Friday, November 7, 2014

Apple Torte Riff

Sooooooo, this is another recipe I was inspired by Bon Appétempt to make. It's based on the Purple Plum Torte recipe, adapted by Morris, published during plum season every year in the New York Times. It's pretty amazing (tart and sweet) and my husband, who summarily avoids cake, loves it, which is really saying something. The apple inspiration, thusly sliced, came from this cake by Smitten Kitchen, and from the fact that the market next to my apartment had no plums the day I made this.

I decided to try the recipe with apples tossed in honey, lemon juice and cinnamon. It came out great but on the sweeter side, so I'd suggest using sour green apples, or the plums called for in the recipe of origin, if you make it.

Here's the recipe. Tell me how it comes out for ya!

Sour Apple Torte
Adapted slightly from Bon Appétempt and the New York Times
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar 
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
4 small sour apples, peeled, cored and sliced thinly 
1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon honey
1/4 cup sliced almonds, optional

Preheat your oven to 350. Grease an 8 or 9 inch springform pan (both sizes work great just check on the large pan on the earlier side) and set it on a baking sheet. 

Prep the apples by peeling, coring, halving, then slicing, as pictured above, like a hasselback potato. Mix together the lemon juice, honey and cinnamon and drizzle over the apples to coat them while trying not to separate the slice bundles.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. 

In the bowl of a mixer, or with an electric handheld, cream the butter and sugar for about 4 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, mixing for another minute. Add the dry to the wet and mix until just combined. 

Use a spatula to transfer the batter (mine is always very thick) to your prepared pan and smooth it out to the edges. An offset spatula makes easy work of this. 

Nestle the apples around the edge and then center of the pan, leaving about a half-inch from the edge and each other, around each bundle. Drizzle any remaining honey/cinnamon/lemon juice mixture over the cake batter and apples.

*I found that this is especially important if you are using plums because they basically melt leaving cavities in the cake, so moving them in a smidge from the edge of the pan helps to keep the your cake intact.

Sprinkle the top of the cake with the almonds and bake for about 45-50 minutes until it passes the toothpick test.

I like this cake when it's warm best (with either plums or apples) despite it being generally recommended at room temp on the second day. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Corn and Cantaloupe Chopped Salad from Better Homes and Gardens August 2014 Edition

This is an outstanding salad. When I first read the ingredients list, I was intrigued and perplexed. Honestly, it looked weird but also delicious. What to do? Welp, I'm really glad I made it because it is delicious.

The recipe is from the August 2014 issue of Better Homes and Gardens. I skipped the greens and used a teaspoon of regular stone ground mustard instead of dry mustard powder. I also doubled the fresh dill. Yum!

I wish I had posted it earlier during prime corn/cantaloupe season but baby-proofing and teething have had me all-consumed until now. It's definitely going to be one of our family summer staples from now on, however, and maybe yours too, despite this short notice!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bon Appétempt's Triple-Coconut Quinoa Porridge from Megan Gordon's Whole-Grain Mornings

Triple-Coconut Quinoa Porridge is super delicious, healthy, and very satisfying.

If you haven't already heard of Amelia Morris' wonderful blog, Bon Appétempt, stop reading this and go there - now! 

Amelia is a wonderful emerging food (etc.) writer. I'm basically counting down until her book comes out early next year. All the recipes on her site are great but the ones from her semi-recent video/post, Post-Apocalyptic Pantry Cooking, are some of my favorite so far. This is probably (read: definitely) because they are easy and it's tricky cooking with a tiny baby in tow, something Amelia can speak to because she's a new mom too. 

Anyhow, made the black bean dip from this post two nights in a row and Jon and I ate ALL OF IT with tortilla chips for dinner both nights. So good! As for this delightful porridge, I'm not even going to type the recipe or instructions here. You just get my photo teaser and a link to the recipe at Bon Appétempt


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Salted Oatmeal and Dark Chocolate Lactation Cookies

More lactation cookies, you say? Yup! Turns out, enhancing lactation is one of the best reasons to make cookies there is. If you try these, please let me know how they turn out for you. It's been a while since I made them.

