that's forking good

adventures in a culinary neophyte's kitchen

the great do[ugh]nut debate

Posted by culinaryneophyte on February 6, 2015

mint chocolate paleo doughnuts​I recently got into a spirited debate (at the gym, of all places) about the proper spelling of everyone’s favorite circular, fried treat with a hole in the middle. I steadfastly stood in the “doughnut” corner versus two “donut” supporters. Listen, people: It’s doughnut. “Donut” is part of a brand name; it should follow “Dunkin” or any other company/product that has legally filed its name to include the misspelling, but that’s it. Are you one of those people who calls tissues Kleenex? Stop giving these companies free marketing! (And if you’re spelling it that way because you’re too lazy to type it the correct way… just… go. Please.)

The great doughnut debate of 2014 reminded me that I had not made doughnuts in a really long time, so I took to Pinterest to find myself a healthy[ish] alternative to Dunkin’ Donuts (note the proper spelling in this instance), and found these paleo mint chocolate doughnuts from the Healthy Maven. (Sorry if you’re sick of paleo. I’ll make the next post something bad for you.)

The doughnuts were pretty minty, and the frosting was pretty pretty with the green tint come from a bit of matcha mixed into the coconut cream. I opted to top mine with crumbles of Mrs. Thinsters brownie thins for a little added pizzazz. (If you really want to unhealthify [speaking of poor grammar] this treat, Thin Mints would also be a delicious topping.)

(​​Slightly adapted)

Makes 6 doughnuts

For doughnuts
♦1 c. almond meal
♦2 tbs. coconut flour
♦1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
♦1/4 tsp. baking soda
♦1/2 tsp. baking powder
♦1/4 tsp. sea salt
♦1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce (*I did not have applesauce in my house, so I made my own from one apple — peeled, chopped into bits, tbs. of lemon juice and boiled til it was soft enough to pulverize with my immersion blender. Yes, everything must be a project.)
♦2 eggs
♦3 tbs. honey
♦1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
♦1/2 tsp. peppermint extract​
♦Toppings if desired

Combine almond meal, coconut flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.Add applesauce, eggs and extracts. Stir well.

Grease a doughnut pan with coconut oil, and divide batter evenly. (You could also roll into balls if you don’t have a pan.) Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Allow doughnuts to cool 15-20 minutes before removing from pan. Carefully transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

For frosting
♦1 can full-fat coconut milk (left in fridge for at least 1 hour), do NOT shake
♦1/2 tsp matcha powder (mostly for color — not taste; you may also use spirulina powder)
♦1 tbs. honey

While doughnuts are cooling, open coconut milk. (Do not shake the can before opening.) Scrape the cream from the top and place in mixing bowl. Beat on high for several minutes until the cream stiffens and can hold peaks. Add in matcha or spirulina powder and honey, then beat for one more minute. It does not look like a lot, but it will go a long way. Carefully spread frosting on doughnuts.

Total time? 10 minutes prep, 15 bake, 10 minutes decorate
Cost? $6.99 almond meal, $8.99 coconut flour, $6.99 matcha powder, $1.99 canned coconut milk, ? applesauce (or the cost of the time I won’t get back from having to whip up homemade applesauce to make doughnuts… Not bitter.)
Overall success relative to expectations? 10 out 10. These were good — like, way better than I expected. I immediately fell in love with the frosting. It was only coconut cream with a little bit of matcha, but I could have eaten it with a spoon if I hadn’t globbed all of it onto the doughnuts. (A little goes a long way, but not enough to have a frosting snack.) The doughnuts stayed fresh for at least four days (I had to fend off a few suitors to make them last that long), and the flavor was good. Obviously, they’re not going to taste like fried balls of doughy goodness, but they’re definitely a viable alternative, especially if consumption of any traditional doughnut leaves you with guilt pangs for hours… days… weeks… Do not mock; this is why I stopped going to Dunkin’ Donuts. Well, that, and the misspelling.

