would. The gift of magic that comes with that trade off is a big one. Serenity, glitter and introspection. I’ll have to keep these things in mind as I zip up. For now, I know we’re not quite there yet, with an entire fall to savor.

Here is a recipe to make when you get up in the morning and it’s chilly but you don’t want to turn on the heater yet because that would mean that the cold has really come. It uses olive oil as the base, which I find I always have on hand, and the health benefits are far better than other commercial oils. You can switch it up to use different sweeteners like agave or brown sugar. You can also switch up the additions, like pistachio and apricot or cashew and cranberry.

Olive Oil Granola With Walnuts and Raisins

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup raw walnuts

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup honey

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom or nutmeg

1/2 cup dried raisins

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, combine oats, walnuts, maple syrup, honey, olive oil, salt, cinnamon and cardamom/nutmeg. Spread mixture on a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 20 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes, until golden brown and well toasted.

2. Transfer granola to a large bowl and add raisins, tossing to combine.

Yield: About 6 cups.

August 15, 2011

Serving Cilantro Ice Cream: Believe It.

by Jen Wanous

A dear friend of mine from California, Ms. Kati Bissonette, celebrated her 30th birthday in the Big Apple. I love bringing people together in celebration and what better way to do that than with food! With a guest list of 10 for this dinner, I knew that I had to get a bigger table. I have the rare New York City luxury of having a large living/dining room.  I hopped on Craig’s List and found a folding table that would fit 10. A car trip and a tour inside a Brooklyn artist’s apartment later, I was the proud owner of a flea market-worthy six-foot long folding table.

Now, on to the dinner. I have started a tradition of creatively crafting a menu based on the guest of honor’s five favorite ingredients. I asked Kati what her fave five  were and this is what she said:

1. truffle oil

2. seared beef

3. pumpkin

4. cucumber

5. cilantro

Good ones, Kati! This gave me a lot to work with. I set out to my local co-op grocery store and picked up ingredients for the menu:

  • Drink: Lemongrass, lime and rum cocktail
  • Appetizer: Ginger butternut squash soup with truffle oil crutons
  • Dinner: Beef laarb, cucumber som tom and sticky rice
  • Dessert: Chocolate, coconut cake with cilantro ice cream
I know, cilantro ice cream is a bit out there. The guest of honor was skeptical too. Much to her amazement, the flavor won her over, and she gushed about how good it was. The combo of chocolate, coconut and cilantro paired nicely. It was sweet, decadent, creamy and refreshing in its herbal complexity. Happy 30th birthday Kati!

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Cucumber Som Tom
Many years ago I lived in Bangkok and I loved this salad. This is a modified version of a Thai favorite from when I lived there.
Serves 4-6
1 clove garlic
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sugar
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
hearty handful green beans, cut on a diagonal
1/4 cup peanuts, roasted
1 tablespoon fish sauce
juice of one lime
thai chili pepper to taste
2 large cucumbers, cut into long matchsticks
1. Using a mortal and pestle or bowl and wooden spoon, smash the garlic with the salt and sugar. Add the tomatoes and green beans, pound a few times, bruising them.
2. Add all the other ingredients and mix well.
Cilantro Ice Cream
Yields 1 Quart
2 big bunches cilantro
2 cans coconut milk (28 oz, don’t use “light”)
1 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
Equipment you’ll need: blender, fine mesh strainer and ice cream machine.
1. Blanch and shock the cilantro: Clean cilantro, dip in simmering water for a about 15 seconds, move to an ice bath, drain.
2. Add cilantro and coconut milk in a blender. Blend on high speed for a minute or two. With a fine mesh strainer, strain out all the solid pieces of cilantro.
3. To the liquid, add sugar and salt until dissolved. Freeze according to your ice cream machine guideline.  (about 20 mins)
July 11, 2011

Favorite Five Ingredients for a Birthday Dinner (psst: a chocolate peanut butter ice cream cake recipe is here!)

by Jen Wanous

Pick your favorite five ingredients.  I know, it’s like choosing between children.  Don’t worry, the artichoke won’t be offended if you don’t pick him and garlic is always a given.  To make things even more interesting, your “ingredient” can be a dish too, like: “my grandmother’s ricotta and spinach stuffed ravioli”.  Is the cream rising to the top?  I’m sure there are some standouts.

