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FlavorDiva.com http://flavordiva.com Fri, 26 Oct 2018 20:52:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 Almond White Chocolate Chunk Cookies http://flavordiva.com/2011/09/27/almond-white-chocolate-chunk-cookies/ http://flavordiva.com/2011/09/27/almond-white-chocolate-chunk-cookies/#comments Tue, 27 Sep 2011 21:10:58 +0000 http://flavordiva.com/?p=3296 Two stacks of Almond White Chocolate Chunck Cookies on a wire cooling rack over a white paper towel

Last week my sweet tooth called my name, begging me to indulge it with something … anything! It was 10pm. Yeah, I know, bad eating habits die hard, but I’m working on it. Sugar is my biggest weakness.

I took a look at what I already had in the kitchen to figure out what kind of tasty treat I could come up with. I considered making chocolate chip cookies or brownies; however, all of the recipes I consulted called for brown sugar, of which, I had none. I didn’t have molasses either, which can be used to make a brown sugar substitute.

Image 1: Baked Almond White Chocolate Chunk cookies on a wire cooling rack over white paper towels; Image 2: Silpat-lined cookie sheet with six drops of cookie dough spaced out over the sheet

Stuck on the idea of cookies, I continued to skim various cookie recipes while trying to decide what to bake. Heidi Swanson’s Mesquite Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe from her Super Natural Cooking served as good inspiration. The recipe didn’t call for brown sugar, and it got me thinking about other flours I could use aside from all-purpose white flour. Heidi explores using non-traditional flours regularly.

I’ve had a package of almond flour sitting in my refrigerator for months, which I bought with the intention of trying Daisy Martinez’s recipe for almond cake. I’ve yet to make the cake, so the almond flour, a fluffy powder of ground almonds, was available and I wondered how it would work in cookies. The recipe below is what I came up with, and they turned out very well. The cookies are thin and crispy, and slightly chewy in the center when you take them out of the oven. Enjoy!

Almond White Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Makes about 2 – 3 dozen cookies
Adapted from Heidi Swanson’s mesquite chocolate chip cookies.

1-1/4 c Whole wheat pastry flour
1 c Almond flour
1/2 tsp Baking soda
1/2 tsp Baking powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 cup + 2 tbs Unsalted butter, softened
1-1/4 c Sugar (I prefer evaporated cane juice)
Ground flax seed egg substitute (2 tbs Ground flax seed meal +
6 tbs water) or 2 large eggs
1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
1/2 tsp Almond extract
1/2 cup Sliced almonds
1 cup White chocolate chunks ( or chips)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. If using the ground flax egg substitute, put flax seed meal and water in a small bowl and set aside for 5 minutes. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in flax mixture or two eggs and the vanilla and almond extracts.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Stir the flour (a little bit at a time in three increments) into the wet mixture until just combined. Stir in the almonds and white chocolate until just evenly distributed throughout the dough.

Using a spoon or cookie scoop, drop about 1 tablespoon of dough for each cookie (2 inches apart for pretty, round cookies) on a parchment or silpat-lined cookie sheet (you’ll likely only get 6 cookies on a sheet).  Bake for about 12 minutes. Cookies are done when lightly brown. Take the sheet out of the oven and let the cookies sit for a few minutes before moving them with a spatula to a cooking rack.

Rinse the cookie sheet under cold water and dry each time between baking batches. Bake the rest of the cookies as described.

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First Day of Fall … Soup’s on! Chicken Vegetable Soup http://flavordiva.com/2011/09/21/first-day-of-fall-soups-on-chicken-vegetable-soup/ http://flavordiva.com/2011/09/21/first-day-of-fall-soups-on-chicken-vegetable-soup/#comments Wed, 21 Sep 2011 16:46:09 +0000 http://flavordiva.com/?p=3273 White bowl of chicken vegetable soup (w/ carrots, string beans, peas, potatoes)

Today is the first official day of fall, so that means the time for soups, stews and hearty foods is upon us. This recipe for a cozy chicken vegetable soup is perfect for getting the soup-eating season started. It calls for store-bought rotisserie chicken and low-sodium chicken broth, which provide time saving short-cuts, while the use of fresh vegetables, herbs and spices still give the soup great homemade flavor.