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chocolate-covered strawberry paleo pancakes

Posted by culinaryneophyte on January 19, 2015

Thank you to Mrs. Thinsters for featuring my breakfast on their social media channel!

paleo chocolate-covered strawberry pancakes with Mrs. Thinsters brownie batter cookie thin crumbs.

chocolate-covered strawberry pancakes with Mrs. Thinsters brownie batter cookie crumbs.

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tbt: Blue Moon Cafe

Posted by culinaryneophyte on December 11, 2014

Blue Moon Cafe Captain Crunch WafflesThe first place I remember seeing featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” was a breakfast spot in Baltimore that had a female owner with a rock-and-roll personality and a menu full of crazy, drool-worthy meals. I sat there thinking, “If I ever open a restaurant, THIS is what I would want it to be.” And when I had the opportunity to finally visit Blue Moon Cafe in Fell’s Point last month, that feeling only grew.

I’m not usually a waffle/pancake person when I’m out to breakfast, but there was no way I wasn’t getting the as-seen-on-TV Captain Crunch French toast. I’d been dreaming about this thing for, like, five years. I can still taste the sweet, buttery goodness… the tart berries… the fresh whipped cream. You need this. YOU. NEED. THIS.

The decor was funky and the attitude was relaxed. We thankfully got there just before a big rush of people (on a Monday morning, even!), or we would have been waiting out in the cold; there isn’t much seating, let alone room to congregate. When we sat down, I wasn’t too excited to be right next to the front door, but I would gladly take the occasional whoosh of cold air over 30+ minutes sitting in it. I may have felt a little guilty gleefully stuffing French toast in my mouth while the frozen latecomers gazed longingly from the park bench outside. My bad, guys.

Our one mistake was not ordering the Sweet Baby Jesus as our other meal. We saw an enormous plate of hash browns, crab meat, eggs and hollandaise sauce pass by our table, and thought, “SWEET BABY JES–ooh, I get it now.” Yeah. Next time.

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paleo mocha chocolate chip cookies

Posted by culinaryneophyte on December 10, 2014

paleo mocha chocolate chip cookiesFor the last few years, I’ve been participating in a cookie exchange with the same group of girls — past and present soccer teammates who have become good friends. And while I love catching up with them, I have to admit, it’s become a biz (yeah, that’s short for biznatch) coming up with a new recipe each year to top the previous year’s cookie.

This year, I went with the cookies I made for my fantasy football draft a few years back. In searching for an idea, though, I realized I don’t have all that many cookie recipes on here, so here’s a new one — paleo mocha chocolate chip cookies.

Now, they’re gluten free and made with natural ingredients, but they are still cookies. Please don’t think you can eat 100 and be chiseled. (Challenge accepted!)

From Paleo Spirit
♦2 1/3 c. almond meal/flour
♦1/2 c. cocoa powder
♦1/2 tsp. sea salt.
♦1/2 tsp. baking soda
♦2 tsp. instant espresso powder
♦1 tbs. vanilla extract
♦1/2 c. coconut oil, melted
♦1/2 c. coconut nectar
♦3/4 dark chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life)

Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. Combine wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Add in chocolate chips. Form dough into 1/2-inch balls and place on parchment paper. Press each ball down to form a disc. (They do not flatten on their own.) Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Total time? 20 minutes prep and bake.
Cost? $9.98 almond meal, $7.99 coconut oil, $2.99 chocolate chips, $7.49 coconut nectar
Overall success relative to expectations? 10 out 10. Whenever something is labeled #paleo or “clean” or whatever, people assume it won’t be as tasty as the “real” thing. (Funny to put that in quotation marks when it actually means real, but is referring to what everyone has come to accept as real… which is fake. How meta.) These are legitimately good. I brought them to a tailgate, and no one could tell they were “caveman cookies.” This recipe is very simple and the mix goes a long way, but the ingredients are on the pricier side. If you aren’t on a strict paleo diet, it may not be worth the investment; but if you are or you don’t care about budget, see what you think.

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tbt: Mike’s Pastry

Posted by culinaryneophyte on November 13, 2014

mikes pastry cannoliDoing the Throwback Thursday thing to my visit to Mike’s Pastry in Boston.