With regards to how long it's been since I made these, I must admit that the photo below is of another batch of cookies I made from a very similar recipe. I made the lactation cookie recipe below for my mom's group, and we devoured them so quickly, I never got the chance to take a good shot for foodrefuge. This photo gives you the gist though, as these are crisp and chewy, unlike the previous lactation cookie recipe I posted with Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Dried Cranberries and Toasted Pecans, which were thicker and softer. 

Salted Oatmeal and Dark Chocolate Lactation Cookies
Recipe slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen, Crisp Salted Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies
Yields about 2 dozen
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 Tablespoons flax seeds (I used golden flax)
2 teaspoons brewer's yeast (no more as this is very bitter stuff)
14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
6 ounces (3/4 cup) dark chocolate (or chocolate of your choice), roughly chopped
1 cup chopped toasted nuts (pecans or walnuts), optional
*about 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt, for sprinkling 

Preheat your oven to 350 and line your baking sheets with parchment or a silicone pad. 

If using, toast the chopped nuts for 5-8 minutes until fragrant.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, table salt, flax seeds and brewer's yeast and set aside.

Chop the chocolate up and set aside. 

In a stand mixer or with an electric hand mixer in a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars together for about 4 minutes until very light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and whip in the egg and vanilla. Scrape down again and pulse in your dry ingredients, then pulse in the oats. Fold in the chocolate and nuts until well distributed. 

It's never a bad idea to refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes at this point so the cookies spread less, or just proceed....

Roll about 2 Tablespoons of dough per cookie into rounds and flatten each slightly. Place them about 2 inches apart on your prepared backing sheets. Sprinkle each with just a smidgen of flaky sea salt and bake for 10-12 minutes until the edges just start to get golden. Let the cookies set up for a few minutes on the pan, then transfer them to a rack to finish cooling.

Here I am nursing Freya while touring around Washington DC. So, as you can see, these lactation cookies worked like a charm. Happy World Breastfeeding week, by the way!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Carrot-Top Pesto with Roasted Carrots Radishes and Cherry Tomatoes

This delicious pesto could not be easier, healthier, or more "sustainable" in that you're using something that all too often gets thrown away. It has a bright, herbaceous flavor and is just different enough to add a new twist to this classic condiment. 

I was inspired by this carrot-top pesto recipe from Bon Appétit but I just eyeballed everything and skipped the cheese, though I will be adding cheese when I toss this pesto with pasta later in the week. 

Carrot-Top Pesto
the green fronds from 6 carrots (washed and shaken dry) - about 4 cups or so
one large handful of basil leaves (also washed and shaken dry)
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
1/3 cup olive oil (add more, little by little, while scraping down the sides of your food processor to get a rough puree)
1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts or other nut (toast at 350 for 5-8 minutes)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, optional
salt and pepper to taste
red pepper flakes, optional

Pulse the garlic, nuts, and olive oil until relatively smooth. Pack in the greens and pulse until you get a rough puree, adding more olive oil, little by little, while scraping down the sides of your food processor to get a rough puree. Add the cheese, if using. Then salt and pepper to taste. 

Use right away on pasta, rice, potatoes, atop crostini, with roasted veggies, as a dressing on fresh salads, or freeze for later use. Freezing in ice cube trays is smart and allows you to grab a bit of pesto, say to toss into a sauce for extra flavor, whenever you need to!

I tossed mine with carrots, radishes and cherry tomatoes and roasted at 425 for about 30 minutes until everything was blistered and delicious.

Pesto is a condiment that most people love but not enough make because it seems sort of complicated. I hope this post helps to demystify it. The basic pesto formula is basil, olive oil, garlic, pignoli nuts and Parmesan cheese pureed (with salt and pepper to taste, of course). If you aren't being a stickler, however, you can change up the nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, brazil) and greens (arugula, carrot-tops, sorrel, watercress) and even swap the Parmesan for another hard-aged cheese (grana padano, aged gouda or manchego, hmmmmm!). 

