Flourless Chocolate Cake with Coconut Oil

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Apologies for the underwhelming photo. I think I need to read up on food styling… 

When a few last minute things popped up and I couldn’t make it to CBN’s Oscar party at Nellcote, to say that I was disappointed would be an understatement. So I did what any rational girl would do with a night alone, a mile-long list of things to take care of, and plans to be out of town the whole week: I baked a cake.

And not just any cake, a flourless chocolate cake that I topped with almond butter frosting. I think I could start an entire cookbook of recipes entitled, “Recipe Alterations That Don’t Require Me To Leave My Apartment”, because I made some interesting substitutions in the name of laziness that somehow resulted in a really good end product. It was fudgy, dense, and not too sweet (until I covered the whole thing with a sugary almond butter frosting.)

This was very loosely adapted from Nigella Lawson’s chocolate olive oil cake.

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Coconut Oil

  • 1 3/4 C + 2 Tb cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 C coffee, cooled
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 C white sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tb vanilla
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and prepare an 8×8″ pan by lining it with parchment paper. If you don’t usually use parchment paper, tear a piece big enough so that it hangs over the edges of the pan a bit so that you’ll be able to lift the cake out by pulling up the edges of the paper later. Parchment paper makes baking infinitely easier both in terms of cleanup and in the dreaded step of removing baked goods from the pan!
  2. Sift together your salt, baking soda and cocoa powder, then set it aside.
  3. In a new bowl, whisk together the eggs, coconut oil and vanilla, then add your sugar and mix until its smooth, creamy and custardy.
  4. Now pour the coffee into the egg and sugar mixture, and stir until its completely combined.
  5. Next, slowly add the cocoa powder into the wet ingredients, stirring it in bit by bit. Take your time or it’ll get clumpy and harder smooth out!
  6. Once it’s all mixed together and very smooth (it’ll be really liquid-y!), pour the batter into your pan. Bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until you can stick a toothpick in the middle and it comes out clean.
  7. Lift the cake out of the pan by the parchment paper and set it aside to cool. Once it’s cooled for about 20 minutes (be patient!), you’re ready to frost! You could eat it plain, but what’s the fun in that?

For my frosting, I combined 1/2 cup of almond butter with 1/4 cup of melted coconut oil, 1 cup of sugar and 1 tsp of salt. Powdered sugar would have resulted in a smoother frosting, similar to a buttercream, but I didn’t have it and didn’t mind the grainier texture… it reminded me a bit of Reeses filling!

Off to put my sugar high to good use and finish up my work.

ll

Roasted Tomatoes

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This isn’t really so much of a recipe as “put them in the oven” isn’t exactly a novel concept. But I thought it might be worth sharing, anyway, since sometimes something so simple as putting them in the oven makes the painfully ordinary surprisingly good.

With the particularly evil combo of negative windchills and post-vacation food guilt, cold salads are not exactly cutting it when I literally dreamed of macaroni and cheese last night. I can’t roast cheese for you (OR CAN I?), but I can improve on the cold salad business.

Roasted Tomatoes

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • Cut your tomatoes into evenly-sized pieces and place on a foil covered pan for easy clean-up.
  • Sprinkle to taste with salt, pepper, sugar, and seasoning. On 5 tomatoes, I used about 1 tsp of salt, 1 tsp pepper, and one Tb of sugar. Skip anything else, but don’t skip the sugar — it’s what’ll make your tomatoes caramelize a bit!
  • Drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and sprinkle with any other seasonings you like – I used a bit of oregano.
  • Roast for 30 minutes. If you’d like them a bit extra crunchy and black on top, pop them in the broiler for 2 minutes at the end for charred edges.
  • Serve with other roasted vegetables, on top of your salad to warm it up, or as a side dish.

ll

Chicago Restaurant Review: Nellcote

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Could any restaurant in the entire city of Chicago be cuter?

The answer is definitively NO, it could not.

We have had the best of intentions of getting ourselves out to the West Loop for oh, the last six months now to see what all the hype was about. On our holiday seester date, we finally made the reservation and headed over on a cold and gloomy Saturday morning.

