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Peanut Butter and Julie

March 29, 2012

Peanut Butter and Jelly Granola Bars

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I’m always worried that my husband is not going to eat enough whenever he is traveling or at work for what is shaping up to be a really long day.  There’s a little bit of a Jewish/Italian mother in me from that perspective. I’ve mentioned before that Eric is one of those people who can go all day without eating because he “just forgot.”

(Cue sound of record scratching.)

Huh?  As someone who pretty much plans my day, if not my life, around where my next meal will be enjoyed, the notion of “just forgetting” to eat is about as foreign to me as paying extra for ice in my Coke Zero.  Oh sure, I’ve skipped plenty of meals.  I’ve gone days without eating until late at night.  But this is never, ever due to forgetfulness. It’s due to inconvenience.  My stomach simply won’t let me forget, and it becomes quite hard for me to function when my blood sugar drops.  For the most part, I'm worthless.

 

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During the work week, I try to pack Eric a lunch to take with him and put in his office refrigerator, so even if he is on back-to-back calls from 7:30-6:30, he still is able to eat.  When he travels, I’ll usually do the same, or we’ll pick up one of those great pre-made meals from Trader Joe’s, which are easy for him to slip into his carry-on.  This week, Eric had a late afternoon Sunday flight, for which we had purchased one of the aforementioned T.J.’s salads and a smoothie.

I had to leave the house before Eric did on Sunday, so I took every precaution to make sure that he didn’t forget his dinner and, consequently, “forget to eat” on the long flight.  Since the salad was fresh, I didn’t want to leave it at room temperature for long, so I took a black Sharpie and wrote a note in large letters: DON’T FORGET YOUR SALAD AND SMOOTHIE!!, which I placed over his wallet.

I ran back upstairs:

“Hey, don’t forget your food!”

“O.K.  I won’t.”

“Promise?”

(Sigh) “Yes.  I’ll remember.”

I texted him an hour later: “Remember your food!  Love you!”

 

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Feeling certain that all was good to go, I went about my day.  Two hours later, I looked at my iPhone.  Whaddayaknow?  I had an e-mail from Eric.  Do I even need to tell you what it said?:

“Hey.  I forgot my lunch.”

Aaaaaarrrrrrrrrggggggghhhhhhh!!!!!

Here’s the thing about Eric.  He’s brilliant.  One of the most brilliant people I know.  But his memory is horrible, especially when he has a lot on his mind.  I could have hung blinking Vegas-style signs in the kitchen.  I could have spray-painted “GOT FOOD?” on his car.  I could have had a 16-piece orchestra playing the “Don’t Forget Your Dinner Swing” as he walked out the door.  He would have still forgotten his food.

 

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Next time, I’ll just make him some of these filling Peanut Butter and Jelly Granola Bars, which aren’t so temperature sensitive.  I can wrap them up and place them in his bag beforehand, so he will definitely have them handy.

That is, unless he forgets his bag.

Here are a few extra tips for making these healthy home-made hunger-satisfying treats:

  • After the granola bars are cut, they can be stored at room temperature, tightly wrapped, for 3-4 days. 
  • In addition to (or instead of) adding dried fruit to the bars, you could add something like chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, or mini M&M’s.
  • Cut the bars into smaller squares for a great pre-workout snack.  You could even spread a thin layer or strawberry or raspberry jelly on top of the square to REALLY get that peanut butter and jelly taste! or mini M&M’s.
  • Cut the bars into smaller squares for a great pre-workout snack.  You could even spread a thin layer or strawberry or raspberry jelly on top of the square to REALLY get that peanut butter and jelly taste!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Granola Bars

Printable Recipe

Makes 12-16 bars

Ingredients:

3 ½ cups rolled oats, divided

1 cup roasted and salted peanuts, divided

1 cup shredded, sweetened coconut, divided

¼ cup flaxseeds

6 tablespoons butter

2/3 cup honey

2/3 cup creamy peanut butter

¼ cup brown sugar

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 ½ cup coarsely chopped dried strawberries, cherries, raspberries, cranberries, or plums (or a mixture)

Preheat the oven to 300F degrees.  Spray a 9X13-inch baking pan with non-stick baking spray.  Line the pan with parchment paper so that there is a 1-inch overhang on both sides.  Spray the parchment.

Place 1 cup of the oats, ½ cup peanuts, and ½ cup of the coconut in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Pulse the mixture several times until it is coarsely chopped.

In a large bowl, combine the remaining oats, peanuts, coconut, and the flaxseeds.  Add the mixture from the food processor and stir to blend.

Place the butter and honey in a medium sauce pan set over medium low heat, stirring until the butter has melted.  Add the peanut butter and brown sugar, stirring until the mixture is smooth and the brown sugar has dissolved.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cinnamon and vanilla.

Pour the peanut butter mixture over the oat mixture in the bowl, and stir with a rubber spatula or large spoon until thoroughly combined.  Stir in the chopped fruit.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking pan, pressing down with a lightly oiled or buttered spatula to evenly compress.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

Allow the pan to cool and rest for at least 2 hours before cutting into bars.  Trim the edges of the rectangle, and divide it in half lengthwise using a very sharp knife.  Cut each half crosswise into bars and either serve immediately or wrap to pack into lunches!

March 21, 2012

Toasted Coconut and Tangerine Pound Cake

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I'd like to take a moment to brag............about my friends.

Somewhere in my 20s, I decided that being proud of my friends' accomplishments is so much easier, so much more fun, and so much less stressful and exhausting than being jealous of them.

And green is just not my color.

I mean, sure, I still get jealous, but it's stupid-jealous stuff.  I'm jealous that I didn't invent Spanx and become a billionaire.  I'm jealous of people who have "soooo much trouble gaining weight", no matter how many sleeves of Oreos they consume (you know that you're jealous too.)  I'm jealous of that chick in my hot yoga class who does every pose perfectly in perfect pink yoga outfits and sparkles rather than sweats.  I'm almost certain that she's a fairy.

 

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But that stuff doesn't really count.

I've stopped being jealous of my friends in lieu of being proud that such awesome and accomplished people actually want to be my friend.  I mean, who the heck am I anyhow?  (The lucky girl with many talented friends, that's who.)  Besides, being jealous isn't very friend-like, now is it?

