that's forking good

adventures in a culinary neophyte's kitchen

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
♦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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ya make me wanna soup

Posted by culinaryneophyte on October 23, 2014

photo(5)The temperatures are starting to dip here in the northeast, and it’s only a matter of time before people start getting sick. Not Ebola sick (calm down, everyone), but, like, sniffles sick. The last time I was feeling under the weather, I happened to have some fresh ginger in my fridge and found a recipe for a paleo ginger carrot soup that also utilized the spare pound of baby carrots in my fridge. Didn’t even have to leave the house for ingredients, which was fortunate because I was looking scarier than Twisty the Clown.

Makes about 3 servings
3 c. chopped carrots
3 tbs. minced fresh ginger
1 can coconut milk
3 c. organic vegetable broth
1/2 red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
​​♦1 tbs. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Saute garlic and onion in olive oli over medium heat. Add chopped carrots, ginger, coconut milk, broth and seasoning. Simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and run through food processor in small batches, or use an immersion blender (that’s what I used) to blend into smooth consistency.

Total time? 30 minutes
Cost? $1 fresh ginger, $2.50 carrots, $2.19 coconut milk, $2.99 broth
Overall success relative to expectations? 10 out of 10. This soup was so creamy and delicious, and carried the perfect amount of spice in each bite. They say ginger can be used to calm upset stomachs and remedy colds. Even if it’s just folklore, this soup was easy to make and delicious enough for me to happily eat three days in a row, providing a simple, warm escape from my sick, sad mood.

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I love it when a plan[tain] comes together

Posted by culinaryneophyte on October 5, 2014

chipotle turkey burger plantainSometimes I’m so excited about my food, I refuse to accept it is unphotogenic. That’s pretty much what happened with this creation: a chipotle turkey burger with bacon, caramelized onions and fresh guac on a plantain bun. It’s like when you’re defending a girl you’re dating to your friends who are judgingly flipping through her Facebook pictures — trust me when I say it was way better looking in person.

For such a seemingly complex dish, the most difficult part was not burning the shiz out of my onions like I always seem to do whilst caramelizing. Some people might say I’m not the most patient person… and that also applies to caramelizing onions. For the sake of the dish, I curbed my impatience best I could and focused on the other elements, like this newfound plantain bun.

One of my friends at the gym told me she used jicama to make a burger bun, but I couldn’t find that on a late-night ShopRite run (I’m sure I’ve mentioned my local ShopRite is the worst one on the planet), so I went searching for some other novel sort of something. Enter: the plantain. I remembered seeing something like this before on Instagram (my favorite #foodporn spot), and it was brilliant. (And no, It doesn’t taste much like eating a smushed banana around your burger.)

makes four slider-sized burgers
♦1 ripe plantain
♦1/2 lb. ground turkey
♦Dashes (I didn’t measure — sorry!) of chili powder, sea salt, cumin and chipotle seasoning
♦1/2 red onion, cut into slices
♦1 tbs. coconut oil or butter + 1 tbs. coconut oil
♦4 slices of bacon, cooked
♦avocado slices

Mash up plantain, split into two separate ramekins and place in the fridge for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, heat frying pan over medium heat and add coconut oil (or butter). Once melted, add sliced onions and cook and stir to caramelize over the next 15-20 minutes. Be patient (unlike me)!

Also in the meantime, combine spices and turkey, then form into mini patties for a slider-sized burger.

Remove plantain ramekins from fridge. Loosen plantain mash from sides of ramekins and pop out whole. Heat coconut oil over medium heat. Once melted, place plantain in pan and sear for three minutes per side. Once removed and slightly cooled, slice longways to create two “buns” from one mold. (You could use each mold as a side of the bun, but I initially found that was too thick and too much to put in my mouth [get the “that’s what she said” out now — go ahead], so I sliced it in half. [Yow!])

While aforementioned plantain patties are cooling (pre-slice), add turkey burgers to pan and cook eight minutes per side or until cooked all the way through.

Add turkey patty to sliced plantain bun, top with avocado, bacon, onions and/or whatever your heart desires.

Total time? 25 minutes
Cost? $4 meat, $1.50 avocado, $3.99 bacon, $1 plantain, $5.99 coconut oil
Overall success relative to expectations? Obviously, these are not as “real burger-y” as a bread bun, but they present a very palatable paleo option. The burgers held together really well, which I found surprising considering there’s no egg to use as a binder, and kept well as leftovers. She may not be a looker, but she’s definitely a keeper.

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on Sunday morning

Posted by culinaryneophyte on September 29, 2014

chocolate coconut pancakesThis weekend, we held a surprise retirement party for my dad, who’s retiring early and moving to NC to play golf all day, erryday. In catching up with family friends whom I have not seen in years, I got a lot of questions about whether or not I’m still writing — for work (barely) or in my blog (embarrassingly little). It is one of those things I think about almost on a daily basis, but life has been flying by — more so this year than ever before — and so many things have been pushed aside if they are not of the utmost priority.

(And yes, pretty much every post I publish here now is some sort of apology and/or promise to write more. This is no exception.)

To be honest, Instagram has taken the place of my blog because it’s “Twitter for people who can’t read,” and I can post from my phone while I’m laying in bed worrying about all the things I didn’t get done today and all the things on the horizon for tomorrow. If you are interested in checking out my latest creations, please follow me on IG, @thejerc. I will also try to make a better effort to post them here to at least keep you drooling.

In other news, these are the pancakes I made yesterday morning using AboutTime chocolate coconut protein as part of the sauce and these fancy new little brownie thins from Mrs. Thinsters. I tried them at a festival in Philly this weekend, and they’re delicious. I can’t wait to use them on top of my “protein ice cream” and other assorted goodies. (Also, big thanks to them for the recent shout out on social media!)

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