I still love muffins.

 

Some people love Valentines Day.

Some people hate Valentines Day.

Everybody loves muffins.

 

 

During my undergrad in Nutrition, I was taking a class called “Food Service.”  It sounded simple enough. 

“Serve food,” I thought to myself.  “I can do that.”

 

 

And then I found myself smack dab in a cooking lab, grilling Australian lamb chops, making peanut brittle, and homemade mayonnaise.

It’s a little ironic that the toughest thing I had to overcome was the muffin.

 

 

Yes.  The simple muffin.

Simple to look at.  Simple to eat.  And supposedly, even more simple to make.

 

 

And yet, batch after batch, my muffins always turned out gummy.  Tough.  Bread like.  My professor took it upon herself to look over my shoulder.  Studying my every movement.  Making sure that I was following all the steps exactly right.

And then—suddenly—she found what she was looking for.  “The muffin mixing method!” She exclaimed loudly.  Triumphantlly.  “Don’t forget the muffin mixing method!”

 

 

I think to say that she was a proud of herself when she realized what was wrong is an understatement.  She looked as if she had just witnessed her baby taking his first steps. 

The problem was that I was mixing the dry ingredients directly in with the wet ingredients, rather than separating them first (oops!)  I blamed it on the fact that I didn’t have a recipe in front of my face, telling me to do this.  My professor just smiled, dumped out my previous batch and told me to try again. 

 

 

I still experiment in the kitchen.

I still make mistakes.

I still love muffins.

 

 

Blueberry Muffins—recipe taken from Cooks Illustrated Light, with changes.

This recipe calls for cake flour, which naturally has a lower gluten content than regular, all-purpose flour.  This produces a finer crumb in your final batch of muffins.  But, of course, if you don’t happen to have cake flour in your pantry, you can just substitute with all-purpose or whole wheat flour for equally tasty results.  Enjoy! :D

  • 1-1/2 c. plus 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 c. cake flour
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c. plus 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp juice from one lemon
  • 1 tsp grated zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 c. plain low-fat yogurt
  • 2 c. fresh or frozen blueberries
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375.  Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners or spray with cooking spray.  Whisk 1-1/2 cups all purpose flour, 1/2 cup wheat flour, cake flour , baking powder, baking soda, salt and 1/4 c. of the sugar together in a medium bowl.  Set aside.
  2. Beat an aditional 1/2 c. sugar and butter together with a mixer, until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla until incorporated.
  3. Reduce mixer speed to low.  Beat in one-third of the flour mixture until just incorporated, followed by one-third of the yogurt, scraping down the bowl as needed.  Repeat this process twice more, alternating between the remaining flour mixture and the yogurt until the ingredients are just incorporated.  Do not overmix.
  4. Toss blueberries with the remaining all-purpose flour, then gently fold them into the batter with a rubber spatula.  Using a large ice-cream scoop or measuring cup, divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, and sprinkle the tops with the remaining Tbsp. sugar.  Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 25-30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking.  Cool the muffins in the pan for 5 minutes, then flip them out onto a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Question: What do you find “tough” to make?  What do you find “easy” to make?

cupcakes and family

I grew up in a very French family. 

Both sides of my grandparents (known as Memere and Pepere) are from Canada (and their grandparents’ grandparents are from Canada too.)  As they made their way to the US, one of their main goals was to find jobs, with an effort to support their family as best as they could. 

Family, you should know, is really important.  It was important to my grandparents, it’s important to my own parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.  And, it’s important to me.

My family values family. 

We laugh a lot.  We’re not afraid to be loud and crazy and wild.  We’ll hug you as you’re coming in, as you’re leaving, and we’ll hug you again just in case we forgot the first time around. 

We’ve cried together over sad moments.  I’ve been held more than once by my sister.  A cousin.  Just when I need it.  Just because they know.  Supportive.

Most of all, my family is filled with love.  There’s no mistaking that feeling when you walk through the door. 

We also like to eat. 

My mom has this thing where she “wants to make sure that everyone has enough food on their plate.”  And so, when you walk into my sister’s housewarming party, there is food for vegetarians, carnivores, and everyone in between.  All members of the family contribute by bringing a dessert, an appetizer, something to share. 

Obviously, the housewarming party for my sis and brother-in-law was a smashing, family-filled success.

