Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti

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It’s always fun to try new things.

For example, biscotti. I’d never had any desire to make it. I’ve had it at restaurants and coffee shops and wasn’t that enthusiastic about it–it’s a super dry, hard & crunchy, rather bland biscuit/cookie, and I knew I could fulfill my sweets craving with much “better” alternatives (um, molten chocolate lava cake? chocolate chip cookies? chocolate…).

However, then I tried my friend Sarah’s homemade chocolate chip biscotti.

Let’s just say, I was converted.

Having been on a pistachio kick lately and always in the mood for (dark) chocolate, I found a recipe for chocolate biscotti with pistachios. Not only that, I had a willing audience: a small shindig was being held at my house (read: one of my mom’s friends came over to do scrapbooking) and I took this as a sign that I should bake.

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I’m pretty glad I did.

Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti

Adapted from SkinnyTaste

1 2/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch salt

3/4 cup whole pistachios

1/4 cup Earth Balance

3/4 cup powdered sugar

2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt in one bowl. In a mixer, cream butter and sugar and then add the eggs one at a time.

Add the dry ingredients in increments and mix on low speed until just combined. Stir in the pistachios.

Divide the dough into two or three and form into long flat shapes about 8.5 x 1.5″ wide. Place on the baking sheet and bake 20 minutes. Remove, and allow to cool.

Gently cut the loaves on an angle into 1/2 inch slices. Use a serrated bread knife, but don’t saw, merely press down. My dough crumbled easily.

Arrange the slices on the baking sheet and bake another 3-4 minutes per side. Let cool and serve.

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I actually halved the above recipe using volume measurements (and my digital scale!) and it made about 12 pieces. They were really yummy–not too sweet and felt more wholesome due to the whole wheat pastry flour.

Plus, they weren’t overly crunchy. Homemade biscotti is where it’s at. I really liked the combination of pistachio and chocolate. The only thing I would do differently is add dried cherries or dried cranberries–that would just bring out all the flavors even more, or add sea salt on top. But, no cherries didn’t mean that these weren’t scarfed by my family (and my mom’s friend) the same night!

Sarah, however, reigns queen of biscotti-making–hers are just so good.

Candle 79

 

 

On the last day of spring, my friend Roe and I dined at the famous vegan restaurant, Candle 79, tucked away on 79th street and Lexington. After hearing rave reviews from the rising musical entrepreneur, we decided to go and eat to our stomachs’ content.

And boy, did we.

First off, I had the Housemade Ginger Ale, made with fresh ginger, lemon, agave, mint, and sparkling water… I love ginger and this hit the spot. The drink was almost like a (more delicious) ginger mint mojito.

Roe had the Cherry Fresca which included cherry purée, lemon, agave, chia seeds and sparkling water… A plus about this drink was that it was not overly sweet–I (took a sip and) could totally taste the tart Montmorency cherry flavor, not the typical syrupy-sweet cherry medicinal flavor. It was really refreshing and different.

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We also got an appetizer to start: the Smoked Hummus, which included grilled paratha bread (so delicious), olives, a roasted garlic bulb, and red pepper oil. I devoured the roasted garlic bulb. Roe ate the olives to her heart’s content. We were two happy campers. This appetizer was DELICIOUS!  The bread was warm and flaky, and the hummus super smooth and delicately flavored with red pepper. The garlic was perfectly roasted as well.

Roe also recommends the Guacamole appetizer–“their guac here is SO GOOD!”

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I got their signature dish, the Seitan Piccata: creamed spinach, grilled potato cake, oyster mushrooms, and lemon-caper sauce. This was odd, at first; capers galore and a very liquidy sauce that was challenging to eat with a fork. But somewhere along the way, all the sauce got soaked into the potatoes I believe, and the combination was really, really good. The seitan was also cooked very well and was very reminiscent of chicken cutlet–the best seitan I’ve tried.

Roe had the Burrito, which looked and was very good but too much to actually finish–it includes seitan, black beans, and brown rice and was just too much for one dish.

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We also indulged in post dinner tea: I the vanilla chai, she the coconut cream. The tea came out in individual cast-iron kettles, which was really whimsical and fun. However, the tea was also piping hot and while waiting for it to cool, the tea grew extremely bitter (due to the fresh tea leaves/petals/herbs) and undrinkable.

For dessert, we devoured the Chocolate Peanut Butter Bliss, which was chocolate and peanut butter mousse, salted peanut-caramel crust, and berry coulis. The chocolate mousse part was decadent and super chocolaty–it really tasted like dairy chocolate (but was, in fact, vegan). The peanut mousse was really mild in comparison and almost undetectable.  The berry coulis offered a nice flavor contrast and cut through the richness of the mousses, and the presentation was lovely.

