Dinner, Dessert + More Gossip Girl.

The thing about a show like Gossip Girl is that once you start watching, it’s impossible to stop.  I suppose the series is a bit like Pringles that way, but with leagues more manipulation and making out.   Darlington and I were two discs deep into season one when we decided a midweek mini-marathon was in order.  It had been something like seven days since we had last snuggled up with Serena, Jenny and Dan — and that was seven days too many.

It’s way too easy to sit  lumpishly on the sofa with a bag a of chips (or a tube of Pringles, for that matter) and bask in Gossip Girl‘s glow, so Darlington and I decided that a more wholesome dinner was in order.  I knew just the meal that could satisfy us on both a taste and health level: a mix of roasted carrots and cauliflower served with couscous, chickpeas and greens.  The salad is as delicious to eat as it is a breeze to make; the most trying part of its preparation is in peeling the carrots.  After that, it’s pretty much just a matter of waiting while the vegetables roast.

Speaking of roasting, what is it about applied heat that deepens the flavor of carrots and intensifies the cauliflower?  Come to think of it — I don’t know if I even care about the science behind my question.  All I know is that the end result is incredible.

Nutritious nosh aside, neither Darlington nor I are delusional; we each have a wickedly strong sweet tooth.  That said, we didn’t want to completely wreck the integrity of our meal with something completely as decadent as a chocolate cake.  What we could do, on the other hand, was supplement our evening with a batch of relatively healthy cookies.

“They’re called ‘Wheels of Steel,'” Darlington said excitedly,  as I raised the most skeptical eyebrow.  My wariness stayed firmly in place even as Darlington told me that her mother used to bake these cookies years ago; the original recipe is from Feed Me, I’m Yours, the iconic 1974 child-friendly cookbook.

Even if I hadn’t started out as being a disbeliever, the ingredients alone would have had me questioning these cookies; after all, how could wheat germ and sesame seeds possibly combine in any positive way, let alone become a kid-tested dessert?  This might be one of the few times where I was excited to be wrong because these wheels were remarkably good.  (For those of you who are wondering, the “steel” part of the name comes from its high-fiber make-up and overall nourishing components, though we did substitute chocolate chips for raisins.)  The biggest surprise, however, wasn’t the cookie’s soft and fluffy texture, but rather the nuttiness imparted upon it by the toasted sesame seeds.  So good.  If only I could say the same thing  (without sarcasm) about Chuck Bass’s fashion choices

Couscous Salad with Roasted Vegetables and Chickpeas, from Everyday Food
Makes four generous portions.

1 pound carrots, sliced ¾ inch thick on the diagonal
1 head cauliflower (3 pounds), cored and cut into florets
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
3 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup whole-wheat couscous
1 tablespoon lemon zest, plus ½ cup fresh lemon juice (from 3 lemons)
1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
6 scallions, thinly sliced
5 ounces baby mixed greens

  1. Preheat oven to 450°.  Place carrots and cauliflower on a rimmed baking sheet; toss with cumin and two tablespoons oil. Season with salt and pepper. Spread half the vegetables on a second baking sheet. Roast until browned and tender, twenty-five to thirty minutes, rotating sheets and tossing halfway through. Cool to room temperature.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring 1 ¼  cups salted water to a boil. Stir in couscous; cover and remove from heat. Let stand until tender, five minutes. Fluff with a fork; set aside to cool, uncovered.
  3. Make dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together lemon zest and juice and remaining tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper.
  4. In a large bowl, combine roasted vegetables with couscous, chickpeas, and scallions. Place arugula on a serving platter, and drizzle with one tablespoon dressing. Add remaining dressing to couscous mixture, and toss; serve over greens.

Wheels of Steel, from Feed Me, I’m Yours
Makes about twenty cookies

½ cup butter, softened
½ cup peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup whole wheat flour
1 cup oatmeal, uncooked
¼ cup wheat germ
½ cup powdered milk
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons milk
1-2 cup raisins (we substituted milk chocolate chips)

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.  With a hand mixer, cream butter with sugar until smooth. Add peanut butter, egg and vanilla; beat well.
  2. In separate bowl combine flour, wheat germ, dry milk, baking powder and baking soda.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet; stir well. Stir in milk, oats and raisins.  When thoroughly combined, place heaping spoonfuls of dough onto a greased cookie sheet; be sure to leave an inch or more between cookies. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for ten to twelve minutes.  Allow cookies to cool completely before removing from sheets; they are very fragile while warm.