Coobah: Latin Love in the Windy City

Coobah (Chicago, IL)

3423 N. Southport Avenue

3423 N. Southport Avenue

As a current Chicago transplant, I’m inundated with constant chatter and hype over what the latest and greatest hot spots are around the city. The suggestion that this metropolis booms with fabulous food is indisputable… but I’m willing to argue that the best food is served in restaurants that don’t necessarily boast celebrity chefs, $$$$ on Yelp, or “Asian fusion” or “upscale American” cuisine descriptions (sorry, Sunda, Japonais, Hub 51, Sixteen and the rest of the River North gang). Finding the inconspicuous eats  isn’t tough, but it certainly requires venturing outside of the travel-worn downtown…

Southport Corridor is my absolute favorite neighborhood in the city. It lacks the pretentiousness of River North, the too-trendy-for-their-own-good auras of Wicker Park and Bucktown, the homicide rates of Englewood, and the frattiness of Wrigleyville, while drawing upon all of the good qualities of each (okay, minus Englewood..) to form something that is uniquely down-to-earth and family-friendly yet teeming with high-quality restaurants and shops.

Enter: Coobah, a quaint eatery sandwiched between a darling, old-fashioned candy shop and Noodles and Co. Hi, my name is Kailley, and I’m a candyaholic. As such, I typically have to put on blinders and an invisible straight jacket to restrain myself from COWABUNGA DUDE!-ing my way into the candy store like a sugar-fiending ninja turtle. My advice: just take a meditative moment to breathe deep and tell your sweet tooth and your carb-lovin’ tastebuds to calm the eff down; they are about to be satisfied in ways a lollipop and buttered noodles simply couldn’t provide.

In the summertime, Coobah’s exterior flourishes with fresh plants and fresh faces dining al fresco. The music and the energy drip out past the patio, pooling and swirling throughout the street. It is perfect.

Inside, Coobah is decidedly eclectic, much like its fare. Paddle fans à la Singapore’s Raffles Hotel crown the bar area, hinting at a modest Southeast Asian influence. Large screens on either side of the bar play an endless loop of ethereal jelly-fish footage. The first time I visited, I found this a bit odd; after several subsequent visits, I’ve come to find the imagery remarkably calming (thus validating the restaurant owner’s evident psychology behind the decision to incorporate them into the ambience). The lighting is dim but warm, and makes for a casually romantic vibe.

While all of Coobah’s food (I’ve tried most of it, but as a creature of habit, I tend to order my favorites ad nauseum) is excellent, there are a few stand-outs worth mentioning:

The guacamole. This guac is made in-house and packs a punch of flavors, the most distinct of which include notes of lime and onion and cilantro. I’ve made guacamole many times before, but I cannot for the life of me figure out how Coobah manages to manipulate their recipe so that you can taste all of the ingredients in every chip-full you chow on. Oh, and the CHIPS… perfectly salted and with a hint of lime, served hot out of the deep-fryer. $6.oo

Chicken negra modelo. This can be found on the “large plates” section of the menu, though the printed description does little lip service to the plate’s intricacies. Coobah scores major points for leaving the skin on their chicken breasts– something many restaurants (and home cooks) fail to do, thus robbing their chickies of rich, juicy flavor. An herb blend was clearly rubbed into the skin before the brining process, allowing the skin to caramelize slightly for an added depth of flavor and texture. The chicken breasts sit atop a generous helping of chilaquiles that bring some heat and smokiness to the plate. Chilaquiles are a traditional Mexican dish in which flour tortillas are cut into thin strips, fried, mixed with salsa and mole, left to simmer until the tortillas soften, and finally finished with cheese (I explain this only because I had no clue what they were when I was first served them).  There’s a reason that clichés like “the icing on the cake” and “the gravy on top” exist: a great topping can truly pull a dish together to transform it from “good” to “exquisite.” The dark lager and sweet mustard glaze drizzled over this chicken plate does just that. $19.00

Pina colada bread pudding. Lightly spiced and with a hint of rum, this dessert transports you to a beach-side bar in Puerto Rico. The best part of all? That irresistible hot-meets-cold pairing with a giant scoop of coconut ice cream. If you’re one of those “let’s split dessert” types, be prepared to fight off the other contender Gladiator-style, because you’re not going to want to miss a single bite. $7.00

Honorable mentions: the scallops, the empanadas, and the mojitos.