I have a fascination with making and baking desserts.  It’s one of my greatest pleasures.  

And so, I was more than happy to contribute to the party on the foodie front. 

You all know how obsessed I am with cupcakes.  I like to think that a whole lot of thought and consideration went into each individual one.  Personalized dessert! :D

I’ve also recently become obsessed with the Barefoot Contessa.  I don’t actually own any of her cookbooks, but after meandering my way through the local book stores, I certainly wish I did.  I decided to settle for second best and went to FoodNetwork.com to find the recipe for her coconut cupcakes. 

Yes.  Coconut cupcakes. If you’re like me and wish you could put coconut on everything that enters your mouth, you will love these cupcakes.

I’d like to say that you need to a be a baker, a chef, or some sort of artist to make these cupcakes.  I’d like to say that unless you have culinary expertise, you should not make this recipe. 

But it’s simply not true.  This was actually the first time I’ve ever made a homemade cake from scratch, and it could not have been easier.  Foolproof is what it is.  Trust me! 

Delicious.

Coconut Cupcakes—courtesy of the Barefoot Contessa

When I make dessert, I want it to be the real deal.  These cupcakes were.  Filled with coconut, smeared with a cream cheese frosting, and a fluffy, flavorful cupcake that was still worthy of standing alone.  A deliciously perfect treat for that special occasion, birthday, or celebration.  You’ll love it!

  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 extra large eggs at room temperature
  • 1-1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 tsp pure almond extract
  • 3 c. flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 c. buttermilk
  • 14 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut, separated

Frosting:

  • 1 pound cream cheese at room temperature
  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp pure almond extract
  • 1 1/2 pounds confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In 3 parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold in 7 ounces of coconut.
  4. Line a muffin tin with paper liners. Fill each liner to the top with batter. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a baking rack and cool completely.
  5. Meanwhile, make the frosting. In a medium bowl, with the mixer on low speed, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla and almond extracts.  Add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth.
  6. Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with the remaining coconut.
  7. ENJOY!

Question: What is your favorite kind of dessert and how do you fit it into your healthy lifestyle?  I love indulging in a favorite dessert when the occasion arises.  I keep the richer desserts out of the house (out of house, out of mind! ;) ) and I always have whatever I like when I’m at someone’s house or going out with friends.  Balance, balance, balance.  It’s a great place to be. :D

(p.s. my favorite dessert, by the way, is cupcakes :mrgreen: And dark chocolate, which I always have on hand. )

not without a fight

I kind of just blew my entire budget…

I’ve never been much of an Ocean State Job Lot fan.  In fact, I usually avoid the store like its the plague.  Most of what they sell is stuff you don’t need (or want.)  Hence the reason why I never go there. 

Until today.

Don’t ask me what it was that first drew me in.  Not the aesthetics of the building, thats for sure.  But once inside, there was absolutely no turning back.  An entire isle was dedicated to nut butters.  Jams and jellies that you can only find at Whole Foods.  Flaxseed for half of the normal price.  I was a bit awestruck, really. ;) 

Current Favorite Snack: 1% cottage cheese with Bear Naked Banana Nut Granola and a dollop of Cinnamon Raisin Peanut Butter.

After recovering from my excitement, I felt like baking. 

It truly is a rare moment to have a bunch of spare bananas lounging around my house.  The occasional soggy apple or pear may find its way into the trash, due to neglect and oversight.  But never—never!—does this happen to a banana.  Green bananas.  Yellow bananas.  Brown bananas.  It really doesn’t matter.  They’re gone in a matter of days, as they find their way into each and every family member’s morning meal.

In order to celebrate the rare and momentous occasion of having ripe bananas at my disposal, I decided to bake a banana bread.
 

Just as a side note, I’ll usually take the time to read through the ingredient list before pouring everything in. 
 

I guess the excitement of banana bread overcame me, because I didn’t even give the list a second look. 

And—apparently—I don’t have cream of tartar sitting in the back (or front, for that matter) of my pantry.

I remember someone once telling me that you can substitute baking powder for a cream of tartar/baking soda combination.  I wasn’t sure if this was actually going to work, but there was no turning back.  My bananas were mashed, and there was no way I was going to give up.  Not, at least, without a pretty darn good fight.