So today, I would like to take the opportunity to brag about just a few of my friends with impressive recent culinary accomplishments, plug a few of their web sites, and loosely tie one such accomplishment to the recipe below.  It's a bit of a stretch, so just go with it.

 

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Today, my friend Lisa, who writes the blog Jersey Girl Cooks, makes an appearance on the Dr. Oz show, preparing a healthy quinoa recipe.  A few weeks ago, my other friend Lisa, who writes the blog Snappy Gourmet, won a waffle-off contest with her Crunchy Chicken-Stuffed Waffle Pops on The Rachael Ray Show.  Impressive stuff.  Way to go, Lisas--you both stole the show, er, I mean shows!

Another friend, fellow blogger, and cookbook author, Camilla Saulsbury, just published what I think is her 8 zillionth cookbook, (I might be slightly off on that number, so don't quote me.)  I don't think that she sleeps, and I'm also fairly certain that her days contain 36 hours.  Whatever her secret is, I'm excited to be attending my very first IACP conference with her in N.Y.C. next week (no, not the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the International Association of Culinary Professionals.) Hopefully some of her general awesomeness will rub off on me.  Anyone else going???  I'm super excited.

 

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As I type, and as you read, several of my friends are on their way to Orlando, Florida to compete in the 45th Pillsbury Bake-Off, where one lucky contestant will walk away with a super-cool million smackers.  Being chosen as a finalist in this mother-of-all-cooking-contests is a serious feat in itself, but nothing would be sweeter than receiving some serious dough from the Doughboy (you had to know that play on words was coming.)

One such friend, Teri Ralston, a.k.a. Supermom, just appeared on The Martha Stewart Show to talk about her recipe, and she did such a fantastic job (well, Teri always does a fantastic job--it's her thing.)

One of my other friends, Brett "I just won a trip to Italy" Youmans, is competing with an Orange-Cream-Macadamia Torte, a tropical inspired sweet treat.  I could go on for paragraph after paragraph, giving shout-outs to my inspiring friends, but I know that your time is precious, so I'll now give a shout out to my recipe, loosely inspired by Brett's tropical sweet treat.

 

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This recipe, at the very core, is based on Ina Garten's lemon pound cake.  I made several changes to suit my taste, but I think that her technique of adding the soaking syrup and the glaze are essential for an irresistible and moist citrus pound cake.

I found some great looking tangerines at the grocery store the other day, so I decided to use them in lieu of the orange in Brett's torte.  I also incorporated the toasted coconut aspect, as I had a bunch of it in the pantry.  Had I also had macadamia nuts, I might have thrown those in too......next time :)

Are you jealous that I have this cake on my counter?  That's fair.  I'd be jealous too.

 

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Here are my extra tips for making this citrusy coconut cake:

  • Although it might be hard to resist, I think that this cake tastes even better on the day after it has been prepared (it slices better too!)  Wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap and either refrigerate it or allow it to sit at room temperature.  The flavors really develop overnight!
  • If no tangerines are available, you can certainly substitute oranges.  Use zest from three medium oranges, and keep the quantities of juice the same.
  • The cakes freeze very well.  I recommend applying the soaking syrup, but not the glaze prior to freezing, but you can freeze them after glazing.  Double-wrap the loaves tightly with plastic wrap.
  • Cubed, this pound cake makes a killer trifle with fruit, whipped cream, mousse, or pudding.  Slices of the cake also taste great grilled and served with vanilla bean ice cream.

 

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Toasted Coconut and Tangerine Pound Cake

Printable Recipe

Makes 2 9-inch loaves or 4-5 mini loaves 

Ingredients:

8 ounces (2 sticks) butter, softened

1 3/4 cups sugar

5 large eggs

Zest of 4 tangerines

1/3 cup tangerine juice

3 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

3/4 cup full-fat sour cream

1 3/4 cups lightly toasted shredded sweetened coconut

For the Tangerine Syrup

1/2 cup tangerine juice

1/2 cup sugar

For the Glaze

3 cups confectioners' sugar

5-6 tablespoons tangerine juice

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.  Spray two 9X5-inch loaf pans with nonstick baking spray and line the bottoms with parchment paper.  Spray the parchment.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar at medium speed until very light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Beat in the tangerine zest and the tangerine juice, and beat for an additional 2 minutes at medium-high speed.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing on low speed until incorporated.

Add the vanilla and coconut extracts and the sour cream, mixing until blended.  Mix in the toasted coconut.

Divide the batter between the prepared loaf pans, smoothing the tops with a spatula.  Bake the loafs until the tops are puffed and deep golden brown, and a toothpick inserted into the center emerges clean, 45-55 minutes.  Allow the loaves to cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then carefully invert them onto a wire rack set over a baking sheet.

Prepare the syrup:  Place the tangering juice and the sugar in a microwave safe bowl, stirring to combine.  Microwave on high for 30 seconds, stir, and microwave for an additional 20 seconds, or until the sugar has dissolved.

Use a toothpick to poke holes in the tops of the still warm loaves, then brush the warm syrup evenly over the loaves, allowing it to soak in.  Let the loaves cool completely.

Prepare the glaze:  Whisk together the confectioners' sugar and enough of the juice to achieve a thick glaze that is still pourable.  Pour the glaze over the two loaves, allowing it to drizzle down the sides.  Allow the glaze to set for at least 15 minutes before serving.

March 01, 2012

White Chocolate Baileys and Coffee Bars

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I would love to take 100% credit for coming up with this delectable little recipe out of thin air.  I would really love to take credit because the result was far better than I had expected, indicated by the fact that I kept taking a teensy little sample slice here, and a teensy little sample slice there, just to even up the sides of a square.  Eventually, said square was evened down to practically nothing.  I had committed the culinary equivalent of trimming my own bangs.  So, I started on the next square.....

I would love to take 100% credit, but sadly, I cannot.

 

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Most of the credit for this recipe goes to Martha (or more likely her MSO kitchen crew), as I originally found it in a recent issue of Martha Stewart Living. That said, with all due respect to the woman who has inspired me for years, many of Martha's recipes just don't work.   Sometimes it's an omitted ingredient. Sometimes it's an incorrect measurement.  Some of these recipes are found in her books, some in her magazine, and some on her web site.

