Friday, May 30, 2008

Chocolate & cream cheese pie, with secret ingredients...

I was really curious to try this recipe for heavenly pie from 101 Cookbooks. The recipe came from a 1970s hippie manual on living off the land. It looked so delicious on the website, and I was intrigued by the secret ingredient: silken tofu. And graham cracker crusts are my favorite. So I made it, and it was good. The filling is kind of like a combination of chocolate mousse and chocolate cheesecake, and I'm convinced the secret ingredient remains well-hidden. It definitely needs to be fully chilled to be at its best, but it slices nicely-- I just need to get better about figuring out how high to make my pie crusts so the filling comes just to the top. I've renamed it here, since "heavenly pie" sounds a little too ecstatic for me.

Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake

2 cups crushed graham crackers
1/3 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons honey

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
8 ounces organic silken tofu
1 large egg
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla

Sweetened Greek yogurt or whipped cream for topping

Combine the cracker crumbs, butter, and honey in a food processor. Press into a 9-inch pie pan.

In either a mixer or a food processor, blend together the cream cheese, tofu, egg, chocolate, and vanilla. Scrape down the sides once or twice. Blend until smooth, looking out for any renegade cream cheese lumps.

Spoon the filling into the pie pan and bake at 350F degrees for about 30 minutes, no longer or surface starts to crack. CHILL COMPLETELY BEFORE SERVING. Serve with a dollop of sweetened yogurt or whipped cream (if desired).

I don't know if it would work with lowfat cream cheese, since that sometimes refuses to solidify in pies. I like the semi-sweet chocolate chips here-- they add just the right bite to it, whereas dark chocolate might be too bitter, while milk chocolate might be insipid.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Flavor tripping

A berry that makes sour taste sweet... sending your taste buds on an LSD trip for an hour or so.
is fascinating.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cookbook Review - Deceptively Delicious

Okay, so this isn't the latest in slow food or Spanish nouvelle cuisine... but when I found Jessica Seinfeld's Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to get your Kids Eating Good Food on sale at (c)Ross Dress-for-Less, I decided to get it. I was intrigued by the concept (vegetable purees artfully concealed in typical "kids' food" like brownies or spaghetti), and I saw it as a possible way to sneak more vegetables into my own diet as well as preparing for future arrivals (in whom pickiness will not be tolerated, but we'll see). A disclaimer: aside from PB&J sandwiches at lunch, my mother never fed me typical American kids' food, but I discovered it in high school when I first tried macaroni & cheese, and I've had a weakness for it ever since.

The basic concept behind this cookbook is that you make a bunch of purees out of steamed & roasted vegetables, store them in snack-size plastic baggies in the freezer, and whenever you need to add something to your food, you defrost in a bowl of water for 30 minutes or so. Then you follow the recipes, which range from souffles, muffins, and french toast for mornings, meatloaf, mozzarella sticks, spaghetti, burgers, and quesadillas for daytime fare, and brownies and cookies (made with garbanzo beans!) for dessert. I bought butternut squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower to make purees, and those were relatively easy to do, so now my freezer is stocked. Then I tried some of the recipes.

In the "would make again" category: French toast (with sweet potato), macaroni & cheese (again w/butternut squash), chicken nuggets (a maybe), turkey chili, creamy potato soup. In the "disgusting disaster" category, spaghetti pie and oatmeal. To start with the spaghetti pie: the cookbook shows a picture of a cheesy, crunchy baked spaghetti topped with broccoli-infused meatballs. To be sure, the broccoli was subtle enough that you couldn't really taste it, but I was suspicious when I saw the recipe did not ask you to saute the meatballs before simply placing them, raw, on top of the spaghetti pie. I was also suspicious of two cups of tomato sauce for only three ounces of spaghetti. Even though I was using 93% lean ground beef, grease was still floating over everything, the noodles drowned in the tomato sauce, and despite my attempts to bail out the poor drowning meatballs by scooping out excess liquid, the dish never achieved its desired consistency. The morning oatmeal with sweet potato, milk and brown sugar was also a little too rich for breakfast, though I love oatmeal in general.