I think if we had to sum up the whole experience in one sentence, it would be, “WHAT WERE WE WAITING FOR?”

These photos do not do the decor justice. How can a restaurant be both warm and cozy and totally over the top opulent at the same time? It hurts my brain to think about such deep thoughts, but that’s exactly what Nellcote does. Gorgeous chandeliers and wainscot ceilings contrast create this warm and glowy space that we just never wanted to leave.

You’re greeted with a choice of the Times or US Magazine (naturally, I went for celebrity gossip and Ali bettered herself as an informed citizen) and if you’re as lucky as us, you’re seated with an absolutely fabulous waiter that I’m bummed is not my friend in real life. Perhaps if we keep going back enough….

We happened to be in when they were showing The Holiday behind the bar, so that was a cozy little surprise.

When we were happily snuggled in to our table with mimosas and trashy magazines/serious newspapers, I told Ali, “I’d come back even if the food tastes like dirt!”

Happily, we were a far stretch from dirt.

We were immediately served a an adorable charcuterie plate with cheeses, jams and prosciutto. As we munched away, we perused the menu and then ended up ordering purely based on our waiter’s recommendations. How do you pick just one thing when everything sounds so delicious? #whitegirlproblems

The lobster benedict had huge chunks of lobster under a blanket of smoked paprika hollandaise. The eggs were poached perfectly and melted into the hash underneath.

The simple salad served with the quiche almost stole the show – blasphemy, I know, but the champagne vinaigrette was delicious. The quiche itself was light, fluffy and so creamy.

We opted out of ordering our waiter’s recommendation of the sausage and potatoes because it just sounded like too much food (I know, who were we kidding?) but to our surprise and delight, they brought an order to our table for us to try along with our entrees. We ate every last bite of both and both will forever be tacked on to our brunch orders at Nellcote.

We sat around watching The Holiday, chatting, reading and drinking mimosas for an extra hour or two and then reluctantly headed out into the cold. We stepped one foot outside and wondered why on earth we had ever left.

We will be back for you, Nellcote! If brunch was any indication, dinner would be to die for… I’m just envisioning those beautiful chandeliers lit up at night and the cocktails arriving from behind the bar.

Fun tip – Nellcote’s NYE party sounds like an absolute blast! http://www.eventstand.com/event/nellcotenye for tickets.

ll

Pumpkin Spice Cookies

 

Pumpkin Spice Cookies

An office holiday bake-off requires many things: nerves of steel, buying a presentable pan to cart cookies to work and a sure-fire recipe.  Recalling my expletive peppered, off key “ohmygodohmygodthesearesogood” sonata singing when I tried the Sprinkles pumpkin cupcake, I figured the only winning recipe-route was to recreate the moist, pumpkiny goodness in a cookie.  Cake-like and full of flavor, these pumpkin cookies are remarkably easy to make.  Adapting a recipe from Food Network will get you a basic cookie recipe with a cup of pumpkin, a hefty dash of spice and lots of yummy noises from serious work-type people who don’t usually make yummy noises.

Forgive the dark pictures, the Christmas tree lighting wasn’t soft and romantic but rather gloomy and a bit gray.  But only in photos – in real life it’s gorgeous.

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Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

For the cookies:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons Maple syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground all spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
For the frosting:
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Zest of one lemon

 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a mixer, fitted with a paddle, cream the sugar and the butter until light and fluffy. Add the maple syrup and eggs. Mix to incorporate. Add the pumpkin and mix to incorporate. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cloves. Add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix well. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10 minutes, or until lightly golden brown around the edges. Cool on racks. When cool, ice with the cream cheese frosting.

For the Frosting: In a mixer, fitted with a paddle, add the cream cheese. Beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the powdered sugar until smooth. Add milk and vanilla. Beat until smooth. If frosting is too thick, thin with a little more milk. Fold in the lemon zest. When cookies are cool spread with some of the frosting. Garnish with a whole pecan.

