Apparently the slew of holiday cookies we just got rid through a mixture of taking some to work, giving some to friends and family, and over-indulging our(my)selves wasn’t QUITE enough for the season, so when I saw a picture of the gorgeous cookies on Not Without Butter, the matcha and white chocolate cookies caught my eye, and I decided I needed to make a batch. (Matcha is finely milled green tea (and is a bit expensive, so don’t be too surprised). I found mine in the tea section of Whole Foods.)

Matcha Green Tea and Yogurt Chip Cookies

Matcha Green Tea and Yogurt Chip Cookies

Not Without Butter had a link to the recipe on Anh’s Food Blog, where you can find the original recipe. Of course, me being me, I felt compelled to alter it to make it a bit lower in calories and fat. I used a combination of light butter and real butter, powdered sugar and erythritol, and yogurt chips instead of white chocolate chips. I also used King Arthur whole wheat white flour (more fiber) and a whole egg instead of two egg yolks. After doing a little more research on baking with light butter, despite my seemingly innate urge to make things lower fat, I’m kind of thinking that using all real butter would be the way to go with these. There isn’t really enough of a savings if you keep the serving size minimal (1 or 2 cookies at time), and I think the advantage in consistency would probably be worth it. (Although the one I just had to confirm this hypothesis still tastes pretty good).

Matcha Cookie Ingredients

Matcha Cookie Ingredients

Matcha Cookies with Yogurt Chips
adapted from a recipe on Anh’s Food Blog
makes about 4 dozen cookies

10+1/2 Tbsp butter, softened*
1/2 c powdered sugar
1/2 c erythritol (or another 1/3 c powdered sugar)
1/2 oz matcha green tea powder
1 egg
1+2/3 c whole wheat white flour
1/4 c yogurt chips
1 Tbsp skim milk (if needed)

* If you still want to try lower fat, use 6 Tbsp light butter and 4+1/2 Tbsp butter

Cream the butter, powdered sugar, and erythritol together with a mixer. Add the matcha powder and egg, and beat well. Sift the flour into the mixture in a few batches, mixing well with a large spoon until the flour is incorporated. Add the skim milk if the dough is too dry. Mix the yogurt chips in (I used my hands for this part). Form into a log about 16-18 inches long, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hours to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 305 degrees. Cut the log into disks about 1/4 inch thick, and place on cookie sheets either lined with parchment paper or sprayed with cooking spray. I loved the way these looked before baking:

Matcha Cookies Ready To Bake

Matcha Cookies Ready To Bake

Bake for 20-30 minutes (with light butter it took 30). Remove and place on a cooling rack.

per 1 cookie, with real butter: 47 cals, 3 g fat, 4 g fiber – 1 Weight Watchers point
light butter and real butter combination: 40 cals, 2.3 g fat, 0.4 g fiber – 1 Weight Watchers point

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Last week Niwot restaurant Colterra graciously (and deliciously) hosted several local food bloggers other food media people for a talk about the restaurant, as well as several delectable small plates. Colterra has long been a favorite of mine in Boulder County, but gained even more esteem points after I had the chance to find out a bit more about what goes on behind the scenes.

Executive Chef Michael Drazsnzak spoke extensively about the philosophy espoused by both Colterra and Salt (both created by chef Bradford Heap), their relationship with local farmers, and the wonderful dishes that were provided for us to sample. The restaurants strive to provide food that is local, healthy, sustainable, and promotes humane animal husbandry. Recycling and composting are both near and dear to my heart, so more points were scored with me when I heard that Colterra has only one trash can-sized container for landfill, but multiple containers for recycling and composting.

I’m always thrilled to see restaurants sourcing their food from local farms and ranches, and Colterra definitely makes this a high priority. They acquire produce and meat from Full Circle Farms, Dooley Farms, Munson Farms and Long Family Farms (to name just a few), as well as from the small garden spread around the Colterra property. They have recently partnered up with a farmer to raise eight Berkshire hogs, contributing edible compost from the restaurant for feed. I love that! Another thing that impressed me was the fact that they visit the farmers quite frequently, allowing them to get an idea of what is growing and will be ready to harvest soon, so that they can plan new menu items.

