Almond Joy Chocolate Chip Cookies and the Second #C2CCS

Hi friends! I’ve been on the DL the past few weeks.  I’m in a sort of blogging/life rut, so I had been taking a bit of a break.  Luckily, I have some blogger friends to help get me out of the rut.

One of my favorite parts of blogging is getting to know people.  I know it sounds silly and cliche, but I’ve made a few real life friends as a result of blogging.  Real life friends are amazing (looking at you Allison and Samantha), but it’s also great to make friends online, especially when they motivate you to bake treats and send you some.

You might remember last year, I made some Molasses Ginger Apricot Cookies?  Then I sent those cookies to some ladies and they sent me some cookies back and we called it the Coast to Coast Cookie Swap.  Well here is the second installment of that! Because isn’t sending your friends cookies a good idea?  It is!

Planning what kinds of cookies to send to other foodie/cookie lovers is hard.  I brainstormed for a while and these cookies turned up by mistake.  I wanted to make some cookies for a coworker who was doing an awesome job.  I liked them so much I decided they needed to happen again.  I’ve actually made these cookies three times in the past two weeks.

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Trust me.  They’re worth it.

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In exchange for these cookies, I received a few goodies in the mail:

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White Chip Cranberry Cookies from Natalie

Delicious Spiced Cookies from Coco

Take 5 Cookies from Jazzy

Additionally, Allison made some Grain Free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies that I wish I got to try!

Let’s be honest, exchanging cookies (or all baked goods in general) is an amazing idea.  You should try it.  Start by making these and sharing them with your friends.

Almond Joy Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 stick of butter
1 cup + 2 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4-1/2 cup roasted coconut chips
1/4-1/2 cup honey roasted sliced almonds

Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add 1 egg, then vanilla and continue to be beat for about a minute.  Add in flour mixture.  Mix until almost combined. Fold in chocolate chips, coconut and almonds until dough is just combined.  Be careful not to overmix the dough, if not you’ll get flat cookies!

Place dough in the freezer while oven preheats to 350F.

Once oven has pre-heated, form dough into walnut sized balls.  Place on parchment paper-lined pan and bake for 8-12 minutes, or until golden around the edges.

After a few minutes, transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely then share with a friend and enjoy!

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What’s your favorite cookie to share with a friend?

 

P.S. Sharing cookies is awesome, but baking with a friend is even more fun!  Check out these Salted Caramel Eclairs I made with Sam at the Little Ferraro Kitchen!

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Salted Almond Joy Bark

With Christmas and the New Year on the horizon, I have two goals for today:

1. Clean out my closet/dresser of unwanted garments

I have too much stuff.  I have clothing I don’t wear and even more that doesn’t fit.  One of the fantastic things about lifting weights is that my body shrank.  It’s great! But it means that I don’t own any pants that fit me.  So I want to clear out the stuff that doesn’t fit me any more, because there’s no room in my shoebox of an apartment for clothing that is too big or old.
2. Bake Christmas Cookies for gifts

I love baking and Christmas is the perfect time to bake treats and give them away.  So today and tomorrow will consist of Christmas baking.  I had my recipes all planned out, but then yesterday when I arrived to Crossfit, Allison told me she had something for me.  She handed me a lovely tin filled with homemade salted chocolate coconut almond bark.

At this point it was nearly 6am and not an appropriate time to eat chocolate.  So I put it in my car, got my butt kicked during the WOD and went to work.  I have this rule during the holidays (since there are so many treats floating around) that I’m allowed to have a sweet treat AFTER lunch.

This means waiting til I have a nutritious (or semi-nutritious because yesterday my boss took us to Umami Burger for lunch and that’s clearly NOT nutritious) before enjoying goodies and also cutting down on how much I eat.  I have a hard time stopping once I start, so I found it’s better for me to just start later.  But anyway…

So I waited until after lunch and had a piece of Allison’s delicious bark.

OMG

OMG

OMG

It was awesome.  Let me just tell you, I gave some to co-workers and to Jesse, but the reality is I ate it mostly myself.  Today, as of 2pm… the bark is gone.  As in, I finished it all after lunch today.

Because this bark was so amazing I wanted to try to make it on my own and give it to my loved ones.  I’ve decided to rename it Salted Almond Joy Bark, because that’s sort of what it reminded me of.

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Salted Almond Joy Bark

from Sweet Potato Bites

10 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips  (or chocolate chunks)
1/2 cup roasted, unsalted almonds
1/2 cup Roasted Coconut Chips*
Coarse Sea Salt

First, prepare your pan by lining a cookie sheet with parchment.  Set aside.

Next, pour chocolate into a microwave safe bowl.

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Microwave 30 seconds then stir.  Microwave another 30 seconds and stir, repeat until chocolate is melted and smooth. You can also do this in a pan or double boiler, but I’ll be honest, the microwave is a million times easier.  It’s also idiot-proof.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had my chocolate seize when using a double boiler, because water in chocolate (steam included!) might cause it to seize.

Because of this, I take the easy route and use the microwave.  Once your chocolate is melted and smooth, pour about 3/4 of the chocolate into the parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Using a spatula, smooth until it’s a tiny bit thick (if you like your bark thicker, leave it thicker, if you want it thinner, spread it more).  It doesn’t have to be perfect because you’re going to cover it with stuff anyway…

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Sprinkle chocolate with coconut and almonds.  Take the remaining chocolate and drizzle it overs the coconut and almonds.

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Sprinkle with sea salt (be generous! That’s seriously the best part!) and refrigerate or freeze until firm.

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Once the chocolate is completely hardened (it took about an hour for me, if not it’ll start to melt when you touch it), break the bark into pieces.

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Store in an air tight container in a cool spot for up to a week.

