Earl-Grey Infused Chocolate Chip Almond Cookies

I know. The name's a mouthful. A yummy mouthful.
Sorry the pictures are a bit awful. I swear the cookies aren't.
My baking girl in cahoots, Nina, helped me make these cookies for the Food Blogger Great Cookie Swap 2012.
Let me start at the beginning. The cookie swap is this genius idea hosted by Love & Olive Oil and Little Kitchen that goes like this: there are a ton of people who love to bake and who do it pretty well. These people love to eat and they love to feed others. How about we start a swap where once a year we connect these people and they can send each other cookies? In boxes? Using the postal service! (Well, at least that's how I imagine the idea came about. I dunno.) It makes a lot of sense, and even more once you start receiving cookies from across the country and they are so. Good. Because we bloggers want to impress each other so we go all out. Everyone sends one dozen cookies each to three people, and in return receives a dozen each from three different people. I got pumpkin-filled gingersnaps, double chocolate cherry, and chai-spiced gingerbread men. So. Happy.
I've been looking forward to doing this swap since last year, when I found out about it after the recipes from the 2011 swap were posted and I wished I had known about it a month before so I could participate. When I was finally sent my matches this year, I began to think: what cookie could I really knock 'em out with? Then I began to think about Rubyzaar. In New York City, we love a good flea market. Even more than a flea market, we love us a bazaar. Sounds like some exotic, very limited-edition, one-of-a-kind, locally sourced goodness. Where am I going here? The Union Square Holiday Market.
Once a year, UrbanSpace sets up red and white tents all over the until-recently-occupied-by-Occupiers space we all go to on Friday night. By we, I mean every nyc-public-high-schooler, and then some. I often take out-of-towners my age here, because it has so many amusements and it is so nearby many other cool neighborhoods: St. Mark's Place and the Lower East Side, Soho, Bryant Park (ice-skating in the winter!). Acually, Bryant park isn't so nearby. But it isn't too far away either. Nor is Chinatown, or the Theater and Fashion Districts. Each neighborhood leads to the next, and if you're with me, then you end up walking a lot before you know it, because there's this little place that sells only pudding ten blocks over, and just a couple blocks more, and we can go to this tiny spot that sells only belgian fries and, like, 50 dipping sauces! Oh, and there's that awesome dumpling place a couple avenues up! I like to think that all that walking burns off the food, but we all know it's a lie. 
But I digress. So, for about a month in early winter, the Holiday Market sets up in union square and is filled with people selling scarves, puppets, hot chocolate, and these weird hand warmer pads that turn soft and warm from this electromagnetic shock thing. Actually pretty cool. And among the vendors are tucked many food places, the ins and outs of which I know quite intimately at this point. Every year, I wait for Rubyzaar. Rubyzaar is a clothing store actually, but once a year for the holiday market, they rent a big kitchen space and become Rubyzaar baked, and make really, really amazing cookies. Not only are they great and exotic (they reflect the different places Rubyzaar designers have been for their clothes) but they are rendered extra-special because they are only available once a year. But here's my sneaky bit: I found their menu online. And from those delicious descriptions, I figured I could make the cookies myself. So for the Cookie Swap, that's where I turned.

See in the middle, the ones called Kashmir? Like the Led Zep song? My favorite. Rubyzaar describes them as "smoked almonds, earl grey, + dark chocolate". I decided these would be The Chosen Ones. So how to get the earl grey flavor in? I've done some experimenting before (chai flavor abounds on this blog) but never gotten truly satisfactory results. Then I remembered a very intriguing post on the Cupcake Project about using butter to infuse tea flavor into baked goods. Bingo.
The rest was simple. Using a chocolate chip cookie recipe that called for melted butter, to a floury bowl poured some incredibly fragrant earl-grey golden liquid, some chopped almonds, and some dark chocolate, mixed, and baked. They were very, very good. We made them in Nina's house, and her parents were nearly dying because they couldn't eat the cookies. Luckily, we made enough that once we packaged and sent off three dozen, there was still a dozen and a half for my family and the same amount for her. My father was not as much a fan. "They're a little... weird," he said, "like really nice scented soap." Whatever. If you don't like bergamot, they're not for you. I ate a lot of them.
Lastly, we put a bit of New York touch into the packaging that I'm proud of. We went down the street, stopped into the nearest Chinese takeout place, and acquired three takeout boxes. We stuffed the cookies into these and then cushioned the boxes with crumpled New York Times business section. I hope my bloggers in Texas and Kansas appreciated that bit!
Oh, and a last note? You have a lot of leftover butter soaked tea leaves when you finish this recipe. Let them dry overnight, then crumble them with granulated sugar and you have earl-grey sugar. I'm not too sure what to do with it, but it sure looks fancy! Probably a good thing to put in a jar, tie with a bow, and give as a holiday gift.