So as you can see, we went all out (our bill was $93 before taxes!). The prices aren’t extremely high, but let’s just say Roe and I will be doing some less expensive activities in the impending summer weeks. All-in-all, every dollar was totally worth it–the food was super fresh (they use farmer’s market produce) and the service, outstanding. Vegetarians and omnivores alike will be happy and full after a meal at Candle 79.

After lunch, we went for a little stroll in Central Park and made the last bus before rush hour, just before it left. A perfect last hurrah to Spring and first early hello to Summer!

Candle 79 is located at 154 E. 79th Street, at Lexington Avenue.

Beer-Battered Avocado Slices

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Avocado: So delicious, that any further preparation besides peeling, pitting, and plating is unnecessary.

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But when I have beer batter left over from making these again, and half an avocado in the fridge… well… It’s time to shake things up.

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And I’m pretty happy I did.

Beer-Battered Avocado Slices

Adapted from Goat Cheese Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

1/2 avocado, peeled, pitted, sliced in long strips

1/2 cup flour

6 oz beer or malt beverage

1/2 teaspoon salt

pepper

vegetable oil

dip: 1/2 cup greek yogurt + 1 tablespoon mustard (honey, spicy, dijon… your pick)

Mix together the flour, beer, salt, and pepper. This will make more than you need, but makes for easier dipping/coating. Next time, I would add more spices to the batter–minced garlic, paprika, red pepper, etc have been used in other recipes on the interwebs.

Heat vegetable oil in a fry pan–the amount depends on the size of the pan you use; it doesn’t have to be a lot. Test the temperature by dropping a bit of batter into the oil. A sizzle means you’re good to go.

Dip each avocado slice into the batter, let the excess drip off, and then place gently into the hot oil. Be careful as the oil may spit.

Fry until golden brown, flipping for even cooking.

I recommend consuming with a dip, such as yogurt-mustard dip: mix the yogurt and mustard. Voila.

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These were pretty tasty. As stated, I would add more spices to the batter.

I used the same beer batter that I used for goat cheese stuffed zucchini flowers; while the tangy goat cheese complemented the more subtle beer batter nicely, avocado is already mild in flavor, so a more strongly-spiced beer batter would have been better.

However, eating with a mustard-yogurt dip perked things up well! Crispy, creamy, tangy, satisfying.

I don’t normally go for fried foods but there’s something about beer batter… Yum.

BLATs: “Bacon” Lettuce Avocado Tomato Sandwiches

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Okay, don’t run away upon reading the word “bacon” in quotation marks. After seeing a photo of a classic BLT on a menu or on TV or somewhere, I was thinking hmm, I wouldn’t mind having a BLT again. I don’t really like to eat too much meat, especially bacon, but that combination of sweet tomato, creamy mayonnaise, crisp lettuce and savory bacon is just oh-so-hard to resist.

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So when I had a block of tofu to use up and a chance tofu-bacon-recipe-encounter, the choice was obvious! Tofu bacon for BLTs it is!

Actually, BLATs it is–I threw on some avocado for good measure (and because I have a love affair with Avocado… watch out, Chocolate).

BLATs: “Bacon” Lettuce Avocado Tomato Sandwiches

Adapted from Allrecipes and Vegan Feast Kitchen

7.5 oz extra firm tofu (I used this sprouted tofu I got from Trader Joe’s)

4 tablespoons maple syrup

6 tablespoons of water

1/2 teaspoon of soy sauce (or, do 2 tablespoons of water instead of 6, and 4 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce)

2 teaspoons onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

Sesame oil for pan-frying

Drain the tofu and cut into very thin slices (the thinner, the better; I used a cheese-slicer). Set aside.

In a flat, shallow container, whisk together the marinade ingredients. Submerge the tofu slices and marinade for as long as you like; some recipes say 10 minutes, others say 8 hours or a few days. I did about an hour or so and the taste was delicious!

In a grill pan, heat some sesame oil to medium heat. Fry the tofu slices about five minutes total or more for extra crispiness, flipping for even cooking. The cooked tofu will be easier to handle and less crumbly. Get some grill marks on them!

Let cool and assemble the sandwiches. My BL(A)T consists of: toasted bread, miracle whip, lettuce, tomato, avocado, bacon, miracle whip, toasted bread, in that order. Ground pepper, as well, if you so desire (I dislike pepper).

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The tofu bacon was surprisingly… delicious. It didn’t taste like exactly bacon, of course, but was subtly sweet due to the maple syrup (and my much lowered amount of soy sauce–using more soy sauce may be necessary, I just didn’t have any low-sodium on hand). I would try to add more soy sauce or sprinkle some sea salt on them next time, to bring the flavor to the next level. The crispy texture of the thinner slices was really yummy and complemented the other sandwich ingredients very well.

