Thai Lime and Chili Peanut Cookies

June 22, 2008 at 11:56 pm (A (4 stars, love, favorite), Cook's Illustrated, Cookies, Dessert, My brain)

I wanted to use up some of the 10 jars of nut butters languishing in the fridge, so I decided to make peanut butter hazelnut cookies, which would use up the peanut butter, the hazelnut butter, and the peanut hazelnut butter. Heidi Swanson raves about the Cook’s Illustrated recipe for peanut butter cookies, so I used that as my base, subbing out some of the flour for wheat germ, because I wanted to use it up. The recipe calls for roasted, salted peanuts, which I didn’t have. It was either use unroasted, unsalted peanuts, or… the Trader Joe’s Thai Lime and Chili peanuts I’d been happily snacking on since my friend Robbie introduced them to me a few years ago. I decided to give the Thai cookies a chance. I used the peanuts as they were, bits of kaffir lime leaves, red chilies, and all.  If you can’t get Trader Joe’s lime and chili peanuts, then you could try just adding in ground up chili peppers, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves. Read the rest of this entry »

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Millet Fruit and Nut Quick Bread

June 15, 2008 at 8:18 pm (breakfast, B_minus (2.5 stars), Dessert, Grains, Muffins and quick breads, Rebecca Wood)

This is an update of an older post, but I changed quite a few of the details so I thought it was worth reposting. I pulled some millet out of the freezer, and decided to give this recipe another try, with alterations based on my comments from the first version:

  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 3/4-1 cup dried fruit (I used currants, dried pear, dried apple, dried cranberries, and sour Persian berries)
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 3 Tbs. honey
  • 1 large egg
  • 1.5 cups cooked millet
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 cup toasted almonds, chopped


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Chop the dried fruit, and place in a large bowl. In a small saucepan, heat up 1 cup of the orange juice to not-quite boiling, then pour over the dried fruit. Let stand for 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in the same saucepan, melt the butter, then add the honey and stir to combine well. Pour into the bowl with the dried fruit and let cool. Toast the almonds, and then chop them coarsely. Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan, or a 8×8 inch square banking pan.
  4. When the liquid has cooled, add the egg and mix well. Next, add the millet and and stir to break up any clumps. Sift in the flour, salt, baking powder, and soda, and mix gently. Fold in the almonds. Pour the batter into a loaf pan or square baking pan, and bake for about 35 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

My notes: the texture of this cake was nice. It was moist and heavy and millet-y and crumbly, and held together quite well. The almonds didn’t add a lot of flavor, but I added a bit of texture, although I wish I had left a few of the nuts in slightly larger pieces. The tart Persian berries and cranberries were a great addition, but I couldn’t taste the other fruit individually. I liked the orange juice instead of the original apple juice. It adds just a touch of acidity which is lovely. This cake is not too sweet. It’s almost mid-way between a cake and a quick bread like Irish Soda Bread with raisins. It’s nice toasted with a little salted butter on top, or toasted and topped with warm milk. It’s still a tad bit low on the pizzazz factor, which would be helped perhaps by the use of some baking spices: cloves or cardamom or poppy seeds or black pepper maybe?

Rating: B

Update Dec 27, 2009

I cooked 1 cup of millet with 2 cups of water, 1 Tbs. butter, pinch of salt, pinch of cloves, and 1/8 tsp. nutmeg.  It came out a bit wet, not sure why.  I used 1 cup of it for the cake.  I used 3/4 cup orange juice, plus a little that clung to the fruit after soaking.  In addition to the honey, I added 2 Tbs. of sweet syrup made from Derek’s failed honeycomb sugar experiment. I used only 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup cornmeal.  I used toasted walnuts instead of almonds, but forgot to measure them.  Maybe about 1/3 cup?  For fruit I used 3 dried peaches, 1 dried apricot, some raisins, some tart Persian berries, and a little crystalized ginger.  I baked the cake in a 9×9 square pan for 20 minutes, and the tester came out clean.