Earl-Grey Infused Chocolate Chip Almond Cookies
inspired by Rubyzaar Kashmir Cookies. recipe adapted from AllRecipes and The Cupcake Project.
makes 2 dozen medium sized cookies.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter
10 earl grey tea teabags, or 10 tsps loose tea
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup turbinado or white sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups dark chocolate chips
3/4 cup roughly chopped unsalted almonds (smoked would be awesome!)

Preheat the oven to 325 ºF (165 ºC). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
Mix together flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.
If tea is in teabags, remove it so that it is loose. In a small saucepan, melt the butter until just liquid, then add the tea leaves. Heat on low for about 5 minutes, or until butter darkens and there is a buttery tea smell pervading the kitchen. Remove from heat and let sit for at least 5 minutes, then strain through fine mesh. Don't worry if a couple tea pieces slip through. You will now have less butter than what you started with. Depending on how much less, you may want to add some milk to the dough later.
In a medium bowl, stir the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until all is liquid. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until mixture lightens. Mix in the dry ingredients until just blended. At this point, of the dough is too dry and won't come together, add a couple tablespoons of milk. Stir in the chocolate chips and almonds. 
Drop cookie dough onto the prepared cookie sheets. They don't spread much so if you'd like them flatter rather than mounded, press each cookie gently down. 
Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until firm but not brittle. Can be stored in an airtight container for up to one week.

 Bonus picture! Here's a bad one of me, packing everything up with my signature silver duct tape. Because I know you're curious :)


Vegetable Jap Chae

Whoever doesn't know about this dish is a poor fellow indeed. Jap Chae is what you order at a Korean place if you can't stand chili oil or don't eat meat. It full of veggies, its slithery and crunchy and multiflavored.

 In my house, we eat a whole lot of pasta. Sometimes its nice to switch things up. And you know what's fun? Glass noodles. They're most often made from sweet potato starch, and can be purchased at any asian market. When you cook them, they turn translucent and slippery. Perfect for chasing after with your chopsticks.

Vegetable Jap Chae
adapted from nytimes-The Temporary Vegetarian
serves 4-6. time about 1 hour

note: this can easily be increased or reduced. Just follow a rough proportionality of ingredients. Similarly, you can add or substitute whatever vegetables you like. Wanna add those odd baby corn things? Go ahead. Onions? Sure. Snow peas? Yum.

8 oz Korean dried sweet potato noodles
2 tbps sesame oil
4 tbsps soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
4 tbsps peanut oil
4 Napa or other cabbage leaves, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, julienned
1 clove garlic, minced
6 scallions, white and light green parts only, trimmed and cut into 2-inch coins
8 fresh shiitake (or dried shiitake mushrooms that have been soaked 1-2 hours), stemmed and thinly sliced
1/2 cup spinach leaves and stems, washed well, drained, and squeezed dry
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Break noodles in half if you can, add, and cook until chewy, about 5 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Transfer to a bowl, add 1 tablespoon sesame oil, mix well, and set aside.
In a small bowl, combine soy sauce and sugar. Mix well, and set aside.
Place a wok or large sauté pan over high heat, add peanut oil, and swirl to coat the entire wok or pan. When the oil is shimmering, add the cabbage and carrot and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, 1 to 3 minutes. Add garlic, scallions, and mushrooms. Fry until scallions begin to soften, about 1 minute. Add spinach, soy sauce-sugar mixture, noodles, and black pepper.
Cook until noodles are heated through, stirring vigorously, about 3 minutes. Turn off heat, and add sesame seeds and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of sesame oil. Mix well.