Image 1: Two white bowls ful of chicken and vegetable soup with two silver spoons on a wooden table; Image 2: Silver spoon full of soup - carrost, chicken, peas

In this recipe I used green beans, peas, carrots, corn and potatoes, but you can just as easily try other vegetables such as broccoli or diced bell peppers. You can also add in some cooked rice at the end for an even heartier dish. Experiment with various herbs and spices as you wish. Using the simple base of chicken broth and pulled chicken gives you room to explore many options. Enjoy!

Chicken Vegetable Soup
Serves 6 – 8

3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1 Liter of low-sodium chicken broth (4 cups)
6 c water
5 – 6 small red potatoes, quartered
5 – 6 large carrots, peeled and coined
1/2 lb. string beans cut into 1” pieces
1 cup frozen peas
Fresh corn from 4 ears, shucked and cut off the cob
1 whole rotisserie chicken, skin removed and meat pulled
3 – 4 bay leaves
1 tbs dried Italian seasoning
1 tsp paprika
1 – 2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground all spice
1 tbs kosher salt, plus more or less to taste
Fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Skin and pull apart the meat from the whole rotisserie chicken and set aside. Cut the larger pieces of meat down to bite-size. Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat, add in cumin seeds. When the seeds begin to sizzle, add in the chicken broth and water and bring to a boil. Add in all of the vegetables, except for the corn and peas, and add in the Italian seasoning, bay leaves, paprika, all spice, coriander and salt.

Allow the pot to come back up to a boil before adding in the pulled chicken, corn, peas, and pepper. Reduce heat to medium or medium-low and simmer for about 20 – 25 minutes. Add in the fresh parsley and taste for seasoning. Simmer for another 5 – 10 minutes or until root vegetables are tender. Serve hot with toasted French bread or crackers.

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Chicken Scallopini in Spiced Cream Sauce over Spinach http://flavordiva.com/2011/05/12/chicken-scallopini-in-spiced-cream-sauce-over-spinach/ http://flavordiva.com/2011/05/12/chicken-scallopini-in-spiced-cream-sauce-over-spinach/#comments Fri, 13 May 2011 03:44:26 +0000 http://flavordiva.com/?p=3179 Chicken Scallopine in a saffron, mustard seed and cumin cream sauce over a bed of fresh baby spinach all on a white plate

Cream sauce – it’s something I limit in my diet to “on occasion” status. Well, this past weekend was an occasion to purchase the heavy cream. Not for any special reason, but simply because the recipe I saw Giada De Laurentiis make on the Cooking channel looked really delicious.

Image 1: White wine, mustard seeds, 1/2 pint carton of heavy crem; Image 2: Two sauteed chicken cutlets in a stainless still pan

Wanting to try out her recipe for chicken scallopine with saffron cream sauce, I made a variation adding cumin and mustard seeds. The result is a wonderfully fragrant dish that’s slightly reminiscent of Indian cuisine, yet with dry white wine maintaining classic Western flavor.

Image 1: Garlic, shallots, and spices simmering in a stainless steel pan of chicken broth and white wine; Image 2: Two sauteed chicken cutlets in a pan of saffron cream sauce (yellow color)

I served my spiced cream sauce and chicken over fresh baby spinach; however, an option I tested as well is to add the spinach into the cream sauce along with the chicken during the last 5 minutes of simmering. The chicken and sauce will also work well over angel hair pasta. Enjoy!

Chicken Scallopini in Spiced Cream Sauce over Spinach
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis’ Chicken Scallopine with Saffron Cream Sauce

1 lb chicken cutlets (about 2 thin cut chicken breasts)**
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbs olive oil
1 shallot, peeled and sliced thin
2 plump garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 cup white wine
1-1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1 large pinch of saffron (about 1/4 tsp)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt, plus more for seasoning chicken
Freshly ground black pepper
6 oz. fresh baby spinach

Rinse and pat chicken dry before seasoning with salt and pepper. Place flour in a large Ziploc bag and season with 1/4 tsp salt. Place chicken cutlets in bag and shake well. Remove chicken from the flour shaking off the excess and place flour-dredged chicken aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, add olive oil and heat for about 1 minute. Add chicken cutlets and brown on one side for about 3 – 4 minutes before turning chicken over to brown the other side for another 3 – 4 minutes. Remove browned chicken from the pan and set aside under aluminum foil.

