Baked Chickpea Fritters

I have no idea where or when I ate my first falafel but I do know that it was love at first bite. I think it was my sister who introduced me to the magic that is that tiny ball of crunchy and fluffy chickpeas. Since then, I’ve been OBSESSED. I try to get my falafel fix wherever I can get it; most commonly at the Whole Foods hot bar. I know, it’s not exactly ‘legit’ but it fills the void.

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After trying it for the first time, I’d been dying to try and recreate that magic at home. Now, I’m not one to experiment much in the kitchen with savory items. I personally like the comfort of established recipes but I really wanted to put my own spin on this. Most falafel recipes have common ingredients, so I cross referenced with what I had and didn’t and got to work.

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This recipe was the result of three (four?) different tries. The first ones were way too smooth and soaked up a ton of oil but the flavor was there (and I also forgot to write down what I did). The second ones were on point texturally but were lacking in flavor. I repeated what I did the second time and tried to amp up the flavors, which resulted in salty fritters. At this point, I had been eating chickpeas several times for three weeks straight. I wanted to try one more time, tasting as I went along, and got something I was happy with.

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My fritters are pretty different from traditional falafel. For starters, these are baked. The first three tries, I pan fried them in some oil. They came out all nice and crunchy but they soaked up all that oil, which was kind of a turn off. Instead, I brushed them with a little bit of oil before baking and added a couple teaspoons to the chickpea mix.

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Mom’s Sofrito/sazón. Can you guess what’s in here?

Another big difference is in the ingredients. Traditional falafel recipes use tons of fresh herbs and other spices, most of which aren’t used in my house. The issue here is that if I buy them, they’d go bad. I’m not one to waste food, so I looked for another way to give my fritters flavor, even if it meant sacrificing authenticity. Enter my mom’s secret ingredient. Go into any Dominican woman’s household and there is a chance that somewhere in her kitchen, she’s hiding her signature flavor bomb. I’m talking about sofrito. Sofrito is basically a blended mixture of a bunch of seasoning ingredients. Common ingredients in this stuff ranges from a variety of peppers, onions, garlic, tons of cilantro; among other things. I’m not exactly sure what’s in my mom’s sazón or else I’d tell you, but I plan on getting that recipe…. eventually. For now, I just stole a couple tablespoons.

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Along with my mom’s Dominican sazón, I also threw in some of her other essential ingredient; Adobo all purpose seasoning. With this, please be careful. This stuff is salty if you put in too much, so watch your salt amounts when using this stuff. This is probably why my third try came out too salty. And finally, I added some dried parsley.

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The result? A surprisingly crunchy but creamy and chunky little fritter! I was very happy with these results. They were flavorful, spicy, and totally not greasy. Sure, they weren’t ‘legit’ falafel but at least with this recipe, I can get my fill of chickpeas in the comfort of my own home. They are far from perfect but for my first time creating a recipe, I’d say I did pretty well.

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Baked Chickpea Fritters – a Lucy the Baker Original

Makes 15 fritters

  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup of chopped onions
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon + 1/8 teaspoon Adobo all purpose seasoning
  • 3-4 tablespoons sofrito/sazón
  • 1-2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried parsley
  • Pinch of Kosher salt
  • 2-4 tablespoons of flour
  • Olive oil for brushing/coating

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In the bowl of your food processor, add the chopped onion and garlic cloves. Add the chickpeas, along with the red pepper flakes, Adobo, sofrito, oil, dried parsley, and a pinch of salt. Pulse until the mixture is chunky but combined.
  2. Empty the contents of your processor into a bowl, giving it a mix with a rubber spatula. Add the flour by the tablespoon, mixing after each addition. Check to make sure the mixture is not too dry or too wet; it should come together when gently pressed into a ball but it shouldn’t be too sticky.
  3. Using a small disher or a tablespoon, portion out the chickpea mix onto the prepped baking sheet. Gently flatten out the balls, and brush with a little bit of olive oil. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Flip them over and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I’m assuming the majority of you don’t have access to sofrito/sazón. In lieu of that, please add more onions, cilantro, and some bell peppers to your mix. At least until I can grab that secret and post the recipe!
  • When adding the flour, less is more. Test the mix after each tablespoon to make sure you’re not adding too much flour. 
  • You can find Adobo all purpose seasoning in the ethnic aisle of most supermarkets. You’ll also find something in a jar called “sofrito.” It’s not exactly the same but it’s an okay sub to the one I used here. 
  • You can also make the mixture and throw it in the fridge for a while, if needed. It’ll help the flavors develop. 
  • Want to fry them? You can pan fry them in some canola oil or take the plunge (ha) and deep fry them. If you’re pan frying, put them on a baking sheet and bake them in the 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes after frying.