Super Cookie Dough Cupcakes

What makes them so super, you will surely ask? Well. You have a dozen brown butter cupcakes, see? Like pumped up vanilla cupcakes: nuttier, buttery, comforting. Then, you cut a hole in the top of each one.
 Put a dollop of cookie dough on top (egg-free!).
 And then slather some cookie dough frosting all over that thang.
Don't forget the chocolate chip on top. I'd take that over a maraschino cherry any day.

Super Cookie Dough Cupcakes
1 dozen
adapted from the cupcake project

Brown Butter Cupcakes

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsps milk

Preheat oven to 400 F.
First, make the browned butter. Place butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly until it turns a dark golden color, 3-5 minutes.
Take the pan off the heat and strain into a bowl (to separate from the burned bits).
Let the butter sit until it solidifies, but is still a little soft. (This can take 30 mins room temp; if in a hurry, put it in the fridge for 10 mins).
When ready, beat with sugar. In a separate bowl (I do this directly in the measuring cup), mix flour and baking powder. Add eggs and vanilla extract to the butter-sugar mixture, then mix in the flour. Finally, add milk. If too dry, add a tablespoon or so more of milk.
Fill twelve cupcake liners and bake for 15-20 minutes, until a knife or toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cookie Dough (for frosting and filling)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted (or substitute canola oil for part or all)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsps milk

Mix everything together.

To Assemble:
Cut a small cone out of the top of each cupcake, but inserting a knife and carving a circle out without moving the tip. These little pieces I suggest you eat to keep up your stamina in the coming back-breaking task (not!).

In each cavity, put a small ball of cookie dough, so that 1/4 of the dome rises above the surface of the cupcake.

For the frosting, thin one cup of the remaining cookie dough with 1/2 cup of cream (milk will do as well). Spread around cupcakes, leaving cookie ball uncovered in the middle.

Top with a chocolate chip and serve.


Walnut-Miso Green Beans

 These are so, so addicting. And vegan! They have the perfect umami flavor, and could be compared to a somewhat parmesan cheese taste.
 They're very simple. Just blanch until the green beans turn a bright green and are still crunchy, make the sauce in a food processor, and douse.
I can eat a pound of green beans like this. They're good warm or chilled. I like to make a lot of sauce so that there are chunks hanging off the beans. If you want it smoother, process more. Ya know.

Walnut-Miso Green Beans
serves 4. under 20 mins
adapted from my idol Mark Bittman 

note: I have a confession. It's easier and faster to microwave-steam these beans. I have been brought up being taught that microwaves are scary and one should never put plastic in it and that it is solely for reheating. But this takes all of two minutes, which is such a plus that I often ignore my upbringing and push the start button. So you can blanch (quite easily), or you can put these in a microwave-safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap, add a sprinkling of water, and microwave for 1-3 minutes, until bright green. Let sit covered for a couple more minutes after removing from the microwave.

note note: the quantities can quite easily be tinkered with. If you have more or less green beans, just add or subtract a couple tablespoons of each ingredient, and/or add only as much as you need to the beans.

10 ounces (1.5-2 cups) green beans, ends snipped
2 tsps fresh grated ginger
2 tbsps light (yellow/white) miso
1/2 cup shelled walnuts
1/2 tsp soy sauce

Bring pot of water to a boil and blanch beans until they are bright green and just tender, about 5 minutes, or use microwave method (elaborated above). Drain and rinse with cold water. Place in a serving bowl.

In a food processor, combine ginger, miso, and soy sauce and pulse for less than 10 seconds. At this point, add some water, starting with 1-2 tbsps, until you reach your desired thickness. Pulse more if you want it smoother.
Toss beans in sauce, and serve.


