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Chocolate & Coffee Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Ganache for Ashley’s Bday!

October 24, 2013

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Since you can probably tell I’ve been pretty good at sticking closely to the Paleo lifestyle lately, this post may come as a shock; not unlike the insulin shock these sugar-bombs had on my system at 11pm last night, keeping me up past my early-workout bedtime! However, this weekend is my ultimate best bud / step-sister, Ashley’s birthday, and birthdays always call for indulgent treats!

These rich and sinful delights come from the awesome cookbook, Baked Explorations, but I decided to make cupcakes instead of the beautiful 3-tiered creation in the book so that Ashley could more easily share these at work. The result is a not-too-sweet, rich but delicate chocolate cake, topped with an oh-so-fluffy coffee buttercream (made with a technique I’d never heard of before, but will gladly try again!). I opted to dip the cupcakes in the ganache before frosting them which is not only easier, but it looks great and ended up hiding any imperfections in the cupcakes due to some of them rising over the edges of the pan and breaking apart a bit (lesson learned: don’t try to make a perfect 3 dozen if it means you’re putting too much batter in each one! No harm in making an extra few!)

So, enjoy the chocolatey goodness, and most importantly HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ASHLEY!

Chocolate & Coffee Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Ganache

adapted from Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. Makes 3 dozen.

For the Chocolate Cupcakes
  • 3/4 cups dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 2-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cups (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1″ cubes, softened
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
For the Coffee Buttercream
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons coffee extract
For the Chocolate Glaze
  • 8 oz. good-quality (60-72%) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
Assembly
  • 3 dozen chocolate covered espresso beans

Make the cupcakes

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, line 3 cupcake pans with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, mix the cocoa powder and sour cream with 1-1/4 cups hot water and set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.
Using a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add the sugars and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 more minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing about 10-15 seconds after each addition until the egg is incorporated into the mixture.  Then turn the mixer to low, add the vanilla, and beat until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again for 30 seconds.
Beginning with the dry ingredients, add the dry mixture and the cocoa mixture to the mixer bowl in three alternating parts, ending with dry.
Divide the batter among the prepared pans, filling each cup about 3/4 of the way full.  Bake the cupcakes for 30-35 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Transfer the pans to a wire rack or trivet and cool for 5-10 minutes, before carefully removing the cupcakes and setting them onto a clean work surface.

Make the Coffee Buttercream

In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together.  Add the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, about 10-15 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat on high speed until cool, 7-9 minutes.  Reduce the speed to low and add the butter; mix until thoroughly incorporated.  Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, about another 1-2 minutes.
Add the vanilla and coffee extracts and continue mixing until combined.  If the frosting is too soft, put the bowl in the refrigerator to chill slightly, then beat again until it is the proper consistency.  If the frosting is too firm, set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is the proper consistency.

Make the Chocolate Glaze

Place the chocolate, butter and corn syrup in the top of the double boiler.  Using a rubber spatula, stir the mixture until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir the glaze to release excess heat.

Assembly

Once all cupcakes are cool, carefully dip each on into the glaze, using a slight swirling motion to let any excess drip off neatly. If you need to, use a spoon to fill in any gaps. Place glazed cupcakes on a tray and refrigerate for 10-15 minutes to allow the ganache to set.
Once ganache is set, use a piping bag fitted with a wide tip to frost each cupcake, and top them with the chocolate covered espresso beans.
You can store your cupcakes at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, but bring them to room temperature before serving.
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Primal Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

October 21, 2013

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On my last trip to Wegman’s, the grocery-shopping-nerd’s dream store, I picked up some organic pumpkin purée “just in case I felt inspired.” And now that it officially feels like Autumn, I feel I’m ready to dive into the pumpkin craze that takes hold around this time each year.

Starting out with a little sweet treat, I whipped up some amazingly addictive pumpkin cookies on Friday night. That was 3 days ago. None remain.

Yes, these cookies are, for the most part, paleo (considering we’re not technically supposed to find loopholes that allow us to eat dessert). They’re grain-free and sweetened with a bit of pure maple syrup and a mashed banana. I even found some Lily’s stevia-sweetened chocolate chips at Whole Foods! While I was originally going to get the Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips that I keep seeing in paleo/primal recipes, I passed on them because although they’re dairy and soy-free, they still use cane sugar. Right now I’m not as much concerned with little bits of soy as I am with sugar, so stevia sealed the deal. And these chips are good! You really can’t tell they’re not the good ol’ Tollhouse variety.

