Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Raisin Cookies

Yum! I do love oatmeal raisin cookies, but what I like more about them is when they also contain chocolate. This recipe does this fairly well and are extremely lovely right out of the oven. They’re good a few days afterward too because they are cookies, but newly out of the oven is incomparable.  Continue reading

Recipe Round-up: Treats for holiday parties

Every week (or so) I post a list of recipes that have caught my eye from other food blogs around the web. Here are some that I’m itching to try for the holiday parties we are hosting and attending this weekend.

We’ve got blue cheese and fig crackers, brownies, pecan pie, toffee and pralines!

Continue reading

Thanksgiving Plan: Recipe Round-up

We’re hosting Thanksgiving again this year and although we’ve attempted to simplify things, I’m not SO sure we’ve really succeeded in that. We are delegating some things: rolls, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, apple pie, appetizers, but we’re handling the heavy hitters. Here’s what I have in mind: Continue reading

Cupcakes!

Cupcake!.

This is a cupcake version of one of my family’s favorite cakes, the aptly named “Chocolate Cake with White Fluffy Icing”

The name says it all, really. This is a delicious chocolate cake with a whipped marshmallow-y icing on top. There is surprisingly little fat in these delicious creations– just 1/2 cup of oil for over 18 cupcakes, but there is plenty of sugar so I don’t feel comfortable calling them “healthy”. Instead, they are simply “less bad”.

The cake is moist, and has a rich chocolaty flavor. I’m pretty sure the original recipe comes from Hershey and can be found here (where you can also find the recipe for low altitude).

I’m going to post the recipe for the cake here today and the recipe for the icing tomorrow so as not to overwhelm you. This cake would also be tasty with a little whipped cream on top, chocolate buttercream, vanilla buttercream or any of your other favorite icings.

What you need:

  • 1 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons unsifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup powdered cocoa
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • Icing

What to do:

  1. Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixer bowl.
  2. Add the eggs (beaten), milk, oil and vanilla. Beat for 2 minutes at medium speed (or just use a whisk) until all the lumps are incorporated.
  3. Stir in the boiling water and mix again until it is incorporated. You’ll have a very soupy concoction at this point– that’s what you want.
  4. Now pour the batter into 18 lined cupcake tins– fill about 3/4 of the way up– or, into a greased and floured 13″ x 9″ x 2 ” pan.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes for cupcakes (or until a toothpick comes out clean) or 35-40 minutes for a cake.
  6. Allow to cool before frosting.

Alice Waters’ Pizza Dough

The Spice Raconteurs recently got married. (It was a blast, but that’s not really what this post is about.)

One of the cookbooks we received as a wedding gift is the Alice Water’s Cafe Cookbook with recipes for some of the delights she serves at the Chez Pannise Cafe in Berkeley, California.

Last year I took a trip to San Francisco to visit a dear friend and some family members. Because my friend had to work during the day, I took quite a few solo walks through the city. I went to some fun locations like the SF Academy of Sciences, Alcatraz and also took the BART to Berkeley. I also ate everwhere I went so when I went to Berkeley, I had to visit Chez Panisse. I was there for lunch so I visited the Chez Panisse Cafe and had one of the most delicious meals of my life– and wishing Edward was there to share with. Not long after my trip to San Fran, he and I took a road trip to Wyoming where we ended up getting engaged. So, Chez Pannise is mixed up into my vision of romance despite having gone there by myself. I can’t wait to share that dining experience with Edward some day. For now, we’ll have to content ourselves with the cookbooks.

One recipe that is included in the cookbook is for “Pizzetta with Farm Egg and Prosciutto” which I’ll post tomorrow. Today, we’ll dwell on making the dough which came together quite nicely. 