(With the dry and wet ingredients, remember to only stir until *just* moistened.  This is especially important if you’re using whole wheat flour.  Nobody wants a tough, gummy banana bread!  Those lumps are completely okay–and normal.)

Substituting baking powder for the cream of tartar/baking soda seemed to work out alright.  The result was a little more dense than I would have liked, but all in all, at least my banana bread was saved from the doom of a trash can. ;) 

There was nothing fancy about this bread.  No cinnamon.  No nutmeg.  No vanilla.  No walnuts or chocolate chips.  Completely unadorned. 

Because sometimes you want those deep, dark chocolate chips.  Sometimes the crunch of a walnut, surrounded by the flavor of a sweet, sweet banana is nothing short of perfection.

But sometimes you just want the basics.  Bananas.  Bread.  Banana Bread.

Your Basic Whole Wheat Banana Bread

This is a spin off on my whole wheat chocolate chip banana bread.  If chocolate is what you’re after, just add 1/2-3/4 c. of dark chocolate chips after mixing the flour together with the banana mixture.  OR, try melting a bit of chocolate and drizzling it over the banana bread before serving.  Both ways are equally scrumptious. :D

  • 1 c. mashed ripe banana (about 2-1/2 medium)
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • cooking spray
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl with a whisk until smooth.
  3. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups and level with a knife.  Combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt in a bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Add flour mixture to banana mixture and stir just until moist (do not overmix).  Spoon batter into an 8×4 inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray.
  4. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack, remove from pan.  Cool completely on rack.

Question: Have you ever substituted another ingredient after realizing that you didn’t have the one that was originally called for?  How did this turn out? 

the start of a good day

 I ran my heart out this morning.

 

I ran in the dark.  I ran in the cold.  I ran with nothing but a flashlight.

I watched the sun rise from over the trees.  Gentle light.  Nature’s promise of warmth.

I watched the neighborhood wake up.  Lights flicking on.  The smell of sweet pancakes and warm maple syrup floating through the air. 

I was chased by a spunky black pug with an attitude.

I watched my breath float up and into the sky.  A wisp of smoke.

I ran my heart out this morning and then I realized that today was going to be a very good day.

 

I came home, showered, went to work, came home, went for a walk.

And then—at the end of the day—I baked sixty-five crackers. 

Yes.  Crackers.

Honestly, if you would have told me five years ago that I’d be baking my own crackers, I would have quite literally rolled on the floor laughing.  Even today, as I was poking little breathing holes into a bite sized cracker, I felt just a little silly.

Family members wanted to know “What’s cookin’?”  “Oh…well, crackers.”  With the lift of an eyebrow and the sweep of a grin, they reminded me that the store down the street is still selling crackers, as far as they knew.

But I was as determined as ever.  Determined to find a cracker that—much like yesterday’s plate of fettucine—wouldn’t need a plethora of toppings, just to make its point.  I wanted a cracker to be crunchy, flaky and just a little bit salty.  I wanted a cracker that could hold its own. 

I think I may have found that cracker.  Well, not exactly.  Not quite.  But almost.

This recipe still needs a little tweaking and some TLC.  So maybe I should have waited before running out and sharing it with all of you.  But I can’t, really.  Patience has never been one of my strong suits.

Besides, it’s pretty close to perfect.  And if I know you readers like I think I do, most of you like to play around with a basic recipe, transforming it into something new and exciting.  You like to take a recipe and go wild with it.  And these crackers are practically begging you to do just that.  Get creative.  Branch out.  Throw in your favorite flavors and make it your own.  Be daring with cinnamon.  Go bold with cayenne.  Simplify with specks of sea salt. 

And, as Julia Childs would say, “most of all, have fun!”

Whole Wheat Crackers—a basil and garlic variation

Be sure to roll the dough out very thin.  Otherwise you’ll end up with a thick, chewy cracker.  CRUNCH is what you’re after.  That being said, however, my dad actually preferred it a little on the soft side with crispy edges.  So—as always—go with what you like! :D

I made this batch with garlic and basil, but you could nix that and go for a sweet flavor (chocolate? cinnamon?) or spice things up with cayenne.  The possibilities are endless. :D

  • 3-1/4 c. whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 c. olive oil
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 T. basil

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. Stir together flour, seasonings of choice and salt.  Pour in vegetable oil and water.  Mix until blended.