Even more willy-nilly than pesto, is it's cousin, chimichuri! Check out my recipe/guidelines for that here!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Fattet Hummus (Tahini Yogurt Chickpea Bread Pudding) from Food52

This "bread pudding" is really delicious. Depending on how much torn-up toasted, baked or fried pita you add, it can range from a dip to a much heartier entree-level dish. Either way, it's delicious. 

I added more tahini than the recipe calls for, and also more mint - about 1/4 cup of each. I also saved time and effort by just breaking some Stacy's Multigrain Pita Chips into the dish rather than dealing with prepping the pita myself. Also, if you don't have pine nuts, try walnuts, pecans, or something else (and tell me what you think!). The crunch is nice. 

You can really knock this dish out of the park if you use high quality, flavorful chickpeas. Arrowhead Mills Organic Chickpeas, soaked overnight then brought to a boil and simmered until tender in fresh salted water, are amazing.  They are a whole different animal than any canned variety I've used. Frying about half a cup to garnish is also key for the texture and beauty of this dish.

I usually serve it with still more pita chips for dipping. Another important note, if you make this to bring somewhere and want it to look gorgeous, transport the dip in one container, the fried nuts and chickpeas with their oil in another, and bring the paprika and some extra mint leaves to garnish on-site. Assemble the dish right before serving so everything looks all drizzly, fresh and perky.  

Click here for the recipe

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Crock Pot/Dutch Oven Fragrant Braised Beef with Allspice and Cinnamon over Whole Wheat Shells

It's been harder and harder to find the time to post these days with the little one napping less and less and playing more and more. Here's an easy recipe for a fragrant, delicious pot roast from my friend Stacie that, I promise you, will make up for my absence. It can be served over noodles or rice, in a sandwich, or simply along-side a loaf of crusty bread and butter. It's also a great recipe for the summer because it makes a lot and the crockpot won't heat up your whole kitchen. Enjoy!

Crock Pot Braised Beef with Allspice and Cinnamon 
* If you don't have a cock pot, see my dutch oven instructions below.
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces (or 1/2 teaspoon ground)
4 whole cloves 
(or 1/4 teaspoon ground)
3 allspice berries (or 1/4 teaspoon ground)
6 black peppercorns 
(or 1/2 teaspoon ground)
olive oil
about 3.5 lbs beef (chuck, round, or shank/brisket) trimmed of excess fat
1 large yellow onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
1 cup hearty dry wine (any red you have on-hand is fine, just use one that's drinkable)
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper

In a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, grind the cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and peppercorns to a fine powder. Just use ground spices if you don't have whole ones on hand.

Prep all your veggies and get your wine and canned tomatoes ready.

Heat some olive oil in a large 
sauté pan or cast iron skillet over high heat. While its heating, dry the beef well with some paper towels and salt and pepper it liberally on all sides. When the pan is smoking hot, brown each side of the beef for about 5 minutes each, so the entire surface is seared and crusty. Transfer the beef to your crock pot.

In the same pan you browned the meat in, sauté the onions over medium heat until they're lightly browned. Add in the celery, carrots and garlic and sauté for about 4 more minutes (reduce the heat if needed so you don't burn the garlic). Add in the spice mixture and sauté everything for another minute. Pour in the red wine and cook it down for about 10 minutes or so. Be sure to deglaze your pan here, aka scrape all the yummy bits up off the bottom of the pan. 

Pour the contents of the pan over the meat in your crock pot. Add the crushed tomatoes a good pinch of salt to taste. The liquid should cover at least 3/4 of the meat. Add a cup or two of water if it doesn't. Cover and cook on low for about 8 hours, turning the meat over at the halfway point if you're around to do that. You can cut the cooking time down by a third to a half depending on the power of your crock pot by cooking it on high.