No Churn Coffee Ice Cream and DIY Cone Cups

It finally looks like summer is winding down. It’s weird because it feels like this summer was short but it was still uncomfortably hot. One of my favorite things about the heat (if not the only thing) is the fact that I get to eat ice cream. I LOVE ice cream and eat it pretty much year round, but it tastes better in warm weather. I didn’t get to eat a lot of ‘real’ ice cream that much this year; except for the countless cups of froyo and this but other than that, no ‘real’ ice cream.

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As an adult, my ice cream palette has evolved a little bit. I still have a soft spot for cookies and cream ice cream, soft serve loaded with sprinkles from the truck, and those tiny ice cream sandwiches but I like having something with some flavor. Enter coffee ice cream. I’ve been drinking coffee since I was a kid. Blame my mom, who started giving me coffee with milk (lattes?) since I was young in an attempt to get me to eat something. My mom says that I barely ate as a kid; which I find hilariously ridiculous since I love food. One of the only ways I’d apparently eat breakfast was with a mug of coffee with milk. Now, my mom drinks espresso. Or what I think is espresso, which is known to be as coffee that is not for the faint of heart. Imagine giving a kid that stuff? I don’t recall being hyper or anything but it did give me a taste for the luscious black gold. She even tried weaning me off several times to no avail because I had gotten used to the dose of caffeine and without it, I’d get headaches.

Nowadays, I take my coffee black and still get headaches if I miss my morning cup. It’s what prompted me to turn it into ice cream. Using the leftover ingredients from this dessert, I made a half batch of awesome that is still in my freezer. I posted about the magic of this no churn ice cream here and had been thinking about repeating the recipe ever since. If you can whip cream, you can make this ice cream. Super simple: whipped heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, flavorings of your choice, and an optional (ha) tablespoon of liquor. Once frozen, it’s a magical dessert that you can’t even believe it’s not traditional ice cream. For this batch, I dissolved a tablespoon of instant coffee powder in a tablespoon of scotch. It is BEYOND delicious, with a strong coffee flavor that is still present after every spoonful.

Since I have done this recipe before, I wanted to do something fun to go with it. And like most of my ideas as of late, this one came to me in the shower. Whenever I used to go to the ice cream shop, I’d get a sugar cone to go with my default cookies and cream scoop. I love the crispy and sweet taste better than I do a waffle cone. Those things taste like air. Anyway, I wanted to replicate that at home. I don’t have cone maker or waffle press, so cone cups seemed ideal. All you need is a muffin tin and a shot glass. For this recipe, you need to have patience but also work quickly, as the cones harden super fast. After the first few, I got the swing of things but was disappointed they weren’t brown enough. Either way, they came out fabulous. Despite the paleness, the flavor and signature crispness were definitely there.

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While my love for coffee and ice cream knows no bounds, it’s good to know that I can basically have it year round. Even if it does taste better in warm weather!

No Churn Coffee Ice Cream – adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes 3/4 quart

  • 7oz sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup cold, heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon liquor of choice (I used scotch)
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, dissolve the coffee in the tablespoon of liquor. Add the sweetened condensed milk and stir together until combined. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whip the heavy cream using a hand mixer until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the whipped cream into the sweetened condensed milk mixture. Pour homogenous mix into a freezer safe container with a lid, and freeze for six hours or until firm. Remove ice cream from freezer and let sit out for five minutes before scooping and serving.

Sugar Cones – adapted from Spoon Fork Bacon

Makes 21 cone cups

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup superfine sugar
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • 2/3 all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

  1. Place egg whites, sugar, milk, vanilla, and salt into a mixing bowl and whisk together. Stir in flour and butter until fully incorporated and batter is smooth.
  2. Lightly spray a nonstick skillet with a small amount of cooking spray. Pour 2 1/2 tablespoons batter into the cold skillet and spread into a thin even layer. Place skillet over medium heat and cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until base has set. Flip and continue to cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Quickly lay sugar disc into a buttered muffin tin and press down with a lightly greased shot glass. Leave shot glass in the cone cup for 1-2 minutes, or until the cone cup takes its shape. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  3. Repeat until all batter has been used. Carefully store in an airtight container for up to three days.