3. Roll dough as thin as possible (no more than 1/8 inch) on a lightly floured surface.  Place dough on ungreased baking sheet (may need to use two separate cooking sheets) and mark squares with a knife, but don’t cut through.  Prick each cracker with a fork a few times.

4. Bake for 15-20 minutes in oven or until crisp and light brown (avoid undercooking).  Baking time varies depending on thickness of cracker.  When cool, remove from baking sheet and separate into individual crackers.

Question: What is your favorite kind of cracker?  I’ve always been a Kashi fan, but I also *love* Dr. Kracker’s Seeded Spelt.

getting back on the horse

I still remember my first experience with cooking chicken.  The recipe revolved around coconut milk, jarred bell peppers, hot red pepper flakes, and—of course—chicken.  There were other ingredients too, but these were the key components.

I thought the dish sounded divine.  I thought the dish smelled divine.  I thought the dish was the most heavenly thing on earth.  Until I took my first bite.

Somewhere along the line, I had forgotten the salt and added in sugar.  It was intensely sweet, and not in any sort of good way.  Think of what cotton candy would taste like with your favorite chicken dish, and you’ll have an idea of what I’m talking about.  I quickly dumped the contents of my frying pan, vowing that never again would I make chicken. 

But really, who was I fooling?  My parents raised me to get back on that horse, and so I did. 

My second experience with chicken resulted in a masterpiece.  I’m convinced that stuffing a chicken warrants you an instant gourmet status, whether or not you spent hours (or +dollars) on the dish.  Despite being one of the simplest chicken recipes I’ve made, this chicken has the persona of being all fancy schmancy.  It does not, however, come along with a hefty price tag of ingredients, nor does it demand that you spend hours upon hours in the kitchen. 

This dish will always hold a special spot in my file of recipes, both for being irresistibly delicious and for being my first successful attempt with chicken  The family loves it too, which is just another added bonus. 

I bet you will too. :D

Spinach-Stuffed Chicken Breasts
As seen in “Health” magazine (with minor tweaking ;) )

  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • black pepper
  • 1 (10-oz) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry
  • 4 medium skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 3 oz. bottled roasted red bell peppers, divided
  • 1 T. butter, melted
  • 1/4 c. Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs (I made my own with whole wheat bread, toasted until dry in oven, processed, and mixed with Italian seasoning)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Heat oil in medium skillet over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic, oregano, salt, crushed red pepper, and black pepper; cook and stir until onion is soft (about 5 minutes.)  Remove from heat and add spinach, stirring to combine; set aside.
  3. Cut chicken breasts in half horizontally, using a sharp knife.  Place bottom halves of breasts in a 9×9-inch baking dish, setting top halves aside.  Divide spinach filling evenly among breasts; top each portion with one-fourth of roasted red peppers and replace top halves of breasts.
  4. Brush top half of each chicken breast with melted butter; sprinkle with breadcrumbs, and spray lightly with cooking spray.  Add 1/4 c. water (avoiding breadcrumbs) to baking dish and bake for 40 minutes or until chicken is completely cooked.
  5. ENJOY! :D

Question: Have you ever made a big mistake in following a recipe?  Did it still come out *good* or did it taste horribly wrong?  I’m pretty sure mistaking sugar for salt or vice versa will never result in a good thing. ;)

Weekend Post: Caramelized Banana Pancakes

I often think in terms of all or nothing.  Hence the reason I like to ask you guys questions such as, “if you had to eat but one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?”  Or, “if you had to cook one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?” 

You see?  All or nothing.

But maybe that’s because when I land on a recipe that I really, truly love, I can think of nothing I want more.  I’ll usually fall so deeply in love that I continue to make that certain something, over and over and over again.  Until—finally—I either tire of it or something else that’s just as wonderful comes along and takes its place.

Today I discovered caramelized banana pancakes.

 This wasn’t an e-n-t-i-r-e-l-y new discovery.  It’s not like I’ve never had a banana before (HA!)  And I’ve had more than my fair share of puffy pancakes smothered in syrup. 

But there’s something quite miraculous about the combination of a doughy, cinnamon infused pancake and caramelized bannas.  The bananas were anything but ordinary.  The heat from the pan helped them develop a delicate, crispy skin and a plump, marshmallowy center.  It is bliss.  Pure, sweet bliss.