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Almond Lavender Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Frosting

Today I’m taking a break from the seven deadly sins theme and turning to something more whimsical and less hostile than Hell’s fiery embrace: Peter Pan syndrome.

Peter Pan syndrome is a pop-psychology diagnostic term derived from the Latin phrase, puer aeternus, or “eternal boy.” By definition, this psychological condition exists among adult men and women whose emotional intelligence has remained on par with that of an adolescent. For examples, see the current generation of 20-somethings; like no generation before us, we have inexplicably managed to Stretch Armstrong our way from youth to adulthood without actually having to grow up.

While the numbers of stay-at-home dads slowly rise, so too do the numbers of stay-at-home college grads.

Call of Duty and Halo tag along beside their original target audience, aiming to suspend time while strengthening thumb muscles.

The non-stop party life spills out on either side of the weekend, cultivating a “lather, rinse, repeat” philosophy drenched in drunken “oopsies” moments and Hangover reenactments. Work is just that thing you do during the daytime, sandwiched between foggy-memory mornings and happy hour festivities– oh, and it’s probably not that job you always dreamt you’d have by twenty-five.

Maybe you’re still in school, acquiring three Masters degrees and a PhD, you little smartypants– whatever it takes to keep the so-called real world from knocking at the door to your parent’s basement, right? You may eventually cease to speak English, instead falling back on your impressive mental filing cabinet of jargon du jour– possibly even cooler than your childhood mastery of Klingon.

Dodging life’s natural progression into true adulthood comes in many forms, but we (collectively, the slightly ambiguous Generation Y) all seem to do it, and in spite of my every effort to be poised and mature, I do it too…

Confessions of an Easy Bake Oven Graduate: 9 out of 10 times, I choose the cupcake with the most sprinkles on it, not the gourmet cupcake from boutique bakeries like Sprinkles. Putting on my frilly, overly-feminine apron and getting into Betty Homemaker mode is just as fun as playing dress-up. Unless it’s a super-sweet riesling, I make a funny face whenever I try to choke down a glass (or a sip) of wine. Sometimes I wonder if big cities like Chicago are really just smoggier versions of Never Never Land, and the suburbs are where you migrate to once daylight breaks and you turn in your Pretty Pretty Princess Crown. And most importantly, my most favorite thing in the whole world is my (slightly oversized) pony. Sometimes I secretly wish I could keep him in my 16th floor apartment and feed his tubby little self cupcakes all day.

We’ve got a lot of growing up to do (myself included, and some more than others), but there’s something to be said for hanging on to a tiny piece of Peter Pan syndrome lifelong.

Weed out the destructive tendencies, find a fulfilling job, and never grow too old to find the joys in the simple, silly things.

These b-e-a-utiful purple cuppies are the food version of what we should all strive for: sophisticated yet playful. Get on it.

Almond Lavender Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Frosting

Almond Lavender Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Frosting

For the cupcakes (makes 14-18):

(adapted from TFATO)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 Tablespoon dried lavender flowers
4 large eggs
1 Tablespoon baking powder
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons almond extract
2 Tablespoons whole milk

Just a dash of salt

…blue and pink food coloring for lavender hue (optional)

Almond Lavender Cupcake with Brown Sugar Frosting

For the frosting:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (NOT melted)
3 cups powdered sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 Tablespoons heavy cream (or more for desired consistency)
Dried lavender flowers to top

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a muffin pan with paper liners

I found these liners at T.J. Maxx! Adorable, right?

I found these liners at T.J. Maxx! Adorable, right?

2. Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, and dried lavender until light and fluffy

3. Add eggs one at a time, mixing in between each

4. Add flour, baking powder, salt, and extract and mix until just combined (don’t overmix!)

5. Add milk and vegetable oil and mix until just combined

6. Spoon batter into cupcake liners and fill each 2/3 full

7. Bake for 16-18 minutes until slightly golden, then allow to cool on a wire rack.

— frosting —

1. Beat butter on medium speed in an electric mixer for about one minute

2. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time, beating well between each

3. Add brown sugar and beat

4. Add vanilla and almond extracts and beat

5. Add 2 Tablespoons of heavy cream and beat. Continue adding more, one Tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached (be VERY careful it doesn’t get too liquid-y!)

6. Spoon frosting into a piping bag (or piping gun, if you’re feeling feisty) and pipe onto cooled cupcakes

7. Sprinkle dried lavender flowers on top!

8. Place in large airtight container (make sure it’s deep enough so the frosting isn’t ruined) and refrigerate to allow frosting to harden.

Almond & Brown Sugar Frosting.

 

A philosophy by which to live…

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Sandwich Cookies

Deadly sin #4: Sloth

I’ve already done my riff on cookie dough, so I’ll spare you another soliloquy about its raw and unadulterated beauty. In fact, I thought it would be apropos –and in the name of sloth–  to just let this recipe stand alone (in case you were wondering: yes, it really is that good). However, I am a writer by training and opinionated by nature, so making a cutesy statement about laziness by being lazy just seems passively self-indulgent.

Speaking of self-indulgent, I think I’ve finally found the worst (read: BEST) reality television show ever conceived of by any pseudo-creative individual looking to profit from the agony and humiliation of others. Do any of you remember the MTV classic, Jackass? Well, it’s not that. But it is hosted by one of Jackass’s ballsy talents, one Sir Steve-o. I present to you truTV’s disasterpiece, Killer Karaoke:

Eat your heart out, American Idol.

Killer Karaoke centers around contestants singing songs of their choosing while navigating less than pleasant circumstances. Like a twisted game of sadism and masochism in which the only pleasure derived is that of the viewer, Killer Karaoke brilliantly exploits the stupidity of mankind, which is precisely why it’s so great.

There are no sob stories about overcoming adversity, there are no dream chasers, and there is clearly zero talent. There are no strangers looking to “get real,” nor are there any lonely bachelors looking for their Cinderellas. There’s no weight loss, no deserted island, and no Tyra Banks. Just the supposed superior species lookin’ for a little limelight.

The only way Killer Karaoke fails is by not remaining true to its name: there is no risk of death. Misnomer much?

I guess we will all be left to hope that Darwin’s theory of natural selection can work its magic once the cameras stop rolling.

In the meantime, couch potato up and gnaw on some of these.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Sandwich Cookies

ChocolateChipCookieDoughSandwichCookies

For the cookies:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup (one stick) salted butter, softened
1 (4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

For the cookie dough icing:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper

2. Sift together flour and baking soda in a medium mixing bowl

3. In an electric mixer, beat together brown sugar, sugar, butter, pudding mix, vanilla and almond extracts, and vegetable oil until thorough mixed

4. Add eggs to mixer and blend

5. Slowly beat in the flour mixture

6. Stir in chocolate chips by hand

7. Roll dough into one-inch balls and place about two inches apart on baking sheet

8. Bake for 9-11 minutes

9. While cookies are baking, prepare the cookie dough icing by beating together butter and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl with hand-held beater until light and fluffy

10. Slowly incorporate flour, powdered sugar, and salt on low speed

11. Add vanilla extract and heavy cream and continue beating until well-mixed

12. Stir in mini chocolate chips by hand

13. Allow cookies to cool on a wire rack

14. To assemble sandwiches, turn 1/2 of the cookies upside down, heap a large spoonful of icing onto cookies, and then top with remaining 1/2 of the cookies, pressing together lightly until icing spreads to the edges of the cookies

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Breckenridge, Colorado: A Foodie’s Brief Dining Guide

As evidenced by the mere creation of this blog, I am a foodie in every sense of the word. My happiness is largely dependent on the meals I eat (whoever said “money can’t buy happiness” never ate a gorgonzola-stuffed burger on a pretzel roll with a side of deep-fried pickles dipped in chipotle aioli, all washed down with a thick and frothy chocolate milkshake), and when I’m not gettin’ busy cooking and baking, I go out of my way to discover restaurants that elevate the experience of dining out. From establishments boasting Michelin stars to the dingiest of dives, I’ve found Heaven as it manifests on the prongs of a fork. Thus, as much as I love dirtying up my kitchen so I can write blog posts about tried-and-true recipes I’ve worked and reworked on my own, I have decided to give my food processor the day off and instead offer a fresh perspective on some of the fantastic places I’ve dined at recently.

