Monday, April 29, 2013

Anytime Treat: Mocha Chip Shortbread Cookies

Dieting means I have sworn off a lot of food items, including sweets. Not an easy task when you have a sweet tooth like me. But I recently needed to check out some recipes to serve at Brilliant Daughter’s big birthday celebration. I found a base recipe (which I adjusted to suit my own tastes) for a cookie that combines 3 things we love: shortbread (we are of British descent after all), coffee, and chocolate. How could I go wrong?

While I am a committed Peet’s coffee drinker, one of my recipe modifications makes use of Starbuck’s instant Via coffee packets. We received some as a gift and every time I open the coffee cabinet I wonder what I will do with them. No longer, as they are the perfect ingredient for this recipe.

These shortbread cookies are rich, full of flavor and crunch and perfect with a scoop of coffee ice cream or a piping hot cappuccino (not that I can indulge, mind you). I promise that I taste-tested both batches—one with cocoa nibs and one without—and they are really, really good. I mean, addictive good. I had to package them up for the butchers, Mr. B’s co-workers, Brilliant Daughter’s co-workers, and for Electrician Son and his fiancĂ©e, otherwise my diet would have been blown to hell. Down 17 pounds, with only 8 to go, I am determined, scrumptious cookies or no….

So go ahead, give them a try. If you like a little extra crunch, add in the cocoa nibs. If not, they are perfect with the mini chocolate chips alone (Brilliant Daughter’s preference).

Mocha Chip Shortbread Cookies

3 packets Starbucks Via Columbian coffee powder
1 tablespoon boiling water
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/4 cup cocoa nibs (optional)

Dissolve coffee powder in boiling water to make coffee concentrate. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat butter and sugar together on medium speed for 3 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Beat in vanilla bean paste and coffee concentrate, mixing for 1 minute. Reduce mixer speed to low and add flour, mixing just until all specks of flour are gone. Don’t overmix the dough as it will get tough. Quickly fold in the chocolate chips (and cocoa nibs).

Transfer dough to a gallon-size Ziploc or between two large sheets of waxed paper. Flatten dough with you hand as much as you can, and then use a rolling pin to roll it out to ¼-inch thickness. Try and keep it as square or rectangular as you can. You will need to periodically lift plastic or waxed paper up to remove any creases that occur. Once you reach correct thickness, seal bag or fold paper over ends and refrigerate for 2 hours or more (up to 2 days).

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Prepare cookie sheets with parchment or silpat.

Cut open plastic bag or peel off top waxed paper. Using ruler and knife (or pizza cutter), cut dough into 1 1/2–inch squares. Transfer to prepared cookie sheet and bake for 15-18 minutes, rotating trays halfway through. Cool on baking racks.

Yield: 3 dozen

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

The Bane of a Happy Cook

I love to cook. I love food. I love my kitchen. All three things combined make me terribly happy, particularly when preparing meals for people I care about. Digging my hands into flour, kneading dough, harvesting herbs for a stew, chopping vegetables, and frosting cupcakes all bring me joy and an amazing calm. I am probably at my best when spending long hours in the kitchen. But there is a downside….

I insist on tasting things I make, particularly if they are newer recipes or creations. I will not serve something sub-par, or if I do out of desperation I hang my head in shame while my family consoles me. But those tastes, those final products, all that wonderful glorious food seems to attach itself to unwanted places on my body. This wasn’t always the case, but age, metabolism, menopause and a slowdown in physical activity have made the area between by waist and knees a prime target for (sigh!) fat.

Much to my family’s dismay, I have drastically cut calories. They are amazed at the small amount of food I now intake. I rarely serve desserts at Sunday dinner anymore, and should I feel the need to bake, I do so and then package it up to send up to the my son’s butcher buddies, my husband’s workmates, or various family and friends. I can no longer fill my cake domes with goodies for the taking. I just cannot have it in the house, which makes me terribly sad. Everyone who visits knows where the goodies reside and an empty counter means empty tummies. I hate that others have to suffer at my expense.

So, one of the reasons I have not been posting is that I have embarked on a personal renewal program. I started by constructing a diet that would work for me, and 8 weeks later I was down almost 7 pounds. I began taking walks several times a week, mostly by  myself, but occasionally with Brilliant Daughter or Mr. B.

Two weeks ago, in an effort to ramp up the weight loss, I  consulted a doctor and began a medically supervised weight loss program. I also added yoga to my regimen and am making more of an effort to work with some light weights (to deter that unsightly upper arm flap).

I’m almost halfway to my goal and to a closet full of clothes that have not fit in some time. I am feeling lighter, stronger and better able to resist temptation. Unfortunately, my cooking creativity has gone by the wayside for the moment, but I know this is just temporary, much like the empty cake dome.