The Patio at Colterra in Niwot, CO

On the Patio at Colterra in Niwot, CO

Now on to the lovely small plates we sampled. The first was Pork Rillettes (a dish similar to pâté) and quick pickled cucumbers with a bit of mint, on toasted bread and a bed of lettuce. The Rillettes was wonderfully rich, and perfectly complemented by the light, fresh pickled cucumbers. (As Chef Drazsnzak described the process of making the Rillettes, talking about the addition of butter, bacon fat, and extra-virgin olive oil, I had a quick mental image of my posterior expanding, but that didn’t stop me from finishing both pieces! All part of splurging one night a week, and eating healthier at home the rest of the week.)

Salad with Pork Rillettes and Quick Pickled Cucumbers on Toast

Salad with Pork Rillettes and Quick Pickled Cucumbers on Toast (You can barely see the Rillettes, but trust me, it was delicious!)

As good as the Rillettes was, the second course was actually my favorite. This was a salad made of local organic tomatoes and fried bread with sweet corn and green beans. Add to that some olive oil, wonderfully vibrant aged balsamic and a bit of basil, and I was really blown away by the clean, fresh, gorgeous flavors. This kind of dish really underscores how locally harvested produce can elevate food to new levels, because it’s packed with so much more flavor.

Tomato and Fried Bread Salad with Sweet Corn and Green Beans

Tomato and Fried Bread Salad with Sweet Corn and Green Beans

The final dish was a melon salad with prosciutto, mint, and peashoots. The cantaloupe and honeydew were local, and the prosciutto even counted as more local than most, hailing from La Quercia, makers of artisan cured meats, in Iowa. La Quercia (translated as ‘The Oak’) was the first to bring the tradition of acorn-fed pigs to the United States with their ‘Acorn Edition’ meats. Completely delicious!

Melon Salad with Prosciutto

Melon Salad with Prosciutto

In addition to providing wonderful food at both Colterra and Salt, the Bradford Heap Restaurants brand also does catering, as well as offering cooking classes. I think I may just have to attend one of their classes in the near future!

I always look forward to trying a new flavor of Pappardelle’s Pasta. I had been eyeing the Spicy Red Hot Thai Curry Orzo for some time, but haven’t made a lot of Thai dishes in the past, so I was somewhat hesitant. I finally decided to get some though, and thought I’d do something with grilled shrimp and stir-fried vegetables to go with it. I had some bell pepper and wax beans from the Farmers’ Market, so I figured those would be perfect for a Thai dish. (Sure, Thai food uses green beans or (green) long beans, but I’ve always thought of wax beans pretty much equivalent to green beans. But they have the added bonus of keeping their color when you cook them, unlike those disappointing purple beans!)

Bell Pepper, Wax Beans and Green Onions

Bell Pepper, Wax Beans and Green Onions

One of the main features of Thai food is its wonderful balance of hot, sweet, salty, and sour tastes. I wanted to try to do something using authentic Thai flavors for the sauce, so I did a bit of internet searching, as well as paging through my newly acquired copy of Culinary Artistry to get some ideas. Culinary Artistry is a great book recommended to me by a woman at Sur la Table in Boulder. It has lists of different herbs and spice combinations, as well as different ingredients used in the cooking of various countries. It also has a lot of great information from many famous chefs. For my Thai sauce I decided on fish sauce, coconut milk, lime juice, soy sauce and brown sugar.

After I mixed together everything for the sauce, it tasted pretty good, but was way too thin, so I added a bit of corn starch so it would thicken once I added it to the vegetables. I enlisted my husband to grill the shrimp, which came off the grill looking absolutely gorgeous. I was really pleased with the overall result – not only was it incredibly tasty, but it was a really beautiful dish!