The sandwich was truly satisfying. This is a delicious way to use up extra tofu!

Liebster Award!

SleepingwithLenin just nominated me for the Liebster Award! Her blog is so fascinating and includes both yummy recipes as well as a glimpse into living in Russia. Thank you for the nomination! The Liebster Award is given to up and coming bloggers who have fewer than 200 followers.

 

The rules:
Post 11 random facts about yourself.
Answer the 11 questions made by the person who nominated you.
Create 11 questions for the bloggers you pass the award to.
Choose 11 bloggers to pass the award to and mention them in your post.
Go to their blogs and let them know that they have been nominated.

11 random facts about me:

  1. My favorite animal is the cow, ever since I was a kid and I was reading something and discovered that cows have four stomachs. I guess I just thought that was fascinating.
  2. I have the travel bug. I really want to go abroad again. Dream destination: France. Realistic destination: Anywhere I have the opportunity to visit!
  3. I am living the post-graduation dog days of summer before I am thrown into non-stop work for the next 5-6 years. I thrive in both worlds.
  4. I like to shop… I especially like Coach, Tommy Hilfiger, Nine West, and Calvin Klein; those never seem to fail. However, I buy almost all of my dresses from Delia*s… they just fit like a glove!
  5. As far as sleeping, I always lay on my back for a while first. Then I switch to my left side and usually fall asleep like that.
  6. I am PRETTY sure one of my feet is bigger than the other. Shoe shopping is thus frustrating so I generally live in sneakers.
  7. I am an early riser; I used to be a night owl until I began running in the morning. I love waking up with the sun… although in the winter it is a lot more difficult to do!
  8. Current jam: Vampire Weekend’s entire new album. Their music just elevates my mood so much.
  9. I just got a terabyte hard drive. ONE TB. 1000 GBs. This is intense. All my music and photos can be together again!
  10. Jersey girl at heart, but NO ACCENT. Except for cawfee. And bought. And ought. And waddur. Okay, maybe I have a little bit of an accent.
  11. I learned a bit of Mandarin this past summer. All I remember is “hi,” “watermelon,” “thank you,” and “I would like to order two glasses of beer.” I’m sure all will come in handy at some point.

My answers: 

  1. Does your family read your blog? Yes, my mom does and likes every post. My dad is less technological and my brother doesn’t read it as far as I know.
  2. What is the last thing you bought? Some multivitamins… woo. And a new tamper for the Vitamix because … I broke it. Le sigh.
  3. How many people do you live with? Three (my family). Soon to be two (roommates in Ithaca).
  4. What is your next Big thing on your To Do list of life? GRADUATE SCHOOL.
  5. What happens when we die? I am not religious in the slightest but it’s kind of reassuring to think about your passed loved ones watching over you as you go through life.
  6. What is in your fridge? Oh gawd. Well, leftover cheesecake. If it were my mini-fridge from college, there would also be peanut butter and almond butter, strawberry jelly, bread, ground flax, miracle whip, spicy brown mustard, soymilk, and walnuts. Actually, all of those things are in the fridge right now too.
  7. Favorite blog? I think www.HowSweetEats.com. Jessica, the author, is just hilarious and her photography is beautiful. Her recipes have never failed for me.
  8. If, in a hypothetical world, someone forced you to be an animal, what would it be? I always feel like I might be a fox. But I would rather be a bird… specifically a canary or little goldfinch!
  9. What film should I definitely never watch? 1900. Watched this 5-hour epic in an undergrad course called Film and History. It was horrendously slow and has really graphic violence and sex scenes. Imagine watching this in your class full of other female students (I attended an all-women college) with your elderly male professor looking on. Awkward, but educational I suppose… Fascists are CRAZY. Also, Gerard Depardieu is super young and un-fat.
  10. Give us a piece of advice? Remember to be grateful; gratitude is a key to being happy.
  11. Mustaches, yay or nay? NAY. Blech. Facial hair in general = meh.

My questions for the nominees:

  1. Are you the only cook in your family/household?
  2. How do you feel about all the technology that seems to be taking over our lives?
  3. Favorite song that can NEVER be overplayed?
  4. Milk or dark chocolate?
  5. Most embarrassing travel story?
  6. Have you discovered the magical land that is Costco? If so, what do you like to purchase from Costco?
  7. What did you think you would do with your life when you were in high school?
  8. Favorite dessert?
  9. Do you prefer cooking alone or cooking with others?
  10. Coffee or tea?
  11. Walking or running?

Here are the blogs I’d like to nominate, in no particular order:

 Will Do the Dishes

Lindsay Eats

Must Be Tasty

Bite My Blog

Fueled by Plants

Fueled by Vegetables

The Right Recipe

Meet Your Treat

A High School Foodie

The Bootleg Cook

My Life in Scones