The real standouts so far have been the macaroni and cheese and the turkey chili. Who knew that butternut squash could add such a mellow, creamy sweetness to mac-and-cheese. Turkey chili was pretty decent too, especially with my new favorite recipe for sweet cornbread (below), which is almost like a decadent cake. Depicted here (or will be depicted here, as soon as Blogger uploads my photo) are the chicken nuggets with the aforementioned mac-and-cheese, and while in the chicken nuggets, the proportion of puree is WAY too high (you'll have more than you need to dip them in, and they'll turn out slightly soggy), the mac-and-cheese is perfect.

What I learned more than anything is that I can just throw vegetable purees into a number of the recipes I make regularly anyway, and that I may not need follow a special cookbook to do so.. all you do is steam or roast the vegetables, throw them in the blender or food processor, then store them in 1/2 cup size portions.

Macaroni & Cheese 1 (adapted slightly from Deceptively Delicious)

1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
1 T olive oil
1 T flour
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 c. butternut squash OR cauliflower puree
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (my favorite addition to everything)
1/8 tsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. pepper

Boil macaroni until al dente. Drain. Meanwhile, heat oil in large saucepan, add flour, and cook until you have a thick paste but mixture has not yet browned. Add milk slowly and cook until thick, 3-4 minutes. Add vegetable puree, cheeses, and seasonings, stir until cheese melts and sauce is smooth. Mix with macaroni and serve warm.

And this cornbread recipe, which I found on, is out of this world if you like sweet, dense, cake-like cornbread:


1 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup yellow corn meal
1 Tblsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease an 8" square baking dish.

Combine flour, sugar, corn meal, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Combine milk, eggs, vegetable oil and butter in small bowl; mix well. Add to flour mixture; stir just until blended. Pour batter into greased 8-inch-square baking pan. Bake for 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. If you want muffins, bake for 18-20 minutes.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

chocolate pudding

This is a good, low-fat recipe for chocolate pudding, originally from Cooking Light. I've experimented with different types of chocolate, and you can't go wrong, whether you prefer semi-sweet, bittersweet, or milk chocolate. I actually like to eat the pudding when it's still hot, but technically you're suposed to refrigerate it:

Chocolate Pudding

2 1/2 cups fat-free milk
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

Bring 2 cups of the milk to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat. In a large mixing bowl, mix sugar with cornstarch and salt. Separately, combine remaining 1/2 cup milk with egg yolks, mixing well. Add egg yolk mixture to sugar mixture, stirring with a whisk. Slowly add half of the hot milk to the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly (you do this so the eggs don't curdle). Return everything to saucepan, bring to a boil, then simmer one minute, stirring, until thick. Add butter, vanilla, and chocolate, mixing until melted.

Spoon pudding into a bowl. Place bowl in a large ice-filled bowl for 15 minutes or until pudding is cool, stirring occasionally. Or eat it while it's hot, then cover remainder and chill.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

split pea soup

Probably most of us need to eat more vegetables. I can always manage to incorporate one or two in a day, and I can do vegetarian entrees, but I often find myself lacking imagination with side dishes or easy main courses. Usually I don't beat myself up about it, but there's a baby on the way so I've been trying to eat better. (I'm also feeling the urgency to catalog all the recipes I make on a regular basis so I will have easy dinner ideas to turn to once my life turns upside down). On a lazy Saturday when I might otherwise succumb to the urge to just make cheese quesadillas for lunch, I've been making the split pea soup recipe from 101 cookbooks. These are the quantities I use for two people, especially since it's so easy you can make it again sometime, and you may not feel like eating leftovers later...

Split Pea Soup

1 onion, chopped
dash olive oil
1 cup green split peas, rinsed
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vegetable boullion (I use Better Than Boullion)
2 1/2 cups water
dash cumin or smoked paprika
lemon juice (optional)

Saute onion in olive oil until translucent. Add split peas, boullion, salt, and 2 1/2 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, at least 20 minutes, until peas are tender. Mash with potato masher, add a dash of your favorite spice and a squeeze of lemon juice at the end. Serves 2.