Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Coffee banana smoothie

As you may know, I'm moving to Ottawa very, very soon. Actually, in exactly one week, I will call Ottawa home (albeit temporarily). I've therefore embarked on a full-on "empty-the-freezer-fridge-and-pantry diet." It's not always pretty, and my waistline is less than impressed by my meal choices, except when they involve cookies. My tummy loves cookies. The best part of last week's attempt to empty the pantry was the pleasure I got in finishing off the leftover potato chips, graham cracker crumbs and chocolate chips all at once by tossing them all into these compost cookies.

I'm currently dealing with a mountain of frozen bananas among other frozen fruits and veggies and there's no way I'm transporting 6.5 frozen bananas to Ottawa. That would just be silly. Who moves half of a frozen banana to a freezer 200 km away? Not I!

I'm getting rid of enjoying the frozen fruit in the form of smoothies. Smoothies take minutes to make and are easily consumed while packing. They are also an awesome way to get in some vital nutrients on days when my pantry-diet is cookie-filled and delicious, but perhaps less than healthy.

Bananas and coffee are a yummy combination in a smoothie, especially when you add in cinnamon and nutmeg. I love the frothy layer that forms when you blend smoothies, like the milky foam of a cappucino.

Each time I make this coffee and banana smoothie, I make it a little differently. Some days, I add more honey because I want it to be sweeter, other days, I add a ton of cinnamon. I change the sweetner I use as well, opting for maple syrup because I tend to be maple-obsessed most days. When I have some freshly brewed coffee on hand, I use it instead of the instant coffee and consequently, I reduce the milk used. If it's summer, I blend in a few ice cubes. Cocoa powder would also taste great in this recipe. The smoothie you create will be a matter of taste, but here's a recipe to get you started. And, by all means, tweak away when you make your version of this smoothie!

Coffee banana smoothie

    Makes 2 tall glasses
  • 1 small frozen banana, sliced
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (2.5% fat)
  • 1 cup (more or less depending on the desired consistency) skim milk 
  • A few spoons honey (to taste)
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 1 tsp (or more) instant coffee granules
  • Dash of cinnamon (to taste)

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a blender, and pulse. Continue blending until smooth.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Momofuku Milk Bar compost cookies

Momofuku Milk Bar compost cookies

My goal: to empty out as much of the fridge, freezer, and pantry before I move to Ottawa.

My reason: even with all my gym efforts, I am still a weakling and I have zero desire to lug quasi-finished bags of oats, graham cracker crumbs, potato chips, and frozen pierogies! The frozen pierogies are easily eaten in seconds with the last of the sour cream for lunch. For all the other pantry odds and ends, it's a little more complicated.

One of my solutions: Momofuku Milk Bar compost cookies.

Momofuku Milk Bar compost cookie fixins

It's amazing how Christina Tosi can pull together ingredients like coffee grinds and potato chips and then turn them into delicious cookies. I think she's my new hero (or at least serious inspiration for me as I embark on my journey to Ottawa). The compost cookie recipe comes from her book: Momofuku Milk Bar. I especially love the note in the sidebar for the compost cookie recipe where Tosi tells readers to use fresh coffee grinds and not those leftover from your morning's brew. Makes me laugh.

Momofuku Milk Bar compost cookie ingredients

The pantry odds and ends that I stuffed into this recipe include semi-sweet chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, oats, graham cracker crumbs (turned into Tosi's graham cracker crust recipe, as instructed) and potato chips. I had purchased the potato chips on a whim awhile back because they tasted good to me in the store. I rarely eat potato chips, and I never buy potato chips. That day, I left the store with two bags. I'm not sure what I was thinking, and I've been staring at the bags in my cupboard for months.

Momofuku Milk Bar compost cookie dough

I think the best part of this recipe is the cookie dough itself. Obviously, we all love traditional unbaked chocolate chip cookie dough, but this one is even better. I don't know if it's the graham cracker crust, or the potato chips. I was really surprised that the coffee grinds added so much flavor to this recipe and for a moment, I contemplated turning off my phone and settling down on the couch with the Kitchenaid mixer bowl of cookie dough in my lap, spoon in hand.

If and when you get around to baking the chilled cookie dough, you will end up with crispy-edged jumbo cookies with the perfect balance of salty and sweet. The coffee grinds add a certain moka flavor to them, but I find every bite of cookie is a wonderful surprise.

