Thin Mints - BabyCakes NYC style

  Think-minte

 

I was never a girl scout. Growing up I always kind of envied them - it was like an elite club that I was never part of. Years later I made up for it by joining a sorority at college in Texas, but Girl Scouts always eluded me. As I was not a Girl Scout, I never really got into the whole cookie thing. Sure, I knew about them and ate them, but I really only liked the Thin Mints. They reminded me of similar cookie my parents would buy and keep in the freezer. The mint flavor was like an explosion of freshness in my mouth. I have always loved the chocolate/mint combination. Living overseas, Girl Scout cookies are not something that come around on an annual basis - I might see a post about them on FaceBook, or hear American friends whistfully mention them in passing. But no one comes knocking on our door to sell Girl Scout cookies. My sister recently shipped over a bunch of boxes, and they were a huge hit in the office where many of the people had only ever heard about them from the movies. The thin mints - of course - were a big hit. It is not always going to be possible to get the cookies over here in the Middle East. That I know is true. However, international shipments aside, there is another way to get the chocolate mint combination. 

Baby Cakes has a fantastic recipe for this little delights, and they are just as satisfying as the original. Sure, you might say "Why would I try to change the real thing?" but these little delights are pretty damn satisfying, and easy to make at home. Aside from that they are vegan and gluten free (if that is your thing, and if it isn't, they are still worth it!)

Thin Mints (adapted from Baby Cakes NYC)

Preheat oven to 325F
Line 2 cookie sheets or baking sheet with parchment paper, tinfoil, or silpat baking sheets

1 1/2 C Bob's Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten Free Baking Flour
1 C Sugar
1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 C arrowroot
1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 C melted refined coconut oil
1/3 C unsweetened applesauce
2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 C chocolate chips (gluten free/vegan if wanted)
3 tbsp mint extract
In a bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, arrowroot, xantham gum, baking soda, and salt. Add in the melted coconut oil, applesauce, and vanilla. The mixture will form a thick dough. Take a cookie scoop or spoon (depends on the size you want your cookie) and drop the cookie dough on the baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart. Flatten each cookie and smooth the edges of the cookie with your fingers. Bake for about 14 minutes, and then allow to cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes. While the cookies are cooling melt together the chocolate and mint extract. This is best done by placing the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl, and then placing the bowl over some simmering water. Gently stir the chocolate until it is melted and then add in the mint extract. Remove from the heat once it is melted. Either dunk the cooled cookies into the chocolate mixture, or take a spoon and spread the chocolate over the top of the cookies. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes or until the chocolate sets. This should make about 2 doz cookies.


Peanut butter, coconut, and chocolate granola

Granola

 

There are so many granola recipes out there. Everyone seems to like theirs slightly different from the next - dried fruit, no fruit, sweet, salty, buttery, dry, crispy, soft, etc. I first made my own granola a few years ago in our apartment in Boston's South End. It was pretty simple- oats, coconut oil, agave necter, toasted almonds, and raisins. I also added a few extra pinches of salt for the sweet/savory combination. I liked the creation so much, that I made a HUGE batch of it before our wedding and had bags of it waiting in the guests' hotel rooms. I labeled it "Tanzania Trail Mix" since we were headed there for our honeymoon safari. I threw in a bit of dark chocolate chips once the mixture cooled to make it more like a treat.

Since that June in 2010, I have made dozens more batches of the tasty creation - each slightly different from the previous. I recently saw a post for peanut butter chocolate chip granola on David Lebovitz's site, and I was annoyed I had not previously thought about those ingredients together. All I needed to do was read the recipe's title before running off to the kitchen to make my own batch. I have to confess - I did not even look at his specific ingredients until after making my own granola.

That being said, he was the inspiration for these flavors. Unfortunately, since adding peanut butter to the mix, I have found the granola to be entirely too good, and while I love making it, I have to restrain myself. It is more like a dessert that a breakfast item.

Preheat oven to 325 F

6 cups rolled oats (not instant)

1/2 C peanut butter (I like Teddie's, as it is only the good stuff!)

1/4 C coconut oil

1/2 C agave nectar or maple syrup

2 tsp salt

1/2 C dried unsweetened coconut flakes

1 cup semi-sweet/dark chocolate chips

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside.

Over low heat melt the coconut oil and peanut butter and gently whisk together. Add in the agave necter and continue to whisk gently until everything is incorporated together. In a large bowl add in the oat and coconut flakes. Pour the coconut oil mixture over the oats and mix with a spoon. Pour the oats onto the baking sheet and spread the mixture out, so that it covers the sheet. Sprinkle the salt on top. Bake for 15 minutes, and then gently mix the oats on the sheet. After another 10 minutes remove the oats from the oven. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, and then sprinkle the chocolate chips on top. After another 5 minutes, mix the oats around so that the melted chocolate is equally disbured throughout the oats.

At this point you can allow the granola to totally cool, however, it is at exactly this point when I tend to grab a spoon - or use my hands - and eat the still-warm nutty chocolate goodness!

 


Basic Banana Bread

Banana-bread

On July 13, 2005 my husband and I went on our first date. On our second date I cooked for him. The meal was fine, some might even go as far as to say great, but the dessert was over the top - poached pears in red wine with a dark chocolate sauce over the top. I also made chocolate truffles for the first time. All of my friends now know that I make chocolates on a fairly regular basis (of course it is a bit more difficult now that we live in the Middle East - the weather does not always make it easy!). I also made him mojitos with Cuban rum. One cannot purchase this in the US, but I had a bottle and given that he is Cuban, I thought that this little factor would make for a memorable evening. There was no turning back after this night.

