Chocolate Drizzled Coconut Macaroons (Gluten Free)

Funnily enough, I used to think that I hated coconut.  That is no longer true.  Between these cookies, coconut shrimp, and Chobani Coconut blended yogurt, I think I officially now have a thing for coconut.Coconut Macaroons | A Nerd CooksI originally came across the recipe for these cookies while searching for a gluten free recipe.  We went camping over the weekend with a few friends, and one of our friend’s girlfriend is gluten free.  I always bake something for these trips, and didn’t want her to feel left out.Coconut Macaroons | A Nerd Cooks

This recipe comes from The Kitchn.

You’ll need:

  • 3.5 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla or almond extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • melted chocolate, optional (for dipping/drizzling)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Set aside.

Optional: toast the coconut in the 350 degree oven for 5 minutes, or until the coconut is just getting a little color.  Let it cool for a few minutes before using it.  If you don’t want to toast it, just skip to the next step.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the egg whites, sugar, vanilla, and salt together until the sugar is completely combined and everything is frothy.

Add the coconut and stir until it is evenly moistened.

Using a cookie scoop, or your moistened hands, shape the coconut mixture into small balls and place them on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden.

Let the macaroons cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, and then transfer them to a wire rack so that they can finish cooling completely.

Again, optional, but once the cookies are cooled, you can either drizzle or dip them in some chocolate.

Coconut Macaroons | A Nerd Cooks

Coconut Macaroons | A Nerd Cooks

Chicken Curry for Sean

Fortunately, Sean shares my love of Indian takeout.  While I love chicken tikka masala, he always opts for chicken curry.  He’s been asking me to try to recreate it at home for some time now, and I finally succumbed.

While this recipe isn’t identical to the one that we would get from our local Indian restaurant back in Baltimore, it’s still pretty delicious.  On top of that, it’s super simple to make.

Fair warning: it’s not exactly friendly to the waistline.  Sorry, guys.

Chicken Curry | A Nerd Cooks

This recipe is adapted from one I found on the blog I Will Not Eat Oysters.  It’s one of my new favorite blogs; her recipes are delicious and the photos are beautiful.

You’ll need:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 4 tbs yellow curry powder
  • 1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • rice, for serving

In a large bowl, toss the chicken around in the curry powder, salt, pepper, and cinnamon until completely coated.  The original post offers some very good advice: Wash your hands and clean under your nails right away so you aren’t stained yellow.

Put the vegetable oil in a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and cook until all sides are browned.

Add the heavy cream and stir.  Turn the heat to medium-low, cover the skillet partially, and simmer for 15 minutes or so.  The chicken will finish cooking through and the sauce will thicken.

Serve the chicken and sauce over rice.  Enjoy!

A Nerd Travels: Canoeing on the Potomac River

Canoeing on the Potomac | A Nerd Cooks

While I was editing these photos a bit, I realized that they were taken not this past summer, but the summer before (2013).  It’s a little hard to believe that it’s been so long.

Sean and I went canoeing on the Potomac River in Maryland with our friends, Melissa and Kevin.  The weather was perfect, and we had a blast.

Canoeing on the Potomac | A Nerd Cooks

I took these pictures with my little Canon PowerShot S95, which now that I think about it, gets pretty neglected since I got my DSLR.  I’m honestly not sure if they even make it anymore, but it’s a great little camera.

Canoeing on the Potomac | A Nerd CooksIf you’re in the area, and are into outdoorsy kinds of things, I’d totally recommend paddling down the Potomac.

 

Kale Salad Bowl with Tahini Dressing

Let’s talk about new year’s resolutions.tumblr_lfdcophK8r1qzgrg8o1_r1_500Yes to staying in more, indeed, Liz Lemon.

Let’s review the past year: Last year (in a post about a kale and butternut squash salad, funnily enough), I proclaimed that the following were my resolutions for 2014:

  1. Learn to use piping bags - Done!  See these chocolate cupcakes for proof =)
  2. Work with yeast – This one still scares me a little me…
  3. Take more photos - Done!
  4. Take more good food photos – Done! “Good” is, of course, a relative term.
  5. Cook with curry – Done! See this post about chicken tikka masala that actually ended up being one the most popular posts on my blog in 2014!  I’ll be showing you an awesome chicken curry later this week, too.
  6. Bundt cake – Done!  I didn’t blog about it, but I made pumpkin chocolate chip bundt cakes this past fall.
  7. Take better care of myself – Nope.  Still not quite there yet.