What you need:

  • 2 teaspoons dry yeast (about 1 packet)
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 2/3 cup bread flour 
  • 4 cups white flour (or 2 1/2  cups white and 1 1/2 cups whole wheat)
  • 1/4 cup rye flour (or whole wheat)
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

What to do:

  1. Make the sponge by disolving the yeast in the water and adding the 2/3 cup of flour. Mix well, and then let sit for about 30 minutes until it is “quite bubbly”.
  2. Mix together the other dry ingredients (white, whole wheat and rye flours and salt) in a separate bowl. Now add a cup of this dry mixture to the sponge along with a cup of cold water. Mix thoroughly and let sit another 30 minutes.
  3. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and the olive oil and mix by hand, or using a mixer with a dough hook, then knead about 5 minutes until the dough is soft and elastic. You want a “soft, slightly sticky” dough so add a little more flour if necessary, but not too much. 
  4. Place the dough in an oiled large bowl and cover with a towel. Put in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, or about 2 hours. (At high altitude, this will take far less time. It took about 45 minutes for me. Someone concerned with the flavor of the bread could punch the dough and let rise again for another 45 minutes. Or, if you’re hungry, just use it after the first rise– it will still work fine.) 
  5. Punch down the dough and divide into portions– I separated my dough into 6 balls for the pizzettas– and smooth into nice round spheres. Alice recommends wrapping each ball in plastic and letting rest at room temperature for about an hour before shaping. I didn’t do this, however, and it worked out fine.
  6. Either roll out the dough balls to make a pizzetta, or you can store individually wrapped dough balls in the freezer. Just take them out and thaw in the refrigerator the night before.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (at high altitude)

Home-made Pizza

There are two main positions on pizza at home, in my opinion. One position is taken when you’re damn hungry, don’t have any food at home and don’t feel like cooking anyway. So, you order up some delicious melted cheese on some baked bread and enjoy. Making the pizza at home is a completely different position. Making your own dough requires about an hour to let it rise (possibly longer in lower altitude places) but the result is lovely. It tastes healthier, it can be packed with veggies, it is likely cheaper, you can be more selective about your ingredients (for instance: organic flour, veggies, sauce; part-skim mozzarella) and is kinda fun.

I found a tasty little recipe for home-made whole wheat pizza dough today from Vegweb.com. I didn’t know that website even existed, but it looks to be a good resource for vegetarian and vegan recipes. This dough came together really nicely, was easy to roll out and was also quite tasty. The only change I would suggest is that if you only make one pizza with this amount of dough, you’ll have a pretty thick crust. The Spice Raconteurs prefer something a little crunchier so I made two pizzas with this amount.  (Oh, we also didn’t have any what gluten– it turned out fine.)

For the dough, here’s what you need:

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 envelope active dry yeast (1/4 oz)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil (separated)
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 1/2 – 3 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon gluten (optional ?)
yellow cornmeal

What to do:

  1. Combine the water, yeast, sugar, gluten (or 1 T flour) and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large bowl. Let this sit for 5 minutes until the yeast show their vigor by making the mixture foamy on top.
  2. Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour and the salt. Mix with a spoon (it will be be pretty wet.)
  3. Add the remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time until you get a nice dough ball. Incorporate the flour as you knead until the dough ball is just barely tacky. 
  4. Slice the ball in two and then knead again to make both balls smooth. 
  5. Put the rest of the oil into two medium sized bowls and place one dough ball in each. Roll them around so they are covered with the oil. 
  6. Cover the bowls with plastic wrap and a towel and let sit for about 1- 1 1/2 hours in a warm (but not hot) place. (I turned the oven on for about 2 minutes to warm it up, turned it off and then put the dough in there.)
  7. After the dough has doubled in size, take them out and roll them out.

Pizza!

For the pizza*:

  • 1 can (15 oz) pizza sauce (I like Muir Glen
  • 1 chopped red pepper
  • 2 small zucchini sliced thin
  • lots of mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 a white onion, sliced
  • grated part-skim mozzarella
  • pepperoni
  • Parmesan cheese

What you do:

  1. Spread a little less than half the sauce on each pizza round
  2. top with all of the toppings
  3. Put in the oven for about 15 minutes at 375 degrees

* You can really use whatever you want and be creative. This is what I did tonight. Yummy.

Healthier Zucchini Bread

Well, it’s that time again. Zucchini time. Our garden zucchini plant is regularly producing 2-3 zucchini’s every few days so we’ve got a bit of an excess on our hands. One way to use up zucchini– especially those zucchinis that got a little too big and aren’t as sweet and delicate as you’d like– is to make zucchini bread!

