Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Coconut Cream Pie: And the Secret Ingrediant Is....

Remember a week or so ago I speculated that I would share with you what I made when I spent an entire day in the kitchen? Well, obviously I didn't. I was suffering from the fever that was going around (Giants fever!). I've had it since the Spring, but symptoms were especially acute the past week. (The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!). So, no blogging.

But tonight's an off night - the World Series doesn't start until tomorrow - so I'll sneak in some writing before I'm MIA until the whole baseball shebang is said and done.

So back to a week ago, a Sunday spent puttering in the kitchen. I mentioned that my oven and stove top were going nonstop all day, but guess what I didn't do? Bake. (If you know me and this blog, that's no surprise.) Despite not baking, guess what I DID make? A pie!

A pie? Me? What is this - a midlife crisis? (Well yes, but the pie doesn't have anything to do with my turning-40 mind games.... that's a different post for a different blog!). But no - I haven't suddenly gained a sweet tooth and hankering for pastries (even though if I had to choose my poison, pie would be it - it's in the Angell family DNA to require pie at regular intervals, right dad?). I just was curious to try out a no-bake coconut cream pie recipe I saw on some TV show or another, the reason being that the filling was made from tofu.

Tofu pie filling? A semblance of a healthy treat? An almost guilt-free indulgence? I had to give it a whirl. Apparently I'm completely behind the times about tofu pies - turns out hippies, vegetarians and raw foodists have holding out on me. I blame my mom - there was not a lot of tofu experiments at our house growing up. (Now watch - she'll comment that of course she made us tofu pies as kids - she just was clever enough not to tell us! I wouldn't put it past her.) At any rate, unbeknownst to me, when you give a block of firm tofu a whirl in your food processor, it takes on a smooth, creamy consistency ready to take on the flavors of whatever you'd like to add to it. In this case, it was coconut, but I see experiments in my future with berries, citrus, or even savory ingredients. It opened up a whole new world of possibilities in my head.

The other reason I love this recipe? It only requires eyeballed measurements. I made the entire pie without busting out a single measuring implement - ahh. So, there's only some general instructions included below on how to make the pie - you just have to taste as you go along and adjust the ingredients to your liking. That's my kind of non-baking!

So, I whipped up this pie in literally a matter of minutes, and helped myself to a sliver. Success! It really does work, and it really is good. But it still was a pie - in my house (ack!) - so I had to say goodbye. I took my lovely pie to work on Monday morning, placed it in the coffee room for all to enjoy, and it was gone within minutes. Tofu? No one had a clue.

And on that note - GO GIANTS!

No-Bake Tofu Coconut Cream Pie

For the crust:
  • 1 package of graham crackers (I don't know how many crackers constitute a package, but each and every brand of graham crackers packages its crackers in the same fashion - it's just one of those wax-paper wrapped packages in the box - all of them)
  • 1/2 a cube of butter (I think that's about 2-3 tablespoons), melted
Crumble the graham crackers into a food processor; pulse until they are pulverized into crumbs. Add the melted butter; pulse until the crumbs are moist. Press the crumbs evenly into the base of a pie plate.

Note: the even easier option is to use a pre-made graham cracker crust. I won't tell.

For the filling:
  • 1 1-pound block of firm or extra firm tofu (I used Lite extra firm)
  • 1/2 cup +/- of coconut milk (I used light coconut milk and it was fine)
  • 1/2 cup +/- sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 package of shredded coconut (I used unsweetened) - approximately 4 cups. Toast 1 cup for sprinkling on top of the pie.
Break up the tofu block into a food processor; whirl on high until smooth. Once smooth, start adding the remaining ingredients (except the coconut) until you reach the level of sweetness/coco-nuttiness that suits your tastes. Transfer to a mixing bowl and stir in the shredded coconut. Pour filling into the pie crust. Top with the toasted coconut. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Snack Attack! Spicy Baked Chick Peas

Boy, it's Sunday night, and I actually felt like I had a weekend. A bona fide weekend with a couple of days off in a row and no obligations. And a great weekend it was! I got to celebrate my big 4-0 (again!) with a delightful dinner at Bouchon in Yountville, a treat by my bestest gal pal, Carolyn (she spoils me rotten....), revel as the Giants took Game 1 in the National League Conference Series, enjoy lazy mornings where I got to sleep late and read the paper in bed, and - joy of joys - actually spend time in the kitchen.

This morning arrived with a gray drizzle. Perfect. The first rain of the year coincided with my lazy attitude, so it completely confirmed my homebody status. Since the sun wasn't shining, I had no guilt that I wasn't out hiking, walking the dog, exploring or otherwise soaking in a spectacular Autumn day. Nope - we lit a fire in the fireplace and basically hunkered down, Ran in front of the various sporting match-ups that dominate the Sunday television lineup, and me puttering in the kitchen with ideas aplenty on how to stock my larder for the coming week (stock my larder? Who says that?).

At any rate, my oven was on all afternoon, and the stovetop hardly saw an idle moment. I'll probably blog later in the week about many of the things I made today (stay tuned!), but first and foremost on the list was taking care of snack food for the afternoon. I mean, what is watching sports all day without snacks? And since I've outlawed packaged snack food in my house, I needed to come up with something on my own. Chick peas to the rescue.

The humble chick pea. Garbanzo bean if you'd like. I love the little buggers. I eat them in some form nearly every day of the week (seriously - hummus is a staple of my diet). I've written about roasting raw chick peas in the husk on the BBQ grill (one of my all-time fave snacks) - but you just can't count on walking into a store and finding raw, in-the-husk garbanzo beans. It rarely happens. But you know what? You can find pre-cooked garbanzos in a can anywhere, anytime, and with the addition of just a couple spices and a preheated oven, healthy snack time is less than an hour away.

Imagine: crunchy, spicy garbanzo beans that you can Hoover up all you'd like because they're low-cal, no carb, and full of fiber and protein. These baked chick peas rate right up there with kale chips as being one of my favorite go-to healthy snack options.

Preparation couldn't be simpler:
  • Open a can of garbanzo beans, rinse and drain. (Although seriously, one can's worth will vanish in a heartbeat. Bust open a couple. Trust me.)
  • Pat dry with paper towels.
  • In a mixing bowl, toss the garbanzos with a glug of olive oil. Not too much - just enough to coat. I use one of my favoritist olive oils of all time from The Smoked Olive - their chili pepper smoked olive oil. Sheer Heaven. If you don't know about The Smoked Olive - learn now! (I wrote about it here more than a year ago. My love has not waned.)
  • Season. Just plain Kosher salt will do the trick, but if you want to make the spicy version I like, also add a heavy dusting of paprika (smoked paprika being my choice), some garlic powder, and a couple of shots of your favorite hot chili sauce or Tabasco. Stir to coat well. Taste them - if you like how they taste before going in the oven, you'll like the finished product times ten.
  • Pour the seasoned garbanzos onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and pop into a preheated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes.
When you pull them from the oven and let them cool just a bit, they get crunchy. And addictive. Voila - perfect snack food for a couch potato marathon. Speaking of... Giants are on (and losing....). Later peeps!