Look, I make mistakes with my recipes as often as the next blogger who has been staring, blurry-eyed, at a computer for three hours.  I've forgotten to indicate oven temperatures.  I've typed "12" tablespoons when it should have been "1/2" (oops--sorry).  I've even--brace yourself-- written "it's" when I should have written "its"!!!

But then again, I'm not running a multi-billion dollar empire with a large editorial staff at my disposal.

I have an editorial staff of 1.  His name is Spell-check. And he doesn't do grammar.

 

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Maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe it's just me.  Maybe I'm really just a lousy cook and an even lousier directions follower.......sigh.

(Psst -- this is the part where you tell me that I am not wrong.) 

Thank you.  I didn't think so.

So I've started tweaking Martha's recipes even before I try them as published.  I know that I shouldn't automatically assume that the recipe is wrong, but I'd rather not take my chances.  In case you haven't been to the grocery store lately, ingredients are expensive.  Double ingredients needed to remake a recipe are even more expensive.

Instead, I take Martha's seed of inspiration combined with my knowledge of which ingredients and quantities work well together, a formula that usually yields pretty yummy results.  Plus, it's generally more fun to play around with a recipe and give it your own personal signature.

 

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For this recipe, chosen with the upcoming St. Patty's Day holiday in mind, instead of using straight whiskey (and I've told you how I feel about whiskey), I opted for the more Julie-friendly Baileys Irish Cream.   The batter seemed like it would be a bit dry to me, so I increased the egg and butter quantities based on my favorite tried and true blondie recipe.  I also altered the leavening and substituted  a smaller amount of easier dissolving espresso powder for ground coffee.  Finally, I added some chopped white chocolate and some spices to the batter.  Personally, I like a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg on my Bailey's and coffee, and adding chocolate to a recipe can never hurt.  Am I right?

The result?  Chewy-sweet-spiked-caffeinated-glazed perfection.

(Oh, and Martha, if you happen to read this.  I was totally kidding about everything I said above.  What do I know anyhow?) 

 

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Here are some extra tips for making these hot toddy-inspired sweets:

  • If you don't have espresso powder, you can use very finely ground coffee.  If you are substituting the coffee, stir it into the melted butter instead of adding it to the flour mixture, so that it dissolves better (grains might be too large otherwise.)
  • Once cut, the bars can be stored at room temperature, in an air-tight container, for 2-3 days.
  • If you don't have Bailey's on hand, you can substitute whiskey for the glaze (as Martha used in her original recipe.)

White Chocolate Baileys and Coffee Bars

Printable Recipe

Makes about 16 bars

Ingredients:

2 1/4 sticks butter, melted and cooled

2 cups golden brown sugar, packed

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups flour

2 tablespoons espresso powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 1/2 cups chopped white chocolate (or white chocolate chips)

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1 cup confectioners' sugar

2 tablespoons Baileys Irish Cream

2-3 teaspoons whole milk or cream

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.  LIne a 9X13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil so that there is a 1-inch overhang, and spray the foil with nonstick baking spray.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar at medium speed until creamy, 3-4 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, and continuing to beat for 1 minute more after the last egg is added.  Beat in the vanilla.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing on low speed until incorporated.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the white chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with an offset spatula.  Sprinkle the almonds evenly over the top.  Bake until the top is set and a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan emerges clean, 24-28 minutes.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the Irish Cream Glaze, whisk together the confectioners' sugar an the Bailey's in a bowl until thoroughly combined.  Add enough of the milk/cream to achieve a thick glaze that is still of drizzling consistency.  Transfer the glaze to a small zip-top bag, seal, and snip a small corner off the end.  Use this as a "piping bag" to drizzle the glaze over the bars.

Allow the glaze to dry for at least 30 minutes, then cut into squares and serve.

 

 


February 24, 2012

Double Chocolate Whole Wheat Raspberry Waffles

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I know that I do several things which my husband finds annoying.  But hey -- that's one of the best parts  of marriage, right?  Taking pleasure in doing the little things that annoy your spouse?

No?

Oh. 

Awkward.

Anyhoo.....as I was saying.....

 

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Of course, the difference is that the things that I do, which get on Eric's nerves, are actually completely normal and soooo not annoying, while the things that he does could be and should be easily fixed.  Ladies, you know that I'm right about this.

Example:  When we are watching a T.V. show that we have DVR'd, Eric is unable to sit through the opening credits, most of which run a lengthy and time consuming 20 seconds.  He MUST fast forward through them, inevitably overshooting the beginning of the show.  This means that he must then rewind, and then fast forward, and then usually rewind again, until he reaches the exact EXACT moment when the show begins.  All of this tomfoolery usually takes at least 20 seconds.  Clearly time well spent.

 

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One thing that I do, also T.V. related, is that I religiously watch every red carpet countdown for every "remind me again how great I am" celebrity awards show, all 86 of which seem to occur between January and April. I usually don't make it through the entire drawn out snooze-fests that are the actual shows, but I'll be damned if I am going to miss seeing what who Charlize Theron is wearing (not that it matters--she could wear an Astroturf kimono and still win "best dressed").  I even enjoy the weak interviews ("Are you excited to be nominated???") and the time-filling back stories about the lady who gave a pedicure to the dog from The Artist.  Scintillating T.V., you know.

Now, I don't know if Eric finds this whole fashion ritual annoying because (A) he just doesn't get it, (B) he secretly wants to see what his style icon George Clooney is wearing, but he's too macho to watch, or (C) the red carpet always coincides with a Duke basketball game or a Patriots football game, and I called dibs on the good T.V.

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess "C".  Happens every time.  And rightfully so.  I think that we can all agree that fashion trumps sports.  Right, Giselle?

 


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In order to prepare for this red-carpet marathon, I need to do what any smart marathoner does: carbo-load.  While most marathoners do this via a huge pasta dinner the night before, my marathon is in the evening, so I like to fuel up with a hearty breakfast worthy of its own gold statuette.  It should be something a bit decadent, beautifully presented and, if possible, it should be chocolate.

