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Silken Tofu Chocolate Mousse Want to serve your sweetheart a killer dessert for Valentine’s Day that won’t kill him? Instead, present him with this cool and creamy mousse that’s rich in flavor, but not heavy in saturated fats, cholesterol, and calories. Don’t mention to him that the base of this luscious chocolate-orange treat is silken tofu—he’ll never guess. Before some of you utter, “Eww . . . tofu,” make this dessert for yourself and then recognize that silken tofu, with its smooth texture and neutral taste, makes the perfect base for a healthy mousse. Plus, after you check the nutritional data below and see that this dessert has no cholesterol, only 40 calories from fat, and a mere 1.5 G of saturated fat, it might just become your favorite dessert.

Silken Tofu Chocolate Mousse
The Whole Foods Market Cookbook by Steve Petusevsky

INGREDIENTS
12 ounces silken-style tofu, drained well
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup maple syrup (barley malt or rice syrup may be substituted)
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules (decaf or regular)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 ounce almond liqueur (optional)

DIRECTIONS
1. Process the tofu, cocoa powder, maple syrup, orange zest, coffee granules, vanilla, salt, and optional liqueur in the bowl of a food processor or in a blender for 1½ minutes, until smooth.

2. Pour the mousse into wine or champagne glasses or dessert-type serving dishes, and chill overnight.

3. Serve the mousse with fresh orange sections, toasted almonds, or shaved chocolate garnish over the top.

Serves 4

Per Serving:
Calories 240
Calories from fat 40
Calories from saturated fat 15
Protein 13 G
Carbohydrate 35 G
Total Fat 4.5 G
Saturated Fat 1.5 G
Cholesterol 0 MG
Sodium 70 MG

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. In general, but depending on brands, tofu is a good source of calcium. Look for brands in which the tofu has been set with calcium sulfate.

2. Because a rich chocolate flavor is critical to this dessert, use a good quality cocoa powder. I used Sharffen Berger Unsweetened Natural Cocoa Powder.

3. Amaretto is the almond liqueur I used. Rather than add the full amount of liqueur at first, I would add it to taste.

4. Adapt this recipe using other flavors. Raspberry, mint, or coffee liqueur would be interesting variations to the recipe.

5. I filled 3 champagne glasses to the brim with one recipe’s worth of mousse. If I had not filled them to the top, I probably could have gotten 4 servings out of the recipe.

ENJOY!!

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Whopper Cookies: Baking with Halloween Candy When Halloween has come and gone, but the Halloween candy has not, what do you do with the leftovers? Do you force yourself to eat them up one by one or do you spare yourself the calories and take them to your spouse’s office? Do you refrigerate them for future use or do you send them off in college care packages? In the past, I’ve done all of the above, but for the last several years, I’ve used the leftover candy for something better. Selecting Halloween candies suitable for baking, I use them to create delicious sweet treats, such as cookies, bars, cakes, and pies. Whoppers, chocolate-covered malted milk balls, turn average cookies into sweet, crunchy, and malted surprises. Trick or treat?

Whopper Cookies
Adapted from recipe by Cast Sugar 

INGREDIENTS
2¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cup roughly chopped Whoppers

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 350 °F and cover baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
4. Stir in milk and vanilla, then gradually blend in the flour mixture. Do not over mix; stir only until no streaks of flour remain.
5. Carefully stir in the chopped Whoppers.
6. Drop 1-inch balls onto prepared baking sheets and bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until lightly browned.
7. Let cool on baking sheet for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. I used unsalted butter and the cookies were perfect.
2. Wanting to have “nice chunks” of Whoppers, I cut each one individually, rather than doing a messy rough-chop on them. This took a little longer, but I liked the end result.
3. I barely had enough Whoppers, so I added some rough-chopped Butterfingers to the mix. These were fantastic!
4. I got 45 cookies out of this recipe.

ENJOY!

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Cinnamon Beef Noodles Ribbons of fat noodles soak up a spicy and aromatic broth while tender chunks of beef and green spinach leaves float by. How’s that for comfort food on a cold night? The use of cinnamon in a beef and noodle recipe may leave some people wondering. Wonder no more. For without a doubt, the cinnamon, together with the ginger, aniseed, and hot chile paste, undeniably adds a lovely complexity to the flavors in this simple and appealing dish.

Cinnamon Beef Noodles
Nina Simonds Asian Noodles Cookbook

INGREDIENTS

1 teaspoon safflower or corn oil

Chile-Cinnamon Seasonings:
6 scallions, trimmed, cut into 1½-inch sections, and smashed lightly with the flat side of a knife

6 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed lightly with flat side of a cleaver, and thinly sliced

4 slices fresh ginger (about the size of a quarter), smashed lightly with the flat side of a knife

1½ teaspoons hot chile paste

2 cinnamon sticks

1 teaspoon aniseed

Remaining Ingredients:
8½ cups water

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 pounds chuck or beef stew meat, trimmed of fat and gristle, and cut into 1½-inch cubes

10-ounces spinach, trimmed, rinsed, and drained

1/2 pound flat Chinese wheat-flour noodles, udon, or other flat noodles, such as fettuccine, cooked until just tender, rinsed under warm water, and drained

3 tablespoons minced scallions

DIRECTIONS
1. Heat a large pot or casserole over medium-high heat. Add the oil and heat until hot, about 30 seconds. Add the chile-cinnamon seasonings and stir-fry until fragrant, about 15 seconds.