My mom has a fantastic zucchini bread recipe that she got from her friend Rose Meyer. And Rose probably got it from somewhere else, but I don’t know where. The original recipe has a lot of oil and sugar in it, as well as all white flour, and since T likes to have this for breakfast, I set out to make it a little healthier. In the end, I think I succeeded in making each slice about 70 calories less, and decreased the fat by half (from 10 grams to 5 grams) and doubled the fiber. I think that some more changes could be made to make it even better for us (such as adding nuts to increase protein, adding flax seed for more fiber and Omega-3 fatty acids, decreasing the oil even more, or cutting out some of the egg yolks) but those changes may have to wait for another time. (Also, I kind of hate recipes that complicate things by making me waste a good egg yolk just to save some fat and cholesterol– egg yolks have a ton of vitamins in them so why not eat ’em?)

For now, I present to you a recipe for healthier zucchini bread:

What you need:

  • 1/2 c. vegetable oil (like canola)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 c. coarsely shredded zucchini
  • 1 8-0z. can of crushed pineapple
  • 3 c. whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ground nutmeg (fresh is best!)
  • 1 c. raisins (or currents)
  • 1 c. applesauce

What do do:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla. Whisk it up.
  2. Stir in the zucchini, pineapple, applesauce and raisins.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients.
  4. Stir the dry ingredients gently into the zucchini mixture until just blended.
  5. Divide batter into two greased 5.5 x 9.5 loaf pans.
  6. Bake in the center of a 375 degree oven for 5o minutes.
  7. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then turn onto rack.
  8. EAT IT! Yummy.

Nutrition facts per slice (based on 12 slices per loaf):
Calories: 170
Fat: 5 grams
Protein: 3.5 grams
Fiber: 1.4 grams

Magic Cookie Bars


These are pretty much “seven layer bars” but there are only six layers because I don’t like the butterscotch chips. This recipe is so easy and based on this recipe.

What you need:

  • 1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers
  • 1 stick of butter, unsalted
  • 1 14-oz. can of sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)
  • 1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips
  • 1 1/3 cups coconut flakes
  • 1 cup chopped nuts

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place the stick of butter into a 13 x 9 inch baking pan and place it in oven– let it melt, but make sure it doesn’t burn– about 5 minutes.
  3. Pound some graham crackers in a large zip-lock bag until you have a cup and a half.
  4. Take the melted butter and baking pan out of the oven
  5. Mix the graham cracker crumbs into the butter in the pan until all the crumbs are buttered, then press into an even layer at the bottom of the pan
  6. Cover with the sweetened condensed milk.
  7. Cover the milk with the chocolate chips
  8. Cover the chips with the coconut.
  9. Cover the coconut with the nuts.
  10. Lightly press down on the conglomerate with your fingers or the back of a clean measuring cup.
  11. Bake for 25 minutes.
  12. Remove from oven, and let cool in pan before cutting.

*The edges will be quite crispy which I like, but if you don’t, you can line the pan with aluminum foil.

Sugar Cookies


Edward’s dad loves these cookies, particularly when they’re covered in a colorful glaze of powdered sugar icing. I forgot to take a picture of these guys once they were decorated for some reason so use your imagination. Here’s a picture of the icing production, if it helps:


What you need:

  • 1/2 cup butter- softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cup white flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2-3 Tablespoons milk

What you do:

  1. Cream butter and sugar together until nice and creamy– depending on your mixer, I mix mine for about 5 minute. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients and set aside.
  2. Add egg to the butter mixture and beat well
  3. Add vanilla
  4. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the milk– alternating about 3/4 c. of dry then 1 T. milk until it’s all gone.
  5. Mold the dough into a ball, then cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour (but over night is fine too)
  6. After it’s chilled, set the oven to 375 degrees.
  7. Place a little bit of flour on a flat surface and roll out the dough until it’s about 1/4-1/8th of an inch thick.
  8. Dip your cookie cutters into a bit of flour, then cut our your cookies and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Place the cookies about a half and inch apart on the sheet.
  9. Bake until golden brown for about 7-10 minutes depending on the size of the cookies you cut.
  10. Remove from the cookies sheet and let cool on a wire wrack before icing.
  11. Eat with coffee or tea!