I based the recipe off of one from Multiply Delicious, only changing it slightly by swapping some of the coconut oil for real butter. What can I say? If I’m going to forego grains and sugar, hell, I’m still using butter!

Primal Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2 cups blanched almond flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup pure pumpkin puree
  • 1 small ripe banana, mashed
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 TBSP coconut oil
  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 1/2 cup Lily’s Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350 and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a small microwaveable bowl, melt the coconut oil and butter. Set aside.

In a large bowl whisk together the almond flour, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. In another bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, mashed banana, maple syrup, and vanilla extract.

Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir until combine.  Then add melted coconut oil and butter, and stir to incorporate.  Mix in the chocolate chips.

Drop 2-TBSP mounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheets.  Use the back of the spoon to slightly spread the cookies out. Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with a little extra salt (optional).  Bake cookies for 25 to 30 minutes until golden. Let them cool for 5-10 minutes to set, then enjoy!

These cookies keep very well in an airtight container in the fridge. They stay nice and chewy!

Hearty Beef Stew with grass fed, local, Philly Cow!

October 1, 2013

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After being mostly Paleo for a year and a half now, and being more conscious of the quality and source of our food (and less conscious of our wallets), Scott and I finally went all in and bought 1/8 of a cow through Philly Cow Share. We picked up around 43lbs of wholesome, local, grass fed beef last week. Complete with ample steaks, some ribs, roasts, ground beef, and stew meat. Our freezer is packed and we couldn’t be more excited!

For our first meal, we decided to celebrate the cooler weather and cook up a nice pot of stew using some of the pre-cut stew meat along with two beef shanks (osso buco); Because yes, there are a few cuts that have been divided between the 8 groups that just don’t add up to full meals on their own. Luckily, we have full confidence in the kitchen when it comes to meat and we knew that the osso buco would cook up deliciously and tenderly in a pot of stew while the bits of marrow from the shank bones would help boost the richness as well. However, feel free to go ahead and use the original 3lbs of stew meat if you are shank-less.

This recipe is adapted from our favorite cookbook, Braises and Stews by Tori Ritchie. However, having tried this in the past and made note of the intensity of the wine, I played with the ratio of broth to wine a bit to result in a more even flavor and to cut down on the sugars. Also, staying true to our cavemen ways, I omitted the small amount of flour and sugar the original recipe called for.

Beef Stew

  • 3lbs beef stew, preferably grass fed chuck; or 2lbs beef stew and 2 osso buco shanks
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • coconut oil
  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 3 yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 1/2 cups low sodium beef broth (If you have homemade or 100% stock, use that! We were unfortunately stuck with organic, yet chock-full-of-additional-ingredients store-bought broth)
  • 2 TBSP tomato paste

Cut the stew meat into 2-inch pieces and pat dry with paper towels. If using, dry the beef shanks as well. Sprinkle all meat generously with salt and pepper. Coat the bottom of a 5-7 quart dutch oven with coconut oil and set the pot over medium-high heat.

When oil is hot enough, add meat in one layer and sear it on both sides until meat lifts up easily, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Repeat in batches with the remaining meat, being careful not to overcrowd it. Once all the meat is seared and set aside in a separate bowl, add the butter to the pot along with the onions. Cook onions for 3 minutes, until softened, then turn the heat down to low and let onions cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden.

Stir in the thyme, wine, and broth and increase heat to high. Let it come to a boil then stir in the tomato paste. Return the meat to the pot, along with any juices that have accumulated in the bowl. Let liquid come to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

If you’d like, add frozen vegetables to the stew near the end; Such as carrots, zucchini, green beans, or peas! Let them cook until softened and warm.

Enjoy!

 

Beet, Pineapple and Celery Juice

September 25, 2013

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Today I bring you a short and sweet post with a recipe for some delicious and nutritious juice. The star of which, is the ever-polarizing beet. When it comes to beets, I’ve only ever heard people proclaim they love them, hate them, or have no idea what to do with them. So with this recipe, I hope to appeal to the masses and perhaps convert some haters and enlighten the beet-naive.