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*I used Trader Joe’s Roasted Coconut Chips, but if there’s no Trader Joe’s near you, you can just use toasted coconut.

This stuff was seriously amazing.  The salt really takes this from normal tasty chocolate bark to something out of this world.  Everyone that tried it loved it.  I’m really excited to share this with others along with Orange-Pistachio Biscotti, Molasses Cookies, Chocolate Mint Cookies and maybe another cookie or two.  Any suggestions?

Are you giving Christmas Cookies this season?  If so, what are your top cookies or treats to gift?

Couscous Salad with Garbanzo Beans and Dates

I’m a fan of picnics.  Food and outdoors.

What’s not to like?

Living in Central NY I forgot how great picnics can be.  Now that I’m back in Southern California, and especially in Orange County, there are parks everywhere.  It’s quickly becoming my favorite pass time.

The beauty of California is that you can go on picnics basically year-round.  It’s February, and I’ve easily gone on at least 3 picnics this year.

You know what that means?  I need to start diversifying my picnic menu.  I started with cheese, crackers, fruit, sliced vegetables and hummus for dipping.  Now I’m getting more intense.  This last picnic involved plates and forks.

Watch out, I’m gettin’ fancy.

So the most recent picnic menu:

  • Couscous Salad with Garbanzo Beans and Dates
  • Lemon-Parmesan Asparagus
  • Fruit Salad

Let me tell you about this couscous salad.  Of course I brought it in a jar, but jars are optional.

The great thing about this salad (if we can really call it a salad) is how easy it is to make.    If picnics aren’t your thing, this is pretty great for a potluck as well.  Give it a try.  It’s mild but slightly exotic tasting.

I say yes.

Couscous Salad with Garbanzo Beans and Dates

adapted from Epicurious

2 cups water
1 tsp salt
10 ounces couscous
1/4 cup olive oil
zest and juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup lemon juice)
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2/3 cups chopped dates
1/2 cup blanched almonds
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped green onions

Boil water, add salt and stir in couscous.  Cover and turn off the flame, keep covered for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, prep all the ingredients (i.e. chop dates, cilantro, onions, etc.).  Once the couscous is ready, fluff it with a fork and transfer it to a large bowl to cool.

In a small bowl combine lemon zest and juice, olive oil, and cardamom.  Pour over cooled couscous and toss.  Add in the rest of the ingredients, toss and let it sit at room temperature for a few hours.  At this point you can search for the perfect picnic spot.  Once you’re there, serve and enjoy!

Easy, delicious, healthy and completely transportable. Perfect for picnics.

So if you’re in warmer climates, go on a picnic soon and make this.  If you’re in the cold, lay a blanket in your living room and have an indoor picnic, it’s not quite as fun but it’ll hold you over til late spring/summer.

Just saying, it’s worth a try.

Pear/Apple Almond Tart

We all have tried and true recipes.  You know, the things that you make over and over again.  You know how to do it well.

…If it ain’t broke, don’t fit it.

I know I certainly do.  Sometimes you need something you know is going to taste good.

Here are some of my tried and trues.  I’ve made each of these a handful of times, and each time they turn out well.

Peach Pie

Spicy Chocolate Cupcakes/Cake

Protein Pancakes/Waffles

Lentil Chili over Sun-dried Tomato Cornmeal Waffles

Sometimes when I make the same recipe, but change them slightly.

Take this Pear Almond Galette

I’ve made a few times, but this time…

I changed a few things:

1. I made a large Apple Almond Tart.


2. I made mini Pear Almond Tarts.

The basic differences are shape and fruit.  The taste is pretty much the same, though.  Let’s be honest though, sometimes we all need a “fancy dessert” in our arsenal.  This is mine.

Apple Almond Tart

For Crust:

350g all purpose flour
2 sticks of butter, cold and cubed
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup very cold water (or vodka, yep, you read correctly)

For Apple Almond Filling:
2-3 apples, peeled, carefully cored and thinly sliced (you can also use pears or peaches or pretty much any fruit)
1/2 cup sugar
6 tbsp butter, softened
2 egg
1 tsp almond extract
2 tbsp flour
1 cup almond meal (ground almonds)

Prepare the dough a day or two in advance.  Measure out flour, sugar and salt.  Combine in a large bowl.  Drop butter cubes in the flour mixture.  Using your hands break up the butter and work it into the flour until you get it to be the size of small peas.  Pour in the water, using your hand, work the dough together to form a ball.  You might need to add more water (rarely if you measured the flour correctly), but only the tiniest bit.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.  This will help keep your crust from shrinking.

The next day, or when you’re ready to make the tart, remove the dough from the fridge.  Roll out between two pieces of parchment paper.  Not too thin.  Place in the tart pan, press into the sides and trim the edges (patch up any areas that are too thin or stretched, this will help avoid strinkage).  Poke with a fork and stick in the freezer while you make your filling.  You can do the same with mini tart pans.  This is enough dough and filling for about 8 mini tarts.

Pre-heat the oven to 375.  Using a hand mixer, beat together the sugar and butter until smooth.  Add the eggs (one at a time) and almond extract.  Beat until well combined.  Add all purpose and almond meal, beat until combined.

Pour the mixture into the tart pan, fan the thinly sliced apples on the surface and press them down lightly.  Sprinkle with extra sugar if you’d like.  Bake for about an hour and 20 mins for a large tart or until the top is golden brown all around, including the center, or about 45 mins for the mini tarts.  Check periodically as every oven is different.

Allow to cool, then sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Serve and enjoy the almond-y goodness.

Go ahead make changes, choose different fruits, but in the end, this is a tried and true.

You’re bound to like it.  If not, at least it looks fancy.  Maybe you’ll add it to your list of go-to recipes as well.