I hadn't tried to make chocolate waffles in the past, or chocolate pancakes for that matter, so I thought that it was time to give them a go.  If you've been reading for awhile, you know that I am a big fan of recipes that are "double" this and "triple" that, so I went ahead and made these double chocolate with both dark cocoa powder and chopped bittersweet chocolate.  My original intention was to make the waffles chocolate cherry, but we didn't have any good cherries at the grocery store, so I went with my old chocolate partner in crime: raspberries (they ended up being a great choice.)

Oh, and since these are made with whole wheat flour, they are totally healthy.  Totally.

Here are my extra tips for making these Oscar level (and so not annoying) waffles:

  • If you are making a large batch of these waffles, and you want to serve them hot all at once, keep them warm in a 200F degree oven on a baking sheet.  You can wrap them in foil in the oven, but that will result in a less crisp waffle.
  • You can play around with the batter by adding chopped pecans or hazelnuts, replacing the raspberries, with either fresh or dried sour cherries, or by eliminating the fruit altogether. 
  • You could also try making Double Chocolate Malt Waffles by stirring some malted milk powder into the batter or by stirring in some chopped malted milk balls.
  • Although these waffles are best served fresh, they can be frozen, stored in zip-top bags, and reheated. 

Whole Wheat Double Chocolate Raspberry Waffles

Printable Recipe

Makes 10-12 rectangular waffles

Ingredients:

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups buttermilk

3 large eggs

4 tablespoons canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate or mini chocolate chips

1 cup halved fresh raspberries

Confectioner's sugar, lightly sweetened whipped cream, or pure maple syrup for serving

Preheat a waffle iron  and spray it with nonstick baking spray.  In a large bowl, whisk together both flours, cocoa powder, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, espresso powder, and salt.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, oil, and vanilla until well combined.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing until just incorporated.  Stir in the chopped chocolate and the fresh raspberries.

Pour or spoon the batter into the center of each waffle mold, spreading it out a bit with the back of a spoon so that it is evenly distributed.  Close the lid and cook until the waffle is browned and crispy (times will vary based on the model), and you can easily lift the waffle from the iron with a fork.

Serve hot topped with confectioner's sugar, warm maple syrup, or lightly sweetened whipped cream (or all three!)

 

February 17, 2012

Sweet and Simple: My Favorite Blueberry Streusel Muffins

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I know.  Big whoop.  Blueberry muffins.  C'mon, Julie.  You're totally phoning it in with this recipe.

Or am I?

O.K., well I kind of am. 

Just hear me out.....after you look at all of this streusel:

 

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What this recipe may lack in terms of originality, it certainly makes up for in terms of flavor.   I know that sounds incredibly cliched, but it's true.

About 8 years ago, I went on a personal kitchen crusade.  The purpose of this endeavor? To create "the best" recipes, at least in my opinion, for some of the basics: brownies, banana bread, peanut butter cookies, and yes, blueberry muffins. 

I mean, let's be honest here.  For every great--or even pretty good--blueberry muffin out there, there are at least a dozen that are dry, tasteless, gummy, overly sweet, or dense as a cinder block.  Sometimes, if you are really lucky, you get a muffin that is all of these things rolled into one.  It's roughly the size of your head, it contains 3 blueberries, and it apparently has Elmer's Glue as a secret key ingredient due to the way in which it sticks to the roof of your mouth.

I won't go so far to say that a bad blueberry muffin can ruin your day, but it can certainly put you on the expressway to Crankytown.  I've been there.  It's not nearly as nice as Funkytown.

 

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Everyone should have a never-fail great blueberry muffin recipe up their sleeve(next to their never-fail chocolate chip cookie recipe.)  It should be a recipe that you can whip up for overnight guests at a moment's notice, one that wafts an intoxicating aroma throughout the house while baking and, more importantly, impresses the heck out of your mother-in-law. 

What it should not be is rocket science.  We're talking minimal effort here.  These are blueberry muffins, people.  No electric mixer required.  Ingredients that you likely already have in your pantry and refrigerator (except maybe the blueberries--but seeing as these are blueberry muffins.....)  And streusel.  Always streusel. You know how I feel about my streusel.

 

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While I was doing my experimenting, I tried recipes that used both butter and oil in the batter.  Hands down, the oil created a moister muffin.  I didn't use gobs of oil--a mere 1/3 cup--but it still yielded good results and fluffy muffins that don't dry out for days.  The muffins themselves are not overly sweet, which is balanced out by the crunchy streusel topping. Adding a generous amount of fresh blueberries, which start to bubble and burst while baking, was a no brainer.

I should add that these are just my idea of the "perfect" blueberry muffin.  Others might like them cakier (is that a word?), without streusel (crazy!), or the way that their family has always made them.  But, if you aren't married to any one particular recipe, I encourage you to give these a try.  You won't be disappointed.

Here are a few extra tips for making these berry best muffins:

  • As noted below, this recipe makes extra streusel.  I happen to like a generous amount of streusel, but feel free to cut back on it if you do not (or you can eliminate it altogether.)  The streusel will also keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to one week.
  • If you want to make larger 'bakery-sized" muffins, this recipe should make about 8.
  • The muffin batter can be prepared and refrigerated, covered, one day in advance. 
  • These muffins freeze nicely sealed in zip top bags.  Thaw them at room temperature.

 

Julie's Favorite Blueberry Streusel Muffins

Printable Recipe

Makes 12-15

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups flour

3/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 large egg

1/2 cup whole milk

1/3 cup safflower or canola oil

1 1/4 cups fresh blueberries

For the streusel (makes a lot--cut in half if you don't like lots of streusel!)

2/3 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cubed

Preheat the oven to 400 F degrees.  Line muffin tins with paper liners or spray them with nonstick baking spray. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, and oil.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined.  Fold in the blueberries.  Using an ice cream scoop, fill the muffin cups almost to the top.

For the streusel topping, mix together all ingredients with your fingers, rubbing to make a coarse meal.  Sprinkle the streusel over the muffins before baking, pressing lightly to adhere.  Bake the muffins for 18-22 minutes or until a cake tester inserted comes out clean.  Cool muffins in the pan for five minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

 

 

February 08, 2012

Chewy Chocolate Cranberry Pecan Cookies

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Overall, I'd give the quality of this year's Super Bowl commercials a B-, not a bad grade in general, but a horrible grade where $3.5 million per 30 seconds is concerned.  I mean, really, if you're going to pony up that kind of scratch to promote your company, then that commercial better be memorable, relevant, and most of all knock-your-socks-off-good (as opposed to played out, gratuitous, and sexist -- I'm looking at you, GoDaddy!)