The cake was tasty.  I liked the addition of the cornmeal–it gave it a slightly grittier texture that was lovely.    The flavor was good, although I still think there’s some room to play around with spices.  Almond extract maybe?  Next time I’d add the cloves and nutmeg directly to the batter.  I liked the bigger pieces of walnuts–you could definitely taste them.  The addition of the honeycomb sugar syrup made the cake sweeter than last time–Derek didn’t try to add any sweetener.  He did add a little butter, however.  He said the cake was pretty tasty, but he wouldn’t ask me to bake it again.  Also, he didn’t like the tart berries. He was also confused about the recipe.  What is it, he wondered?  Dessert?  Breakfast?  Neither.  The next day Derek liked it better.  Derek rating: B.  My rating: B.  I think it’s a good recipe to have around if you want to use up some cooked millet or dried fruit, but I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to make it.  It would probably be good to serve in the afternoon with.  For this recipe:

Serving Size: 1/16 recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 133
Total Fat 4.4g
Saturated Fat 1.7g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 19mg
Sodium 134mg
Carbohydrate 21.9g
Dietary Fiber 1.2g
Sugars 8.6g
Protein 2.5g
Vitamin A 3% Vitamin C 10%
Calcium    2% Iron 3%

Original post: December 31, 2007

Last year Derek and I had a delicious millet cake at Green Zebra in Chicago, and ever since then I wanted to try my hand at replicating it, partly because it’s something different, and partly it’s because it’s the first time Derek ever liked millet. I did some googling, and turned up very little–one recipe with nuts and fruit, and a few made from millet flour rather than the whole millet. I decided to start with a recipe for Apricot Millet Breakfast Cake from The Splendid Grain by Rebecca Wood.

  • 1 cup apple juice + 1/2 cup (in case your fruit is very dry)
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup currants
  • 2 Tbs. dried cranberries
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 3 Tbs. honey
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup cooked millet
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 cup chopped pumpkin seeds

My own version of the instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Chop the apricots, and place with the cranberries and currants in a small bowl. In a small saucepan, heat up 1 cup of the apple juice to not-quite boiling, then pour over the dried fruit. Let stand for 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in the same saucepan, melt the butter, then add the honey and stir to combine well. Pour into a large bowl and let cool briefly. Chop the pumpkin seeds, and grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
  4. When the fruit has been soaking for 15 minutes, pour it through a strainer, letting the juice fall into a 1-2 quart measuring cup. If there is more than 3/4 cup of juice, pour off some, and if there is less, add enough to make 3/4 cup (the amount yielded will depend on how dry your fruit was). Pour the juice into the large bowl with the butter and honey, then add the egg and mix well. Next, add the millet and fruit and stir to break up any clumps. Sift in the flour, salt, baking powder, and soda, and mix gently. Fold in the pumpkin seeds. Pour the batter into the loaf pan, and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a test comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

My Notes:
I misread the instructions and added 1 cup of apple juice instead of 3/4 cup, so then I was afraid my batter would be too wet so I added extra millet. The cake took 45 minutes to cook, rather than 30, probably because of my mistake. But in the end I liked it with the extra millet and juice, so I might actually do this on purpose next time!

I like the cake. It has a very similar texture to the one we had at green zebra~the millet is definitely noticeable, and adds a nice crumbliness to the cake. Like all of Rebecca Wood’s recipes, this cake tastes surprisingly simple, and is almost but not quite bland, with a little something elusive that makes it interesting, and keeps you going back for more.

I like that this cake uses real butter, but only 3 Tbs., and honey, but only 3 Tbs. I bet it would also be nice with olive oil instead of butter. The cake is sweet from the juice and fruit and honey, but not crazy sweet (although Derek did add maple syrup to his). I enjoyed the cake for dessert, and I had a slice toasted and covered in warm milk for breakfast, which was delicious.