In honor of all things snowy and adventuresome, today’s review features a brief dining guide to Breckenridge, Colorado.

Crêpes Á La Cart: The quintessential ski town cash cow

CrepesALaCart

As you make your way down Breckenridge’s slippery Main Street, the sweet aroma of fruit and sugary fried batter wafts through the air so profoundly that only a cartoon pie sitting on a window ledge could emit a scent trail more palpable. With its adorably self-aware name and intoxicating sensory presence, Crêpes Á La Cart leaves little to the imagination: delicious crêpes made fresh in an antiquated food cart. Simple. Delicious. Brilliant.

During my six-night stay in Breckenridge, not once did I not see a line outside this perfect little grub shack spanning from ordering window, down the steps, and out onto the sidewalk. Pull on your ski gear and brave the wait in the cold; it is worth every chilly, anxious moment.

Sporting an extensive menu of crêpes ranging from the sweet to the savory (and some decadent ice-cream pairings spattered in between), Crêpes Á La Cart makes the decision making process more difficult than America’s compromise to avoid the Fiscal Cliff.

After several painstaking minutes of mulling over the menu and beebopping between the Strawberry Shortcake and the Funky French Monkey, I settled on the Bananas Foster crêpe. How can you go wrong with bananas flambéed in rum, butter, brown sugar, and Chantilly cream all wrapped up in the best gift we’ve ever received from France (sorry, New York, but your Statue of Liberty is nothing more than a consolation prize and phallus)?

My sweet, banana-y treat.

This is the stuff that dreams are made of.

At about $7 – $10 a pop, these crêpes truly give you the bang for your buck. One bite and you’ll know what I mean.

Angel’s Hollow: The kitschy bar and restaurant

Angel'sHollow

Who knew you could find a Chicago bar nestled in the Rocky Mountains? I’m not even a Bears fan, but the little slice of home hanging on this store front instantly drew me to Angel’s Hollow. Also, I was desperately hungry and the barbecue joint across the street looked like a tummy-ache waiting to happen.

So I walked right on in.

Upon entering this sassy establishment, you’re met with a ceiling littered with string lights and Illinois sports teams paraphernalia. Yes, even a framed Mark Prior Cubs jersey. Funny signs and tchotchkes deck the walls, a fully stocked bar claims its space in the back, and tables and chairs are crammed into every remaining square inch of the place. This is NOT the place to go for a quiet and intimate meal, nor is it a destination for five-star service, so you need to either adjust your expectations or GTFO.

Equal parts biker dive and sports bar, what Angel’s Hollow lacks in poise and refinement it makes up for with really, really good food.

My friends and I ordered the nacho appetizer to share, which ended up being the standout of the evening. The heaping plate of food the bitchy waitress presented to us redefined the experience of nacho consumption for me, and it all began with the nacho foundation: the chips. The chips at Angel’s Hollow are homemade and served hot. They are something between a pita chip and a tortilla chip that has been dusted with a light and flavorful seasoning. When you top said chips with homemade guacamole and salsa, high quality cheese, black beans, and crisp veggies, you end up with something so far beyond average nachos.

A condiment holster on the table gives you five unique hot sauce options: banana, blueberry, green, peach, and barbecue. Oh yeah, and they’re all made in house, so man up and squeeze some onto your nachos for deeper flavor complexity.

I ordered the blackened catfish as my entrée, and it did not disappoint; my only complaint is that there was waaay too much food on the plate and I couldn’t finish it all. Serving sizes on the whole at Angel’s Hollow are massive, so expect to doggy-bag part of your meal. Or not, if you’re up for Man vs. Food portions.