Add garlic and shallots to the pan and sauté for about 2 minutes (don’t let garlic burn). Add mustard and cumin seeds and continue to sauté for another 2 minutes. Add white wine, broth, and saffron scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen all of the flavor bits from the chicken. Simmer for about 10 minutes allowing wine and broth to reduce.

Add heavy cream, fresh cracked black pepper, and stir before adding the chicken back to the pan and simmering for another 5 minutes. Serve chicken over fresh or steamed spinach along with several spoons full of the cream sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley.

** Note: Scallopini (Scallopine) means thinly sliced chicken breast or chicken breast butterfly-cut and pounded thin usually between two pieces of plastic wrap using a mallet. My store-bought chicken cutlets were thin enough, so I skipped the step of pounding them thin.

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Zucchini Bread http://flavordiva.com/2011/05/01/zucchini-bread/ http://flavordiva.com/2011/05/01/zucchini-bread/#comments Mon, 02 May 2011 03:15:53 +0000 http://flavordiva.com/?p=3175 Loaf of zucchini bread with one cut slice laying on a white paper towel.

I’m back. If you’re a regular reader of FlavorDiva.com, you’ve probably noticed that I took a break from blogging since January. Like many of us, I’ve had a lot going on during the first quarter of 2011 – from working my day job in marketing communications to sharing my passion for health and wellness by teaching weekly dance and yoga classes.

Given all the activities I’ve had on my plate, I’ve definitely struggled with the modern challenge to wellness – cooking fresh, homemade meals daily. I can’t say that I’ve mastered how to get a wholesome and tasty, yet quick meal on the table without much effort after a long day, but I plan to keep working on it. If you have any tips, please let me know!

Image 1: Flour with oil and shredded zucchini in a stainless steel bowl; Image 2: Baked loaf of zucchini bread in a 8" x 4" x 2-1/2" loaf pan

This weekend I spent some time testing recipes and recharging my culinary batteries. The first recipe I worked on was for vegan zucchini bread. I continue to be fascinated by egg- and dairy-free baking. Eggs and dairy play such a critical role in many baked goods, is it really possible to make substitutions without affecting the taste or texture? Maybe not always, but for zucchini bread, the answer is yes. Enjoy!

Zucchini Bread

3/4 cup whole grain pastry flour
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
3/4 cup sugar (organic evaporated cane juice)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1-1/2 cups shredded zucchini (about 1 large zucchini shredded and press in paper towel to remove excess water)
1/2 cup vegetable oil (such as canola)
3 tbs ground flax seed ( The substitute for eggs in this recipe, flax seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids and fiber.)
9 tbs water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flours, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt and sugar. Grate zucchini and set aside. In a small bowl, add the flax seed meal and water, then allow it to sit for about two minutes. You can substitute the flax seed mixture (water and meal) with two large eggs.

Add zucchini, oil, flax seed mixture and vanilla extract to the dry ingredients. Stir with spatula until just combined. Fold in the walnuts. Spray 8″ x 4″ x 2-1/2″ loaf pan lightly with cooking spray. Add batter into the pan and place pan in the middle of the center oven rack. Bake for about one hour, turning pan around half way after 30 minutes of baking. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Cajun Chicken Skewers http://flavordiva.com/2011/01/25/cajun-chicken-skewers/ http://flavordiva.com/2011/01/25/cajun-chicken-skewers/#comments Tue, 25 Jan 2011 21:24:49 +0000 http://flavordiva.com/?p=3085 Grilled cajun chicken skewers with slices of turkey sausages and red and green bell peppers on wooden skewers in an alumninum pan.

Several months ago, I helped plan a baby shower for one of my close friends and came up with these Cajun chicken skewers for the menu. I thought they would be a good accompaniment to the crawfish pie one of our other friends from Louisiana was bringing to the shower.

Once again, my Staub grill pan came in handy. I love this caste-iron treasure because of its extra high ridges that deliver lovely grill marks. Yes, taste and nourishment are most important with food, but appearances play an almost equally important role. As the culinary saying goes, you eat with your eyes first.

Image 1: Sliced red and green bell peppers on a wooden cutting board with turkey sausage links in the background; Image 2: Raw chicken breast covered in spices on a black grill pan.