So… 5/7?  Could be worse.  What about this year?  I’m keeping it simple.

  1. Drink more water
  2. Exercise regularly and consistently – Regularly = at least 4x/week; consistently = keep doing it all year long.  Granted, we’re only 12 days into the year, but so far, so good.

There you have it.  Anyone else willing to share their resolutions?

This salad bowl will help to keep you on track with your goals of eating better in the new year.  Full disclosure, it is slightly involved to make, but the recipe makes 4 servings.  So if you make it on Sunday, you have lunches for almost the entire week ready to go!

Kale Salad Bowl with Tahini Dressing | A Nerd Cooks

The recipe for this kale salad bowl comes from the blog I Will Not Eat Oysters, though I’ve tinkered slightly with some of the proportions.  The recipe makes enough for 4 substantial servings.

You’ll need:

For the sweet potatoes -

  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

For the tahini dressing – 

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup tahini paste (check near the peanut butter if you have trouble finding it in your grocery store)
  • 3 tbs lemon juice
  • 2-3 tbs warm water

For the lemon dressing – 

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

For the kale bowls -

  • 4 cups raw kale, washed, chopped, and stems removed
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa, cooked in chicken or vegetable broth (it adds a ton of flavor!)
  • 1-15 oz. can chick peas, drained
  • 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • sesame seeds
  • salt and pepper

Begin by roasting your sweet potatoes.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.  Set aside.  In a plastic bag, combine the cubed sweet potatoes, salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Toss until all sweet potatoes are coated.  Place the sweet potatoes on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer.  Roast for 20-25 minutes, tossing them around halfway through.

To make the tahini dressing, add all of the ingredients to a blender or food processor.  Blend/process until smooth.

To make the lemon dressing, simply whisk all of the ingredients together.

For the bowls themselves, you’ll start by massaging the kale.  This will make the kale a bit softer, and break down the tough fibers.  Place the clean, chopped kale in a large bowl.  Pour the lemon dressing over, and add some salt and pepper.  Follow the instructions in this video on how to massage kale.  You’ll be massaging it for 3-4 minutes.

Once the kale has been massaged, top it with the roasted sweet potatoes, cooked quinoa, feta cheese, chick peas, sesame seeds, and any additional salt and pepper, to taste.

Enjoy!!

One of the great things about this salad is it is really hearty.  You can make it at the start of the week and not worry about it being soggy or gross by the time Wednesday or Thursday rolls around.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream

To paraphrase Anthony Bourdain: These cupcakes definitely don’t suck.Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream | A Nerd Cooks

In fact, I’m slightly obsessed with these cupcakes.  Not only are they delicious, but I think they look pretty, too!  I finally bit the bullet and decided to try to use a piping bag!  Not a professional job, by any means, but I think they don’t look too shabby.

Using a piping bag was actually one of the “resolutions” I discussed at the beginning of 2014 in my post about Butternut Squash and Kale Salad.  Since I baked these at the end of December, it still counts as having fulfilled that resolution ;)

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream | A Nerd Cooks

Once I frosted them, it was getting to be a little late in the day and the light was starting to fade in my kitchen.  I actually ended up photographing these on my back deck on new year’s eve.  I set up on the table beside our charcoal grill and got to shooting.  Not sure if anyone saw me out there…Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream | A Nerd Cooks

Both the cake and frosting recipes come from Joy the Baker’s newest cookbook, Homemade Decadence.

You’ll need:

For the cake -

  • Follow the instructions for making Joy the Baker’s Basic Three-Layer Chocolate Cake that I used in my Double the Chocolate Cake.  Stop short of pouring the batter into a cake pan.

For the Salted Peanut Butter Buttercream Frosting -

  •  4 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter (all-natural works best)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 6-7 cups powdered sugar
  • 3-4 tbs heavy cream or milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a muffin tin with liners.  Set aside.

Prepare the chocolate cake batter according to the recipe listed in my Double the Chocolate Cake post.  Fill the liners 2/3 of the way full.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a knife/toothpick, when inserted into the center of the cupcake, comes out clean.

Allow the cupcakes to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then remove and place them on a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until it is softened (about 1 minute).