Spicy Red Hot Thai Curry Orzo with Shrimp, Bell Pepper and Wax Beans
serves 2

4 oz Hot Thai Curry Orzo
10 oz shrimp (fresh or frozen)
1+1/2 bell peppers, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
5 green onions, chopped
1/2 lb wax or green beans, ends trimmed, and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 tsp sesame oil, divided
6 basil leaves, chopped

Sauce
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1+1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp lime juice
3 Tbsp coconut milk
4-6 tsp brown sugar (start with the lower amount, and add more if desired)
2 tsp canola oil
1+1/2 tsp cornstarch

Mix all the ingredients for the sauce (except the cornstarch) together. Taste and adjust as necessary – you might want more coconut milk, lime juice, or sugar, depending on your taste preferences. In a small bowl or mug, add a teaspoon or so of the sauce to the cornstarch, and mix well. Add a couple more teaspoons of sauce, and mix again until the cornstarch is dissolved. Now add the dissolved cornstarch to the sauce, and mix well. Set aside.

Cook orzo as per package directions. It’s okay if it’s done before everything else. Just set it aside and you can add it to everything at the end to heat it up again.

Peel Shrimp if needed. Toss in 1 tsp sesame oil. Grill on high heat (use a grill tray or basket if needed) about 2-3 minutes per side. If you’re lucky and can con someone else into doing this part, have them time it so that it will be ready about the same time as the vegetables.

Heat 1 tsp sesame oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beans and cook for two minutes. Add the pepper, and continue to cook until the beans and pepper are crisp tender (it seemed to take between 8 – 12 minutes – I got different results in my two rounds of this dish). If the beans start to brown before things are tender enough, you can turn the heat down a bit, or add a couple teaspoons of water.

Bell Pepper and Wax Beans

Bell Pepper and Wax Beans

Add the green onion and the sauce (and your pasta if it has cooled completely), turn the heat down to low, and continue to cook until the sauce has thickened.

Add the pasta to the vegetables and sauce if you haven’t done so already, and stir well. Plate (or bowl) the pasta, top with shrimp and basil.

Spicy Red Hot Thai Curry Orzo with Shrimp, Pepper and Wax Beans

Spicy Red Hot Thai Curry Orzo with Shrimp, Pepper and Wax Beans

I had been wanting to make some crackers for a while, since I haven’t done so for years and years, but just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. Then last week, while I was chopping fresh rosemary for a fish rub during a cooking class at the Boulder Sur la Table, the fragrant smell overtook me and I thought ‘I need to bake bread. No – crackers!’ So I went out, bought some rosemary, and set about making some.

I love to make crackers with some kind of cheese for extra flavor, so I took a look at our cheese supplies, and determined that the pecorino romano would probably go best with rosemary. I decided to use a bit of olive oil, and to use milk instead of water for a richer taste. I really wasn’t sure how much rosemary to use, since it can be somewhat overwhelming, especially in dried form, but I threw in a tablespoon of minced leaves, and it worked just fine.

This was a bit of an unusual result for my making up a recipe for baked goods. Normally I have to tweak whatever it is I’ve done several times before I’m really happy with it. But these actually turned out great the first time! I think crackers, being so simple, are pretty forgiving. All you have to do to make these is mix the ingredients together, roll the dough out and cut it into pieces, and bake it with one break in the middle to brush with oil and sprinkle with coarse salt. So simple! Which is fortunate, because they’re so delicious, they end up disappearing in just a few days. On to the next batch!

I used some gorgeous Black Lava Hawaii Kai’s Palm Island Sea Salt from the Savory Spice Shop for the top of these, but you could use any coarse salt.

A bunch of white ingredients that don't photograph well

A bunch of white ingredients that don’t photograph well

Rosemary Pecorino-Romano Crackers
makes about 25 crackers

1+1/2 cup white whole wheat flour*
1/2 oz finely grated pecorino romano (or parmesan**)
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary
1/3 + 1/4 cup milk
1 tsp olive oil for brushing
coarse salt for sprinkling

*I bake with King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour, since it has more fiber than regular white flour. You should be able to use all white flour or a combination of white and wheat without any problems.

** Really any strong-flavored hard cheese will do. Omit the rosemary or use a different herb that goes well with whatever flavor you choose.

In a large bowl, combine the first five ingredients as well as 1/3 cup milk, and mix well. Add the additional 1/4 cup milk as needed, one Tbsp at a time, to form a very stiff dough (I used all 4 Tbsp).

Stiff Cracker Dough

Stiff Cracker Dough

Roll out the dough on a very floured surface (flipping the dough over a few times as you roll it, so that you can re-flour the surface as needed), to about 1/8 inch thickness (or a bit thinner if you’d like). Cut into squares 2 to 3 inches on a side. Place on two baking sheets sprayed with cooking spray.