Image 1: Cooked, spiced chicken breast on a black grill pan with sliced green bell peppers also on the grill pan; Image 2: Sliced smoked turkey sausages with grill marks and cooked grilled chicken breast all on a black grill pan.

Rubbing my chicken breast first with a Cajun spice blend, I then grilled them for about 8 minutes on each side. Smoked turkey links was my sausage of choice for the skewers pictured due to cost-effectiveness for the amount I was making, but I recommend using Cajun chicken sausage or Andouille sausage to add more of that Louisiana flavor. These skewers are perfect to serve for party finger food that’s filling. Enjoy!

Cajun Chicken Skewers

4 – 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning (I used this one.)
2 large green bell peppers
2 large red bell peppers
4 pre-cooked sausage links (smoked turkey, Cajun or andouille)
Kosher salt

Rinse and pat dry chicken. Slice the sausage links into rounds and chop peppers into 1″ squares. Preheat a large grill pan on medium-high heat. Liberally rub chicken breasts with Cajun seasoning blend and place chicken on the grill. Allow to cook for about 8 minutes on one side before turning over to grill on the other side, lowering heat to medium, and grilling for an addition 8 minutes. Once the chicken is done, allow it to sit for five minutes before cutting into chunks for your skewers.

Grill vegetables and sausages (you can do this in the same pan with the chicken or separately) and then set aside for a minute or two until they are cool enough to handle. Once your vegetables, sausage and skewers are cooked and cool enough to handle, assemble your skewers alternating between pieces of chicken, peppers, sausage, peppers and chicken. Placed finished skewers in an oven-safe pan, cover with foil, and place in oven at 200 degrees F until ready to serve.

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Raspberry Crêpes http://flavordiva.com/2010/10/22/raspberry-crepes/ http://flavordiva.com/2010/10/22/raspberry-crepes/#comments Fri, 22 Oct 2010 19:44:34 +0000 http://flavordiva.com/?p=3016 Folded crepes with raspberry filling and topped with powdered sugar on a white plate with maple syrup in a small stainless steel cup.

While nothing much can beat fluffy pancakes cooked to perfection in the morning, crêpes offer a delicious alternative for breakfast. Crêpes are tasty with so many different kinds of fillings such as sliced fruit, fruit spreads, Nutella or even drizzled chocolate for the sweet variety.

A great thing about these thin little foldable French treats is that they actually move well beyond breakfast and make delicious desserts as well as savory dishes for lunch or dinner. Just decrease the amount of sugar in the batter for savory crêpes and fill them with sliced chicken or deli meats and seasoned vegetables like steamed or grilled slices of bell peppers, for example.

Image 1: Batter for crepes in a small blender. Close up photo.; Image 2: Crepe batter thinly spread in a non-stick skillet.

Either way you want them, sweet or savory, crêpes are very easy to make at home. When you go to a café that specializes in crêpes (crêperie) you may notice that they cook them on a large flat griddle using a handy T-shaped crêpe spreader. That set up looks really cute, but it’s not at all necessary to make thin crêpes in your own kitchen using a non-stick skillet.

Image 1: Fresh raspberries in a plastic container (pint size) on a brown cutting board; Image 2: Cooked crepe unfolded with raspberry filling spread on half of the crepe, all on a white plate.

As long as your batter is thin enough and you pour lightly with a steady hand, and then tilt the pan back and forth to evenly coat the bottom of the skillet, you’ll have nicely shaped crêpes at just the right thickness. Making a fruit filling isn’t hard either. I simply blended a handful of raspberries with a little maple syrup for my crêpe filling. After spreading the filling over half of an open crêpe and then folding it a few times followed by a light dusting of powdered sugar, I was ready to enjoy … in my own cozy crêperie at home.

Sweet Crêpes

1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup organic milk
2 large organic eggs
3 tablespoons lukewarm water
1/2 tablespoon organic butter, melted
1-1/2 tablespoons cane sugar
2 dashes ground cinnamon
1 pinch kosher salt

In a small blender or food processor, blend together all ingredients, then set aside for 30 minutes. After allowing the mixture to sit, heat an 8″ – 12″ non-stick skillet on medium and spray lightly with cooking spray or melt 1/2 tablespoon butter in the pan.