*If you are short on time, just toss the veggies, spices and crushed tomatoes into your crockpot and stir well. Brown the beef well on all sides and then nestle that in there. Deglaze the pan you cooked the beef in with the red wine and then add that to your crock pot and power it up. 

Serve over pasta, creamy polenta, or with roasted potatoes. It's also amazing with just some crusty bread drizzled with olive oil or slathered with butter. A dollop of crème fraîche or a grating of hard, aged cheese like Grana Padano, Parmiggian Reggiano, or Pecorino really sends it over the edge. 

*If you don't have a crock pot or prefer to use a dutch oven. Preheat your oven to 325 at the start of the recipe and set the racks so the dutch oven will sit roughly in the center of the oven. On your stovetop, heat some olive oil in the dutch oven and sear your meat then remove it to a plate. After you remove the beef, sauté the veggies and spices as described above. Add the wine, scrapping up all the good bits from the pan, then add the crushed tomatoes and season to taste. Put the meat in, again making sure it's 3/4 covered by the braising liquid (add just enough water or extra crushed tomatoes to accomplish this if it's isn't), cover and roast in your oven until the meat can be easily puled apart with a fork (about 6 hours or so). 

Monday, June 2, 2014

My take on Joanne Chang's Vegan Vanilla Mixed Berry Muffins from Flour, Too

Light and fluffy, these muffins have a moist center and perfectly crisp, sugared top. They are divine. 

This recipe is a slight adaptation the Vegan Vanilla Mixed Berry Muffin in Joanne Chang's second cookbook, Flour, too (an excellent cookbook!). 

I digressed a bit from Chang's original recipe here in order to add some whole grain goodness and cut back the sugar and oil just a smidgen. You can also use all whole wheat flour and/or make this as a cake (8 or 9 in cake pan, greased and parchment lined) with wonderful results. Another fun note, these are made with vegan "buttermilk", which gives them a light tanginess and tenderness that really sets them apart.  

I ate 6 of these the day I made them. Now for the recipe!

Vegan Vanilla Blueberry Muffins
Adapted from Flour, Too by Joanne Chang
2 cups whole wheat flour
2/3 cup all purpose flour 
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar (plus extra for sprinkling on the muffin tops before baking)
zest of one lemon or one orange (optional)
2/3 cup coconut or vegetable oil
1 1/3 cup nondairy milk (I use almond)
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar (distilled is fine too)
1 Tablespoon good vanilla extract (it's a lot of vanilla, so using the good stuff is worth it)
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen berries (I use frozen blueberries but Chang calls for raspberries and blueberries. Use what you got.)

Preheat your oven to 350 and line muffin tins (12) with liners (or grease them well). 

Combine the dry ingredients, sugar, and zest and set aside. Combine the wet ingredients and pour them into the dry. Mix until just combined then fold in the berries. I try not to mix too much at this point so my muffins don't turn entirely blue/purple. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, almost to the top of each, and sprinkle the tops with some sugar.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until the tops are golden and the muffins are springy to the touch. Let them set up in the pan for a few minutes before taking them out to finish cooling on racks.  Joanne Chang suggests refreshing them in a 300 degree oven for 5 minutes if you don't eat them all the day of baking, when they are best, that is.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Crazy Delicious Farro and French Lentils with Parmesan

This is an incredibly simple, flavorful, and satisfying dish. You can throw it together in just a minute and after that, it only takes about 30-40 minutes total, largely unattended. I made this for the first time a few weeks ago and have made it weekly since then because it's so tasty, filling, and easy to whip-up while my lil' one is napping. 
The ratio is 2:1 water to dried goods and you don't need any spices, although you can certainly play around with them in this dish. Garnish with a little parsley and grated Parmesan and, presto, your nourishing and delicious dinner is served!

Farro and French Lentils with Parmesan
1/2 cup dried 10 minute/quick cooking farro (I like the one from Trader Joe's best)
1/2 cup dried french lentils (picked over for stones)
1 generous teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground pepper
2 cups water
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Toss everything into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and reduce to a simmer for about 12-15 minutes. They should be just short of al dente before you cut off the heat.