Crackers ready for baking

Crackers ready for baking

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, then take the pans out, brush lightly with the 1 tsp of olive oil (more if you need it), and sprinkle with a bit of coarse salt. Return to the oven, and bake until crispy, about 15 more minutes (but check every 5 minutes!). Remove the crackers and cool on a rack.

Finished Crackers - YUM!

Finished Crackers – YUM!

Nutritional Information
(per cracker, 25 crackers per recipe, and made with King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour): 41 cals, 1.6 g fat, 0.7 g fiber

For other great baking recipes, check out the Love to Bake Global Carnival on The Family Feed!

The section on low-sugar desserts in Bon Appétit caught my eye last month, so I decided to make the Cocoa-Date Truffles and see how they measured up. I have long felt somewhat needlessly guilty while eating dates, since it almost feels like eating pure honey. So it made perfect sense to me that truffles made with dates as the sweet component would work. And, dates being extremely sticky, they would serve to bind the dry ingredients together.

I made the recipe twice – the first time was not too bad, but I felt compelled to explain that they were really low-fat and made with dates to anyone I had sample them. I tweaked several things for second batch, and that one required no such disclaimer – they were delicious! Chocolatey, with a nice coconut undertone.

For the first batch, since I’m always striving for low-fat (and because I had no coconut), I went with the oat option instead of the coconut option. The first change for batch two was to procure some reduced fat shredded coconut from Alfalfa’s (made by Let’s Do…Organic, ‘Fat reduction achieved by steam extraction’ — okay by me!). The second change was to swap out Ghiradelli Unsweetened Cocoa, and instead use Dagoba Organic Cocoa Powder. Honestly – they smelled equally inviting when I took a big whiff of both canisters to compare, but the Dagoba has fewer calories, less fat, and more fiber, and the second round tasted better, so that’s what I’m going with!  The third change was to bump up the amount of cocoa and coconut by 1/3. And my last change was to throw in a bit of almond extract.

Ingredients for Cocoa-Date Truffles

Ingredients for Cocoa-Date Truffles

There was also a change on the mechanical front. For the first batch I used my small food processor, and for whatever reason chose to ignore the fact that it was really struggling to churn its little blade around. I kept on pushing the pulse and chop buttons, trying for ultimate smoothness. At some point, the tiny tendril of white smoke curling out of the back of the processor was enough to get me to cease and desist processing. The second time I sagely used the full-sized food processor, which was fortunately fully-qualified for the task.

As a side note, I would be fascinated to know just how they were able to get the truffles evenly, gorgeously coated with large pieces of chopped pistachios for the Bon Appétit photo. Mine ended up lightly coated with pistachio dust, but in order to get any amount of chopped nut meat on the truffles, I pretty much had to hand-apply it.

Cocoa-Date Truffles
adapted from a recipe in the June 2012 issue of Bon Appétit
makes 16 truffles

8 oz pitted dates (I used California dates)
4 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
4 Tbsp reduced-fat shredded coconut (or regular)
1/2 tsp espresso powder
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 to 1 oz crushed pistachios for coating (salted or unsalted – your choice. I ground 1 oz, only 1/2 stuck)
sesame (or peanut) oil to grease your hands to avoid stickage

Put the first 3 ingredients into a food processor, and process until the dates are somewhat chopped up. Then add the espresso powder and the almond extract, and process until the mixture forms into a single moist, unattractive ball thrust to the side of the processor (some literary license taken here for dramatic affect).

Cocoa-Date Truffle Raw Material After Processing

Cocoa-Date Truffle Raw Material After Processing

Take the cocoa-date ball out of the processor, then coat your fingers and palms with a very light layer of sesame oil. Divide the ball into 16 equal pieces, then roll them into balls. Roll in the crushed pistachios to ‘coat’ (see above comment).

Cocoa-Date Truffles

Cocoa-Date Truffles

Nutritional Information
(made with reduced-fat coconut, and 1/2 oz pistachios)

1 truffle: 52 cals, 1 g fat, 1.7 g fiber

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