This was by FAR my favorite commercial.  Go ahead and watch it again -- I know that you loved it too.

 

 

 

The reason why this commercial resonated with me is because I too have a fat dog.  He's not husky.  He's not big-boned.  He's not curvy or pleasantly plump.  He's fat.  There is no way that he would be able to fit his behind through a doggy door if we had one, and if he started to chase a VW down the street, he would likely wear out before the second block.

And I know that I am partially to blame for this.  I am guilty of feeding him between meals, especially when he sits like a good boy and stares up at me with pleading eyes that say "I'm hungry."  It's easy to let food that I have accidentally dropped on the floor be vacuumed up by my Hoover with a wagging tail.

So, like the dedicated canine in the commercial, it's time to put the dog on a diet and exercise plan.  I'm not sure that he has the attention span for the treadmill or pilates, but he is pretty good at chasing things, and he does a mean impression of Michael Phelps, so the pool and the backyard will be his gym.

 

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If you know me, or if you've read this blog for any period of time, then you know that my two dogs are my babies.  The aforementioned portly Labrador, Fenway, is about 5-years-old, and our smarter, svelter Rottweiler mix, Cameron, is 10 1/2.  Despite the fact that Cameron (a.k.a. C-Dog) is incredibly energetic and spry for her age, it absolutely kills me to leave her in the kennel for any amount of time when Eric and I go out of town.  I know that it stresses her out to be away from home, and she looks at me as if to say, "How could you do this to me?" whenever I drop her off.

Fenway isn't quite as, er, perceptive as Cameron is, so he usually isn't as aware that we are dropping him at the kennel.  That said, I don't like to leave him either (although he does tend to lose a few pounds during his stay.)

 

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Eric and I are getting ready to leave for a quick Jackson Hole vacation tomorrow (woo-hoo!), and I feel very fortunate to have both my dad and my brother house-sitting while we are gone.  Trust me, it's never a difficult task convincing people to come to Las Vegas for a visit, but throw two disobedient dogs into the mix, one of whom always seems to be wet with muddy paws, and the ante is significantly upped.

Dad and bro have generously agreed to watch the dogs along with the house, saving us pricey kennel fees and saving the pups from another stay at the dreaded doggie camp.

 

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So to thank them (and to apologize in advance for any dog-related incidents), I made them cookies. 70 cookies to be exact.  I had no idea that this recipe would create so many cookies, but I have faith that my dad and brother can make a serious dent in the supply by the time that they leave Las Vegas.  These are indeed cookies for cookie lovers.  Finely chopped ingredients produce a cookie that is thin, buttery, chocolately, nutty, and chewy with a hint of tartness from the dried cranberries.  In a word, addictive.

And no, Fenway, you can't have one.

Here are my extra tips for making this yummy way to say "thank you!":

  • The prepared batter can be covered and chilled for up to one day before baking
  • The pecans can be replaced with walnuts, hazelnuts, or almonds, and the cranberries can be replaced with chopped tart dried cherries.
  • The baked cookies will keep for 4-5 days at room temperature, sealed in an airtight container.  They can also be frozen for several weeks, sealed in zip-top bags.
  • Other variations include substituting butterscotch or peanut butter chips for the chocolate or adding shredded coconut to the dough.

 

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Chewy Chocolate Cranberry Pecan Cookies

Printable Recipe

Makes 5-6 dozen

Ingredients:

8 ounces pecans

1 cup old-fashioned oats

12 ounces chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, softened

1 1/2 cups golden brown sugar, packed

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup dried cranberries, chopped

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Place the pecans in the work bowl of a food processor and process until they are finely ground.  Add the oats and pulse 5 times, until they are chopped but not finely ground.  Place the nut and oat mixture in a large bowl.

Place the chopped chocolate in the work bowl of the food processor and pulse until it is finely chopped.  Add the chocolate to the bowl with the nut and oat mixture and whisk to combine.  Add the flour, baking soda, and salt to the bowl and whisk to combine.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter with both sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Beat in the vanilla.

With the mixture on low speed,  add the flour mixture to the bowl, a little bit at a time, mixing until just incorporated.  Mix in the chopped cranberries.  Cover the bowl and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325F degrees.  Roll tablespoon-sized portions of the dough into balls and place them on the prepared baking sheets, spacing 2-inches apart.  Flatten the balls with your hand or with the bottom of a glass.

Bake until the cookies are set and golden brown, 13-15 minutes.  Cool the cookies on the baking pans for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

February 03, 2012

Chocolate Stout Brownies with Whiskey Ganache

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I'm fairly certain that some of the first words I learned to say were "Jack Daniels manhattan, up."

And no, I was not raised in a bar.

 

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For as long as I can recall, a manhattan made with Jack Daniels whiskey and served straight up has been my dad's cocktail of choice.  He never drinks them at home, only in restaurants at the beginning of a meal.  When my dad orders a manhattan, it is a sign that he is ready to call it a day and ease into a nice long dinner.  Menus are set aside without so much as a glance at the appetizers, and the server is usually told "no hurry", which I'm sure they just love.

And dad is very particular about the quality of his manhattans.  We watch with baited breath as he takes that fateful first sip.  I always try to gauge from the depth of the drink's amber color whether or not the composition is up to par.  An incorrect vermouth to whiskey ratio will find that sucker on its way back to bar, while a properly concocted drink is granted dad's signature slight nod of satisfied approval.

Once, in Aruba, after several failed attempts from the bartender, my dad actually ventured behind the bar and made his own manhattan.  Oh yeah, he'll go there if need be.

 

 

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I can't remember exactly how old I was, but at some point I decided that I needed to see what all of this manhattan hype was about.  Surely this must be one incredibly smooth cocktail, right?  I've never been one for strong "it'll put hair on your chest" drinks, but if my dad enjoys it that much.....

Blech!  Gack! Wincing from burning throat caused by what might be the most awful thing that I have ever tasted.

The word "vile" immediately came to mind.

This is what all of the hoopla has been about?  Are you freaking serious?  Why would you subject me, your only adoring daughter, to such torture?  Why-eeeeeeee???