Beets rule. They’re rich in nutrients (like folic acid, magnesium, calcium, and iron), have detoxifying properties, and that sweet demeanor of theirs provides you with a good source of carbohydrate energy. They’re also a stunning example of the bold natural dyes that nature produces.

The reason I like this juice combo so much is that the addition of pineapple (besides adding a Vitamin C boost to kickoff this cold and flu season) adds just enough tartness to tame some of the “earthy/dirt” flavor that may make beets less-than-delicious to some folks. With just three ingredients (four, if you count the beet greens as a separate ingredient), why not give this juice a try?

Beet, Pineapple, and Celery Juice

  • 1 bunch of beets, with about 3 medium-large beetroots, or rough equivalent in smaller beetroots
  • 1 pineapple
  • 1 head of celery

Remove beetroots from the stalks and leaves (don’t toss these!), and scrub them well with a produce brush to remove any dirt. Cut the beetroots into 1-inch cubes. You may want to wear gloves while handling the beets to avoid staining your hands red. Clean and roughly chop the beet greens, and set aside.

Peel and slice your pineapple into 1-inch chunks. Wash celery and slice into 1-inch pieces as well.

Slowly feed all ingredients through your juicer, alternating between the greens and the juicier pieces, to avoid clogging the feed tube.

If you’d like, strain the juice with a fine-mesh strainer at the end to remove any residual pulp.

Enjoy!

Peach and Creme Fraiche Pie

September 10, 2013

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This week is my lovely friend, coworker, and bridesmaid Allie’s birthday. And if you know me at all, you’d know that I’ll jump at the opportunity to whip up something sweet, especially for one of my sweetest friends!

At the moment, I’m taking this month to get back on the Paleo horse to recover from a summer of too many “cheats,” as well as to help me begin training for the Philadelphia Half Marathon this November, and to start kicking it into high gear and get into wedding shape! So, when I decided to bake Allie a birthday treat, pie made the most sense. No bowls of batter or frosting to tempt me, and no “extra” cupcakes/cookies laying around that just can’t go to waste!

This recipe comes from the ever-drool-inducing Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts, and the timing is perfect as fresh and local peaches are everywhere right now! What’s great about this pie, is the combination of a crumb topping and creme fraiche that, when baked up together, create a custard-like texture. The crust for this pie is also a first for me; I’ve made Martha’s Pate Brisee (your standard pastry crust) many times, but this Pate Sucre is slightly sweeter, sturdier and easier to work with.

Peach and Creme Fraiche Pie

(from Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts)

FOR THE PATE SUCREE:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons ice water, plus more if needed
FOR THE STREUSEL:

  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup cold (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

FOR THE FILLING:

  • 1 1/2 pounds ripe (4 to 5 medium) yellow peaches, pitted and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 tablespoons creme fraiche
  1. Make the pate sucree: Pulse flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor to combine. Add butter; process until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. add egg yolk, and pulse. With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube until dough just holds together. Turn out dough onto a work surface; shape into a disk. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 1 hour (up to 2 days).
  2. Make the streusel: Sift together sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Using your hands or a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to about 1/8 inch thick. Fit into a 9 1/2- or 10-inch pie plate (about 1 1/2 inches deep). Trim edge to 1 inch; fold under, and crimp as desired. Pierce bottom of dough all over with a fork. Transfer to freezer for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover edge of crust with foil. Line crust with parchment paper, and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake, covered, 10 minutes. Remove weights and parchment (keep foil on edge). Bake until pale golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly; remove foil; reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.
  5. Make the filling: Put peaches into a medium bowl, and sprinkle with sugar and salt; gently toss to coat. let stand 15 minutes. Spread 2 tablespoons creme fraiche onto bottom of crust; sprinkle with one-third of the streusel. Arrange peaches on top; spread or dot with remaining 3 tablespoons creme fraiche. Sprinkle with remaining streusel.
  6. Bake pie until creme fraiche is bubbling and streusel is golden brown, about 50 minutes. Cover edge of crust with foil if it’s browning too quickly. Let cool on a wire rack 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Enjoy!

