Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

In case my last post made you want even more chocolate, I'll share a recipe for chocolate crinkle cookies that I made for my Bible Study last night. These cookies have a nice chocolate flavor and a chewy brownie like texture. The cookies are formed into balls and rolled in powdered sugar before baking, and they expand while they are in the oven giving them a crinkled looking top. The recipe has been adapted from the Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking Cookbook.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar

Place chocolate and butter in heatproof bowl set over a small saucepan of simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until chocolate and butter have melted. Set aside to cool.

In a separate bowl combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Using a stand or hand held mixer beat the eggs, granulated sugar and vanilla on medium speed until thickened and light in color, about 3 minutes. Beat in melted chocolate mixture on low speed until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients and beat on low until incorporated. Mix in chocolate chips. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to roll into balls, at least 2 hours.

Position rack in middle of oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat. Sift confectioners' sugar into small bowl.

Remove dough from refrigerator and roll a rounded tablespoon of dough between your hands, and then roll the ball in the confectioners' sugar. (Your hands will get a little bit of chocolate on them, but if you notice the dough is sticking to your hands, place the dough back in the refrigerator to harden more.) Place cookies 3 inches apart on baking sheets. (Depending on the size of your baking sheet, you will probably need to use the first one again to bake the third batch).

Bake cookies, one sheet at a time until the tops are puffed and crinkled and feel set when lightly touched, 13 - 15 minutes. (They will still appear to be slightly under baked however, and will firm up more as they cool). Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. 

Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies. Can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. 


The Carob Easter Bunny

I will start this post by admitting that I too have been known to throw food (those of you who read this post know what I'm talking about). However, let me just say that I was three years old when I threw the food, which I think you will find quite understandable given the circumstances.

This is the story. It is a story that my family likes to tell every Easter and also at many other times during the year. My parents, like many parents with their first child, wanted me to eat the healthiest diet possible. For them this meant having me on an almost totally vegan diet. This of course meant that I wasn't allowed to eat chocolate, especially back then when milk chocolate was the popular choice. So, on this particular Easter, when I was three, my aunt and grandma dutifully followed my parents' wishes and presented me with a carob bunny instead of a chocolate one. I took one bite of the carob bunny, turned to everyone with a disgusted look on my face and hurled the bunny at the wall. Immediately, I ran over to my grandma's covered candy dish that was loaded with M&Ms and started popping them in my mouth. Luckily, everyone thought it was hilarious and laughed, my parents relaxed a bit that day, and I was allowed to eat chocolate from that point forward. Thank goodness because since then I have become a total chocoholic.

So, today will share a recipe for an easy chocolate pots de creme recipe that I made when some friends came over last week. It is super chocolatey, so I love it of course. Normally pots de creme (a french style custard traditionally served in a little pot) are baked in a water bath in the oven. This version, from America's Test Kitchen, is made on the stove and the custards set in the refrigerator, making the whole process very simple.

Chocolate Pots de Creme

5 egg yolks
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup half and half
10 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (should be 60% cacao, see note)
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder

Whipped cream, chocolate shavings and raspberries for serving. 

Place chocolate in large glass bowl and set sieve on top. Set aside. Whisk egg yolks, sugar and salt in bowl to blend. Add heavy cream and half and half. Whisk until ingredients are well combined. Transfer mixture to saucepan place over medium low heat. With a wooden spoon or spatula stir slowly and constantly until mixture reaches 175 to 180 degrees on an instant read thermometer. (You can also test the mixture by streaking the back of the spoon with your finger. If it is ready, it should leave a distinct trail on the spoon). Remove from the heat and immediately pour through the sieve on to the chopped chocolate. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes whisk to combine. Dissolve the espresso powder in 1 tablespoon water. Whisk into chocolate mixture. Whisk vanilla into chocolate mixture. Transfer the mixture to a large liquid measuring cup or anything else with a spout as it makes it easier to pour. Pour into 6-8 ramekins or other small cups, depending on how much you want per serving (these are very rich, so you may want to err on the side of serving less). Place a kitchen towel on the counter and gently tap each ramekin on it several times to release any air bubbles. Cool pots de creme completely on counter. Then cover tightly with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and up to 72 hours. When ready to serve, top each with raspberries, whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

Note: I used Ghirardelli's 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar, which is my bittersweet chocolate of choice most of the time, and was specifically recommended to be used in the recipe by America's Test Kitchen. You can find it in major super markets in the baking aisle. However, America's Test Kitchen also said that you could use Lindt 70% dark chocolate, but that you would want to reduce the amount used to 8 oz. I didn't try that, but wanted to share that tip in case that's the chocolate you would like to use.  