And P.S., I don't want hair on my chest.  Why would I want hair on my chest?  That should have been my first clue right there.

 

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While my dad and I are alike in many ways, preference of cocktail is clearly not one of them.  I should have considered the fact that I have never seen my dad drink a chocolate martini before I abused all of those taste buds.

So, no, you will never see me sporting a tee that says "Whiskey's #1 Fan."  It's just not my thing.

Except of course when it comes to ganache (there's always an exception, and it usually involves chocolate.)  Whiskey in ganache is a very good thing, and it is most definitely my thing.  Especially when that ganache is resting on top of a super-fudgy, guaranteed-to-get-your-hands-dirty, rich brownie made with reduced stout beer.  Beer in a brownie might seem unconventional, I know, but it actually adds depth by intensifying the chocolate flavor.  Trust me, it doesn't taste like your are biting into a chocolate Coors Light.

For the record, I don't like beer either, unless of course you put it into a brownie. 

 

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Here are some extra tips for making these double-spiked sweets:

  • Feel free to either substitute walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts for the pecans or omit them altogether.
  • Grand Marnier, Chambord, Kahlua, or cherry brandy (kirsch) would all be good substitutes for the whiskey in the ganache
  • This brownies will keep well, tightly wrapped and chilled, for several days.  They may also be wrapped and frozen.
  • If you want to omit the ganache altogether, you can simply dust the chilled brownies with some powdered sugar.

 

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Chocolate Stout Brownies with Whiskey Ganache

Printable Recipe

Serves 16

Ingredients:

16 ounces stout beer (such as Sam Adams Cream Stout or Guinness)

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

2 sticks (8 oz) butter, in pieces

5 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 1/4 cups sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups cake flour

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup pecans, lightly toasted and chopped

For the ganache

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

2/3 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons butter

2-3 tablespoons Irish whiskey

Preheat oven to 350F degrees.  Butter a 13X9-inch baking pan.  Line the pan with foil or parchment paper so that there is a 2-inch overhang.  Butter the foil/parchment.

Pour the stout into a medium saucepan and set it over medium-high heat.  Bring the stout to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and allow the stout to reduce down to 3/4 cup, 10-15 minutes.  Allow the stout to cool slightly.

Melt the chopped chocolate with the butter in a large metal bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until smooth.  Remove the bowl from the saucepan and gradually add the eggs, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens to a pudding-like texture.  Whisk in the sugar until fully incorporated, then whisk in the vanilla.

Sift together the cake flour, cocoa, and salt into a medium bowl.  Add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture in 2 additions, alternating with 2 additions of the reduced stout, stirring until fully blended.  Mix in the pecans.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the top is set and a toothpick inserted emerges with a few moist crumbs attached, 24-30 minutes.  Place the pan on a rack to cool.

Prepare the ganache:  Melt the chocolate, cream, and butter in a metal bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until smooth.  Remove from the heat and stir in 2-3 tablespoons of the whiskey, depending on personal taste.  Allow the mixture to cool to lukewarm, then spread it over the brownies in the pan, smoothing the top.  Chill the brownies for at least 2 hours before cutting.

 

January 31, 2012

Tri-Color Maple Cranberry Breakfast Quinoa

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In honor of the upcoming Valentine's Day holiday, I give you:

 

A Love Letter to Trader Joe's

My Dearest Trader Joe's,

How do I love thee?  Certainly too many ways to count, but please indulge me as I list a few (in no particular order.)

 

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 I love that, without fail, I can fill one of your cute red carts to the brim with everything from pomegranate seeds to prosciutto, and I still spend less than $100.  I love that I get to exclaim "That's all?!?" after my items have been rung up at the register (and I do exclaim this every single time -- sorry about that -- it's just exciting, that's all.)

I love that said cart filled with groceries is somehow neatly consolidated into two compact double-bagged paper T.J.'s totes, making me feel less sheepish about not bringing my own eco-friendly bags.  An expertly packed Trader Joe's bag is the clown car of the grocery container world.  How you manage to fit it all in there is a mystery that we customers will never solve.  At the other end of the spectrum, my local Albertson's bagger places each of my ten items into their own plastic bag.  You are clearly masters of your craft.

 

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Pound-Plus Belgian dark or milk chocolate bars for $4.99.....enough to make any baker fall in love.

Your guacamole "kits" are the only way that I can bribe my husband to go grocery shopping with me, and they are most certainly on his list of "Top Ten Favorite Things Ever."  Via a plastic container filled with two avocados, a tomato, a jalapeno pepper, a lime, a shallot, and garlic, you have managed to turn Mr. I-can-barely-find-the-kitchen into Mr. I-always-make-the-guacamole.  At $3.25, what's not to love?

 

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When I toss 18 packs of Wasabi Roasted Seaweed Snacks into my cart, I love that your impressively polite staff doesn't bring up the fact that, yes, I did just buy some last week.  I might be slightly addicted.  I might be eating some as I type this.

And most of all, I love that every visit to your stores inevitably results in my discovery of at least one (adorably packaged and reasonably priced) new item.  Typically, this is a product that I didn't know I was lacking until you were kind enough to bring it to my attention.  It's strategically stacked into a pyramid on an endcap with signature whimsical Trader Joe's signage.  You know what you are doing in the marketing department.

 

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On my most recent shopping trip, this new discovery was Trader Joe's Organic Tri-Color Quinoa ($4.99/bag).  I love that you created this item, because it provided me with the inspiration to make today's recipe, Tri-Color Maple Cranberry Breakfast Quinoa, a dish that is not only healthy, but so much more interesting and beautiful than plain ol' oatmeal.

That's all, T.J.  I just wanted you to know how I feel about you.  I'm certain that I am not alone.  For example, you are opening a new store in a few weeks near my mom's house, and I think that she is already in line.  She loves you too.

I'll be back next week for more Wasabi Seaweed Snacks.

XOXO,

Julie

 

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Here are some extra tips for making this protein-packed oatmeal alternative:

  • This is a great recipe to make at the beginning of the week and enjoy for breakfast throughout the week.  You can either reheat it or eat it cold.
  • Feel free to mix and match your dried fruit and nut combinations in this recipe.  Other options could be chopped hazelnuts and dried cherries, cashews and diced tropical fruits, or chopped walnuts and dried blueberries.
  • You can substitute honey, brown rice syrup, or agave syrup for the maple syrup.
  • If you prefer butter, you may use it in place of the olive oil, but pay close attention as you saute the nuts to avoid burning them.