Primal Pumpkin Spice Cookies

September 3, 2013

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As everyone is assumably aware, Labor Day weekend has just passed us by; And with that, summer has unofficially ended. While I know that may sound depressing, I know full well that people are already getting really impatient for Autumn. And how do I know this, you ask? Because, now is around the time people everywhere, that don’t live under a rock, start going apeshit over the return of the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Yep. The (as I’ve recently learned, this beverage is taking social media by storm) #PSL is back. Everyone rejoice.

Okay, so I’m a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to the topic of insanely caloric sugar-fueled and overpriced beverages. But don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of pumpkin and pumpkin spice-flavored things! I also really appreciate pumpkin’s ability to conform to my mostly-paleo standards (see: my primal pumpkin pie).

Anyway… ’tis the season, so this weekend I decided on a whim to whip up a batch of these primal cookies I’ve been eyeing. However, instead of going with the chocolate chips, I opted to add in some pumpkin pie spice and join the masses in the fall-flavor craze (Despite the fact that it was 90° and humid the next day). They came out pretty good, with a moist and cakey texture that actually reminded me a bit of a whoopie pie! Which then led me to want to make some paleo pumpkin filling to go full-whoopie next time I bake these! (If anyone tries that, let me know!)

Primal Pumpkin Spice Cookie (makes 1 dozen)

  • 1 cup raw almond butter
  • 1/4 cup raw honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk together all ingredients until well blended. The dough will be a bit runny. Using a cookie scoop or regular spoon, scoop 2-TBSP amounts of batter onto the parchment, 1 inch apart. Then, using a knife or spatula, carefully spread the cookies out a bit. It helps a little to wipe a small bit of coconut or other oil onto the knife to avoid the batter from sticking to it.

Sprinkle a little extra pumpkin pie spice on top of each cookie before baking in the oven for 8-10 minutes, just until the cookies are set.

Remove them from the oven, and let them sit for 15 minutes to make sure they set up.

Primal Chocolate Chip Macadamia Cookies

August 1, 2013

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Last weekend while Scott was off backpacking the Appalachian Trail, I hosted a small girls’ night at my house. In the spirit of paleoism (and having already planned a beach day for Monday), I set out to put together a pretty diet-friendly spread for my gals. Of course, a cheese plate may not be entirely on-plan, but I did pair it with a sweetener-free fruit spread and some apple slices to try to limit my intake of crackers! Some of the other treats I put out were these awesome paleo chicken nuggets, which I served with homemade Sriracha-ketchup, some veggies and dip, and these delicious primal cookies.

I adapted the cookie recipe from Elana’s Pantry, which is a great resource for paleo and gluten-free recipes. Her food looks so delicious you frequently wonder how its possibly made using healthy ingredient-swaps!

These little morsels were a perfect sweet treat to end a girls’ night, and a perfect little indulgence for my TV-centric lazy sunday that followed the day after!

Primal Chocolate Chip Macadamia Cookies (makes 3 dozen)

  • 3 Cups Almond Flour
  • 1/2 tsp Salt (plus more for sprinkling on top, if you’re into that sorta thing!)
  • 3/4 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/8 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/4 Cup + 2 TBSP Unsalted Butter (preferably grass-fed/pastured/organic)
  • 3 TBSP Honey
  • 1 TBSP Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 Cup Dark Chocolate Chips
  • 1/4 Cup Chopped, Roasted Macadamia Nuts

Preheat oven to 350.

In a food processor, combine the almond flour, 1/2 tsp salt, baking soda, nutmeg and cinnamon. Add the butter in a few smaller chunks, and pulse until a dough forms. Place dough in a clean bowl and stir in the chocolate and macadamia nuts by hand.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, and spoon 1-TBSP sized balls of dough about 1-inch apart. Gently press down each ball of dough into more of a cookie shape, as these will not spread like regular cookies. If you’d like, sprinkle a little bit of extra salt on top of the cookies before baking.

Bake for 6-8 minutes, until lightly golden on the bottoms. Remove from oven and let sit for 15 minutes before removing from the pan. This is essential, otherwise the cookies will fall apart!

Enjoy!!