Lucy Tips:

  • Sugar or waffle cones more your thing? Please head over to Spoon Fork Bacon for the waffle cone recipe, tips, and instructions on how to make them into cones

Key Lime Pies in Jars for Two

We are not pie people. We’re Dominican, and pies aren’t a thing over there. In fact, my folks were introduced to pie here in the U.S. Luckily, while I do consider myself Dominican, I am American by default. I am forever trying to tie American culture with our Dominican heritage and most of the time, I fail. They’re just not used to those kinds of things; like that one time where I tried to have a “traditional” Thanksgiving dessert by adding a pie to the dinner table. It did not go over well, but that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying such desserts.

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My folks were away for the past two weeks, leaving my sister and I to hold our own. It was fun and exciting to be “living alone” for two weeks, especially since we aren’t kids anymore. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen while they were gone, both messing around and actually cooking meals. I took the helm, making dinner several times for us when I wasn’t working. I even butchered (like, really butchered) a whole chicken on my own! I took advantage of the fact that they were gone to make stuff I’d been dying to eat.

Key lime pie has always sounded delicious to me. The older I got, the more I found I wanted to try it. It was number two on my grand list of desserts to try, but I ended up making that first. I saw this recipe somewhere on the internet the other day and was inspired. Like most of my decisions lately, this one began with a “fuck it.” It’s one of the ways I’ve been going about my decisions lately; considering I tend to procrastinate things I really wanna do. With that said, I made the pies.

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I don’t know about you, but things in jars are just ten times more adorable. I have a few jars in my possession already but they’re all being used for other stuff. This meant I had to buy more jars; a labor of love, even if it may have hurt my pocket a little bit. I went to Sur la Table for the very first time, and I absolutely loved it! I went to the only one in the city and immediately fell in love upon walking in. I gotta be honest, I had been avoiding this trip for the longest because I knew I was gonna love it. The worst thing is going shopping with basically zero dollars, so I put it off as long as I could. I’m glad I went because I will no doubt will be back (with actual dollars in my pockets) to buy all of the things.

Jars in hand, it was pie time. This recipe is super simple and straightforward. I halved it so I could make just two jars. I’m the only dairy/pie eating fiend here, so the less the better. I tried looking for smaller cans of sweetened condensed milk but I couldn’t locate a can, so I used half of a regular can. After 15 minutes in the oven, and two and a half long hours of cooling and chilling, I got to try this pie for the first time. It is SO GOOD. The lime offsets the sweetness from the sweetened condensed milk, and the salty-ish crust adds crunch and a change of flavor.

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I went to town on one of the jars immediately, and am holding on to the other one. My favorite thing about this dessert is the jar. It’s portable, meaning it’s perfect for picnics and romantic desserts for two. Or you could eat them both; no one’s around and I won’t tell 😉

Key Lime Pies in Jars for Two – adapted from Kitchen Treaty

Makes two small jars

Crust:

  • 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs (about three graham cracker rectangles)
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling:

  • 7oz sweetened condensed milk (from a 14oz can)
  • 1-2 teaspoons lime zest
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup fresh lime juice (from 1-3 limes, depending on how juicy they are)
  • 1 egg yolk

Topping: 

  • 1-2 cups heavy cream
  • 1-3 tablespoons powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Lime zest and lime slices for garnish (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Place the empty jars on a baking sheet.
  2. For the crust: crush the graham crackers in a resealable plastic bag with a rolling pin, or run the crackers through your food processor. Add the sugar and salt, and stir to combine. Add the melted butter and mix until moistened. Divide the graham cracker mixture equally between the jars. Do not compress the crust into the jars as you would a regular graham cracker crust; it’ll be difficult for the crust to come out of the jar with a spoon. Set aside.
  3. For the filling: zest and juice your limes in a medium sized bowl. Add the sweetened condensed milk and stir. Once combined, whisk in the egg yolk until mixture is homogenized.
  4. Divide the filling equally among the jars and bake on a baking sheet for about 15 minutes, or until filling is set. Cool jars on a rack for about 30 minutes, then move to the refrigerator for 2-3 hours or until completely chilled.
  5. Once chilled, make the whipped cream by mixing the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer until soft-medium peaks form. Top the pies with the cream, and garnish right before serving.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • If you find small cans of sweetened condensed milk (lucky!) by all means, use them. If not, half a 14oz can of sweetened condensed milk is a little over 1/2 cup. If you’re a stickler for accuracy (like I am), weigh out the 7oz using a food scale
  • Jars will keep in the fridge for up to three days (if they last that long); just top and garnish before serving
  • Before baking, make sure your jars are clean, oven safe, and do not have any chips or cracks anywhere on the surface