2. Add the water and the soy sauce and bring to a boil.

3. Add the beef and bring back to a boil.

4. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1½ hours, or until the beef is very tender. Skim the surface to remove any impurities or fat.

5. Remove the ginger slices and cinnamon sticks and discard.

6. Add the spinach and bring to a boil.

7. Divide the noodles among six soup bowls. Ladle the meat, spinach, and broth over the noodles and sprinkle with scallions. Serve.

6 Servings

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. I used half low-sodium soy and half regular soy, because I was concerned about the broth being too salty. It was just right. No additional salt was needed.

2. Because I had 3 pounds of meat, I added an additional stick of cinnamon to the pot.

3. Adding chunks of red pepper will contrast the spinach nicely and give the dish a little bit more color.

4. In her recipe Ms. Simonds states, “The flavor gets better and better every time you reheat it.” Don’t you love food that gets better with time!

ENJOY!

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My husband will wonder if I’m throwing an impromptu party when he finds a container of freshly stuffed mushrooms and cherry tomatoes in our refrigerator. Yes, I’m having a party, but just a party for one! With only two months left before my son’s wedding, I would still like to lose some weight. Since my son became engaged, my husband has managed to lose over twenty pounds. What about me? Well, despite the fact, that I eat a small-portioned, healthy diet and work in a mix of cardio and strength training on a regular basis, I’ve not lost a single pound! My trainer tells me not to fret, since I have lost inches and body fat. So what about the appetizers in my refrigerator? Other than at the gym, I hate repetition. Bored with the usual snacks of apples, celery, and carrots, I decided to reward my progress with some healthy gourmet snacks!

Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes Italiano
Recipe as found in Deborah Anderson’s cookbook Easy Gourmet-Style Cooking With 5 Ingredients

Ingredients:
36 cherry tomatoes
1 – 15 oz. can of cannellini beans, drained
1 bunch of fresh basil, plus 24 leaves
2 tablespoons garlic-flavored olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Directions:
1. Rinse the tomatoes and set aside.
2. Also wash and set aside 24 small basil leaves and chop remaining basil.
3. Cut 12 tomatoes in half, squeeze out all the seeds and juice, dice and set aside.
4. In a food processor or blender, puree the beans, basil, garlic oil and lemon juice until it reaches a finely chopped consistency.
5. Place pureed bean mixture in a medium bowl. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and chopped basil.
6. Remove top 1/4 portion from remaining 24 tomatoes and discard.
7. Slightly squeeze out the seeds, liquid and pulp using a small spoon, so you can create a cavity within the tomatoes.

8. Fill tomatoes with the bean mixture.
9. Garnish each tomato at the top with 1 basil leaf.

Makes 2 dozen.

Linnell’s Notes:
1. Having large ripe tomatoes sitting on my kitchen counter, I decided to dice those instead of the cherry tomatoes.
2. I used a little bit more lemon juice than called for, just to give it a fresher flavor.
3. I added half a shallot, a little salt and freshly ground pepper to the food processor before adding the beans.
4. You don’t want to over process this bean filling. It should still have small chunks of bean in it.
5. The recipe confusingly adds the basil twice – once to the food processor and then again to the pureed bean mixture. I ended up adding some to the food processor, and added in a bit more with the tomatoes. Although I love basil, I would probably not add as much the next time I make this recipe.
6. I did not discard the tomato tops as instructed in step 6. Instead, I diced them and added them to the bean mixture. I hate to waste food!
7. I used the small side of the melon baller to scoop out the tomatoes and then inverted the tomatoes on a paper towel to drain. A small demitasse spoon was used to fill the tomatoes and the mushrooms with bean filling.
8. Garnishing the tomatoes and the mushrooms in the photo are tiny Globe Basil branches from my garden.
9. The bean mixture is also delicious in baby bella mushrooms.

Enjoy!

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During these warm summer days, light and refreshing salads appeal to those who want to fit into their swim suits and also get out of the hot kitchen. Myself included! Recently, I had a craving for chicken salad, but with outdoor temperatures soaring into the triple digits, my stomach churned at the very thought of a mayonnaise or sour cream-based salad. Searching for a light, but flavorful chicken salad, I hit the jackpot when I saw Mark Bittman’s recipe for Chicken Salad with Vietnamese Seasonings. The fresh flavors of lime, cilantro, and mint are well-juxtaposed against the saltiness of nam pla and the kick of chili pepper. Although you can reduce the amount of cilantro and mint, you still need to be a fan of them to enjoy the salad. Grilling the chicken breasts outdoors eliminated heating up my kitchen. If you want to stay cool, drive in your air-conditioned car to an air-conditioned grocery store and buy a rotisserie chicken! This easy and flavorful salad would also be delicious in a lettuce wrap or a bread wrap.