Chocolate Marzipan Cake

I intended this cake to be a seduction cake. There might have been a boy and it might have been his birthday and I might have tried to woo him with dark chocolate and almond paste.
Unfortunately, the day I brought him the cake, he was home sick. The next day, I fell sick. By wednesday, the cake was a little stale and I couldn't find him anywhere. My friends and I ate the seduction cake without him.
And, actually, now, he's got a girlfriend, who comically coincidentally has the feminized version of his name. We can forget them. They don't matter, in the grand scheme of things.
What matters is this cake. Two layers of dark chocolate, with thin sheets of marzipan sandwiched between them and ganache layered on top.
Yeah. So good.
And I was a genius (if I do say so myself)! When I cut the cake to pack it into my rectangular tupperware (no longer--I have since bought a round cake container) I deftly left behind a sliver from the middle, so that my family could share in the deliciousness and no one would notice. I'm proud. Of my cunning. With the cutting.
 Chocolate Marzipan Cake
makes 2 medium rounds
cake recipe adapted from Mad Hungry (it's vegan!)

2 chocolate cakes
2 marzipan rounds
chocolate ganache

for cake
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
6 tbsps cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsps white vinegar
2 cups cold water

Heat oven to 350 F and grease two round medium cake pans (between 9-12" will get you various thicknesses). 
In a large bowl, add the first five ingredients (dry) and whisk together.
Create a well, and add the remaining four ingredients and mix until batter is smooth.
Fill pans and bake for 30-45 minutes, or until a knife inserted comes out clean.

for marzipan rounds
18 oz/500 g marzipan (about two foil-wrapped sausagey containers from the store)

Take half the marzipan and roll it out as circularly as you can manage and about an 1/8 of an inch thick. Place the cake pan onto the rolled out marzipan and cut a circle around it.

for ganache
2/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
3 tbsps butter
1 cup heavy cream

Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks.
Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler or microwave.
Add to whipped cream and mix thoroughly.

Cover the first cake layer with the first marzipan layer and trim the edges so it fits on top. Spread a layer of ganache over that. then stack the next cake. Repeat with the marzipan and ganache. Sprinkle with a little cocoa powder that's been mixed with powdered sugar to look artsy (but not pucker your mouth). Ganache will firm up in the fridge. Keeps for about 3 days.

Note: if (and you will) you have extra ganache, you can make truffles. Follow directions, though the end result will be lighter because you whipped the cream here. And with the extra marzipan? Eat it.


Beet Greens Tart

I really love tarts. I even more love galettes, Tart's rustic cousin (why haven't I posted a galette yet? This must be remedied). Another thing I love? Using up ingredients in the fridge. That's where the beet greens come in.
 Yes, you make some beets, maybe a risotto, maybe a slaw, I dunno. Then those greens sit there in the vegetable bin, limply whispering, make us. Please, don't let us wilt here. And you (me) think, Oh yes, I really do want to make you! But steaming them, or stir-frying them, is quite lovely with a bit of garlic and olive oil, but it gets old fast, huh? Especially when this is the routine most of the time, for chard greens, or kale, or collards, or, spinach, or turnip greens.
 Maybe it's just me. Maybe I eat a freakish amount of dark leafy greens (I do. Iron!). But anyhow, this recipe is perfect for doing something new, something delicious, something not just side-dish with your greens, limply whispering or otherwise.
You blend the greens into a lovely froth with some eggs, and milk, and broth, to make a custard type filling. Then all you have to do is pour it into the cornmeal crust, and pop in the oven. Makes for a mighty happy meal. Experiment with any greens you see fit to unearth from your vegetable drawer.

Beet Greens Tart
makes 1 medium tart
adapted from 101 Cookbooks

for Cornmeal Tart Shell
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup medium coarse corn meal
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick (8 tbsp) chilled unsalted butter, cut in cubes
1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup cold water

for Turnip Green Filling
1/4 lb. beet greens, or or any other green you want
2 cloves garlic
2 large eggs + 1 yolk
3/4 cup veg. broth
1/4 cup milk
scant 1/4 tsp salt
2 tsps Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsps herbs de Provence (mix of dried thyme, basil, rosemary, sage, fennel)
hard cheese (like gruyere) and crushed red pepper flakes, for topping (opt.)

Make tart dough. Combine flour, cornmeal, and salt in food processor. Pulse in butter, 20+ pulses, or until the mixture is pebbly. Add the egg yolk and water. Pulse, trickle in more water if needed, just until dough comes together. Turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap and gather into a ball. Press into a disk and chill n the fridge for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Place a rack in the middle of the oven. Tart pan can be between 9x9 or 8x11, or 9 inch round.

When you're ready to line the tart pans with dough, open the plastic wrap and roll out until the dough is large enough to line your tart pan, around 1/6-1/8 inch thick. Transfer the dough to the greased pan. Don't worry too much if you get a tear or hole, you can patch those up later with scraps. Work quickly to ease the dough into place, taking care not to stretch the dough. Press it along the bottom of the pan, out to the walls, and against the sides. Trim any excess dough.

Partially bake the tart shell before filling it: dock it with a fork, making small holes along the bottom of the shell. Bake for 25 minutes. You can fill it with pie weights to prevent bubbles, or just keep an eye on it and press any out if they come up. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

To make the filling: Chop the greens and garlic in a food processor. Add the eggs and yolk, pulse. Then the broth and milk. Lastly, incorporate the salt, mustard, and herbs. Fill the tart shell and sprinkle with a little cheese and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes for some zing. Bake for 30 minutes or so, or until the center is set, and has firmed up to the touch.


Key Lime Pie Cupcakes

 Yes, once more I have failed you in the picture taking department. I was really, really busy, you see. Busy doing what, you ask? Um. Eating all of these cupcakes. Except this one, which I was able to photograph, looking like not so much at all.
Listen. Trust me. It's not not so much at all. These cupcakes are a whole lot of something. Key limes and sweetened condensed milk make the cake pop with flavor and moist texture, and the graham cracker frosting simulates perfectly the pie crust. I--ugh, I could wax poetic, but I feel that it's in everyone's greater good to just go make it. 
I assume you can use a bottle already-squeezed key lime juice, which I might go so far as to recommend, because squeezing each baby little lime of its precious juice is a serious chore. Especially if you're me and you always have cuts all over fingers. 

Key Lime Pie Cupcakes
adapted from the Cupcake Project
makes 12-16 cupcakes

key-lime cake 

1 1/2 cups cake or all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup key lime juice

Preheat oven to 350 F and line a cupcake tin.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a medium-sized bowl, cream butter and sugar. Mix eggs into butter/sugar, one at a time.
Mix sweetened condensed milk and key lime juice into wet ingredients.
Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients until just combined.
Divide evenly and bake for 30 minutes or until cupcakes bounce back when touched lightly. 

graham-cracker frosting

3 tbsps unsalted butter, room temperature
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup finely crushed graham crackers

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy.
Mix in the powdered sugar a little bit at a time. Note: You can add more if you prefer a stiffer consistency. Mix in vanilla extract.
Fold in graham crackers.

Frost cupcakes.


Spaghetti with Vegan Alfredo Sauce and "Meat"balls

 Dammit these photos suck. My constant plight: do I make the food and then spend hours getting the right shot? Or do I eat it while it's still hot, in the company of friends, and bad lighting? Certainly for this meal I went with the latter.
I'm not vegan, but there is something I absolutely love about making something when you have restrictions. I had vegan friend for dinner, so I went all out. We made some kale salad, too, and had homemade peanut-butter cups for dessert (just buy vegan chocolate). The crowning glory was this pasta dish. The alfredo gains its creaminess largely from cashews, which are often substituted in place of dairy. The meatballs were fabulous. They benefited from putting a whole lot of flavors in. The great thing about vegan food is there's often a lot less cooking. The alfredo is raw: all you have to do is put everything in the blender! And the balls you just mix together, form, and bake. It was a really great meal. The one thing I would warn is don't go into this looking for the glory or taste of traditional, mother's alfredo or meatballs. It's a beast of its own accord.

Pasta with Vegan Alfredo Sauce and "Meat"balls
makes 4-6 servings
adapted from Vegan Yum Yum and My Vegan Cookbook

for meatballs
(note: sorry I haven't added in instructions for the lentil and brown rice! I'm a bit of a freak and I often have them leftover in my fridge and I'm too lazy to add cooking instructions right now. Neither should take too long though, especially if you use a pressure cooker.)