Le Petit Paris: The cozy date night destination

LePetiteParis

As its name suggests, Le Petit Paris truly makes you feel as though you’re dining at a quaint Parisian bistrot that pays homage in every way possible to France, its culture, and its history. The ambiance and the people are inviting while still upholding a sense of formality.

You are greeted at the door by a gentleman who takes your coats and guides you and your date to your crisp linen-covered table– this table will become an altar of worship for the next two hours as plate after plate of gastronomic perfection is set before you.

A knowledgable waitress tends to you promptly, explaining in detail the fine drink selections offered. She may linger encouragingly on the French Martini– I urge you to take the bait and order it. With raspberry vodka, Chambord, and pineapple juice, it makes for a lovely drink (though perhaps a bit strong if you’re a pansy like me).

The menu is a history book/list of offerings hybrid, featuring famous French faces and places alongside menu items as if to suggest, “Molten chocolate cake so good, even Marie Antoinette would eat it.” The menu also dons a small note requesting that cellphones not be used while dining at the restaurant. IT’S ABOUT DAMN TIME. Call me old-fashioned, but I find it extremely rude and obnoxious when people have their cellphones out at the dinner table. I was raised to enjoy the food and company you keep during a meal; to aimlessly scroll through Facebook while dining with others is inexcusable… but I digress.

I tend to judge restaurants based in part on the bread that they serve. Le Petit Paris serves EXQUISITE French bread: crusty and flaky exterior, warm and soft inside, paired with lightly seasoned sweet butter. You had me at “bonjour.”

After yet another lengthy deliberation process, I chose to start with the goat cheese salad. The salad was served with two crostini slathered in green and black olive tapenades and another with goat cheese; I all but licked the plate clean, and the same can be said for my boyfriend’s French onion soup bowl.

For my main course, I selected the pan-seared trout, which included roasted tomatoes, almond beurre blanc, lemon garlic aioli, and a bed of lemon risotto. The fish was cooked perfectly through and the risotto was at once rich and refreshing. 2 for 2 in the Clean Plate Club.

My meal concluded with the molten chocolate cake. Garnished with sweet berries and side of creme Anglaise to drizzle over it, this cake makes even the poorest of peasants feel like a queen. Suffice it to say, this is the last thing I want to taste before I die. If I was from Paris, I would say “ooh-la-la.

The restaurant is run by two sisters from Paris, one of whom is a pastry chef by training and makes all the desserts on the menu. The other sister works the floor, making polite conversation with patrons. These women are so sweet and talented, and have managed to build one of the best eateries I have EVER been to.

…and a few other hotspots worthy of mention.

Blue Moose Cafe: For a good ol’ greasy breakfast

Empire Burger: Order the BLT. For $7.00, you get half a pound of bacon on Texas toast

Breckenridge Brewery & Pub: Pulled pork sandwich. Burgers. Hell, it’s all good

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German Chocolate Cake, Key Lime, Coconut: The Truffle Trifecta

Deadly sin #3: Gluttony

It’s funny that gluttony has long been considered a sin, and yet, today’s America is all but founded upon it. Nothing exposes this so poignantly as the holiday season. On Thanksgiving, the mythical tryptophan content of turkey gets scapegoated as the cause of your ensuing lethargy, but really, it’s the three pounds of mashed potatoes and a slab of pumpkin cheesecake that did you in, you lard-ass. On Christmas Eve, the cookies left out for Santa end up in Mommy and Daddy’s digestive tract because Santa’s lard-ass is too big to squeeze down the chimney to collect his earnings. On New Year’s Eve, you guzzle booze like a soccer mom SUV guzzles gas until you have champagne supernovas in your eyes. We might as well strap on our flame-retardant ballet slippers and dance our sugar-plum fairy dance straight on down to Hell.

This year's Christmas Eve dessert spread at the Lindman household.

This year’s Christmas Eve dessert spread at the Lindman household. Because we NEED a carrot cake, a spice cake, Funfetti cake batter truffles, AND assorted Christmas cookies.

The human capacity to get our eat on all began with our favorite original sinners… you know… that wildly popular couple who donned strategically placed leaves and nothing else. Back in the day, leaves weren’t slapped on to give the impression of modesty; their sole purpose was actually to shield Mr. Adam and Ms. Eve from rogue splashes of bacon grease, because in paradise, bacon grows from the earth as sizzling topiaries of goodness. And since they were also the original hipsters– sinning before sinning was cool and all– they could eat as much bacon as they damn well pleased without ever fearing judgment day.

...instead of leaves, it is now permissible to wear this apron while makin' the bacon. Best Christmas present ever.

…instead of leaves, it is now permissible to wear this apron while makin’ the bacon. Best Christmas present ever.

What I fail to understand is, since Adam and Eve so obviously pigged out on said bacon topiaries (and chocolate rivers and sugar ‘shrooms and peppermint tulips and marshmallow snow) during their stay in the oh-so-luxe Garden of Eden, why is it that one plump little apple sealed their fate?

AN APPLE.  Coat that apple in salted caramel and crushed pralines– or better yet, APPLEwood smoked bacon– and then maaaybe we will have found something worth dying for. If anyone’s up for amending the Bible to include an allegorical forbidden bacon slice instead of a forbidden fruit, I think the Christian faith might be able to convert a few more followers. Eat [bacon], pray [for bacon], love [bacon]. Confess your sins, wash bacon grease away, and repeat.

For those of you who are already believers, find something truly worth dying for in the trio of recipes below. Word on the street is, Hell is the new Heaven. Eat up.

DISCLAIMER: Sorry, no actual bacon today.

German Chocolate Cake Truffles

GermanChocolateCakeTruffle

1 box Duncan Hines German Chocolate Cake mix (plus 3 large eggs and 1/2 cup vegetable oil)
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup light brown sugar
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup (1 stick butter)
1 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups flaked sweetened coconut
Melting chocolates
Chopped pecans to garnish

GermanChocolateCakeTruffles

1. Bake cake according to directions on cake mix box

2. In a large saucepan combine evaporated milk, brown sugar, egg yolks, butter and vanilla. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thick. Remove from heat and stir in pecans and coconut. Let cool to room temperature

3. Once cake has been removed from oven, allow to cool slightly and then break cake up into crumbs using a fork

4. Pour cake crumbs into a large bowl and mix in about half of the frosting mixture

5. Once cake and frosting is thoroughly mixed, roll “dough” into balls using the palms of your hands. Place dough balls on a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper

6. Allow dough balls to chill in the freezer for 30 minutes

7. Melt melting chocolates in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between each until fully melted.

8. Using a fork, dip dough balls in the chocolate until fully coated, tap the bottom of the fork against the bowl to remove excess chocolate. Garnish with pecan crumbs while chocolate is still wet

9. Allow truffles to dry, then store in an air-tight container until ready to serve

Key Lime Truffles

KeyLimeTruffles

1/2 box Golden Oreos
4 ounces (half block) cream cheese
2 teaspoons Key Lime juice (add more for extra tartness)
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons milk (add more to get desired consistency)
4 blocks vanilla flavored almond bark
3 drops lime green food coloring
Graham cracker crumbs to garnish

KeyLimeTruffles

1. Beat cream cheese until smooth in an electric mixer

2. Add Oreo’s and mix until blended

3. In a separate bowl, beat powdered sugar, milk, and food coloring and set aside

4. Roll truffle dough into 1-inch balls, place on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, and allow to chill in freezer for half an hour

5. Place almond bark in a microwave-safe bowl and melt in a microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring between each until fully melted

6. Using a fork, dip dough balls in the almond bark until fully coated, tap the bottom of the fork against the bowl to remove excess coating

7. Using a small spoon, drizzle the green icing over each truffle. Garnish with graham cracker crumbs while the icing is still wet

Coconut Cookie Dough Truffles

CoconutTruffles

2 cups Nilla wafers
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup sweetened coconut milk
1 teaspoon coconut extract
3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 blocks vanilla flavored almond bark
Flaked coconut for garnish