Chicken Salad with Vietnamese Seasonings
Recipe from Mark Bittman’s cookbook The Best Recipes in the World

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon nam pla
1 teaspoon cracked or coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1 small fresh chili, preferably Thai, minced, or 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 medium to large shallots, chopped
2 cups chopped or shredded cooked chicken
1/2 cup chopped rau ram or 1/4 cup each mint and cilantro leaves
Salt to taste
12 or 16 leaves, Boston, red leaf, or green leaf lettuce

Directions:
1. Combine the first 7 ingredients in a bowl and toss with the chicken; set a bit of the herb aside for garnish, then stir the rest into the mixture. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding salt if necessary.

2. Arrange the lettuce on 4 plates and top each leaf with a portion of chicken salad. Garnish with the remaining herb and serve.

Serves 4.

Linnell’s Notes:
1. Nam pla is a fish sauce that is one of the basic ingredients in Thai cooking. Fish sauce, in general, is used in a lot of Southeast Asian recipes and can be purchased in Asian grocery stores, specialty markets, and some general grocery stores.
2. I added no salt. The nam pla I used was plenty salty.
3. Having no Thai chilies on hand, I used 1/2 teaspoon of finely minced red jalapeno. The heat level of this dish can be easily adjusted by adding more or less chilies.
4. Rau ram (Vietnamese coriander) is the Asian herb of choice for this recipe, but it can be hard to find. I followed Mr. Bittman’s suggestion and used cilantro and mint with success, but the minute I find some rau ram, I’m going to make this salad using it and compare the flavor!

ENJOY!

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With airline food what it is (or isn’t) these days, I always pack my own food to eat when I travel. I used to take peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because of their nonperishable nature until I came across a “no-peanut flight.” All passengers on that flight, including my family, were asked to not carry aboard any food that contained peanuts or peanut butter, because a passenger with a severe peanut allergy was going to board the plane. Most people seemed to comply, but many were not too happy, especially when after boarding, bags of opened peanuts were found in seat pockets all over the plane! Someone forgot to tell airline housekeeping about the “no-peanut flight!” That said, my favorite travel fare usually includes some of the following: sandwiches made without mayonnaise, apples, oranges, beef jerky, granola bars, homemade trail mix, and always homemade cookies.

These buckwheat cookies with cacao nibs are among my favorite cookies to eat whether I’m traveling or not. I like the texture and taste that the buckwheat flour lends to the cookies. Because buckwheat is low in gluten, it works like cornstarch does in shortbread cookies; it produces a more compact and crunchy-textured cookie. As for the cacao nibs, small pieces of roasted cocoa beans, they give these cookies a nice crunch and a hint of chocolate flavor. An added bonus of these nibs is that they won’t melt during your trip like chocolate chips normally would. I purchase cacao nibs at Whole Foods. I like to add chopped walnuts to this recipe because they add protein and fiber – good things to have when traveling!

There are many variations of this recipe on the internet, but most seem to originate from the cookbook Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich. Here’s my adaptation of Ms. Medrich’s recipe:

Ingredients:
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup cacao nibs
1-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional

Directions:
1. Whisk the all-purpose and buckwheat flours together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, with the back of a large spoon or with an electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar and salt for about 1 minute, until smooth and creamy but not fluffy. Mix in the nibs and vanilla. Add the flours and the walnuts; mix just until incorporated. Scrape the dough into a mass and, if necessary, knead it with your hands a few times, just until smooth.

3. Form the dough into a 12 by 2-inch log. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or, preferably overnight.

4. Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Line the baking sheets with parchment paper.

5. Use a sharp knife to cut the cold dough log into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place the cookies at least 1-1/2 inches apart on the baking sheets.

6. Bake until the cookie are just beginning to color at the edges, 12 to 14 minutes, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking. Cool the cookies in the pans on a rack, or slide the parchment liners carefully onto the rack to free up the pans. Let cool completely. The cookies are delicious fresh but even better the next day. They can be stored in an airtight container for at least one month.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

Note: After the cookies have cooled completely, I wrap them individually in plastic wrap, put them in a Ziploc bag and freeze them. Just before I leave the house, I grab them out of the freezer, throw them in my carry-on bag, and they’re good to go!

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Sometimes it’s the simple things in life that are the best. What could be more simple than serving a warm loaf of rustic bread with a bowl of good quality olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar? Combine that with a hearty soup or a healthy salad and you have yourself a great meal. Of course, adding a bottle of wine to the menu would make the meal even more enjoyable! Here’s a simple recipe for a dipping oil very much like the type served in Piatti Restaurants.

Piatti-Style Dipping Oil:
1/4 teaspoon chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon finely minced fresh garlic
Pinch of salt – to taste
Pinch of freshly ground pepper – to taste
Pinch of chili flakes
Balsamic vinegar, enough to cover bottom of small serving dish
Extra virgin olive oil, 4:1 olive oil to vinegar

Place ingredients in the order listed into a small serving dish or ramekin.

Makes enough for two people to dip bread with their meal.

Enjoy!

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