1/2 cup cooked lentils
1 cup cooked brown rice
1/4 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup wheat germ
2 tbsps soy sauce
2 tbsps olive oil
2 tsps lemon juice
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp chili powder (optional)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
2 tsps molasses
2 tsps dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 300 F.
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. If mixture isn't sticking enough, add a little water. 
Measure out 2 tablespoons of mixture for each meatball if you want them big, or 1 if you want them mini (like I did) and roll into a ball with your hands. 
Spray cooking sheet and place meatballs on it. Place into oven and cook 15 minutes on one side and roll over and cook 15 minutes on the other side. 
After they are out of the oven, let stand for about 10 minutes to allow them to firm up. They may crumble a bit, but that's ok. They still taste great in bits.

for alfredo sauce
1 cup soymilk
1/3 cup raw, unsalted cashews
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
3 tbsps soy sauce (low-sodium is best)
2 tbsps earth balance buttery spread
1 tbsps tahini
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsps dijon mustard
1/2 tsp paprika
1 sprinkle nutmeg
4 cloves garlic, crushed with the back of a knife
black pepper, to taste

Add all the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Strain if you want really smooth, but I personally like the crunchy cashew bits. Adjust flavoring as you see fit.

for spaghetti
2 lbs spaghetti
boiling water

Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente, 8-10 minutes (or whatever the box says) and drain.

In a large serving bowl, add hot pasta and alfredo sauce. Mix thoroughly, then throw in meatballs. Serve!


Cantaloupe Horchata

 People who do know what horchata is often know it as its traditional, basic rice version, with milk and cinnamon.
What most people don't know is that you can also make fruit horchatas. In this case, there is no rice involved. What qualifies it with horchata status is that something unusual is added. Or, I should say, not removed. For cantaloupe horchata, everything--save the rind--is added. The fruit, the pulp, and the seeds. The seeds give it an odd, deep body that takes some time getting used to but is very impressive once you've come to terms with. I know I should be making this closer to summer, but I couldn't help it. A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. If, um, I mean, if that means making horchata.

Cantaloupe Horchata
adapted from Mark Bittman's Best Recipes in the World
serves 4.

1 ripe cantaloupe
1/4 c. fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
1/4 c. sugar (to taste)

Cut the cantaloupe in half and scoop everything–fruit, seeds, and pulp–into a blender. Add a couple tablespoons of lime juice and sugar and 2 cups of water. 
Blend until smooth (this could take a bit of time). Taste and adjust the lime juice and sugar. You can choose to strain the drink at this point if you want, then serve cold immediately or store in fridge.


Peanut Butter Button Cookies

 When I say button I actually mean it. They look like actually buttons.
 Simple peanut butter cookie recipe. I will you save you from the fate of your cousins: no fork tines will scrape your back.
 As you can see, these cookies are pretty small. As uncooked balls they should fit inside a bottle cap.
 We're getting to the fun part. Just as the cookies come out of the oven, still warm, you have to make the buttons. Hurry, there's not a lot of time before they get too rigid and cool.
 How do you make the cute little button-ridge? That afore-mentioned bottle cap. Press it into the cookie. Perfect.
 Then the holes? It involves a straw. Bring it down and give the straw a smart turn. When you draw up, you should have left a neat hole for your button. This is fun for the first, oh, 100 holes. Then it starts to get sucky. Wait, did I mention? The cookie left from the button holes accumulate. What's really fun? Sucking them out of the straw. Like a pneumatic tube that ends in your mouth.
These make great gifts. Put them in a jar and tie with a ribbon. That's what I did. ANd the best thing about giving a gift of food? You often get to help eat them.

Peanut Butter Button Cookies
adapted from Bakerella and allrecipes
makes about 60 tiny buttons

note: bake these in about four batches. As you take one out, put the next in and start transforming the done batch into buttons. As you finish, the next batch should be ready. Be careful not to bake too many at one time, because they'll cool and harden before you're ready to work with them.

6 tbsps unsalted butter
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup turbinado sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsps baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cream together butter, peanut butter and sugars. Beat in eggs.
In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir into batter. 
Optional: at this time, you can chill in the refrigerator for an hour to help combat spreading when they bake.
Roll into balls that will fit inside a soda cap and put on baking sheets.  
Bake for about 6-10 minutes or until cookies begin to brown. Do not over-bake.
While cookies are still warm and soft, press the soda top into each to make an indent in the middle,a nd then use a straw to poke four button holes for each cookie. Some will crack. Don't worry. Those are for eating while you work.