*NOTE: I've found that the farro doesn't get too mushy with this method, even though it's meant to cook up in just 10 minutes. I've been using the Trader Joe's quick cooking farro so other farro brands may work out better if cooked separately.

Remove the pot from the heat and let it sit covered for another 10 minutes. The grains and lentils will absorb any remaining liquid and soften during this time. 

Toss with a fork and garnish with parsley and Parmesan cheese. Serve alone or tossed in a Spinach Salad with Orange Zest, Sunflower Seeds and Dried Cranberries.

Here's that lil' one I mentioned earlier in her Tye Dye Mary hat from Nashville. 

Thanks, Peggy and Craig!!!!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Spinach Salad with Orange Zest, Sunflower Seeds and Dried Cranberries

Hey Y'all. 

Long time no post. We recently moved and have taken a few trips to Nashville to visit the grandparents, so life has been super hectic lately. Freya will be four months old in just two-days and I am astounded by how much she's changed and grown already. She's begun to roll over like a champ and is making so many noises (her screeching is amazing!). She's my little pterodactyl and being her mother is a constant joy. 

In an effort to cleanse a bit for the summer, get ready to chase the little one once she starts crawling, and work on this crazy sugar addiction of mine, I'm trying to blog more healthy dishes these days. This whole baking cookies every week thing just ain't gonna fly no more. So here's a lovely, fragrant, easy salad for you...

It's versatile and tastes wonderful with a few heaping spoonfuls of al dente cooked farro and lentils (recipe forthcoming), which wilt it a bit and give it great texture and lots of protein. It's great on it's own too though.

Spinach Salad with Orange Zest, Sunflower Seeds and Dried Cranberries 
roughly 6 cups baby spinach
2 Tablespoons sunflower seeds, raw and unsalted
1/4 cup (or handful) dried cranberries
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1 carrot, thinly sliced
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 scant Tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
zest of an orange
salt and pepper to taste

Toss everything together and enjoy!

Here's the pterodactyl...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Fluffy Vegan Whole Wheat Blueberry Cake

This fluffy, delicious cake is based the Vegan Vanilla Mixed Berry Muffin recipe from Joanne Chang's awesome book, Flour, Too. I blogged my take on the muffins here, but then decided the batter would make a great snacking cake too, and indeed it does. This cake is not too sweet and has a subtile nutty heartiness from the whole wheat flour, so it's good for breakie or as a light dessert. 

Hope you enjoy it!

Fluffy Vegan Whole Wheat Blueberry Cake
Adapted from Flour, Too by Joanne Chang
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2  teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/3 cups almond or other non dairy milk
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons good quality vanilla extract
zest and juice of one lemon
1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries (add at the very end)

Place the rack in the center of your oven. Preheat it to 350. Grease and flour an 8 inch spring form or 8x3 inch cake pan. 

Combine the dry ingredients, granulated sugar and lemon zest with a whisk and set aside.

Combine the wet ingredients, stirring well.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry stirring until just combined. Gently fold in the blueberries and scrape the batter into your prepared pan. If you are using a springform pan, set it on a backing sheet.

Bake for 40-50 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes before removing to a rack to finish cooling. Dust with confectioners sugar and serve with coffee or tea. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Red Cabbage Slaw with Cloves and Dried Cranberries

This slaw is a unique and satisfying alternative to a plain old dinner salad and it comes together in a flash. It's very hearty and healthy and it can be made a few days in advance, so it's great to bring to a potluck. What more could you ask for?! 

*I also love this slaw with cumin and pepitas, so I included them in the recipe below.

For the slaw...
1 small red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup raw pepitas (optional)

For the dressing...
3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Chop the veggies and toss them together in a large bowl. Mix up the vinaigrette and taste for seasoning. Add it to the veggies and toss everything together. If serving immediately, taste and adjust the spices and salt as needed. If you're making this in advance (up to three days ahead works great) taste and adjust the seasoning again just before serving.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Pillowy Chocolate Chip Cookies with Vanilla Pudding Mix

This recipe is from the blog Chew Out Loud. I halved it and still got about 45 delicious little cookies (using about a tablespoon of dough per cookie). 