Cook crêpes one by one, by pouring in just enough batter to thinly coat the bottom of the pan. Cook on one side for about 2 minutes or until the bottom starts to brown and the crêpe is set.

Using a silicone spatula, flip the crêpe over delicately (this takes some finesse) and cook for another minute or two on the opposite side until half of the crêpe browns slightly on that side. Then remove the cooked crêpe and set aside.

Use the rest of your batter to cook the remaining 4 – 8 crêpes. Be sure not to let the crêpe over cook or they will get a little crisp and be hard to fold.

When you’re ready to fill the crêpes, spread the fruit filling on half of one side of a crêpe. Then, fold the crêpe in half and  fold in half again. Prepare the rest of your crêpes and dust with powdered sugar. Serve with real maple syrup.

Raspberry Filling

1 pint fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Blend raspberries and maple syrup together using a small food processor or simply mash ingredients together well in a small bowl. Serve with crêpes.

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Happy Hour for A Cause With FRESHFARM Markets in DC ~ Oct. 4 http://flavordiva.com/2010/10/01/happy-hour-for-a-cause-with-freshfarm-markets-in-dc-oct-4/ Fri, 01 Oct 2010 21:26:30 +0000 http://flavordiva.com/?p=3049 Last spring and summer (2009) I had the pleasure of working for FRESHFARM Markets at their Dupont Circle location in Washington, DC.  As a non-profit organization that organizes and manages 11 farmers’ markets in the D.C. area to support farmers and promote locally-grown produce, it’s a wonderful organization worthy of support and much continued success.

In addition to making the freshest, local produce available to communities, they also aim to make this healthy food more accessible to women, children, seniors and low-income families through accepting WIC, SNAP/FoodStamps and offering double-dollars for such programs. Come join the FRESHFARM Markets community on Monday, October 4th from 5pm – 8pm for a “happy hour for a cause” at Passenger Bar.

FRESHFARM Markets Happy Hour ~ Monday, October 4th 5pm - 8pm - The Passenger Bar in DC.

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Macaroni & Cheese http://flavordiva.com/2010/09/30/macaroni-cheese/ http://flavordiva.com/2010/09/30/macaroni-cheese/#comments Thu, 30 Sep 2010 19:42:31 +0000 http://flavordiva.com/?p=3004

As quintessential American fare, especially for African-Americans and Southerners, how can I have a food blog and not cover macaroni and cheese? While the thick, creamy richness of mac and cheese doesn’t quite fit in with my attempts to eat, cook, and write about nutritious and nourishing food, I have a hard time banishing this dish out of my kitchen forever!

Yes, change can be good, but macaroni and cheese taps into that soft spot in my heart for tradition and nostalgia. Mac and cheese is like a cornerstone of family gatherings, church functions and potluck dinners with friends. I can’t deny its delicious place in my culture or culinary history.

Now does that mean I’m going to eat it every day? No, but on occasion, I will indulge in this comfort food favorite, preferably with a light side dish of green vegetables or a salad rather than a full spread of other heavy foods. I have no problem breaking from that tradition.

Image 1: Shredded Cheese on wax paper; Image 2: Spiced roux in a small sauce pot beside a pan of toasted, buttered panko breadcrumbs

So the question has come up repeatedly among my friends of how to make a good macaroni and cheese. I’ve discovered from friends, family and various cookbooks that there are many approaches to mac and cheese. Of course all the basics are included every time – pasta and cheese, butter and usually milk, but there’s lots of variety out there to achieve various consistencies and levels of cheesiness.

Some people like their mac and cheese ultra creamy and ultra cheesy with an almost liquid-like consistency. Others like their mac and cheese firm, but not dry. Some recipes call for canned cheddar cheese soup, others cheese wiz (processed goo, yuck!), or my family’s old reliable – evaporated milk. But then, there’s the original approach to macaroni and cheese, which is to make a roux turning it into a white sauce (béchamel) as the thickening agent for the dish.

Image 1: Uncookeed marcaroni in a stainless steel bowl; Image 2: Baked macaroni and cheese

Since I’m interested in going back to the basics with a lot of my cooking and discovering some of those classic approaches to recipes, the roux/white sauce approach is the one I’ve been working on. Although it diverges from how most folks in my family make their mac and cheese, I still stick to the portions and guidance of my mom’s recipe, with the exception of my addition of buttered panko breadcrumbs to the top, which my clan normally doesn’t do.

