Roasted Brussels Sprouts (and the book Food Matters)

Despite all the sweet treats I share on the blog, hubby and I actually do eat fairly healthy a good portion of the time. Case in point, these roasted brussels sprouts, seasoned simply with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

If you remember last year around this time, I shared a Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad, which served as my initiation into liking brussels sprouts. Prior to that, hubby had only steamed them, which simply releases their atrocious sulfurous compounds and ruins the taste. Yuck!

But roasted? Totally a different story, folks! They get a bit charred on the outside yet transform into tenderness inside, and no stinky sulfurous release, either. Yay! The generous sprinkling of sea salt along with pepper and olive oil enhance the flavor, too. I LOVE ‘em this way. So simple yet so scrumptious.

Now for Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating. I spent the past couple days reading this book by Mark Bittman. Yes, it’s been around since 2002, but I’m a busy gal, okay? The basic premise of the book is to eat like food matters. I love that idea. I need to remember that what I put into my body matters.

Bittman suggests eating lots of plant foods, as close to their natural state as possible, as well as veggies, beans, fruits, and whole grains. He calls this sane eating vs. the insanity of eating excessive animal products, refined carbs, and junk food (and he provides tons of research to support the negative effects of insane eating, both on the individual and on the environment).

Now, the book isn’t about a specific diet but simply about changing our habits to eating like food matters. He writes, “…deny nothing; enjoy everything, but eat plants first and most” (65). Two-thirds of the book then provides recipes and ideas for eating like food matters.

In the past few years, I actually have practiced what Bittman advises, so his book simply reinforces a style I have embraced already. I really enjoyed the basic premise, though, and will reiterate it once more to close: eat like food matters. Let that guide you as you move forth into 2014. And consider starting soon with these roasted brussels sprouts. Cheers to a healthy new year!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

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Yield: 2 servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 ounces brussels sprouts
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. (or more) of sea salt (I used Maldon sea salt)
  • sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cut off the stem ends of the brussels sprouts. Pull off any yellow and spotted outer leaves. Cut brussels sprouts in half lengthwise and place on sheet pan. Toss with olive oil, then spread out on pan. Generously sprinkle with salt and lightly sprinkle with pepper.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn sprouts over; bake another 10-15 minutes until crisp on outside yet tender on inside.
  4. Sprinkle with more salt, if desired, and dust with parmesan cheese.

Note: I baked the sprouts an hour before serving, so I covered the pan with foil and placed back into the oven, heat as low as possible, to keep them warm.

SOURCE: slightly adapted from Food Network, Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa)

2013’s Most Popular Posts

Hubby and I prefer to stay home for a quiet and calm New Year’s Eve. We celebrate by cooking something special, usually lobster. However, two years ago I saved a recipe for Beef Wellington, and this year I’m finally going to try it. Hence, I’ve spent the entire day in the kitchen prepping. If all goes well tonight, I’ll share the recipe later this week.

Anyway, I decided to rest my weary feet a bit and catch up on some emails. Lo and behold, I received my annual report of the most popular posts for 2013 (all sweet treats, by the way), so I thought I’d quickly share them. A couple of the most-searched posts go back to 2011 and 2012!

Wishing each and every one of you a very healthy, happy, and peaceful 2014.

Most popular posts of 2013:

Kahlua Cheesecake

Kahlua Cheesecake

Kahlua Cheesecake: graham cracker crust, ganache layer, velvety Kahlua-flavored cheescake, sour-cream layer, and drizzled ganache topping. Can you say decadent?

Oreo Cheesecake Bites

Oreo Cheesecake Bites

Oreo Cheesecake Bites (2012): Still popular a year later, and rightfully so. These little babies pack a ton of chocolate-y flavor amidst tangy cheesecake. And oh-so-easy to make, too.

Ho Ho Cake

Ho Ho Cake

Ho Ho Cake: This light and airy layered cake garners a lot of oohs and aahs from its recipients. Very yummilicious cake.

Magic Custard Cake

Magic Custard Cake

Magic Custard Cake: Magic indeed as three layers appear from one batter!

Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread

Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread

Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread (2011): Still going strong two years later, this pull-apart bread is simply fun with layers of dough stacked so they pull apart easily after baking. Drizzle with lots of glaze for a glorious treat.

Cookie Round Up 2013

How is it that Christmas is a mere handful of days away? It totally snuck up on me. I never got around to mailing my holiday cards, my tree still isn’t up, and I need to buy a few more gifts. Ahhhhhh!!

However, I did somehow manage to share a handful of cookie recipes with you–not as many as I had hoped, but a few nonetheless. So, here is a recap of the 2013 Holiday Cookie Line Up as well as links to the past couple years of line ups, all just in case you have a spare moment and need to bake up some yummy treats:

Molasses Spice Cookies

Molasses Spice Cookies

I began with these Molasses Spice Cookies. Warm winter spices in an easy-to-whip up dough and extremely yummy to inhale. Santa really loves these after he comes down the chimney :  )

Babbling Brook Cookies

Cookies from the Babbling Brook Inn in Santa Cruz…loaded with goodies

Equally easy-to-whip up but requiring an abundance of ingredients are these Babbling Brook Cookies, named after the inn that serves them. Very decadent.