CoconutTruffles

1. Pulverize Nilla wafers, sugar, and walnuts in a food processor

2. Pour crumb mixture into a medium-sized mixing bowl

3. Add melted butter, coconut milk, coconut extract, coconut flakes, salt and flour and mix thoroughly

4. Using your hands, roll the dough into 1-inch balls and place on cookie sheet covered in parchment paper

5. Stick dough balls in the freezer for 20 minutes to harden

6. Melt almond bark in microwave-safe bowl in 30 second intervals until melted

7. Use a fork to dip chilled truffles into the almond bark. Shake off excess coating by tapping the bottom of the fork on the side of your bowl. Garnish with flaked coconut while the coating is still wet

*NOTE: I recommend storing truffles in an air-tight container in the refrigerator or freezer until right before serving. They tend to get a little mushy when left out at room temperature for an extended period of time.

Happy holidays!

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Carrot Cake Sandwich Cookies

Sin #2: Pride

Pride parades. Hubris. National pride. Pride and Prejudice. Spirit Week. Fight songs (the only one that matters) and national anthems. Election campaigns. Saving face. Advertising. Publicity stunts. Shameless self-promotion. The 4th of July. Facebook.

Pride seems to permeate every facet of modern society, settling deep into the nooks and crannies and slowly expanding out until it it wraps its fingers tightly around young people with newly developed Freudian egos.

As toxic as pride can be, so too is the diminishment of pride. There is no clearer example of this than the overwhelming collective response of women everywhere to the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. If you need proof, scroll through your Facebook newsfeed and start counting the statuses with melodramatic proclamations of “never eating again” or “working out ’til I pass out ❤ VS Fashion Show” littering cyberspace during and immediately following the airing of the show.

An hour slot on prime time television devoted to showcasing avant garde lingerie so kitschy and awkward that only models could pull it off seems harmless enough– particularly with its finely tuned appeal to both male and female audiences. However, the messages girls and women come away with can be pretty destructive.

vsclown

Yes. It’s a Victoria’s Secret clown. Because nothing says “happy anniversary” to your honey like dressing up like a skanky clown.

Thin. Thinner. Thinnest. Starve and carve until you’re cut like a diamond. Diet. Detox. Purge (but don’t you dare think of bingeing). Hair extensions. Make-up. Jutting hip bones. Light as a feather. Let your body desiccate. Working out hours a day, every day. Counting calories until your world looks like this:

BeautifulMind

He has a beautiful mind. If you cut enough calories, you will have a beautiful body.

It’s a tale as old as the new millennium. It probably even dips back into the nineties.

I’m not here to stand on my perfectly poised I’m-a-recovering-anorexic soapbox, nor am I harkening back to my all-girls-boarding-school-feminist/liberal education. Nope. I’m just here to offer a different perspective.

The backlash the VS Fashion Show typically receives  touts messages along the lines of “thin is sickly,” “curves are so much more beautiful than stick figures,” and “the models need to go eat a cheeseburger.” These statements are offensive. But mostly, they perpetuate the sad dichotomous thinking that thin is either “perfect” or “anorexic.”

There are beautiful women of all shapes and sizes. Some women are naturally skinny, and to condemn them is just as damaging as it is to condemn a woman with a full figure. The point is to embrace what ya’ mama gave ya’. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, get enough exercise to get an endorphin rush (because getting high off drugs is bad, kids, so get it the natural way), indulge when you won’t feel too guilty, don’t get caught up in trivial numbers like dress size and body mass index, and just LOVE YOURSELF. From what I’ve heard, it’s easy for a man to love you if you love yourself.

Perhaps it is some sort of social construct that has caused girls and women to derive the messages that they do from the VS Fashion Show. Or perhaps it is the fashion show itself that glamorizes extreme dieting while simultaneously suggesting that the sexiest of women have bodies that mirror those of the Angels. I really don’t know who or what is at fault, and I don’t really care.

All I want to do is take the motto, “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” and strike a line through it. What a load of donkey doo. If these are “inspirational words” you try (in vain) to live by, well, I dare you to bake these cookies and reassess.

Carrot Cake Sandwich Cookies

CarrotCakeSandwichCookies

For the cookies:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cup grated carrots – about 3 large carrots

For the filling:

2 sticks butter, softened
12 oz cream cheese (1 1/2 blocks), softened
8 cups confectioners sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Carrot Cake Sandwich Cookies

1. In a mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy

2. Add eggs and vanilla and beat on medium until fully incorporated

3. In a medium-sized bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger with a wooden spoon

4. Gradually add bowl of dry ingredients to butter mixture, mixing on low until just combined

5. Mix in oats and carrots until fully incorporated.

7. Chill dough for four hours or overnight

8. Grease two baking sheets and preheat oven to 350 degrees F

9. Using your hands, roll dough into balls with a ~1 inch circumference and place on baking sheets (leave about two inches of space in between each– cookies will expand in the oven!)

10. Bake for 11-13 minutes

11. Transfer to a wire rack to cool

12. Combine butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and powdered sugar in a large bowl and beat with a hand mixer until fluffy

13. Spoon icing into a piping bag and pipe onto the bottom of a cookie, place another cooking on top to create a sandwich. Repeat with remaining cookies!

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Sugar Cookie Dough Truffles

Deadly Sin #1: Lust

Typically, lust is portrayed as an adulterous, carnal desire. Sometimes the desired thing comes to fruition and sometimes it remains locked in its Pandora’s box, leaving the coveter to pine for it for a lifetime. Once that desired thing is obtained, the beholder eventually becomes disillusioned and so moves on to a new object of lust. It is cyclical and only ever temporarily fulfilling.

From the perspective of a self-proclaimed foodie, lust is that feeling you get when walking along Halsted in Chicago, lingering for a moment outside Alinea— one of the most acclaimed eateries on planet Earth. Supposedly, Alinea takes its guests on an epic  gastronomic adventure, teasing and tantalizing each and every tastebud on the tongue. Each of the upwards of twenty courses is, according to reviews, a masterpiece in both flavor and presentation, and elevates the experience of fine dining to something almost ethereal. At $210.oo a person, it had better be downright epiphanic and life-changing. But that’s the thing… the expectations are so great that even if it does materialize into an incredible meal, that lust will slowly dissipate once the final empty dessert plate is whisked away.

Lust is also the beginning of the end of every fairy tale gone wrong. Why scamper into that awesomely delicious-looking gingerbread house when you know a wicked witch is going to cook you in her La Cornue oven? If you had half a brain, you’d take your breadcrumbs and make blueberry bread pudding and save your ill-fated adventure for another time… or, you know, never.

Instead of lusting after what you don’t have, start loving the thing that’s yours to keep: this recipe, and the ensuing fruits of your labor.

Sugar Cookie Dough Truffles

For the truffles:

2 cups Nilla wafers
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (available at Williams Sonoma (use vanilla extract if you’re cheaping out))
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
8 ounces vanilla flavored almond bark, melted

For the coating: 

8 ounces white almond bark
Tie dye sprinkles

1. Pulverize Nilla wafers, sugar, and walnuts in a food processor

2. Pour crumb mixture into a medium-sized mixing bowl

3. Add melted butter, almond milk, vanilla bean paste, salt and flour and mix thoroughly

4. Using your hands, roll the dough into 1-inch balls and place on cookie sheet covered in parchment paper

5. Stick dough balls in the freezer for 20 minutes to harden

6. Melt almond bark in microwave-safe bowl in 30 second intervals until melted

7. Use a fork to dip chilled truffles into the almond bark. Shake off excess coating by tapping the bottom of the fork on the side of your bowl. This process is a little tricky at first, but as you get going, you’ll get into a groove and your truffles will start looking more uniform.

8. Place truffles back on cookie sheet, shake sprinkles over them immediately before the coating hardens, and place back in the refrigerator for an another 15 minutes. Once truffles have hardened, place them in an airtight container and store them in the refrigerator until serving.

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