Copyright © 2004 Television Food Network, G.P., All Rights Reserved

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Spicy Shrimp Salsa

Spicy Shrimp Salsa

This recipe is simple and easy, and completely delicious.  Perfect for a football game or a girls night in, throw together these ingredients, pair with handful of baked tortilla chips and enjoy your little heart out.

Ingredients:

  • Ripe tomatoes
  • Red onion
  • Cilantro
  • Lime
  • Cooked shrimp, peeled and cleaned
  • Lime
  • Salt
  • Chili garlic paste – because we just can’t seem to make a recipe without it
  • Olive oil

Directions:

  • Chop all ingredients.  Combine.  You’re welcome.

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Homemade Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie

Sometimes a little comfort food is necessary.  The holidays are fast approaching and as the cold weather sets in, it’s certainly understandable to crave a little home cooking.  This pot pie recipe is direct from Ina Garten, who I assume MUST know her shiz when it comes to a flaky crust and hearty filling.  Though in the interest of full disclosure, this Chicago version uses puff pastry from the freezer isle.  It’s amazing, get on board.

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Ina Garten’s Chicken Pot Pie

Ingredients

  • 3 whole (6 split) chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups yellow onions, chopped (2 onions)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups medium-diced carrots, blanched for 2 minutes
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas (2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen small whole onions
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

For the pastry:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
  • Flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin. Cut the chicken into large dice. You will have 4 to 6 cups of cubed chicken.

In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock and dissolve the bouillon cubes in the stock. In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick. Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and heavy cream. Add the cubed chicken, carrots, peas, onions and parsley. Mix well.

For the pastry, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the shortening and butter and mix quickly with your fingers until each piece is coated with flour. Pulse 10 times, or until the fat is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water; process only enough to moisten the dough and have it just come together. Dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Divide the filling equally among 4 ovenproof bowls. Divide the dough into quarters and roll each piece into an 8-inch circle. Brush the outside edges of each bowl with the egg wash, then place the dough on top. Trim the circle to 1/2-inch larger than the top of the bowl. Crimp the dough to fold over the side, pressing it to make it stick. Brush the dough with egg wash and make 3 slits in the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.

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Artichoke and Olive Hummus

 

Artichoke and Olive Hummus

I feel like hummus is one of those recipes that is so simple, it seems to consistently surprise others when you describe the process.  Fear not, non-cooks, we aim to surprise you as well!  This hummus recipe combines the classic variety and tops it with a lemony, garlicky, olive oil-licious batch of chopped artichokes and green olives.  Of course, any grocery isle will remind you that hummus comes topped with an incredible variety of veggies, nuts and flavors, so feel free to substitute as your testy taste buds or choosy guests require.

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Ingredients – Hummus:

  • 2 cans of garbanzo beans, drained but reserve the liquid
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • Tahini (if you follow my instructions, I would tell you to put at least a quarter cup, but I love sesame.  Some recipes omit all together, others call for as a little as 2 tablespoons so obviously the choice is up to you.  I love the smooth, nutty flavor and tend to be a bit heavy handed)
  • 1/5 cup of olive oil
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • Garlic Chili Paste – because we can’t post a recipe without it!
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Blend or pulse the drained garbanzo beans, minced garlic, tahini and olive oil together until well combined.  Slowly add – still blending! – the reserved liquid from the cans of beans until the mixture becomes smooth and most of the lumps disappear.  Add lemon juice and garlic/chili paste to taste. For this hummus recipe, I typically use the juice of half a lemon as the artichoke topping also uses lemon juice.  Add salt and a bit of pepper and combine well. 

Ingredients – Artichoke and Olive Top-Hat:

  • 1 can of artichoke hearts (NOT marinated, if you use marinated, you’re on your own)
  • 1 large clove of minced garlic
  • 1/5 cup of chopped green olives
  • Lemon, halved (you can likely use the second half from the hummus)
  • A few heavy tablespoons of good olive oil

Chop well the artichoke hearts, discarding any hard or spiky outer leaves.  Add the garlic, olives, lemon and olive oil. Combine well and let set at room temperature for a few hours.  Just before you serve the hummus, top the serving with a few mounds of the artichoke mixture and dig in.  Serve with garlic toast points or warmed pitas triangles.