This pancake recipe is much heartier than your standard pancake.  In fact, it reminds me very much of a muffin.  Thick, doughy, and very, very carb-y.  I foresee these becoming a regular at my breakfast table, as they quickly become a member of the all or nothing group:D

Caramelized Banana Pancakes
Serves 1

  • 1/4 c. whole wheat flour
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • sprinkle of ground nutmeg
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 T. rolled oats
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp molasses (optional)
  • 1 banana, sliced thickly
  1. Mix together flour through oats.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine milk through molasses.  Add wet ingredients to dry and beat  just until smooth (don’t overmix).
  3. Heat a griddle to medium heat and spray well with cooking spray.  Add batter to pan and cook until browned.  Flip and cook until desired doneness (I like mine doughy on the inside!)
  4. Meanwhile, in the same pan, add the bananas and flip once browned on one side.  Cook until warmed and oozing with sweetness.
  5. ENJOY! :D

Meanwhile—on the family front—Nicole and Nate’s brand new couch arrived today! 

It’s adorable, cozy, and super comfy to boot. :D

So far, the cats have been behaving themselves with the new furniture addition.

Let’s hope Stitch can stay out of trouble. ;)

Question: Favorite kind of pancake?  Aside from bananas, I love, love, love a good pumpkin pancake, dabbed with butter and drizzled with maple syrup.  It may just be my favorite autumn meal. :D

breakfast in a hurry

Sometimes I like to spend hours in the kitchen. 

Throwing together homemade samosas and carrot soup, all on a whim.  Just because I can.

And then there are times when I need short-cuts.

Let’s take steel cut oats as an example.

Steel cut oats take a good 30-40 minutes of your attention.  This is fine for lazy weekends, but not so much for a busy week day.  What’s a busy girl to do?

Well, duh.  There are rolled oats for people like us.

But, really, sometimes you want steel cut oats.  They impart a deliciously nutty bite, and may even keep you full longer since the digestion time is increased.  I like to think of it in this way: steel cut oats > rolled oats > instant oats.  In regards to the fullness factor, anyways.

I’ve discovered that there is indeed a short cut to having steel cut oats during the week.  And that is simply to prepare one heeping batch at the beginning of the week and pop it in the fridge.

Four servings worth of steel cut oats.  Just cut it, pop it in a microwave safe bowl, throw in your favorite fillings and heat to desired temperature.  In 3-4 minutes, you’ll have steel cut oats for a busy, week day breakfast!!

This morning I had to drive in early for a Food Service Director’s meeting, which meant that breakfast needed to be extra, extra quick to throw together.  Cha, cha, chilly oats became my breakfast of choice.

  • 1 serving of steel cut oats (about 1/4 c. uncooked)
  • 6-oz. plain yogurt
  • cinnamon and nutmeg
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • 2 T. craisins
  • toppings: granola and almond butter

Served with hot tea for a lil’ warmth on a chilly morning. :D

Another busy day tomorrow.  But hopefully by the end I will be ServSafe certified! :mrgreen:

Question: Do you have any “secret” shortcuts for meals/snacks/breakfasts that would normally take a long time to make?

orange you glad?

Prepare yourselves.  This post is about to explain to you why my hands are orange. ;)

Reason #1: It all started with a humble carrot.

Carrots never crossed my mind as a kid.  I ate them, yes.  But they were nothing special.  And then my tastebuds discovered carrot cake, which is when I realized that carrots were God’s gift to man.  And then—then!—a whole new world of flavor opened up, and I realized that carrots were not meant solely for cakes (although some might argue this fact.)  I ate them roasted.  Honey glazed.  Plain.  Raw.  With dip.  Grated in oatmeal.  Dunked in peanut butter. 

Yes.  I ate carrots.  Lots and lots of carrots.

Reason #2: After my newfound love for the carrot, I discovered canned pumpkin. 

I grew up hating pumpkin pie.  Absolute hatred!!  To this day, I can not eat it.  Which is such a shame, because I’m convinced that aside from a roasted turkey, pumpkin pie is the heart and sole of Thanksgiving. 