Kale Salad with Pine nuts, Currants, and Parmesan

 This is what I made with the leftover kale I had after making Kale Chips. You can, of course, make a billion dishes with kale, two others that I linked on my Kale Chips post. But here's another good thing.
 I actually also made this dish for Thanksgiving, too. See how the leaves look wilted? In my last kale salad, I steamed the kale. Here, it is actually raw. What? Raw? Isn't it, like, hard, and bitter, you know? ...No. Not really. In fact, not at all. The trick? Massage. Oh, yes. This involves some oil and some rubbing and some time to get really personal with your dinner.
Massaging the kale is actually kind of nice. You pick it up and squeeze and toss and rub and turn, and all of a sudden, the kale is supple and a vibrant shade of green. But it still has a bit of a crunch. You can let it sit for an hour or two before serving, to let the olive oil do its thing a bit longer. Oh, and once you get past the whole massage concept thing, you've got to appreciate the flavoring. It just screams soothingly murmurs sophistication. The strips of parmesan give it some licks of salt, the currants add pops of sweet, and the pine nuts confer nibbles of fat. And it's still healthy!

Go on. Dim the lights. Burn some incense. Drizzle that olive oil. You won't regret it.

Kale Salad with Pine nuts, Cranberries, and Parmesan
adapted from Epicurious
serves 4.

note: the currants are soaked overnight to plump. If this is too much work or you haven't planned ahead (my classic problem) just substitute cranberries, unsoaked. This is also very very good.
note note: this calls for one small bunch. Eyeball it. if you're making this with leftover prepped Kale from Kale Chips, you may want to reduce it. But you can also just make the full dressing and only add as much as is needed.

1 tbsps dried currants
3 tbsps white wine vinegar
1 small bunch Tuscan kale
1 tbsp pine nuts
1/2 tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar
1/2 tbsp honey
2 tsps extra-virgin olive oil
dash salt
Parmesan cheese shavings

Place currants in small bowl and add white wine vinegar. Let soak overnight. Drain currants and reserve currant vinegar.
Derib and destem the kale, and tear into bite size pieces. Put into salad bowl. 
Lightly toast the pine nuts. Keep a close eye on them; they burn fast.
Add currants and pine nuts to the kale.
Whisk the reserved white whine/currant vinegar, rice vinegar, honey, oil, and salt in a small bowl. 
Add to salad bowl and begin to massage. This involves gently kneading, squeezing, and tossing. It will make your hands nice and soft. After five minutes or so, the kale should be tender and a brighter green. 
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle cheese shavings over salad and serve.


Original Kale Chips (Sweet and Tangy)

Wait. What? You've never had kale chips? Have I not explained the immense deliciousness and nutritional goodness of kale many times before? Kale chips are better than potato chips, in every sense of the word. They're crunchy, salty, curly, and a hint bitter. And you can eat twenty billion and still feel very, very healthy.
Original flavor stars cashews, red peppers, and nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast has protein and is low fat, and tastes kind of creamy. It comes in yellow flakes that I sprinkle on many things. My granola, pasta, salads... It's yummy. To start this recipe off, you soak the cashes. (This recipe is raw vegan; raw cashews! Though if you don't really care, you can cheat and use roasted, and while I dehydrate the chips at a temperature that still counts as raw level, one can use an oven instead. More on that later.)

The next step is to blend all the other ingredients together to make the sauce.
And, after a serious destemming of the kale and a generous tossing of the sauce, you bake the chips up.
Believe me, this jar was full and I had extra before this picture was taken. I was too busy eating to take any pictures until much after. This again happened with my next batch, lemon-tahini flavor, so I don't think I can post it until I've made a new batch.

 In short, these chips were the bomb. Make them a day before you want them, though, because you have to soak the cashews and de-stem the kale (an awful  momentous task) and, if you're using a dehydtrator, dehydrate all night.