Pasta for a Warm Day

Here is a simple pasta that I love to make on a warm day as the sauce requires no cooking. You simply chop the ingredients and allow them to sit together at room temperature to let the flavors meld. Roy calls this the "Bruschetta Pasta" as the flavors are basically the same as what you might think of as a traditional burschetta topping. So, if you like that, you will probably like this. This is my modification of a recipe found in the Barefoot Contessa At Home Cookbook.

Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes, Basil and Garlic

3 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
15 large basil leaves, julienned
5 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound linguini, spaghetti, or angel hair pasta
1 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving

Combine first six ingredients in large serving bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to stand at room temperature for 3-4 hours to allow the flavors to combine.

When ready to serve, cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and toss with tomato mixture in serving bowl. Stir in cheese and serve, passing additional cheese at the table.

Serves 4-6

Note: It's also nice to make this pasta with a mixture of cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, or mini heirloom tomatoes to get more variety in color and flavor.


Pork Milanese a.k.a. Pounded Pork

In one of my cookbooks Michael Chiarello says, "I could be a vegetarian if it wasn't for pork." I completely agree. In fact, I was raised by a vegetarian, but I've always had a thing for pork. It doesn't matter what form it's in - bacon, sausage, prosciutto, tenderloin, chop, ham, the list goes on, I just like it. I don't know when this started for me. I think it may have been my grandma's ham at Easter. She makes it with an orange juice and brown sugar glaze. It's not overly fancy, but I think the salty sweet taste of the meat was something I was not used to, in a good way.

One year when I was in high school, after Easter Sunday was over, my grandma packed some ham for me to take home in a zip lock bag. When we got home I tossed it in the fridge so my step dad and I could enjoy it later (we were the only meat eaters in our family of five).

The next day, I came home from tennis practice and walked into the kitchen. My sister, who is the most staunch animal lover out there (and I fully respect her for that), screamed out "There is a dead pig under the table!"

My face contorted and I replied, "What the heck are you talking about?"

"It's there under the kitchen table." I peaked under the table and saw the bag of leftover ham.

"This is the ham from Easter. Why is it under the table?"

"I was looking for a snack in the fridge and picked that up. Once I saw what it was, I didn't want to be near it, so I threw it and it ended up under the table," she said.

"How long has it been under there?"

"Since I got home from school." Since she didn't have sports practice like I did, I knew she had been home for hours before me. It was a warm day, so I reluctantly threw the ham away, figuring that it had been out too long. Our family laughs about this story now, but that day I loudly voiced several complaints to my mom about my sister ruining my food just like any high school kid would.

Well, the whole dead pig under a table thing didn't detour me; I still eat pork, and I'm sure my meat eating husband is happy about that. One easy way that I like to prepare it is Pork Milanese, which is an Italian style breaded pork chop. However, at my house we call it "Pounded Pork." One day, Roy walked into the kitchen and I was beating some pork chops with a rolling pin to flatten them. (Okay, even with all my talk of liking meat, I don't eat it that often, so I don't own a meat pounder. A rolling pin seems to work for me.) He said, "you are really pounding the crap out of that pork," and we started laughing.  Since that day, he always requests "pounded pork" instead of Pork Milanese. If you want to try it, whatever you end up calling it, here is how I make it:

Pork Milanese

2 boneless pork chops, each about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 egg
2/3 panko bread crumbs (see note)
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges for serving

Lay a piece of plastic wrap on cutting board, and place pork chops on top. Lay another piece of plastic wrap on top of pork to cover completely. Using a meat mallet (or rolling pin!), pound the meat until it is close to 1/4 inch thick. (Sometimes mine ends up thicker depending on the original thickness of the meat. That is okay. Just try to pound it as thin as you can.)

Prepare a breading station: Place flour in shallow bowl or pan. Place egg in another shallow bowl or pan and beat with fork. Place bread crumbs, cheese, and herbs in third shallow bowl or pan and mix together.

Place a cast iron skillet or other frying pan over medium-high heat and add butter and olive oil to pan. Once butter is melted and pan is hot, sprinkle pork on both sides with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour, patting off any excess, dip in egg, allowing excess to drip off, and finally place in bread crumb mixture, gently patting crumbs to adhere to both sides of the meat. Place in pan. Repeat with remaining pork chop. Cook until just cooked through, and no longer pink, but still juicy, about 2-3 minutes per side. Serve immediately with lemon wedges to squeeze on top at the table.