However, once I discovered that it was just pumpkin pie that I didn’t like, and not so much the actual pumpkin, a whole new world opened up.  Pumpkin bread.  Pumpkin lattes.  Pumpkin muffins.  And now that I’ve fully stocked up on Libby’s canned pumpkin, I’m including pumpkin in my breakfasts as well.

Breakfast Pumpkin Cookie—(the texture of this “cookie” most closely resembles that of “overnight oats”)

  • 1/2 c. uncooked oatmeal
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • 1/2 c. canned pumpkin
  • 2 tsp chia seeds
  • 1 T. peanut butter
  • 2 T. cranberries (I use ‘Craisins’)
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl, mashing well with a fork.
  2. Spread evenly across a plate.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  3. ENJOY! :D

Reason #4: Lastly, I am obsessed with the sweet potato, which destroys any hopes of my hands ever returning to normal.

Tonight I opened up my Moosewood Cookbook and pulled out a recipe for Samosas.  Sticking mostly to the recipe, I did make some substitutions.  Like using all whole wheat flour in place of the white.

I also turned up my nose to the white potatoes and subbed in 1 large sweet potato instead.  I’m sure you would agree that the sweet potato makes for a much more colorful, tasty filling.  :D

The dough to these Samosas was so fun to work with.  It was super stretchy and flexible.  I pulled it, smashed it, rolled it, and stretched it. 

And then I preceded to fill, fill, fill these babies up.

I may have overstuffed these guys just a little, but the dough was very forgiving.

The results were worth the 2 hours of prepping and baking time.  So, so, so worth it!

It was love, my friends.  Love at first bite.

Reason #5: Eaten with herbed carrot soup.  Of course. ;)

So there you have it.  I have an obsession with all things orange, and there’s just no stopping me.

Samosa Recipe—from Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook, as seen on the Food Network website

The Dough

  • 2 1/2 cups flour (used whole wheat)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk or yogurt
  • Extra flour as needed

The Filling:

  • 2 large potatoes (the size of a large person’s fist)–used sweet potato
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup finely minced onion
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried coriander (if available)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked green peas (frozen, thawed=fine)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Cayenne, to taste

Directions

Dough 1) Place the flour in a medium-sized bowl. Mix in the salt. 2) Make a well in the center, and add the buttermilk or yogurt. Mix first with a spoon and then with your hand, to make a smooth dough. 3) Add extra flour, as needed, to keep the dough from being sticky. The dough will be quite soft. knead in the bowl for about 5 minutes. Cover tightly and refrigerate until you are ready to assemble the pastries.

Filling: 1) Peel the potatoes and chop them into 1-inch pieces. Place in a saucepan, cover with water, and boil until very soft. Drain and transfer to a medium-sized bowl. Mash and set aside. 2)Melt the butter in a heavy skillet. Add onion, garlic, ginger, mustard seeds, coriander, and salt. Saute over medium heat about 8 to 10 minutes, or until onions are quite soft. Add this to the mashed potatoes, along with the remaining ingredients. Mix well, but try not to smash the peas. Cool for at least 15 minutes before filling the pastries.

To Assemble and Bake: 1) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Generously oil a baking sheet. 2) Keep a small container of flour, a fork, a small bowl of water, and a pastry brush close at hand. Flour a clean surface, and, one by one, roll 1-inch balls of dough into 5-inch circles, using a rolling pin. 3) Place approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons filling in the center of each circle, and fold over, just like a turnover. Brush the inside edges of each circle with a little water, and fold the edges together to make a small hem. Crimp the edges firmly with a fork. Note: If you are storing the samosas to bake later on, place them on a heavily floured plate or tray, dust the tops with more flour, and cover tightly. Store in the refrigerator or freezer until baking time. 4) To bake: Place the samosas on the oiled baking sheet. Brush the tops with oil. Bake 15 minutes at 425 degrees F., then reduce heat to 375 degrees F. and bake for 10 minutes more. For maximum crispness, turn the samosas over when you turn the oven down. 5) Serve within 5 minutes of baking, with Dipping Sauce. A nice way to serve the sauce is in individual saucers or tiny bowls, so each person can hold both samosa and sauce directly under his or her face while eating, and the sauce bowl can catch the drips. (It does drip, but that’s one of the charms of this ritual.)