If you love to eat chocolate chip cookies, make these cookies, and buy the book they came from. Seriously. This recipe is adapted from the recipe in Tosi's book, with changes to the compost add-ins, among other things.

Momofuku Milk Bar compost cookies

    Makes 15 large cookies

    Graham crust ingredients
  • 95 grams graham cracker crumbs
  • 10 grams milk powder
  • 13 grams granulated sguar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 28 grams unsalted butter, melted
  • 27 grams whole milk (because I didn't have heavy cream on hand)—yes I weighed the milk...

  • Compost cookie ingredients ingredients
  • 225 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 235 grams semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 60 grams white chocolate chips
  • 85 grams graham crust (half the above recipe)
  • 43 grams large oats
  • 5 grams ground coffee beans
  • 50 grams potato chips
  • 225 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 200 grams granulated sugar
  • 150 grams light brown sugar
  • 50 grams glucose
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla

    To make the graham crust
  1. Stir together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl with a fork to evenly distribute them.
  2. In a small cup, whisk together the butter and milk. Add this to the dry ingredients and continue mixing with a fork. Eventually the mixture will form clumps (see photo). If it doesn't, you will need to add more melted butter, by 1/2 tbsp amounts until it clumps.
  3. Store in an airtight container. You will use half this recipe for the compost cookies.

  4. To make the compost cookies
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set the dry ingredients bowl aside.
  6. In another medium bowl, place the chocolate chips (white and semi-sweet), graham crust, oats, ground coffee, and potato chips. You don't need to mix them. These are your add-ins for later.
  7. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and glucose on medium-high for 2 minutes.
  8. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the egg and vanilla. Beat this mixture for 7 to 8 minutes.
  9. sides of the bowl as needed. Don't overmix.
  10. On low speed, dump in the add-ins, and mix until they are just combined into the dough, about a minute or so.
  11. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the whisked dry ingredients. Mix until the dough is just combined, scraping down the
  12. Scoop the dough by 1/3 cups onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Pat down the scoops a little and refrigerate overnight.
  13. When the dough is completely chilled, bake the cookies (3 per sheet or spaced about 4 inches apart because they spread quite a bit) in a 375°F oven for 18 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are golden but the centers are still very light.
  14. Cool completely before serving.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Chocolate and salted caramel cake (a.k.a caramel explosion)

chocolate and caramel cake

Another PhD defense means another celebratory layer cake. This one was absolutely ridiculous, and by ridiculous, I mean insanely good. Two layers of moist chocolate cake with homemade salted caramel sandwiched between the layers and then drizzled over top, then the whole thing topped with dark chocolate glaze. RIDICULOUS!

I nicknamed this cake "caramel explosion" because that was kind of what it looked like by the time it got to McGill. There was caramel everywhere! People ate it up within minutes. The "problem" was that upon transporting the cake by metro, and possibly also with the humidity in the fridge, the caramel oozed out (more than shown in these photos) and the top layer slid off the bottom layer by a good inch.

chocolate and caramel cake

 If you want to make this cake at home (and I'm sure you do!) and to avoid a "sticky situation", I suggest assembling the cake just before serving, otherwise, you could have a real mess on your hands (like if the cake layers slide off each other in the fridge!). Luckily, each of the recipes can be prepared ahead: the cake layers can be stored, wrapped in plastic wrap (I actually froze them), the caramel can be kept in a jar and is pourable at room temperature, and the chocolate glaze honestly only takes 5 minutes to make. The cake is a breeze to assemble and worth the time required to prepare each recipe. This cake is ridiculously good!

Chocolate and caramel cake

chocolate caramel cake    Makes one 8-inch cake
  • Two 8-inch chocolate layer cakes (recipe from Ina Garten found in Food & Wine)
  • 1–1.5 batch(es) salted caramel (recipe found within this post)
  • 1 batch chocolate glaze (recipe found within this post)

  1. Level and trim the cake layers.
  2. Place the first cake layer on a serving plate. Top with a thick layer of caramel, letting it drip down the sides a little.
  3. Place the second cake layer on top of the caramel. Top with a thick layer of caramel, letting it drip down the sides a little (or a lot).
  4. Cool the cake for about half an hour in the fridge, then top it with chocolate glaze, allowing the glaze to dribble down the sides.
  5. Serve immediately, or store it (briefly!) in the fridge until you are ready to eat it.