I wanted to try this recipe because it calls for vanilla pudding mix. I've seen a bunch of similar recipes and was intrigued as to how that would effect the dough/cookies. The bloggers at Chew Out Loud describe these as soft, chewy and not at all cakey. Mine where definitely very soft but I did find them to be just a tad cakey and not really chewy at all. I could also feel the texture of the vanilla pudding mix in the baked cookies, which was not at all unpleasant but slightly sandy. I like these cookies a lot although they aren't my favorite. I would be very interested to hear how they come out for you.

Pillowy Chocolate Chip Cookies with Vanilla Pudding Mix

From the blog, Chew Out Loud
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 cup (1 stick) salted butter, softened 
3/4 cup light brown sugar, loosely packed
1 (3.4 oz) package instant vanilla pudding (I used Jell-O brand)
2 large organic eggs
1/2 Tablespoon real vanilla extract
2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips 
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts, optional but recommended (I didn't add any but wish I had)

Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside. 

In a stand mixer or large bowl with a hand mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy (let it go for 4-5 minutes). Then add in the pudding mix, then the eggs and vanilla.

Add in the dry ingredients and mix on low briefly until just combined. 

Pulse in the chips and chopped walnuts. 

Cover the bowl and chill the dough for 30 minutes to an hour.

Once you're ready to start shaping your cookies, preheat your oven to 350F. 

Scoop out about a tablespoon of dough per cookie, rolling each up between your palms then flattening slightly. I got about 45 cookies total, which, besides the small batch I baked right away, I froze flat on a cookie sheet then transferred to a baggie in the freezer for later baking. 

Place the cookies an inch apart on a cookie sheet and bake, one sheet at a time, for 7-8 minutes. Allow the cookies to set up for a few minutes on the pan before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Alice Medrich's Best Cocoa Brownies from Food52

Alice Medrich's "Best Cocoa Brownies" are definitely some of the best I've ever made or tasted. They're also really easy AND much cheaper to make than recipes that require melting chopped chocolate bars. I suppose that's why the folks at Food52 called them "genius". 

I only slightly altered Alice's recipe and simplified the directions just a bit by having you make the entire batter in the saucepan you use to melt the butter in. The sprinkling of flaky sea salt suggested by Food 52 is a must. So good!


Alice Medrich's Best Cocoa Brownies from Food52
10 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 scant cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder (Dutch-process is also fine to use here)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs (right out of the fridge)
1/2 cup all purpose flour 
2/3 cups toasted chopped walnuts and/or pecans (optional)
flaky sea salt for sprinkling on top of the batter before baking, optional

Preheat your oven to 325.  

Toast your chopped nuts, if using, for 8-12 minutes until fragrant. 

Line an 8 inch square pan with parchment or foil, greasing any exposed parts of the pan.

Heat the butter in a medium sauce pan over low heat until its just about melted. Remove the pan from the heat to finish melting. Add the additional ingredients to the melted butter in the order above, stirring well after each addition to combine them. 

When you add the flour, stir it until combined, then give it an additional 40 vigorous stirs. Add the toasted chopped nuts and pour the batter into your prepared pan. 

Bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out just barely clean (you want to under-bake these just a tad). Cool in the pan on a rack. Enjoy!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Oatmeal Date and Toasted Pecan Muffins / Can dates help reduce the need for interventions during labor?

These muffins are tasty, moist, fluffy AND not too sweet. They're also loaded with whole grains, nuts and good-for-you dried fruit there! 

Is it obvious that I am completely out-of-control with the carbs and sweets right now? Ack! At least it's not another cookie recipe!

I initially made these in an attempt to eat more dates. I heard about a study that found that eating dates (6-7/day during the last 4 weeks of pregnancy) can reduce the need for inductions/augmentations of labor. The study findings are preliminary at best, but since I highly doubted that dates could be harmful, I figured it was worth a try. 