The Dipping Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt

1) Place all ingredients in a small saucepan. Stir until the sugar dissolves. 2) Heat to boiling, then let simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes. it will reduce slightly. 3) Serve warm or at room temperature with hot samosas.

Question: If you turned the color of what you eat the most, what color would you be?

cold recovery

I don’t know what’s come over me.

Apparently, nobody gave me the memo that you’re supposed to lose your appetite when you’re sick. 

And—apparently—nobody gave me the memo that you’re supposed to crave mostly soup and crackers when you’re not feeling well.

I spent about 10 minutes or so at the Whole Foods’ meat counter on Friday, battling out the question of whether I truly wanted to spend a mini-fortune on ground beef.  Ground, local, 90% lean *grass fed* beef, to be exact.  Was it worth the cost?  Was it worth my returning the local honey jar back to its shelf for another day, another dollar?  Was it worth it?

Short answer: Yes.  Yes, it was.

I’ve come to the conclusion that for the amount of times that I actually purchase and eat red meat, I want to make it count.  I want caramelized onions.  A whole wheat bun (courtesy of Trader Joes.)  And I want the best of the best beef.  Local.  Grass fed.  Delicious. 

(Just remember that grass fed beef tends to be much leaner than it’s grain fed counterpart.  This means (a) reduced heat and cooking time is usually necessary and (b) your beef is going to be much healthier.)

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Unfortunetly, I’m still sick.  But—looking at the sunny side of things—I’d rather be sick now vs. Tuesday when I have to go to a Food Service Directors’ meeting. 

In an attempt to get myself feeling back to normal, I’ve been focusing on:

#1: Tea

#2: Fresh Fruits

Cold, chilly, fruit.  Preferrably of the citrus variety. :D

Just as a little side note, did you know that Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin?  This means that your body has a limit of what it can hold, and past that certain amount, your body simply flushes it out (think of this like filling up your bathtub to the point where it can’t hold any more…it simply overflows!)  So the next time you’re sick, eat an orange but skip those expensive Vitamin C supplements.)

#3: Baking.

I baked.  Mom baked.  I licked the frosting beaters.

And yes, baking is totally necessary for a full recovery.

Besides, there is a good excuse for having a big sheet of carrot cake in the house right now.  It’s my Pepere’s 78th birthday, and with the entire family having a cookout over his house, carrot cake it had to be!  This recipe is a guarenteed crowd pleaser.  I can’t wait to see how it tastes!

#4: Greens, greens, greens.

There’s nothing like filling up on some fresh produce to make a girl feel like brand new again. 

 Yum!!

I’m not sure if a run is going to happen tomorrow, but you never know.  Sometimes a short little run or a walk can do wonders for clearing up a stuffy, congested head.  :D

Question: Do you normally lose your appetite when you’re sick?

comfort

I’d like to say that I’ve been living it up these past couple of days.  Partying like it’s my business.  Living life to the max in New York City.  Or something like that.

But—really—I consider you guys my friends.  And—really—friends are honest with each other.  Right?  Of course. 

Honesty says that I’ve been cozying up with a box of kleenex, becoming best buds with dark cherry herbal tea, and sleeping till past 8 o’clock.  Yes, it’s true.  I have fully surrendered to the common cold. 

It’s funny how despite it all, I still end up in the kitchen with my apron on.  A wooden spoon in my hand.  Flipping through the pages of a Cooking Light cookbook until landing on Vegetarian ChiliI can’t think of anything I’d rather do right now than cook and eat comforting food.  Chili is my comfort food.

As is cornbread. 

I love this recipe both because it’s (a) amazingly delicious and rustic as well as being (b) completely healthy—I use stoneground cornmeal, whole wheat flour and olive oil to make this bread.  The small amount of sugar and oil help to keep this bread moist and soft, providing you with a slice that’s delicate enough to be crumbled lightly over chili, firm enough to be toasted and spread with butter & jam, and healthy enough to be eaten for breakfast.

I heart this cornbread.   :D

+ greens, garden fresh yellow tomatoes, black olives and olive oil. 

Psychologically, vegetables always make me feel better when I’m sick. ;)

Tell me, tell me.  What is more comforting than sipping on tea, sitting near a campfire, holding a bowl of hot chili and savoring a slice of cornbread straight from the oven? 

Comfort to the max. :D

Question: What is your favorite “comfort food” to make and to eat?