 

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Tri-Color Maple Cranberry Breakfast Quinoa

Printable Recipe

4-6 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed (such as Trader Joe's Organic Tricolor Quinoa)

Generous pinch of salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/3 cup pecans or almonds, coarsely chopped

3/4 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup golden raisins

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Zest from 1/2 orange, plus more for garnish

3-4 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Greek yogurt (optional)

Prepare the quinoa:  Combine the quinoa with two cups of water and the salt in a medium saucepan; stir to mix.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover.  Cook until all of the water has been absorbed by the quinoa, about 15 minutes.  Allow the quinoa to rest, covered, for 5 minutes, then fluff it with a fork.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet overr medium heat.  Add the pecans and cook, stirring frequently, until they are fragrant and toasted, 2-3 minutes.  Stir in the dried cranberries, raisins, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, zest, and 3 tablespoons of the maple syrup; continue to cook, stirring constantly, until heated through, 1 minute more.

Add the cooked quinoa to the skillet and toss to incorporate with the fruit/nut mixture.  Divide into serving bowls.  Top with a dollop of Greek yogurt and/or drizzle with additional maple syrup, if desired.

 

 

 

January 25, 2012

"Heart-y" Baked Banana Bread Doughnuts with Coconut Glaze

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I messed up.

Like most people, I usually make a few New Year's resolutions, which inevitably are broken or, as I like to say, become more "loosely interpreted" by the end of January.  "Broken" is such a negative way of putting it, don't you think?

For 2012, I resolved to not make any New Year's resolutions.  Part of my decision was based on the fact that people generally expect resolutions to be broken, so they never really have a fighting chance.  I also couldn't settle on just one or two items.  I had too many ideas running around in my head for things that I wanted to accomplish this year.  Oh yeah, I have big plans for 2012.

So, I did what any slightly nerdy and super Type-A person would do.  I put together a Power Point presentation entitled "My Goals for 2012."  Yes, really.

I'll give you a moment to snicker.

 

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Here was my reasoning:  If I had simply scrawled a goal list on one of my 139 legal pads, it would be neither be organized nor legible.  It would just be a mess of random phrases with lots of !!!'s and ***'s. Plus, I would likely lose the list or spill red Crystal Lite all over it.  So that method was out.  By arranging my goals neatly by category on PowerPoint slides (i.e. "Granola", "Fitness", "Writing", "Home Improvement"), they seemed much easier to tackle, and they were easier to prioritize.

By presenting my slides to an audience of Eric and my dogs (and yes, I actually did this--do you need more time to snicker?), I upped my level of commitment to the goals.  Plus, who can't afford to brush up on the ol' presentation skills?  Apparently I could be a bit more engaging.  The dogs are a tough crowd.  One fell asleep while the other chewed on his foot. 

Also, PowerPoints are kind of fun to put together.  Did I just type that?  Wow, I am a nerd.

 

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So back to the "mess up."  I've been doing pretty well with my PowerPoint of goals, crossing off at least a few items every week.  One of my ongoing goals is to start eliminating the clutter from our house.  While we are by no means hoarders, we have somehow managed to accumulate unnecessary "stuff", and lots of it.  For example, it might be time to cut the cord and get rid of our impressive VHS tape collection, especially since we have not had a VHS player for close to a decade.  Just a thought.

Anyhow, this de-cluttering most certainly applies to my kitchen as well.  Like many of you, I'm sure, my cabinets are jam-packed with oddly shaped bakeware, super-specialized tools, and items that I don't recall ever seeing before. 

NO MORE!  I am going to get this kitchen tidy, cleaned out, and organized, and I am not going to buy any new stuff (unless of course I really need it.)

 

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Then I went to Target on Monday.  Target is my kryptonite.  (Shakes fist) Darn you Target and your reasonably priced, adorably themed holiday displays!!  This is all your fault!!

Long story short, I bought a heart-shaped doughnut pan.

 

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In my defense, it was only $7.99, and it's pretty slim, so it won't take up much room.  Plus, it was just too cute to pass up.  There must be some sort of cuteness clause that makes this a viable purchase, right?

Well, time to make the doughnuts :)

This was my first attempt at making increasingly popular "healthier" baked doughnuts, and I was a bit skeptical of how they would turn out.  The flavor choice was dictated by ingredients that I had on hand, specifically, ripened bananas.  I've always liked cardamom in my banana bread, so I added it to the doughnut batter, along with toasted pecans, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  I opted for oil instead of butter in the batter, as I thought that it would help to keep the doughnuts moist.  Overall, I was very happy with the results -- nice banana-y flavor and cake-like texture.  In my opinion, the sweet glaze is a non-negotiable.  Even if you don't want to do a coconut glaze, do some sort of glaze (vanilla, chocolate, maple, etc.) 

Glaze, for lack of a better word, is good.

 

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Here are some extra tips for making these healthier banana bites:

  • I like to puree my bananas in a food processor when adding them to batters, but you can simply mash them in a bowl or squeeze them in a sealed zip-top bag.  The only difference is that you might have a few larger banana pieces in your doughnuts.
  • If you don't want to glaze the doughnuts, you can roll them in confectioner's sugar or in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar while they are still warm.  I do suggest coating them with something though.
  • These doughnuts are best eaten the day that they are baked.

 

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Baked Banana Bread Doughnuts with Coconut Glaze

Printable Recipe

Makes 18-20

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2/3 cup golden brown sugar, packed

3 tablespoons canola or safflower oil

2 large eggs

1 1/4 cups banana puree

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup finely chopped toasted pecans

For the Glaze

2 cups confectioner's sugar

2-3 tablespoons coconut milk (or whole milk)

1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

Toasted shredded coconut, sprinkles, additional confectioner's sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.  Spray a doughnut pan with nonstick baking spray.  In a large bowl, whisk together both flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the brown sugar with the oil and the eggs at medium speed for 2 minutes.  Mix in the banana puree, the buttermilk, and the vanilla.