Add the peanut butter, salt, and vanilla extract and beat well.

Add 2 cups of the powdered sugar and beat on low until well combined.

Add another 2 cups of sugar along with 3 tbs of heavy cream/milk.  Beat until combined.

Add the remaining 2-3 cups of sugar (depending on your desired consistency) and remaining cream/milk and beat until the frosting reaches the desired thickness.

Beat on medium speed until the frosting is smooth and fluffy (about 4 minutes).

Once the cupcakes are completely cool, frost them!  I also garnished a few with mini pretzels, and shaved some milk chocolate over top of all of them.  Not necessary, but pretty.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream | A Nerd Cooks

Raspberry Sorbet and Champagne Cocktails + Top 10 Posts from 2014

Happy New Year, everyone!  It’s hard to believe that another year has come and gone.  To close out 2014, I leave you with a simple yet delicious cocktail to help you ring in the new year.  All you need is some fruity sorbet and a little bubbly.Raspberry Sorbet and Champagne Cocktails | A Nerd Cooks

This concoction was inspired by my friend Kim, from Feed Me, Seymour.  Her drinks used blood orange sorbet, but you can use whatever floats your boat.  I was tempted to choose mango, but figured the red of the raspberry sorbet would make for a more photogenic drink.

You’ll need:

  • Raspberry sorbet
  • Champagne

Put a few spoonfuls of the sorbet into the bottom of a champagne glass and top with champagne.  Imbibe!

 

Now, let’s talk about what you enjoyed most on the blog during 2014

Top 10 Posts on A Nerd Cooks from 2014

  1. Easy Crockpot Chicken and Vegetables
  2. Easy Salmon Baked in Foil
  3. Chocolate Peanut Butter No Bake Cookies
  4. Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale Salad
  5. Shrimp Wonton Cups
  6. S’mores Cookies
  7. Double the Chocolate Cake
  8. The Pioneer Woman’s Pot Roast
  9. Chicken Tikka Masala
  10. Old Kentucky Mule

It’s pretty cool to see that there’s a pretty good mix of new and old posts that are still drawing page views.  Thank you for visiting and reading!

A Nerd Travels: Wildwood, NJ 2014

I’d like to introduce a new section of my blog: one that showcases some of the photos I take during my travels.  I’ve been on a mission to take more photos, as well as more quality photos, of late.  That applies to food and non-food photography alike.  In the past, I’ve interspersed travel photos into my food posts.  I may end up doing a bit of that going forward, but I’d mostly like to give them their own space on my blog.

I have some photos from the past year or so that I haven’t talked about (or at least haven’t talked about extensively) on the blog, so I’ll be going back into my archives and talking about those trips, along with any new ones I go on.

This past summer, as we’ve been doing for the past few years, we went to Wildwood Crest, NJ with Sean’s family.  We stayed for 4 days and hung out with his family.  The weather was mostly dry, but was overcast and kind of gray for the bulk of the time we were there.  It gave the beach kind of a weird, washed out look.
 Wildwood Crest, NJ | A Nerd Cooks  Wildwood Crest, NJ | A Nerd CooksThe house we rented was also across the street from a lake, Sunset Lake, named for the beautiful sunsets that can be viewed there.  Unfortunately for us, it remained pretty overcast at sunset every day we were there.  Not that that stopped me from heading out and taking some photos.

 Wildwood Crest, NJ | A Nerd Cooks  Wildwood Crest, NJ | A Nerd CooksWe generally stick to the same set of activities: beach, dinners out, visits to Cape May, walking up and down the boardwalk, etc.  But this time around we decided to visit Cape May Brewing Company for a tasting and tour.  They had hops growing up a sort of trellis outside their front door.

Cape May Brewing Co. | A Nerd CooksFor $10 you could sample 4 4oz. beers, get to keep your tasting glass, and take a look around the brewing room.

I ended up sampling The Bog (twice!), which is a cranberry wheat beer mixed with lemonade.  I also had Tower 23, which is a German style Berliner Weisse.  Tower 23 is also a sour beer.  It was really strangely refreshing.  Then I also tried their Saison, which was, well, a saison.

Though we won’t be going back this coming summer (Sean’s older sister is having a baby (!!) around the time we usually go), we’re looking forward to stopping by the brewery to pick up 1/6 kegs for our kegerator.