With January comes diets, cleanses, resolutions to be better to our bodies by eating less and working out more. The gyms are crazed, spin and yoga studies fully booked and sales of quinoa and Kale on the rise. I fall prey to the January resolution every year without fail. This year I have recommitted to my fitbit, on nights I have not hit my step goal you will find me feverishly dancing around the house to rack up the steps. I also bought a juicer, which now may crowd out my coffee pot on the counter, at least until the end of the month. And here are these eggplant "meatballs" and avocado chocolate "mousse" from Mark Bittman's VB^ ("Vegan Before Six") cookbook. Bittman, the long time NY Times food writer is an evangelist for healthy and environmentally responsible eating. He always makes me feel guilty about what I am doing to my body and the planet. I bought this book back in July, but these are the first two recipes I have made out of them. As with most Bittman recipes, they worked well - just as he described, and were easy. They did not wow me, but is it possible to be wowed by eggplant meatballs? The avocado mousse grew on me. At first bite I tasted too much avocado and not enough chocolate, but two bites in I liked that balance. A real treat, not that healthy since it does have sugar and fat, but something you can feel a good bit better about when you need your chocolate fix.
Well hello there! Long time no see! Happy New Year! I am happy to be back with you and back to bookcooker. I apologize for my long absence - no good excuse really - lack of inspiration, lack of time, too much work, life etc...The important thing is I am back, ready to start 2015 with a bang and a blog post! I resolve to blog more this year, this will be helped by an awesome new camera I was lucky to get as an Xmas gift that has inspired me to get back at it! Starting the year with a visit with Ina Garten. Now as I posted previously, I clearly have a cookbook problem with 200+ cookbooks in my home. A good little chunk of this problem is with Ina Garten books. I have every single on her books, which I think is 9 now? There is just something about Ina - her personality, her style, her food and her adorable husband Jeffrey that I find irresistible. I have cooked out of all 9 of these cookbooks, and you know what? Not one recipe has failed. Not one recipe has been too complicated. And not one recipe has been "meh." I will admit her recipes, after 9 books, can seem a bit formulaic - but it clearly a formula that works, so who am I to question? For this post I am starting with Ina's newest book - Make it Ahead. One thing I have noticed in that some of Ina's later cookbooks there is a bit of repetition and some of the recipes seem a tad uninspired. But even in these books there is loads of great recipes to make, all a combination of accessible and special. The theme of this Make it Ahead book is obviously recipes you can make ahead of time. I am not sure how well this theme really drives the book - but like I said, there are loads of great recipes in there. I made all of them before I ate them ; ), but not anymore than 1 day before I ate them - so not that "make ahead." The three recipes I made are a good example of the end of December to beginning of January trajectory many of us are on: a festive mocha cake (end of December) to a quinoa tabbouleh (beginning of January) with a homemade ricotta somewhere in the middle of a celebration excess and cleanse diet mentality. All were easy, all were delicious, with perhaps the homemade ricotta as a standout - such minimal effort, such incredible reward!
These muffins, from the "Baked: New Frontiers in Baking" book are a great example of a minimal effort, maximum reward recipe. You can throw them together in 20 minutes and they take another 20 minutes or so to bake, and yet they are definitely something a little special. What clearly makes them unique and more sophisticated than the average muffin is the addition of the instant espresso powder. Pairing chocolate with coffee is obvious, but coffee and banana made me question this recipe briefly - but the coffee adds a nice depth to muffin, making it not too sweet. This recipe is from the original Baked book from Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, owner of the Brooklyn bakery of the same name. When it came out a few years ago it seemed like the perfect Brooklyn hipster cookbook - baked goods styled with little plastic dears and such. It is the real deal though, the recipes are both recipes you really want to make and recipes that work really well. The most famous recipe from the book is the "baked brownie", which I have made many times and it is my go to brownie recipe. The brownies turn out glossy, rich, with the right balance between fudge-like consistency and depth of chocolate flavor. There are other gems in here that you should give a try in addition to these amazing, easy muffins (maple walnut scones, chocolate pie, brewers blondies, classic sugar coookies) and many more I want to make (green tea cupcakes, malted milk cake, sweet and salty cake, icebox towers., pumpkin whoopie pies..)
I couldn't resist making a second recipe from The Beekman Heirloom cookbook and this one pairs particularly well with the Pumpkin Cheese Bread. Here is a simple, hearty beef chili with the fall addition of fresh pumpkin. Any squash will do. I usually wing it when I make chili, rarely following a recipe and I usually use ground meat. This version uses stew beef and cooks slowly in the oven. It came out really tender and with a nice balance of spices. This has virtually no heat, however, so if you are looking for some heat, I would suggest adding some cayenne or a jalapeno. Rather than Texas Chili, I would call this the perfect New England chili and a great recipe as the days finally get a little cooler. With such great experience with these two recipes, I definitely consider The Beekman cookbook a "keeper" and will try to come back to it on a regular basis.