Now, imagine a creatively constructed three-course meal of all five of your favorites integrated in a unique way.  This meal was the gift I gave to my girlfriend, Annie, on her birthday.  Anyone that knows her knows that she has a particular pallet.  She has a strong aversion to anything small and round or explosive/oozy.  Peas, uncut cherry tomatoes and over easy eggs would not make her top five.  What did make her top five were tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, shrimp and chocolate.

These five were pretty easy to work with.  I took care of the first three right off the bat with a crostini.  On a sliced French baguette, I had the season’s first heirloom tomatoes, fresh water soaked mozzarella, Thai basil sprigs and a generous drizzle of a balsamic reduction.  I knew that steak should have made her list, but shrimp had the trump card of cocktail sauce.  For the entrée, I decided to bring on the surf n’ turf with a grilled skewer of lemongrass-jalapeño marinated steak AND shrimp.  Since we are in the middle of a New York summer, I kept things cool.  The grilled protein was propped on a dressed salad of quinoa and micro greens, topped with pickled red onions.

Dessert was the real winner, where the fave ingredient of chocolate took center stage.  I went all out and made a chocolate peanut butter ice cream cake.  The kind you dream about as a kid being that it is the impossibly perfect combo of creamy, cold and cake.  And chocolate, of course!  And peanut butter!? YES!  It’s one of those amazing moments when I realized that I am a grown up and I am completely in charge of my destiny.  I can create anything I want, even a chocolate peanut butter ice cream cake for my girlfriend.

I tried to get Annie to agree to a vegan version so I could eat freely too, (me being my lactard self), but she insisted it wouldn’t be the same with soy.  For the birthday girl, I bit the lactose bullet and used full-on heavy cream to make the peanut butter ice cream.  The ice cream was sandwiched between two moist espresso-laced chocolate cake layers.  Just to take things completely over the top, I covered the entire cake in a triple thick layer of chocolate fudge ganache and topped it with crunchy Reese’s Pieces. My roommate supplied full strips of Lactaid for the other lactards in the room.  (Thanks, I’ll take two…ahh…make that three.)  I was proud of the giant chocolate gift I gave her.  The smile on her face, with the birthday candles lighting her beautiful blue eyes, made the dinner so very worthwhile.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream Cake

Chocolate Cake

What you’ll need:  two 9-inch cake pans and a mixer.

2 cups cake flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon salt

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 ¾ sugar

½ cup butter, softened

1/3 cup coconut oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup milk

½ cup hot water + 1 heaping tablespoon instant espresso crystals (or ½ cup espresso)

4 large eggs

1.  Preheat oven to 350, butter and flour cake pans.  Through a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder and sugar.

2.  Add the butter and with a mixer, beat on low for one minute.  Add the oil and keep mixing for 30 more seconds.

3.  In a small bowl, combine the vanilla, milk and espresso.  Add this mixture to the large bowl and mix for one more minute on low.

4.  Add the eggs one at a time beating on medium-high speed between each egg.  Batter will be thin.

5.  Split the batter between the two prepared pans and bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on a rack.

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

This makes a rich and peanutbutter-y ice cream that yields about 2 quarts.  Oh and, you need an ice cream maker for this, obvi.

1 ¾ cups whole milk

1 ¼ cups heavy cream

1 ½ cups creamy peanut butter

¾ cup sugar

1tablespoon vanilla extract

1.  In a saucepan whisk together all ingredients except the vanilla.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly until smooth and thick.  About one minute after you see little bubbles on the surface.