All that said, I don’t think I would make this recipe again without substantial changes. I used white flour since I didn’t have whole wheat pastry flour, but I thought it could use a slightly more flavorful flour, either whole wheat or half white and half something else, maybe oat flour or cornmeal? The pumpkin seeds were subtle, but noticeable, and I didn’t dislike them, but next time would try another seed or nut instead, perhaps poppy or almonds. I don’t really care for dried apricots, so next time I make this I think I’d sub in some other dried fruit, maybe some dried apples to echo the apple juice flavor, or perhaps something very tart would be nice, something like barberries or unsweetened cranberries (although they’re very hard to find). I also might try adding just a pinch of a sweet spice like cloves or allspice or nutmeg perhaps, or maybe even cardamom.

Derek said the cake was “not bad, pretty good, needs to be sweeter.” He liked it warmed up with milk and honey or maple syrup over it, but wouldn’t touch it plain and room temperature.

Rating: B-
Derek: B-

Here’s the nutritional stats for 1/12 of a loaf pan:

Serving Size: 1/12 cake
Amount Per Serving
Calories 176
Total Fat 4.8g
Saturated Fat 2.2g
Cholesterol 25mg
Sodium 178mg
Carbohydrate 31.4g
Dietary Fiber 1.5g
Sugars 13.9g
Protein 3.7g
Vitamin A 7% Vitamin C 1%
Calcium 2% Iron 6%

It’s 24% fat, 68% carbs, and 8% protein. As a dessert that seems a bit low fat. For a breakfast, you’d clearly want to add more protein. But it’s only 175 calories so there’s room for a higher protein food. With a serving of lowfat yogurt or milk or regular soymilk the percents would be around 25%, 60%, 15%, which is more appropriate for breakfast.

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Homemade Granola Bars

June 15, 2008 at 6:43 pm (101 cookbooks, B plus (3.5 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Dessert, Grains, Granola & energy bars, My brain)

I’m trying to use up all the grains, nuts and seeds, and dried fruit in my pantry before I leave Montreal. Faced with a huge jar of rolled oats, I discovered this recipe on 101cookbooks for Big Sur Power Bars. I’ve always wanted to try to make granola bars / power bars of some sort, so despite the fact that I didn’t have all the ingredients, I decided to give it a try. Below is the recipe I made from what I found in my kitchen, based on Heidi Swanson’s recipe, and my memories of making hundreds of batches of granola back in my days as fast food chef at the House of Commons co-op. Read the rest of this entry »

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Chewy falafel burgers

June 14, 2008 at 5:53 pm (Beans, C (2 stars, okay, edible), My brain, Quick weeknight recipe)

I had mixed feelings about the chickpea burgers I tried a while back, but I really liked the idea of using gluten flour in a veggie or bean burger to add a chewy texture. This is my attempt to create a burger recipe that’s a little less bland boca and a little more vibrant veggie.  It’s basically a combination of Isa’s chickpea cutlet recipe and the cook’s illustrated falafel recipe.

  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1.75 cups cooked chickpeas, from one can
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup packed parsley
  • 1/2 cup packed cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2/3 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 3/4 cup matzoh meal
  • 3 scallions, chopped coarsely
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth or water
  • olive oil for pan frying
  1. In the bowl of a food processor, briefly process the garlic.  Add the chickpeas, soy sauce, parsley, salt cilantro, cumin, cinnamon, and olive oil, and pulse a few times, until the mixture is thick and chunky, but there are no whole chickpeas remaining.  The mixture should be substantially thicker and lumpier than hummus.
  2. Move the chickpea mixture to a mixing bowl, and add the matzoh meal, wheat gluten, scallions, and liquid.  Mix with your hands until all the meal and gluten are incorporated. Knead the mixture for about 3 minutes, until strings of gluten have formed.
  3. Preheat a large heavy-bottomed nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Meanwhile, divide the  dough into 8 equal pieces, and form a thin patty out of each piece, the thinner the better.
  4. Add a moderately thin layer of olive oil to the bottom of the pan. Place the cutlets in the pan and cook on each side for 6 to 7 minutes. Add more oil, if needed, when you flip the cutlets. They’re ready when lightly browned and firm to the touch.