I still cook and bake for him. However much to his disappointment I am always "playing" around with the recipes. I will make them vegan or gluten free or *gasp* healthier... All is going along just fine, and then I let it slip that I substituted whole wheat flour for white flour, and his face darkens, and he mumbles something about knowing the whole time that it just did not taste right. I should have learned my lesson a long time ago to just keep my mouth shut.

In any event, for the past few days we have had some bananas sitting on the counter in our kitchen. They are just getting darker and darker, and finally I got fed up smelling them. I decided to make Dr. H banana bread. Plain, simple, basic banana bread - a recipe from The Joy of Cooking, which is a basic, go-to cookbook that has everythign and anything you could possibly need. White sugar instead of agave nectar. Canola oil instead of coconut oil. White flour instead of whole wheat flour. As I mixed and poured I realized that people have developed and unhealthy fear with "plain" ingredients. This was the most basic of basic - the stuff that makes people smile. That takes away the bad days and dries up tears. Yup - sometimes plain and basic is just good stuff. I have made a few adjustments to the recipe, and they are largely based on my not paying attention; I was reading the recipe after Banana Bread, which is for Pumpkin Bread, and ended up using some of those ingredients and measurements in the Banana read recipe. My husband proclaimed it was the best banana bread I had ever made, so sometimes it might be ok to not pay attention when it comes to baking!

Basic Banana Bread (adapted from The Joy of Cooking)

2 medium-sized VERY ripe mashed bananas

5 tbsp canola oil

2 medium eggs (lightly beaten)

1/3 C milk (regular or soy)

2/3 C sugar

1 1/3 C all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp ginger

OPTIONAL - 1 C chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F and grease a 8 1/2x4 1/2 loaf pan.

Whisk together the dry ingredients. Mix the bananas in a bowl. Add in the oil, egg, sugar, and milk. Mix well. Add in the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporate. Make sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and spread it evenly. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow the bread to cool in the pan on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan and allow to thoroughly cool before slicing.

ENJOY


Chilled Cucumber Avocado Soup

Soup

The heat. That is what it is that has kept me away from blogging for so many weeks. The intense heat of the Arabian Gulf that takes away your desire to do, well, pretty much anything and everything. Between the high temperatures (regularly above 112F) and the constant dust and sand in the air, I have been incredibly lazy. Sure, I still get to the gym, I still go to work, I still brave the traffic in Abu Dhabi on a regular basis, but at the end of the day my energy is zapped. Gone. Sucked out of every cell in my body.

So instead of creating and writing about recipes, I have taken to reading them instead. On places like Zite and Flipboard I scroll through the latest stories in travel, food, and adventure. And every so often I save a recipe to make on some rainy day, which basically means never since we live in the UAE, and it almost never rains.

The other day I saw a recipe for Cucumber Avocado soup, and the name alone sounded cool, refreshing, and incredibly tasty. However, when I tried to find the recipe som days later, I could not remember whether it was on Zite or Flipboard or some other website, which I forgot about entirely. So I thought I could come up with something, which I am sure resembles a soup by the same name. I vaguelly remembered the key ingredients: cucumbers and avocado (not so hard...) and possibly yogurt or buttermilk or something. The indredients worked, and I actually kept track of measurements - which does not often happen. The soup is indeed cool, refreshing, and filling. You can easily omit the greek yogurt for coconut milk to make the recipe vegan/dairy free. Season according to taste, and enjoy!

CHILLED CUCUMBER AVOCADO SOUP (serves 2-3)

4 small or 2 large cucumbers

1/2 ripe avocado

1/8 cup cold water

1/2 cup non-fat greek yogurt (or substitute of choice)

small bunch of fresh mint leaves

salt & pepper to taste (I like to use Tony Chachere's to season)

Throw everything into a blender and blend for about 2 minutes. Pour into bowls and let chill for about an hour.

ENJOY!


Brenda's Zucchini Bread

Zucchini-bread

OK - so maybe the original version of this recipe is not by Brenda, but Brenda made this zucchini bread for me, and she shared the recipe with me, so she is now getting the credit. Truth be told, the credit should go to Gluten Free Goddess - amazing recipes and gorgeous pictures! There are several things that make this recipe so amazing. It has brown sugar in it, which gives a deep and rich sweetness. The recipe is gluten free and dairy free, and you could make it vegan if you want. It is a forgiving recipe, and this is not always the case for gluten-free recipes. You see, I had to substitute potato starch for tapioca starch (only to find out later I actually HAD the stupid tapioca starch...) and it still rocked. Enjoy every single bit of this treat - as it is so worth it! Next time I will try not to eat the whole loaf in 3 1/2 days...

Preheat the oven to 350F and grease a 9 inch loaf pan.

Ingredients:

1 rounded cup of fresh, grated zucchini 
1 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup potato starch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup light olive oil or coconut oil
2 egg whites, beaten or egg replacer (1/4 cup liquid)
1/4 cup soy milk 
1 teaspoon fresh lemon or orange juice
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract

Press the grated zucchini with a paper towel to remove as much moisture as you can. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sorghum flour, tapioca starch, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, sea salt, and cinnamon. Add in the brown sugar.
Add the oil, lemon juice, egg whites or egg replacer, and the coconut milk. Beat to combine and continue to beat on medium high until the batter is smooth- about two minutes.
Add in almost all of the shredded zucchini and stir by hand to combine.Pour the batter into the loaf pan and spread around evenly with a spatula. Sprinkle some extra zucchini shreads on top.
Bake in the center of a preheated oven until the top is golden and firm, yet gives a bit when lightly touched. It should feel slightly springy - approximately 50-55 mintes. Test with a thin sharp knife or a wooden pick- they should come out clean.
Enjoy and see if you can't eat this in 2-3 days...