If you haven’t tried the roux/white sauce approach before, give my recipe a try. It has a loose, but still somewhat firm consistency. Also, I’d love to know your macaroni and cheese traditions. What’s your secret or preference for the best mac and cheese?

Macaroni and Cheese

8 oz. small macaroni pasta
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
6 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated (1-1/2 four oz. packages)
1/2 cup paprika white sauce (see recipe below)
1 large egg
1/4 cup organic milk
3 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Bring a large pot of water with 1 tablespoon kosher salt to a boil. Add macaroni and boil for about 7 minutes until al dente. Drain and set aside in a large bowl. Lightly butter an 8” x 8” baking dish and set aside. In a small sauté pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add panko breadcrumbs and toss to coat for about 2 – 3 minutes. Set aside.

Add half the grated cheese to the bowl of cooked macaroni. In another small bowl, mix together the white sauce, milk, water and egg. Add the mixture to macaroni and cheese and mix well. Add salt and pepper and stir well. Pour macaroni and cheese mixture into the buttered baking dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top, then sprinkle buttered breadcrumbs over the dish. Place dish on the center rack in the middle of the oven and bake for 25 minutes.

Paprika White Sauce

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup organic milk
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 pinch salt

Melt butter in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat. Stir in the flour until a smooth paste forms, about one minute. Add milk and stir continuously for about 10 minutes. Sauce will thicken. The sauce is done when it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Stir in paprika and salt. Use sauce in cooking or store remaining sauce in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.

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A Sweet Visit to Babycakes NYC http://flavordiva.com/2010/08/20/a-sweet-visit-to-babycakes-nyc/ Fri, 20 Aug 2010 21:53:19 +0000 http://flavordiva.com/?p=2956 Image 1: Two vegan cupcakes from Babycakes NYC (A vegan bakery). One is a vanilla cupcake with pink frosting and the 2nd is a chocolate cupcake with Chocolate icing both in a clear plastic container; Image 2: Closeup photo of Tesia in Babycakes NYC with a half bitten vanilla cupcake with pink frosting.

Anytime you’re in New York City, you can always find delicious specialty cafes, eateries and bakeries lining the busy streets. From the delicious artisanal ice cream truck that’s parked along the curb, like that of Van Leeuwen, to the popular vegan bakery Babycakes, I either stumble upon these tasty finds luckily or I hear about them from magazines or by word of mouth.

During a recent trip to New York, I made sure that I didn’t leave without stopping by Babycakes NYC. I found out about this bakery when their cookbook of the same name, by founder Erin McKenna, with its cover photo of enticing chocolate cupcakes caught my eye in the bookstore. I’m fascinated by vegan baking, because that’s one of the biggest things that would keep me from going vegan – delicious, flaky, moist, buttery baked goods!

Babycakes cookbook cover (a close up of chocolate on chocolate cupcakes)I mean, a flaky pie crust without butter? A cake without the flavorful soft moisture from milk and eggs? I could go on and on. Let’s face it, butter, milk, cream and eggs all play key pivotal roles in baking! But, those who’ve done away with animal-based products in their diet swear that vegan baking is oh, so delicious and healthier for you.  

So, I experiment every now and then with vegan baking to see if it’s really possible to get great baked goods without dairy and eggs, but I’m still not completely sold. Some things lend themselves well to vegan conversions (quick breads, some cookies and cupcakes) and some things you should just leave ‘well enough alone’ (biscuits, piecrusts).  However, I’ll admit that I can see why Babycakes has a large batch of fans, including loyal customers who reportedly eat everything under the sun, including dairy and eggs, but go to Babycakes simply for the flavor.

Image 1: A case in Babycakes NYC bakery of gluten free, vegan chocolate-chip and double chocolate cookies, and spelt biscuits; Image 2: Photo of a stack of paper Babycakes NYC hats (old-school diner style hats) and packaged vegan desserts all sittin gon a table in front of a window

Settling into my seat in the corner of the small bakery with pink walls hung with pictures of Babycakes’ celebrity fans, I sunk my teeth into a vanilla cupcake with naturally colored pink frosting. It was truly delicious — the texture soft; the frosting creamy. The gluten-free chocolate on chocolate cupcake that I tried was also tasty, although, I wasn’t crazy about the dense texture. 