I never go anywhere, so I pretend my business trips are vacations and hit every local famous food place I can in between work obligations. Obviously, I got some chowdah (I learned during my Fenway tour that “r” is a foreign concept there) and a lobstah roll, which was my favorite meal of the week, but a friend insisted I get a cannoli from Mike’s Pastry in the North End — a place known for its Italian food. Italian food and sweets are not my go-to food picks, but man, this lived up to the hype. And the flavor selection was impressive, I brought home a string-wrapped pastry box for my dad, complete with Oreo, peanut butter and pistachio. I tried to work in a “Godfather” reference when I dropped them off, but failed. I think he appreciated it anyway.

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what a crock

Posted by culinaryneophyte on November 11, 2014

pulled pork with cherry peach salsaOver my handful of years in the kitchen, I have accumulated a lot of appliances — some the greatest ever created (KitchenAid mixer <3), and some that collect dust in the back of my cabinet (I’m looking at you, quesadilla maker). The appliance I always wanted but never had? The Crock Pot. That one time I entered a chili cook off, I had to borrow one from my friend Christina down the street. (Carrying the slow cooker home was a lot less embarrassing than the time I noisily wheeled her vacuum up and down the sidewalk.) I said a Crock Pot would be my housewarming gift to myself, but all those stupid things you have to buy when you move to a new place because my “gift,” and the Crock Pot lust fell by the wayside.

At a holiday party, I was sharing how I had never made a meal in a Crock Pot before (try that for your next game of “Never Have I Ever” – scandalous!), and two of my friends said they happened to have an extra one. A few months later, during Corri’s bridal shower, Dave brought along the Crock Pot, which happened to be brand-stinking-new. If only all bridal showers came with such nice party favors. As soon as I got home, I started a new Pinterest board for all the fabulous things I was going to make in my new slow cooker.

Killing two birds with one stone, I decided the CP’s first meal was going to be pulled pork, because I had never done that before, either. I didn’t care if it was healthy; I just wanted it to be good. And it was.

It may not be peach or cherry season when you’re reading this (and it isn’t while I’m writing this), but I’m sharing this now because it’s always pulled pork season. If these fruits aren’t fresh, leave off the salsa… and just start chopping up whatever you do have in your house. That always [reads: sometimes] works for me!

Adapted slightly from Iowa Girl Eats (from The Pioneer Woman)

Serves 6-8

For the pork
3 lb pork shoulder (this was what I felt we needed, but you can go bigger)
♦salt and pepper
♦1 large sweet onion
♦4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce + 2 tbs. adobo sauce
♦1/2 c. barbecue sauce
♦2 tbs. brown sugar
♦20 oz. root beer

For the salsa
♦1 c. chopped sweet cherries
♦1 c. chopped peaches (about 1 large peach)
♦1 jalapeno, minced
♦salt
♦juice of 1 lime
(I nixed the cilantro because I haaate it, but you can add some here if you don’t.)

Cut onion into quarters and separate into layers at the bottom of crock pot. Trim excess fat from the pork and cut into 4-6 large pieces, seasoned with salt and pepper. Lay pork on top of onions, then add peppers, adobo, barbecue sauce, brown sugar and root beer. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until pork is tender. Remove pork from the crock pot and shred into a bowl.

For the salsa, combine all ingredients in a bowl. This can be made in advance. We served over white rice, but you can easily make this into a taco or sandwich. I also added avocado to cool down the salsa a bit and add a creaminess to the dish.

Total time? 10 minutes prep (more if lots of trimming needed), 6-8 hours cook
Cost? $7 pork, $2 chipotle, $1 root beer, $2 barbecue sauce, $3 cherries, $1 peach
Overall success relative to expectations? 9 out of 10. I was just excited to pour root beer over a slab of meat. (I have soda maaaybe once a year, but whenever I do, it’s root beer.) All of the flavors came through so well, and no additional sauce was needed. The salsa was different than your traditional, from-a-jar variety. It was a *tad* spicy for me because of the jalapeno, which — like I said — can be cooled a bit with avocado, but I could have done with even less spice because the meat alone was just so damn good. For my first pulled pork and my first crock pot experience, this was definitely a winner. And I got to drink the extra root beer. Sweet nectar.

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