Chocolate Truffle Cookies

Rich and ultra chocolatey Chocolate Truffle Cookies

Chocolate lovers, these Chocolate Truffle Cookies will steal your heart! Deeply and divinely rich.

Nut Horns

Nut Horns

Utterly European and utterly scrumptious are these Nuthorns, but they require time and patience and skill. I do include a link to a similar yet easier recipe.

Dark Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

Dark Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

And finally, meet the fancy cousin of chocolate chip cookies: Dark Chocolate, Pistachio, and Sea Salt Cookies. If you haven’t invested in sea salt yet, these cookies provide a really, really great excuse for purchasing some.

Here are links to more cookies in case none of the above tickle your fancy:

2012 Holiday Cookie Roundup

2011 Holiday Cookie Roundup

And if you really don’t have time to bake but want some outstanding cookies to give as gifts (or to eat all by yourself), buy a box of Godiva Biscuits. One of my students gifted me a box on the last day of school before winter break, and it is freakin’ delicious!

2013 Holiday Cookie Line Up #5: Dark Chocolate, Pistachio, & Sea Salt Cookies

These dark chocolate chip pistachio cookies, enhanced with a sprinkle of sea salt, come together with ease…unless you insist on shelling pistachios rather than purchasing them already shelled.

Dark Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

Dark Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

Basically, these cookies are like a fancy-pants chocolate chip cookie. The typical semisweet chips get replaced with bittersweet dark chocolate chips, and instead of using walnuts or pecans, those get kicked up a notch with the use of pistachios. Best of all, though, is the sprinkle of sea salt atop the cookies. You get the sweet with a touch of the salty.

Now, go mix up a batch and treat your palate to a classy cookie with these Dark Chocolate Chip Pistachio delights. Better yet, treat someone else with a holiday gift of these cookies.

Dark Chocolate, Pistachio, & Sea Salt Cookies

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Yield: 2 dozen cookies

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt (such as Maldon)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup bittersweet chips (I use Ghiradelli brand)
  • 3/4 cup pistachios, chopped
  • sea salt, for sprinkling on cookies

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper of silpat baking mats.
  2. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. (Here is my method to get butter to the right consistency, which makes a huge difference in the cookies baking thick rather than flat: I cut the butter into several slices first and lay them out on a plate, then I gather all my other ingredients. By the time I finish putting everything together, the butter is softened enough to cream with the sugars but not too soft to ruin my cookies.)
  4. Add the egg and vanilla; beat for 2 minutes.
  5. Add dry ingredients and mix on low speed just until incorporated. Do not overmix or cookies will come out tough.
  6. Using a wooden spoon, stir in bittersweet chips and pistachios.
  7. Drop dough into 1 1/2 inch to 2 inch mounds onto cookie sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Sprinkle each mound with a touch of sea salt. Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned around edges. Allow cookies to sit on baking sheets for a couple minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling.

Note: If you don’t want to bake all the dough, freeze the salt-sprinkled cookie mounds for an hour, then store in a resealable plastic bag in the freezer and bake as desired. Add an extra couple of minutes to the baking time if you bake them frozen; otherwise, they thaw in 10-15 minutes.

SOURCE: Two Peas and Their Pod

2013 Holiday Cookie Line-up #4: Nut Horns with Sour Cream Dough

Nuthorns. Little crescent-shaped cookies loaded with ground up walnuts mixed with sugar and egg whites. Enveloped in powdered sugar, these cookies hit the sweet spot.

Nut Horns

Nut Horns

Hubby’s stepmom, Judy, makes these, and I fell in love with them the first time we visited his family in Ohio back in 2005 and she made them for us. She gifted me the recipe, which she inherited from her mother, hailing back to a Czechoslovakian heritage. They taste very much like my favorite cookies from my Croatian heritage, so I was excited to have the recipe.

The first time I made these, they turned out HUGE, like Amazonian-sized cookies. Everyone laughed at me. The next time, I got the sizing right. I don’t make them often, though, because they are labor intensive. And there is still one element of these that hasn’t worked smoothly for me: the powdered sugar on Judy’s cookies melts into a glaze-like coating. Mine remain powdery. Still yummy, but not quite like hers.

If you feel up for a challenge, give these a try. If you want something similar yet much simpler in terms of effort, try the Walnut Pillows.