Kale Chips
adapted from love veggies and yoga
makes a real lot, but gets all eaten scarily fast.

note: while I dehydrated these chips, keeping them raw vegan and, I think, giving them that great powdery crunch, you can quite easily adapt this for a normal oven. Bake at 300 F for 20 minutes, flip, and continue for 10 more. Or experiment on your own. The lower the temperature for the longer gets you closer to dehydrator results.

1 medium bunch kale (size varies from bunch to bunch; this recipe works with any size)
1 cup cashews (soaked for at least one hour)
1 medium red bell pepper
juice of half a lemon (2 Tbsp)
1/4 cup (or more) nutritional yeast
1 tsp salt

Wash and destem kale. Put aside.
Chop the pepper and drain the cashews. Add to blender with the lemon, nutritional yeast, and salt. Blend until smooth.
Toss sauce with kale, which should have a fairly thick, uneven coating. You may have extra sauce, which you can put aside and use as dip or for other uses. I'm also someone who loves the bites with an explosion of flavor, so I do a very thick coating.
Put on dehydrator screens (or baking pans if using an oven) and dehydrate at 145 F for 2 hours, and then 118 F for 6 hours-overnight. The longer, the crunchier. If you feel up to it, flip with two hours remaining.
Keeps for over a month in an airtight container, if you can refrain from devouring them all for that long.


Chocolate Truffles

Happy Valentine's Day!
 I have mentioned before that I make food for my frisbee team on a regular basis. This is one of those moments. What is simple, elegant, and irresistable and just screams whispers sexily valentine's day?
 You got it. Truffles. My lovely friend Nina and I gathered in the kitchen near witching hour on saturday and cackled while stirring our cauldron. Uh, wrong holiday. We tenderly rolled these truffles between our gentle fingertips as we crooned softly with dulcet voices. Actually, we sort of did.
 It involved latex gloves. Truffles are basically melted chocolate and cream, but we added an extra-fancy touch (no need to do this if you aren't feeling fussy).
 Once you make and chill the truffles, roll them in a little dollop of melted chocolate so they acquire a thin pure chocolate covering that adds a little crunch when it solidifies.
 These truffles were so sexy. We couldn't take our mouths off of them.
 You drop them in a bowl of cocoa powder for a final coating. I love how the bitterness makes your mouth pucker right before you bite to the creamy center. The really cool thing is why they're called truffles. After dropping them into the cocoa powder, you fish them out with a fork, and it's like you're digging for actual truffles (of the fungi sort) in the ground. I like etymology stories.
We wrapped these up and tied them with fuzzy pink strings and attached tags with pickup lines that ranged from cute ("if I could rearrange the alphabet I'd put you and I together") to really nerdy ("I may look like an ewok but I'm all wookie where it counts") to very frisbee related ("I'd hammer your disc all night long."). Then, today, I ran around manically and flapped my arms like a valentine's fairy and handed these out. The boys were very happy, and so was I.

Make these anytime. Literally, they're just chocolate and cream. How badly could you mess that up?

Chocolate Truffles
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
makes about 60 truffles

note: Don't double the recipe. It doesn't work like that. So these are precious.

1 bag (about 11 oz) bittersweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup heavy cream
unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

Place about 3/4 chocolate (8 oz) in a bowl and bring heavy cream to a boil in a small heavy saucepan. Make sure your pan is small, so you’ll lose the least amount of cream to evaporation, and heavy, which will keep the cream from scorching. When boiled, pour the cream over the chocolate, which will melt as you stir.

Be careful to stir slowly (don't whisk; you want to incorporate as little air as possible) until ganache is smooth.

Place in fridge until thick enough to hold a shape, about 45 minutes to an hour. Then, take two spoons. Scoop a small amount of ganache onto one spoon and scrape onto another, transferring back and forth until it hold a smooth spherical shape. Drop onto a plate or cookie sheet. Do this for all the ganache (it will look like not enough, but by the end you'll have 60). Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt remaining chocolate (3 oz) in a small bowl and smear some on a gloved hand. Gently rub each chilled truffle to coat lightly with chocolate.

As you finish each ball, toss the truffles in a bowl cocoa powder and dig up with a fork. Shake truffles in a sieve to eliminate excess powder when you're done.

Store truffles in the refrigerator.