2.  Cool to room temperature. Stir in the vanilla.  Freeze in your ice cream maker, per instructions.

Chocolate Ganache

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips

¾ cup heavy cream

1.  Create a double broiler using a medium saucepan and a large metal bowl.  Fill the saucepan half full with water, bring to a simmer.  Combine the chocolate and cream in the bowl and place on top of the simmering water.

2.  Be careful not to let the bowl touch the water.  Wisk continuously, just until the chips melt.  Remove the bowl from the saucepan.

The method to the madness: 

You’ll need a 9-inch spring form pan.

  1. Clear out a space in your freezer for the cake.
  2. Make the cake first.  Let it cool completely.
  3. Make the ice cream mixture, let it cool.
  4. Torte the cakes by cutting off the rounded top to make it flat.
  5. Put the ice cream mixture in the machine.
  6. Place one layer of the cake in the bottom of the spring form pan.  Cover with the ice cream (now gelato textured).  Use a spatula to pat it down evenly.  Place the top cake layer on top of the ice cream.
  7. Place in freezer to set, at least 8 hours.
  8. Make the Ganache.  Pour generously on top of the cake, making voluptuous ripples.
  9. Place back in freezer to set, at least 30 minutes.
  10.  Line plate with Resee’s Pieces.  Your ice cream cake is ready to be served!
June 21, 2011

A Cookie Like Me

by Jen Wanous

This week, I celebrated my birthday.  It was to be a low-key event…but it turned into a very memorable one that lasted for days.

The lead up to my birthday actually started out as a big bummer when my bike was stolen.  As with most obstacles in my life, I tried to look for the silver lining.  Turns out, it was right under my nose within the reach of my friends and family.  I had the thought to reach out to my community to ask for support by setting up a birthday/bike fund.  The response I received was touching.  From five dollars to fifty, from inquires of concern and support, to offering their neighbor’s unused bikes–people gave generously.  It is hard sometimes to ask for help but it was good practice for me.  I was heartened by my community’s support.

My actual birthday fell on a school day.  It was our Raw Foods day and at first, I was not so excited about this.  However, it was actually a very delicious day–complete with cake and ice cream (well, raw brownies and fruit sorbet).  I brought along some vegan cookies to share with my culinary school friends who are vegan.  After some thought, I decided that these cookies are a lot like me; it makes the best out of what it has and it’s sweet, exudes calm and has a sprinkling of saltiness.  The recipe is below.

My birthday was punctuated by the best dinning experience I’ve ever had.  Annie treated me to a dinner at Blue Hill Farms.  This is a farm and restaurant an hour outside of New York City.  We saw deer frolicking and lightning bugs against the rolling crop lined hills.  Needless to say, this really impressed our city-slicker eyes.  They have a five course “farmer’s tasting” menu which leaves you in the masterful hands of the chef.  Each course offered seasonal awe and impressed us with its presentation.  A dinner highlight of a poached and fried egg that was perfectly circular when plated in pea soup and broke into a gooey goldenness.  Of course, Annie was cringing as she watched me eat this because she does not appreciate peas nor raw egg.  Luckily, there was plenty of other samplings to keep us both full and happy.

This birthday leaves me with a deep sentiment of gratitude to the many people who helped make this birthday a memorable one.  Even the person who, (as my friend Kristina said) “infinitely borrowed my bike”, had something to offer me this year.

Lavender Sea Salt Cookies

Yields 25 cookies

1/2 cup Earth Balance Spread (or one stick butter)

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg replacer or egg

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons edible lavender flower (find at your local farmer’s market)

zest of one orange

1/2 teaspoon corse sea salt for sprinkling

1. Preheat the oven to 350.  Prepare two baking sheets either with a silpat pad or with light oil.

2. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.  Add in the egg (replacer).  Mix well.

3. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt.

4. Add the flour mix to the butter/sugar until just combine.  Gently incorporate the lavender and the orange zest.

5. On prepared baking sheets, scoop out 1 teaspoon sized balls and top with a hearty pinch of sea salt.  Bake for 7-10 minutes.  Remove from sheet and cool on a rack.