I'm not sure if cooking the dates effects their benefits (I don't believe the study states whether dried of fresh dates are better either, so that's another question) but I don't really like dates on their own (just too sweet), so I hoped these muffins might count toward that 6-7 dates per day total. 

As to whether or not they helped, well, I had a super long "prodromal" labor (4 days...yikes!) but no interventions, augmentations or drugs were needed, so my answer Honestly, I didn't eat enough dates to make any judgements either way (I just don't like dates very much) but these are some dang good muffins so bake them up anyhow!

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Oatmeal Date and Toasted Pecan Muffins 
Slightly adapted from Wanna Come With who adapted it from Brown Eyed Baker
Yield: 2 dozen muffins 
1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 cups cultured buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cups rolled oats
1 cup steel cut oats (Feel free to use rolled oats only. I ran out so I decided to use steel cut to supplement)
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon iodized sea salt (table salt)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup pecans (or any nut), toasted and roughly chopped
1 cup dates, roughly chopped 

Preheat your oven to 400°F.  

Grease the tops of two muffin tins and line with muffin cups.

Toast 2 cups of chopped pecans for about 5-8 minutes until fragrant. Set aside to cool.

Measure the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into a large mixing bowl and whisk well to combine. Add the oats and brown sugar and use your fingers to break up any sugar clumps and distribute the ingredients throughout. 

Finally, add in the roughly chopped toasted pecans and dates. Use you fingers again to toss the dates and pecans in the flour, breaking up any clumps that stick together.  

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, then add the cultured buttermilk, vanilla and melted but slightly cooled butter. Whisk to combine.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir until just combined. Be careful not to over-mix!

Spoon the batter into your prepared muffin tins and bake for about 15 minutes until they just pass the toothpick test. 

Allow the muffins to set-up in their tins for a few minutes before transferring them to the rack to finish cooling. 

These are awesome warm and at room temperature. They're good for just about a week (freeze them otherwise). After a few days, they really benefit from a few seconds in the microwave or oven to revive them before serving. 

Note: Fill your cups fuller than this (right to the top) for a perfectly puffed muffin top.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Slightly Less Sweet, Slightly More Whole Grain Smitten Kitchen Crackly Banana Bread

I was introduced to this recipe for Crackly Banana Bread by Smitten Kitchen right after our daughter Freya was born (back on January 11th). It was the very first goodie we received from our very first postpartum visitor (Thanks, Dhruvi), and we ate the whole loaf within hours receiving it. Since then, i've made the recipe with slight variations about four times. I would have made it more often than that, but I kept on eating the whole loaf myself, so I had to exercise some restraint.

The recipe below is my fully-loaded and doubled version of this amazing  recipe. Mine has less sugar, more whole grains (per Deb's suggestion), and extra goodies like nuts and dried fruit too. I also doubled the recipe because it's just so good, one loaf is simply never enough.

Deb Perelman's original recipe is fabulous and lends itself well to adjustments (a wonderful quality to find in a recipe). In the future, I might try adding toasted coconut ribbons and swapping in honey for the maple syrup. If you make this recipe with adjustments, let me know what you did and how it comes out for ya!

Fully-Loaded/Doubled Version of Smitten Kitchen's Crackly Banana Bread
6 large very ripe bananas
2 large eggs
2/3 cup virgin coconut oil or olive oil
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 cup diced dried dates, optional
1 cup chopped toasted nuts (I used walnuts and pecans), optional
2/3 cup chocolate chips, optional
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup uncooked millet

Preheat your oven to 350. Butter two 9x5 loaf pans. 

Mash the bananas, then add all the other ingredients to them in the order above, stirring after each addition to combine them as you do. 

Bake for 40-50 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the loaves in the pans on a rack. Wrap tightly in foil and or plastic wrap, once cooled, to keep them fresh. They last about a week and freeze very well too.

Here's our sleepy little 6 week old gal.