Nut Horns with Sour Cream Dough

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Yield: about 78 cookies

INGREDIENTS

Dough

  • 4 cups flour
  • 3 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 package instant yeast (that’s the Rapid Rise yeast)
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, cold
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 tsp. water
  • powdered sugar for coating cookies

Filling

  • 1 1/2 pounds walnuts
  • 8 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 4 egg whites

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpat baking mats.
  2. To make dough: In a large food processor, pulse together flour, granulated sugar, salt, and yeast. Add cold butter, cut into small pieces. Pulse until you begin to see pea-sized pieces of dough. (You can do this by hand, too, using two forks to mix the butter into the flour.)
  3. Add egg yolks, sour cream, and water. Pulse continuously until a ball of dough forms.
  4. Shape dough into 1-inch balls, placing them on a towel topped with a sheet of wax paper. Place another sheet of wax paper on top, followed by another towel (to keep dough warm). Allow dough to rise for 30 minutes (it won’t rise a lot).
  5. To make filling: Using food processor, pulse until nuts are finely ground. Add sugar and pulse until combined. Add egg whites a tablespoon at a time until filling is moistened. You don’t want the filling too loose nor too moist. It should be about right when you squeeze in in your hand the it sticks together.
  6. To assemble cookies: Roll each dough ball in powdered sugar, then use a rolling pin to flatten into a thin disc, about 1/8 inch thick and about 4 inches in diameter. Fill each circle of dough with about 1 tsp. of filling. Roll the dough into a cylindrical shape, pinch the ends, then roll in powdered sugar. Place onto cookies sheets, spacing about 1 inch apart, and form into a crescent.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned. Upon taking them out of oven and while still hot, give them another toss in the powdered sugar, then place on cooling racks to cool.

Note: these freeze well. Simply place in an airtight container. Judy recommends storing in tins rather than plastic, though, to prevent moisture from destroying the cookies.

SOURCE: my husband’s stepmother, Judy

2013 Holiday Cookie Line Up #3: Chocolate Truffle Cookies (from Dahlia Bakery)

Yep, I could eat that entire stack of ultra chocolatey cookies.

Chocolate Truffle Cookies

Rich and ultra chocolatey Chocolate Truffle Cookies

And I would need an entire gallon of milk to wash it down.

However, I refrained. I froze them instead so I could snack on them nightly. Oops, I meant to say so I could share them as holiday gifts.

Did I mention these are the perfect solution for when a gal needs her chocolate fix? They hit the spot. They should since they have a TON of melted chocolate added to the batter, which can get quite costly if you use the quality chocolate. And you should. No cutting corners on this one. Go for the gold.

These also hit the spot when us English teachers sit home all day–literally all day–grading essays. A cookie here, a cookie there–it helps ease the pain of grading.

Most of my baked cookies came out on the flatter side, which frustrates the heck outta me. Sometimes cookies just work and sometimes they don’t. I think it has to do with the butter and how cold it is. I guess my butter was on the slightly-too-soft side. However, as the mounds of dough waited on the cookie sheets for their stint in the oven, the later-baked batches had better form. Go figure.

Anyhow, these pack a mighty rich chocolate punch. I did find them to crumble a bit and harden ever-so-slightly the next day, which truthfully bummed me out a bit. However, I froze a bunch of the baked cookies, and when thawed, they tasted great and held their shape better. Again, go figure.

Chocolate Truffle Cookies (from Dahlia Bakery Cookbook)

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Yield: 36 cookies, about 3 1/2 inches in diameter

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp. + 1 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Penzey’s Natural High Fat Cocoa)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 pound + 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat baking mats.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. (I always sift my cocoa first to get the lumps out of it.)
  3. Place a heatproof bowl over a saucepan filled with about one inch of water. Heat the water until simmering but not boiling. Place chopped chocolate in bowl; stir until chocolate melts and is smooth. Remove bowl from saucepan; allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, mix softened butter and sugar until well combined.
  5. Add eggs one at a time, mixing on medium speed until each is incorporated, then increase speed to high and beat for a few minutes until mixture is very light and creamy and pale in color (this step, by the way, gives the cookies their shiny, cracked tops; I think I needed to mix mine longer).
  6. Add the melted chocolate and vanilla (do not add vanilla to hot chocolate; it will make the chocolate seize!); mix until just combined.
  7. Use a spatula to fold in the dry ingredients. Do not overmix or cookies will come out tough.
  8. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  9. Start scooping cookies as soon as batter is made. Batter will be very soft and sticky initially but will begin to firm up as it sits, making scooping difficult. Scoop out into mounds about 2 inches in diameter, placing two inches apart. Slightly dampen hand and lightly flatten each mound. While one batch bakes, allow other to sit on counter rather than refrigerate them (chilled dough won’t spread properly with these cookies).
  10. Bake until cookie tops are evenly cracked and they are soft set, about 14-16 minutes. Remove pans from oven; allow to cool on wire rack. Cool cookies completely before removing them from the baking sheets.

Note: I halved the recipe and it worked out just fine.

SOURCE: In Sock Monkey Slippers via The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook