Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chocolate-dipped macaroons


I first tasted these chocolate-dipped macaroons when a co-worker brought them into the office, and I was hooked from the first bite. Although always a fan of everything coconut, these macaroons taste SO fresh and light that any store-bought variety pales in comparison. 

Straight from The Mensch Chef, author Mitchell Davis points out that coconut naturally has "a tender texture and buttery taste that people often mistake for butter in the recipe...there isn't any, so the joke is on them." Sweetened simply with sugar, egg whites and vanilla, these bite-sized treats are bursting with flavor and calorie-controlled by their mini nature.

Chocolate-dipped macaroons
2 1/2 cups (12 ounces) sweetened, flaked coconut
2 large egg whites
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of kosher salt
4 ounces bittersweet or white chocolate, coarsely chopped
Special Equipment
Parchment paper or silicone mat

Directions: (Don't be daunted by the lengthiness, the preparation is very simple this is just extremely detailed!)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat and grease it lightly with butter or peanut oil. In a small mixing bowl, combine the coconut, egg whites, sugar, vanilla, and salt, and stir to mix well. To shape the cookies, dip your fingers in a bowl of cold water. Grab about 2 or 3 tablespoons of the coconut mixture and shape it into a mound on the cookie sheet. Space the mounds out evenly on the sheet. The macaroons won't spread while they cook, but if they are too close they won't brown evenly. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the coconut has begun to brown on top and the bottoms are an even, golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool for about 5 minutes on the pan.
Line a clean cookie sheet with parchment paper. When the macaroons are completely cool, melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler, or in a stainless steel bowl set over simmering water, or in the microwave. Be careful not to get any moisture into the chocolate, particulary from the condensation of steam. Stir the melted chocolate until smooth. Holding the macaroons on one side, dip half into the melted chocolate. Place the dipped macaroons on the parchment paper and continue until all are half dipped.
Place the macaroons in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to harden the chocolate, and then transfer them to an airtight container to store.

Coconut: all saturated fats are not created equal
Multiple studies reveal that  Pacific Island populations who get 30-60 percent of their total caloric intake from fully saturated coconut oil have nearly non-existent rates of cardiovascular disease. How can this be? The answer: not all saturated fats are created equal, and coconut takes the cake (pun intended) on healthy saturated fat. 
So how does it work? Nearly 50 percent of the fat in coconut oil is the natural compound lauric acid, which  your body organically converts into monolaurin for anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. Furthermore, coconut oil's medium-chain fatty acids use their small size to their advantage to be easily digested and immediately burned. In contrast, the long-chain fatty acids in common vegetable or seed oils are difficult to break down and thus mostly stored as fat.
In turn, this process produces a number of profound health benefits, including improvement in heart health, thyroid,and the immune system, plus increased metabolism and weight loss properties.

Davis, Mitchell. "Desserts, Sweets, and Breakfast." The Mensch Chef. New York: Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2002. 154-55. Print.
Mercola, Joseph. "Coconut Oil Benefits: When Fat Is Good For You." Huffpost Health. The Huffington Post, 14 Feb. 2011. Web. 20 Apr. 2011. <>.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Banana Walnut Bread

I just realized I am posting this Banana Walnut Bread recipe the night before Passover begins. So for all of you keeping Passover...just think of this recipe as the prize at the end of your 8 day journey of matzoh peanut butter and jellies.
Banana Bread is one of those foods where you really can't gauge how much butter or oil is in it from the taste.  It is one of my favorite foods, but something I'm always wary about in the back of my mind.

This healthy recipe substitutes apple sauce for butter, uses half whole wheat flour, and adds ground flaxseed for an omega-3 and fiber boost.  The best part is, the bread retains the classic banana bread texture despite these substitutions. I love healthy dessert recipes that don't compromise on taste, and this is certainly one of them! So go it out of the pan. I won't tell :)
Banana Walnut Bread
2 eggs
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup applesauce
1/3 cup nonfat milk
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup flour (half whole wheat, half all-purpose white)
2 teaspoons baking power
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 tablespoon ground flax seed (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a bread pan with non-stick cooking spray, and lightly dust with flour.
2. In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in bananas, applesauce, milk, oil and vanilla.
3. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and flax seed. Stir flour mixture into banana mixture, mixing just until blended. Fold in walnuts. Pour batter into prepared pan.
4. Bake in preheated pan until golden and a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean, about 1 hour. Turn bread out onto a wire rack and let cool.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Curried Chicken Salad

Ok, Spring.  If you won't come to me, I'll come to the form of food. Specifically, salads with fruit.

I absolutely love fresh salads tossed with fruit in the warm weather.  This curried chicken salad recipe features hints of Indian tandoori with the addition of greek yogurt and fresh ginger to the curry powder.  Plump raisins and a drizzle of honey add a refreshing sweetness to the spice.  A classic favorite with an ethnic twist, this recipe is absolutely delicious!

Curried Chicken Salad (Loosely adopted from Epicurious)
Serves 2-3

1 cup chicken broth
1 cup water
2 boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup minced sweet onion
2 tbsp raisins
1/3 cup thinly sliced green pepper
1 carrot, grated
2 celery stalks minced
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 tbsp canola-oil based mayonaisse
2 tbsp nonfat greek yogurt
1 tsp curry powder
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1.2 tsp honey
1/4 tsp dried basil or 1 tbsp fresh chopped basil
dash of salt and pepper

Bring water and chicken broth to a simmer in a medium sized saucepan.  Add chicken and simmer, uncovered. After 2 minutes (or when chicken is no longer raw on the outside) add raisins. Cook until chicken is cooked through, about 6 more minutes. Remove pan from heat and let chicken and raisins soak while preparing the rest of the dish.

Whisk together all of the other ingredients: onion, green pepper, carrot, celery, ginger, mayo, greek yogurt, curry powder, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, honey, dried basil, salt & pepper. Remove chicken from liquid and chop into 1/2-inch pieces. Stir in chicken and raisins to combine.

Serve over baby spinach/ spring mix, or in a sandwich with multigrain bread.

Get Him Yourself to the Greek
Health Magazine names Greek Yogurt as one of the World's Healthiest Foods. In addition to containing multiple strains of probiotics, the "good bacteria" which boosts immunity and helps maintain healthy digestion, Greek yogurt has also been shown to improve lactose intolerance, build stronger bones, and lower blood pressure.  Also, Greek yogurt is lower in sugar than most regular types.  Trying to keep down the fat and sugar? Try Fage Total 0% individual fat-free yogurts, which separate the fruit-flavoring from the plain yogurt to let you monitor your own added sugar.

"World's Healthiest Foods: Yogurt (Greece)." Health News, Wellness, and Medical Information. 8 Feb. 2008. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <,,20410302,00.html>.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Fava Bean Dip with Homemade Pita Chips

I've been looking for the perfect recipe for these giant dried fava beans I discovered one day at the Indian specialty market.  I've never cooked dried beans before, but I decided to give it a try as they aligned with my goal of buying food in its natural state whenever possible to retain maximum nutrients.  Also, I had read that the soaking-process involved in cooking beans reduces its gas-producing carbohydrates.

These spring-fresh beans were the key ingredient for Bissara, a Moroccan Fava Bean Dip.  This simple but tasty dip is accented with chopped parsley and lightly flavored with lemon juice, olive oil and cumin spice.  I served it with these Homemade Pita Chips for a nice crunch, and you can use vegetables such as carrot sticks, jicama and sliced red pepper to achieve the same texture.

Fava Bean Dip (adapted from Capay Organic Farms: check out their extensive list of user-submitted recipes for a variety of organic fruits and veggies)

1/2 lb dried fava beans
2 tbsp minced flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp salt

1. Cooking the beans: Place the dried beans in a bowl with cold water (the water should measure 3 times the amount of beans). Soak the beans overnight. In the morning, rinse and rain them 3-4 times until the water runs clear.  Place the fava beans in a large saucepan.  Add enough water to cover the beans. Cover the pot, and cook over medium-high heat.  Skim the foam that rises to the top once the water boils. Once the foam is gone, simmer the beans on low heat with the top on until they are fully cooked.  Peel if the beans are large.*
beans will expand and soak up most of the water after 24 hrs
2. Prepare the dip: In a blender or food processor, combine half the beans, 1 tbsp water, and the lemon juice. (Add more liquid if you prefer a thinner dip.) Process, scraping down the sides with a spatula, until the mixture is fairly smooth. Add the remaining beans, oil, salt and cumin, and process until smooth.  Continue to add water if bean paste is too dry.  Transfer to a serving bowl and stir in the parsley.

*Peeling the beans can be extremely time-consuming if you don't do it right. They should be peeled just like you eat edamame- squeezed out of the shell until the bean pops out.  I loved the taste of the home-cooked fava beans and thought the dish was wonderful when it was done; however, it was certainly labor-intensive with over 24 hrs of preparation! An alternative for those in a time-crunch might be to make this recipe using canned cannellini or Great Northern beans- you wouldn't get the same fresh, buttery flavor, but I'm sure the dip would be a hit nonetheless. 

Homemade Pita Chips:
-olive oil spritzer
-2 whole-wheat pita rounds
-chili powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking pan with tin foil, and spray generously with the olive oil spritzer.  Cut whole-wheat pitas horizontally along folded edges to form 4 rounds total.  Then cut each round into 8 wedges like a pizza pie, so you have 32 pieces total.  Place triangles in a single layer on the baking pan, spray with another round of olive oil, and sprinkle lightly with paprika and chili pepper. Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until pita chips are crisp and brown. Cool and serve with the Fava Bean dip!