Lastly, I indulged in one of their double chocolate chip cookies, which I had tried to make at home following the recipe from the cookbook. Mine didn’t turn out so well, but the ones from the bakery were good and just as the recipe described — crisp on the edges and soft in the center. I then realized that my problem when I made the cookies was just as Erin McKenna warned in the book, measure all ingredients exactly and melt the coconut oil (a butter substitute) completely before measuring. You can’t mess around with baking; it’s a science, especially with vegan baking.

Despite my reservations about vegan baking, I can attest that Babycakes NYC and the cookbook Babycakes are both worthy of your time, cash and taste buds.

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Community Farm Cooking: Cucumber Tomato Salad; Honey Glazed Carrots with Almonds http://flavordiva.com/2010/08/04/community-farm-cooking-cucumber-tomato-salad-honey-glazed-carrots-with-almonds/ http://flavordiva.com/2010/08/04/community-farm-cooking-cucumber-tomato-salad-honey-glazed-carrots-with-almonds/#comments Wed, 04 Aug 2010 14:50:34 +0000 http://flavordiva.com/?p=2929 Clear glass bowl of cucumber tomato salad with vidalia oniona and homemade Italian dressing

Greetings! I hope everyone is having a great summer thus far. I’ve been on the go so much (note to self: practice what you preach), that I haven’t had nearly enough time to get out to the farmers’ markets and pick-your-own farms to enjoy the bounty of summer. Although, several weeks ago, I did have the opportunity to share two delicious and easy recipes at Common Good City Farm during a cooking workshop that I taught. Both recipes are nutritious and make for great summer side dishes.

Honey Glazed carrots with sliced almonds on a small white square plate

The cucumber and tomato salad with sweet Vidalia onions and Italian dressing has a vibrant cool taste and crunchy texture. Making the Italian dressing from scratch guarantees that it’s only made from natural ingredients — no preservatives, and allows you to use high quality extra-virgin olive oil, which boosts flavor.

My new favorite recipe is this one for honey glazed carrots. Steaming the sliced carrots makes this dish very easy and quick to prepare, and the honey and steamed carrots tossed with dried dill and sliced almonds add a slight crunch, sweetness, and contrast of color.

Make these dishes right away while we still have delicious cucumbers, tomatoes and fresh carrots in season. Freshly picked, seasonal produce always offers up the best taste. Enjoy!

Cucumber Tomato Salad with Homemade Italian Dressing

2 large cucumbers
5 ripe tomatoes
1/2 small Vidalia onion, finely sliced
1/2 cup homemade Italian dressing
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the cucumbers into thin 1/8” thick slices. Half the tomatoes horizontally, and then quarter and core them (making 8 pieces per tomato). Add the cucumber slices, tomatoes and sliced Vidalia onion in a large bowl along with the Italian Dressing and toss all ingredients together well. Add salt and pepper to taste if needed. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Homemade Italian Dressing

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 garlic clove, finely minced and smeared
1 tsp Italian seasoning (dried herbs)
1/4 tsp onion powder
1 tsp honey
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper (about 1/8 teaspoon)
1 light squeeze of fresh lemon juice (only a few drops)

Add the vinegar, garlic, Italian seasoning, onion powder, salt and honey to a medium sized bowl and whisk together. Whisking continuously, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Add the lemon juice and whisk some more. Taste for flavor and add salt or pepper if necessary.

Honey Glazed Carrots with Dill and Almonds

1/2 pound carrots, rinsed and scrubbed
1/4 teaspoon dried dill
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon organic butter
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Bring a pot of water (fitted with a steaming basket) to a boil. Slice the carrots on the diagonal into 1/2” slices. Add sliced carrots to the steaming basket. Cover and steam for 5 minutes. Transfer the steamed carrots to a large bowl, shaking off any excess water from the steaming basket and carrots. Sprinkle the dried dill over the carrots and add the sliced almonds to the bowl.

In a small sauté pan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium low heat. Once the butter is melted, drizzle the oil over the carrots along with the honey, and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.

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