Serves 2

Note: Panko are Japanese style bread crumbs and give a good crunch to the coating. They are easy to find at Trader Joe's or other markets. If you can't find them, you can use old bread to make your own crumbs in the food processor. I've also made this with regular Italian bread crumbs from the super market, and while they won't produce as crisp a crust, it will still taste good. 

I also made some lemon potatoes to go along with the pork after seeing a great looking recipe in Bon Appetit magazine this month. They were tasty so I thought I would share them too. Here is my version:

Lemon Potatoes

1 lb fingerling potatoes (in assorted colors if possible)
1 lemon
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Scrub potatoes, and cut in half lengthwise. Place on rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Lay potatoes in a single layer cut side down. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until they have become golden brown on the bottom. 

Meanwhile, zest and juice lemon. Add zest and juice to remaining three tablespoons olive oil. Whisk to combine. Take 1 tablespoon of mixture and add it to garlic in small bowl. Once potatoes have cooked for 20 minutes, drizzle them with garlic mixture and toss to combine. Return them to the oven to bake completely through, about another 8-10 minutes.

Place lemon dressing in serving bowl. Remove potatoes from oven and toss with dressing in bowl. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

Serves 2-3


For the Pregnant Ladies

This post is dedicated to my pregnant friends. I am very lucky to have a few close girlfriends that are also pregnant right now.  I have known two of these women since college. The three of us ended up getting married in the same year to men who were also friends in college.  Now we three couples are all having babies this year.  I know it sounds a bit cultish, all this marrying and have having babies within months of each other, but it's been a huge blessing over the years. It is so nice to share life with friends who are experiencing life's big stages at the same time that Roy and I are. 

Although I've shared a lot with these women throughout the years, the main thing we talk about right now is pregnancy, of course. Since it is the first pregnancy for each of us, we have the same questions, fears, hopes, and desires. Of concern to a lot of pregnant women is diet. I know that for me personally, I want to eat as healthy as possible and mentally check off all the healthy things I ate in a given day. However, I also know that sometimes I want a brownie, hot fudge sundae.

I knew I had to come up with a way to satisfy my sweet tooth, without eating a lot of sugar.  One day I was blending up a fruit smoothie and I started to think, how could I get some chocolate in here?  Growing up my family and I would often drink smoothies made with chocolate almond milk and frozen bananas. So, taking that inspiration, my Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Banana smoothie was born.

I've realized that sometimes it's hard to get all the things I need according to the pregnancy diet - this much fruit, that many vegetables, so many servings of protein, etc. This smoothie helps me meet those guidelines, as it  has a serving of fruit, a serving of calcium and some protein from the peanut butter. Also, the cocoa powder adds that chocolate element without adding any sugar. I think the banana makes the smoothie sweet enough, but if you want it sweeter feel free to add honey. It's easy to make as long as you always keep a bag of cut up ripe bananas in the freezer.

This seems like a silly recipe to post because it's not really a recipe; it's me throwing things into a blender. But, I've been enjoying this smoothie several times a week, so I thought I'd go ahead and post it in case the mixture sounded appealing to anyone else.

Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Banana Smoothie

1 cup low-fat milk (or soy, almond, or rice milk if you prefer)
1 small frozen banana
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 heaping tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 -2 teaspoons honey (optional)

Blend all ingredients in blender until thick and frothy. Pour into tall glass and enjoy.

Serves one.



Radishes are meant to be paired with butter and salt. This is a very French way to eat them, I think. I like to put them on crispy baguette slices with plenty of herb butter and salt. There were nice radishes at the Farmers' Market this week, and I immediately thought of using them this way. As I was making these, Roy came into the kitchen and said "Oh good, I was thinking about those the other day, and hoping you would make them again soon." I'm glad he likes them. I could be happy making an entire meal of them, maybe with a salad on the side.

Crostini with Herb Butter, Radishes, and Sea Salt

1 baguette
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat leaf parsley
10 radishes, very thinly sliced
Coarse sea salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the baguette on the diagonal into 10 slices. Reserve remaining baguette for another use. Brush the the baguette slices with olive oil and place on baking sheet. Bake until lightly golden and crisped, about 10-12 minutes, flipping halfway through baking. Set aside to cool completely.

Using a fork, mix the butter and herbs together. Set aside.

When ready to serve, spread a thick layer of herb butter on each crostini. Layer radish slices on top and sprinkle with sea salt. Serve immediately.

Note: Crostini can be made one day ahead. Store at room temperature in air tight container. Herb butter can also be made one day ahead. Cover and leave at room temperature. Or, if storing in the refrigerator allow to come to room temperature before spreading on the bread. Also, you can make the herb butter with any combination of fresh herbs that you like or have on hand. Chives are especially good added to the butter.