My Notes:

Unfortunately, my experiment was not a success, with regards to either texture or flavor.  When I shaped the patties the texture felt right–not as springy as last time, but they definitely held together well.   They browned up nicely in my cast iron skillet, but the inside was soft and doughy, almost unchanged from the raw dough.  I think making the patties thinner would help with this. I also would bump the gluten up to 3/4 cup.  After the patties cooled off the inner texture firmed up, and they seemed more cooked and cohesive.  They weren’t bad dipped in ketchup.

Despite my efforts, these patties were very bland!  The only seasoning I really could taste was the cinnamon, which Cook’s Illustrated calls for but I don’t recall having a presence in normal falafel. The number one problem: I clearly did not add enough salt.  I think the recipe needs another 1/2 tsp. or more of salt.  I couldn’t really taste the cumin, cilantro, or parsley, although I could definitely see the bright green herbs.  Maybe more salt would have brought out these flavors, but certainly the patties tasted nothing like falafel.  I can try again, doubling all the seasonings, but I’m not sure that will turn these from bland burgers to falafel taste-alikes. Another problem was that the patties were missing any hint of hot, which I somehow didn’t notice when putting together the recipe.  I went back and checked the Cook’s Illustrated falafel recipe and it calls for black pepper, but I think I’d prefer something with even more zing, maybe jalepeno or cayenne.

Rating: B-

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Almond Torte with Sugared Fruit

June 14, 2008 at 10:59 am (C (2 stars, okay, edible), Cake, Dessert, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, Website / blog)

Katrina picked a an Almond Torte with Sugared Apricots, from the blog Orangette, for our next cooking club recipe. I wasn’t too keen on the apricot idea, as they’re not my favorite fruit, and I’m trying to clean out my kitchen in preparation for my move. So instead of using apricots I decided to use frozen cranberries. Since cranberries and orange are one of my favorite combinations (I’ve been making a cranberry orange smoothie for breakfast every day this week), I also added 1 Tbs. of frozen orange juice concentrate to the batter, and drizzled another Tbs. of concentrate over the top of the cake along with the cranberries, then sprinkled with 1 Tbs. sugar. Read the rest of this entry »

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Popped Amaranth

June 14, 2008 at 7:11 am (breakfast, Grains, Other, Quick weeknight recipe, unrated)

I was trying to find a new recipe for the rest of the amaranth in my pantry–a pretty difficult task it turns out; amaranth is just not popular. I didn’t find a recipe, but I did find out that you can pop amaranth at home.   Here’s the tale.

Jane Brody, in her Good Food Book, says to heat a heavy skillet or a wok until it is very hot, and then add 1 Tbs. of amaranth seeds. Stir the seeds continually to prevent them from burning, and remove from the pan immediately when most of the grains have popped. (They don’t all pop, but the unpopped seeds can also be eaten.) Repeat this procedure until you have popped as much grain as you desire; they expand to three or four fives their original volume. She warns not to try popping more than 1 Tbs. of seeds at a time or they will just burn.

This worked pretty well, even with 2 Tbs. of seeds. With 4 Tbs. of seeds it seemed like more burnt than popped. I quite liked the popped amaranth with soymilk.

A different set of instructions from Serendipitious Chef Blog

Heat a small skillet with a tight fitting lid until very hot. Place 2 tbsp of amaranth seeds on the skillet, quickly cover with lid, and shake skillet over heat until most of the seeds have popped, 30 seconds or so. Transfer popped seeds to a bowl. Repeat procedure with more amaranth seeds until you have about 2 cups of popped amaranth seeds. Reserve popped seeds.

These instructions didn’t work very well for me–most of the seeds burned.