Granola Bars

Granola bars, to me, are the perfect snack. Granted, I wouldn’t eat them alone as a snack but they go so well with a piece of fruit or alongside a sandwich for a quick lunch. When I started college, I made sure I always had something on me and granola bars were my go-to. I had my first energy cereal bar from the school store one day in class. I’ll never forget that because it was a bit of an experience. I sound like a crazy person even saying that I had an ~experience~ with a granola bar but entertain me for a minute. I never had one of those before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I even remember the flavor; chocolate brownie. For comparison’s sake, I imagined that it was supposed to taste like a brownie so that’s what I used to figure out if it was tasty or not. I loved it. It had all my favorite things; chocolate, oats, and sugar so what’s not to love? I went back to my school store several times after that to try the rest of the flavors. I even looked up their website to see what else they had to offer and went on the hunt for all the flavors at different stores.

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Now, I don’t think I’ve met a bar I didn’t like because I think I’ve tried all of the different brands and kinds of bars out there. Every single one that I’d come across, I’d look for them in stores and try them. Honestly, I still do that. I love trying different things like that, just to see what all the hype is about. Anything from cereal bars, meal replacement bars, and even protein bars have gone across my lips. The best part about trying all these bars, aside from the variety, was their portability. I needed to have one in my bag at all times in order to stop any impending hunger signs on the spot, even after graduation.

These days, I still carry some sort of bar in my bag; along with a giant bottle of water and maybe even an apple. I even buy my favorites in mass quantities so I have something to snack on while at work. However, since my folks are away and my stash is quickly depleting, I decided to make my own.

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Now, these were a long time coming. Even before I bought my last box of bars, I had been thinking about making my own. The only thing stopping me was that I couldn’t decide what to put in them! See, granola bars are a grab bag of stuff. Besides the required oats and nuts, it’s basically a free for all. I took what I had in my cupboard and went to town. These aren’t inherently healthy but I like to think that because they’re homemade, it cancels out. I tried my best to keep it sorta healthy but that factor is up to the eater to decide. I put all my favorites in here; oats (which are a given and required), raisins, cinnamon, chocolate chips, peanut butter, and nuts. I kind of cheated with the nuts because all I had were some nut clusters, which I chopped up and threw into the mix. Then I switched the butter for some melted coconut oil; one of the trendy fats that are really good for your body on the inside and outside. I also used agave; a sweeter and less viscous alternative to honey. And just for funsies, I used half brown and half white sugar.

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I wasn’t expecting these bars to be this delicious, in all honesty. Reminiscent of these things but baked and better! Mine got nice and toasty in the oven, which added some crunch and a touch of extra nuttiness. Swapping the butter for the coconut oil was genius too because there was just a slight coconut-y taste; it made me wish I had shredded coconut to add to it! The raisins added some much needed fruitiness and chew, while the nuts added another element of crunch, and the chocolate chips just added chocolate. After trying the first bite, I couldn’t stop thinking about other flavors and mix ins I could shake up this recipe with! They are seriously one of the best homemade bars I’ve had (and made), and I can’t wait to take them everywhere with me.

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Granola Bars – adapted from Smitten Kitchen

  • 1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup oat flour made from 1/3 cup finely ground rolled oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups combines of dried fruits, nuts, and chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup natural, smooth and unsalted peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup agave
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon water

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ pan in one direction with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides. Lightly grease the parchment paper and the exposed pan, or coat with a non-stick spray.
  • Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In a separate bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, vanilla, melted oil, liquid sweeteners, and water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry until the mixture is evenly moistened and crumbly. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing them in firmly to ensure they are molded to the shape of the pan.
  • Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges. Cool the bars in their pan completely on a cooling rack. Once cool, use a serrated knife,  bench knife, or really sharp chef’s knife to cut the bars into squares or bars. To store, wrap the bars individually in plastic or stack them in an airtight container.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Word to the wise, the bars get stiff in the fridge and may be hard to eat. If you have time, let them sit out for 10 minutes or so before eating.