CheekyKitchen

 

Note: right after making the recipe I threw the ingredients in tupperware to transport to the ol’ annual holiday party.  I took the liberty of assuming that cheekykitchen wouldn’t mind my borrowing her awesome hummus photo to showcase a final product, albeit, not my own.

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Super-Healthy Vegetable Stew

I am a total savory person. Yup, I love to bake, but 95% of the joy I take in mixing up a batch of sweet treats in the happiness it brings others. The remaining 5% we can attribute to licking the spoon.

However, something comes over me every single December and I become a total and utter cookie fiend. The second coming of Cookie Monster, if you will give me that very obvious (and mildly sacrilegious) analogy. Part of it is just the heightened availability – parties, gifts, cookie exchanges – but it also just feels festive to eat cookies. “But it’s the holidays!”

Anyway, these last two paragraphs are totally misleading because by now you’re probably looking forward to a sweet cookie recipe and wondering how I could have possibly mis-labeled this post so very incorrectly, but sorry my friends, veggie stew it is.

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Veggie stew is the ANSWER to my holiday cookie issue. It’s the ying to my baked goods’ yang. It’s super filling, warm and comforting, and despite its lackluster appearance, completely delicious.

And it’s just about the healthiest thing you could ever put in your body. Dairy free! Fat free! Gluten free! Cholesterol free! So cheap it’s practically free!

Here’s the jist of it:

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Buy a ton of vegetables. Whatever combination you’d like, but I do think you should use something a bit starchy, like sweet potatoes, to ensure that it has a nice, thick consistency. Unpictured are the already chopped onion and garlic, which I would also recommend including in your combo for flavor. And have a glass of wine while you’re at it, you deserve it.

Wash everything, chop it all into chunks, then put it all in a large, heavy pot.

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Add a quarter cup of water, whatever herbs tickle your fancy, and a generous pinch of salt. Or no salt, if you want sodium-free, but I think we’re being healthy enough here.

Heat over a medium flame, covered, for about an hour. The vegetables will start to break down, and you can use a potato masher to make it the consistency that you want. Stir every once in a while to ensure it all cooks evenly and mash it up as the veggies start to soften.

That’s it!

Not very scientific, I know, but trust me when I assure you this would be very difficult to screw up. This amounted to 6 very large bowls of hearty stew that left me absolutely stuffed and annoyingly smug about my uber-healthy meal choice. I did bastardize it’s cleanliness a bit with a Laughing Cow wedge and Thai chili sauce, but that’s 35 processed calories I can live with.

With this for lunch, I can happily indulge in a cookie a day and still fit into holiday party dresses without tears and a pair of pliers to zip me up. And it’s GOOD! So yes,  I am having my cookie and eating it too.

ll

Happy Friday

Holiday Party

This weekend is our family’s annual holiday party.  After taking a brief hiatus last year, the festivities are back in swing and we couldn’t be more excited!  While Mom has a full suite of holiday foodie favorites in the line up, this year Laura and I plan to force our homemade contributions into the fray as well (I think there’s an unspoken, general prayer that Laura doesn’t revisit pumpkin cheesecake underway, but I digress).  Though outfits are yet to be determined, we can promise chicken liver pate, grapes crusted with goat cheese and pistachios and spicy hummus – look for recipes soon.

Have a great weekend

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Epic Burger

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly late to the Epic Burger game, but as I (never, ever) say, better late than never!  The other night, not in the mood to cook – gasp! – I walked down to the closest Epic Burger which unfortunately for me, is pretty damn close.  Their menu is pretty straight forward – pick your patty (all natural beef, turkey, portabella or grilled chicken) and pick your toppings.  I went for the beef, cheddar, whole grain bun combo and it was delicious.  With additional frills like grilled or raw onions, fried egg (choose your yolk’s runniness!) and crisp bacon, there’s a good chance I might have to stop in again.  I mean…if only to take in the full lanscape of options!

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