I often pop corn in the microwave.  I just get a small paper bag, toss in a quarter cup or so of corn kernels out of the bulk bin at my local health food store, fold the top of the bag over a few times, and then microwave on high for 1 3/4 to 2 1/2 minutes.  The exact amount of time will depend on the power of your microwave, the size of your bag, and the amount of corn you’re popping, but I find that a good rule of thumb is once the pops fall below 1 per second, it’s time to take the popcorn out.  All the kernels won’t have popped, but those ones will fall to the bottom and you can always put them in again after you’ve eaten all the popped corn.

I’ve wondered for a few years now if you can pop amaranth in the microwave, and I finally got around to testing it out this week.  I placed about 2 Tbs. of amaranth in a small paper back, and tried microwaving it.  Unfortunately, before the pop rate decreased much at all I smelled burning.  I pulled the bag out and took a look.  One hunk of amaranth in one corner was perfectly popped, another corner was a black smoking charred mess, and a third corner was completely unpopped, but not burnt.  Perhaps trying to pop amaranth in the microwave, at least without some special device, is not a good idea.  I’d love to hear if anyone has done this successfully though.
Original post written December 26th, 2006

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Basic mung dal

June 5, 2008 at 4:57 pm (Beans, Indian, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, unrated)

This is a simpler version of the mung and toovar dal from the cookbook From Curries to Kabobs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail by Madhur Jaffrey.

Serves 4

  • 1 cups hulled and split mung dal
  • 3.5 – 4 cups water
  • 1/4 tsp. Indian chili pepper (or sub in cayenne pepper if you don’t have any)
  • 1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 3/4 Tbs. peeled and finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 Tbs. garlic, crushed to a pulp (about 3 cloves)
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 1 1/8 tsp. kosher salt (scant tsp. fine sea salt)
  • 2 Tbs. oil
  • 1 tsp. whole brown mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. chili flakes
  1. Wash the dal, then add to a 2-quart lidded pot, along with 3.5 cups of water. If you’re not going to eat the dal immediately, use 4 cups of water as it thickens as it sits. Bring to a boil. Do not let them boil over. Skim off the scum that rises to the surface with a slotted spoon. Stir.
  2. Add the Indian chili powder, turmeric, ginger, garlic, shallot, and salt. Stir. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover with the lid, and simmer gently for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the dal is tender.
  3. Pour the oil into a small frying pan and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the mustard seeds and red chilies. As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop, a matter of seconds, empty the contents of the frying pan, oil and spices, into the pan containing the dal. Cover immediately with the lid to trap the aromas. Stir gently before serving.

My notes

I wanted to make Madhur Jaffrey’s mung and toovar dal but was out of toovar dal, as well as other necessary ingredients. This is my simplified, don’t-go-to-the-store version. If you want to veer back to the original, use 1/2 toovar dal, add in asoefetida, fresh green chilies, cilantro, and fresh curry leaves, and use whole dried red chilies instead of chili flakes, and ghee instead of oil.

I fried my spices in avocado oil, because that was what I had. I’m not sure whether it added a specific flavor, but the final dish was delicious. It was noticeably spicy, but I couldn’t stop eating it. I would eat this with my dosa recipe, or naan, or Ethiopian injera, cauliflower curry, or any other vegetable curry dish. Add some rice and/or raita and you’d have a healthy, tasty, vegetarian Indian feast.

This is a large recipe.  It makes around 3.5 – 4 cups I think.  I bet it would freeze well, but I haven’t tried it.

If you’ve never eaten mung dal, there’s a great picture of the different types of lentils at The image of the mung dal is quite accurate.

Update 1/11/2009: I made this recipe again, except I used about 1/3 mung dal and 2/3 toovar dal, and I only used 1 Tbs. of oil. I didn’t like it nearly as much as I did the first time. It was okay, but didn’t quite taste like something you’d get at an Indian restaurant. Eaten with yogurt it was fine, but was a little too stinky on its own. For this version:

Rating: B-
Derek: B-

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