With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients, mixing until incorporated.  Mix in the pecans.

Transfer the batter to a large zip-top bag, and cut off one corner.  Pipe the dough into the doughnut pan, filling each mold about halfway full.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the doughnuts spring back when lightly touched.  Carefully remove the doughnuts from the pan and allow them to cool on wire racks.

Prepare the glaze:  In a medium bowl, whisk together the confectioner's sugar, coconut milk (or milk), and extract until smooth.  You can add a bit more of the extract if the flavor is not "coconutty" enough for you.

Dip the cooled doughnuts in the glaze and decorate with toasted coconut, sprinkles, or your topping of choice!

January 20, 2012

Cherry-Almond Quinoa Breakfast Cookies

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Cookies for breakfast???   Wheeeee!!!!

Well, sort of.  Read on. (But first, another cookie shot.)

 

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It all started with Costco....

I have a love-hate relationship with Costco.  Like everyone, I love being able to buy certain items in bulk, like say, 52 pounds of dog food,  42 rolls of Charmin, or necessities like pillow-sized bags of Stacy's Pita Chips (if you've tried Stacy's Pita Chips, then you will concur that they are indeed a necessity.)

A trip to Costco is an event in my house, since all of our locations are inconveniently located across town in different directions.  It's as if the VP of Costco Business Development used my house as a starting point on a map, stuck in a thumbtack, and drew three straight lines to the opposite edges of the Las Vegas Valley, thinking "Aha--perfect! These will be our store sites." (Cue evil laugh.) 


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Before each trip to Costco, it's imperative that I take thorough inventory of my pantry and household supplies and make a list of what I need.  IM-PER-A-TIVE. I need a list, and I need a plan.  Said list serves as my personal suit of armor, ensuring that I will purchase only, well mostly only, the items that I need and not get swept up in the cleverly marketed displays and constant supply of new items that make Costco Costco.

I hate it when I forget my list.

10 pounds of Jolly Ranchers!!  I loooooooove Jolly Ranchers!  Well, all but the grape ones, but that's just one flavor.  Sold! 

 Eric apparently doesn't like grape Jolly Ranchers either.  We now have 2 pounds of them, if anyone wants 'em.

Another inevitable result of leaving my list at home is that I toss some item into my cart because I am pretty certain that it was on my list or that it would have been on my list if I had made one......only to go home and discover that we haven't even made a dent in the supply that we already have.  Happens every. single. time.

Enter world's largest bag of quinoa.

 

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Now, I don't recall ever purchasing a big bag 'o quinoa from Costco in the past, but apparently I had.  I don't know, perhaps I blacked out due to Costco eureka! euphoria, which is why I had forgotten that there was already one of these huge, unopened bags sitting in my pantry.  And now I have two.  Lucky me.

Don't get me wrong.  I loooooooove my quinoa like I loooooooooove my non-grape Jolly Ranchers.  In the past few years, quinoa has become the Emma Stone of the ancient grains.  The "it" girl, if you will.  You can see it in all of the hottest food publications and included in recipes from the trendiest chefs.  My prediction is that within the next 6 months, it will also be on an InStyle cover, land a Revlon contract and start dating Ryan Gosling.  That's how HOT quinoa is right now.

So, I should have no lack of resources in which I can find recipe inspiration for my two lifetime supplies of quinoa, right?  Right.  Today's recipe was inspired by an idea that I have seen a few times on-line and, most recently, by one that I read in Bon Appetit magazine:  Quinoa Breakfast Cookies.

I'm sorry, did you say "breakfast cookies?"  Why yes, yes I did.

 

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Sorry, that picture came out a little dark.

Now, before you get too excited, these are not your Keebler Elves' cookies.  So if your mind is saying "Chips Ahoy" when you take a bite, then your taste buds might be a tad bit disappointed.  Make no mistake, (I think) that they are still delicious, but they are also pretty healthy and full of whole grains, dried fruit, and nuts -- not chocolate chips, white sugar, and monoglutopseudohydrotransbrominal.  The texture is fairly cakey, and they are definitely hearty.  These cookies are also not overly sweet.......which is why I couldn't leave well enough alone, and I drizzled them with a little glaze.  Just a little glaze, mind you.  A little glaze never hurt anyone. 

1 quinoa recipe down......463 to go.

 

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Here are some extra tips for making these deceptively diet-friendly cookies:

  • I decided to use dried cherries in these cookies because I think that they have a more concentrated flavor than cranberries, and cherry pairs nicely with almond.  Plus, dried cherries were on sale at the grocery store :)  Feel free to substitute dried cranberries, raisins, chopped apricots, or a combination of dried fruit.
  • I made the simple glaze for the cookies by whisking together confectioner's sugar and freshly squeezed lemon juice.  You could do the same with orange juice, or you could make an almond glaze by whisking confectioner's sugar, water, and a bit of almond extract.
  • To make your own variation on these cookies, try adding some shredded coconut, orange or lemon zest, banana puree instead of applesauce, or pure maple syrup in place of the honey.

 

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Cherry-Almond Quinoa Breakfast Cookies

(Inspired by Bon Appetit magazine)

Printable Recipe

Makes about 28 cookies

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

1/2 cup golden brown sugar, packed

3 tablespoons honey

2 large eggs

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

1 cup cooked and cooled quinoa

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup rolled oats (not quick oats)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup dried tart cherries

1 cup whole almonds, coarsely chopped

 

Preheat the oven to 375F degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.  Beat in the honey and then the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Mix in the applesauce and both extracts.  On low speed, mix in the quinoa until well incorporated.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt.  Gradually add the flour mixture to the batter, mixing on low speed until just combined.  Remove the mixing bowl from the stand and stir in the dried cherries and almonds.

Using a small ice cream scoop or a spoon, drop the dough in generous 2-tablespoon portions onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing 2-inches apart.  Flatten the mounds of dough with the bottom of a glass or with your moistened palm (otherwise the dough might stick to your hand.)

Bake the cookies until they are golden around the edges and on the bottoms, 12-15 minutes.  Allow the cookies to cool on the pans for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.  If desired, drizzle the cookies with a simple glaze (either confectioner's sugar mixed with lemon juice or confectioner's sugar mixed with water and almond extract.)

Approximately 140 calories and 6 grams of fat per cookie.