Tag Archives: dessert

Happy New Year | A Healthy Start!

19 Jan

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Holy cow! Happy 2014! Where did all of the days after Thanksgiving 2013 go? Wheeee!

After lots of yummy, and well worth it in a homemade-coconut-cream-pie-kind-of-way, holiday eating & baking & giving, we’re back on a healthier eating track. A friend recommended a healthier food blog to Jess and we’ve started flipping through all of the wonderful cookbooks (old & new) on our bookshelves for inspiration–with the interwebs a finger’s length away, it’s easy to rely solely on them web for meal planning even though we’ve got a wealth of beautifully bound print books close by. One resolution (use what we’ve got!) is well underway.

Here are the two things we’ve (ahem…Jess) has made so far from Sarah Britton’s blog, My New Roots. The Winter Abundance Bowl (recipe here) and these little gems (Spaghetti Squash Baby Cakes with Crispy Sage). The abundance bowl was insanely good (seriously, it’s a MUST make)–trust the recipe and her cooking process AND the fact that everything tastes amazing together (a bite of this with a bite of that) with all of the the different textures. Oh hi, pumpkin seed sauce! Where have you been all my life? It would be a delicious dip for veggies, too.

We adapted the squash baby cakes recipe because every store we went visited was out of spaghetti squash (seriously, not a single one). Jess used butternut squash instead and didn’t include the fried sage leaves on top & they were still delicious and sage-y. She cooked some of the cakes in a skillet and then baked the rest. The leftover cakes heated up really well in the toaster oven. I don’t love butternut squash and I happily ate these up.

I’m really excited to explore the other recipes on My New Roots and share our experience with you.

We had what seemed like a million carrots in the refrigerator so I made a really yummy Ginger Apple Carrot Soup from Joy the Baker’s blog one Sunday afternoon. 

Ok. It wouldn’t be a good food related post without ending on a yummy sweet treat that I’ve made several times since discovering the recipe. Available here (but I’ve shared the recipe below so I can include my tips/process notes). It makes four servings and even though you’ll be tempted to eat more…don’t do it–it’s really rich.

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Chocolate Ricotta Mousse from Real Simple
Serves 4

Ingredients

1 15-ounce container ricotta (about 2 cups)
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate, melted, plus more, shaved, for topping (I used these mini chocolate chips and then just sprinkled a few on top)

Directions

  1. In a food processor, blend the ricotta and sugar until smooth.
  2. Add the melted chocolate and blend until thoroughly mixed in (should be a smooth chocolate color with no visible white).
  3. Divide among bowls and top with the shaved chocolate.
  4. The mousse can be refrigerated until ready to serve, up to 2 days. The original recipe says to bring it up to room temperature before serving — but we like it a little more chilled so I usually toss in into the refrigerator after making it for 30 minutes or so.

Maker’s notes:
There were several comments on the original recipe that said it had a very grainy texture. Mine wasn’t at all–quite the opposite actually. I attribute this to 2 things.

  1. A great (but not insanely expensive) food processor. We have this Cuisinart that I found online on sale for $99. I don’t care that it’s white and doesn’t look super modern & sleek. It’s an amazing kitchen work horse.
  2. Really good quality whole milk ricotta (I know I’ve mentioned it before, but Calabro is my favorite & we buy it at Whole Foods). It’s creamy &  blends up very nicely. It’s so tasty, that I’ve been known to eat it straight from the carton with a little bit of salt & pepper. Oops!

What healthy and delicious recipes have you been making in 2014?

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Got Bananas? | Two New Recipes That Are B-A-N-A-N-A-S!

1 Dec

We’ve gotten into this habit of buying bananas and forgetting about them until they are just on the brink of almost too ripe. Ugh. While I like them riper than I did in my childhood days, there’s a point where they are just to sweet for eating plain & are perfect for adding to oatmeal or topping a piece of toast with almond or peanut butter. This past summer, they couldn’t get overripe fast enough–I loved peeling, breaking them into quarters or thirds and tossing in a ziplock bag in the freezer for morning smoothies. YUM! But now I feel as though they stack up in the fridge, almost black, waiting for us to take the time to transform them into some delicious baked good.

I usually love going back to old favorites but I was in the mood for something new so I broke in Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking: From my home to yours” book that I got Jess for her birthday (oops!) and baked her Cocoa-Nana Bread–perfect for bringing into work. I also wanted something a little healthier that I knew we could safely keep around the house for us to enjoy. Enter iambaker‘s Chocolate Chip Banana Bars. Oh hi!

Needless to say, it was a perfect banana filled Sunday of baking.

First, the decadent-it’s-okay-to-eat-chocolate-for-breakfast recipe.

the lighting in our kitchen makes the bread look reddish but it was actually very very dark brown

the lighting in our kitchen makes the bread look reddish but it was actually very very dark brown

Cocoa-Nana Bread from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From my home to yours

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (we use sea salt)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar (we use raw sugar)
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup buttermilk (tip: if you don’t have buttermilk on hand, just add 1 tsp of vinegar to 1 cup of milk, stir & let sit for a few minutes)
1/2 cup store-bought chocolate chips

Steps
1. 
Center a rack in the oven & preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F). Butter a 9×5 inch loaf pan and place it on an insulated baking sheet–or on two regular baking sheets stacked one on top of the other. (This extra insulation will keep the bottom of the bread from over baking.)

Maker’s notes: And it did! This incredible tip transforms the way I’ll bake other quick breads from now on. There is nothing more frustrating than taking your labor of love out of the oven with either a raw center or burned outside just so the bread could bake all the way through. I used 2 baking sheets stacked & it worked perfectly.

2. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt & baking soda.

3. Working with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (I just used a hand mixer because I didn’t feel like dragging out the KitchenAid), in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed for about a minute until softened.

4. Add the sugars and beat for another 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition. At this point, the batter may look a little curdled–it’s okay.

5. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the mashed bananas.

6. Add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, mixing only until they disappear into the batter.

7. Still on low speed, add the buttermilk, mixing until it is incorporated.

8. Stir in the chocolate chips and scrape the batter into the pan.

9. Bake for 30 minutes. Cover the bread loosely with a foil tent to keep the top from getting too dark, and continue to bake for another 40-45 minutes (total baking time = between 70-75 minutes), or until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
Maker’s notes: Covering the bread with a foil tent is another really amazing tip that will change the way I bake future quick breads! The top came out perfectly and not overdone in the least bit.

10. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for at least 20 minutes before running a knife around the edges of the bread and unmolding it. Invert and cool to room temperature right-side-up.

11. Store wrapped in plastic at room temperature and the bread will stay fresh for about 2 days. Tightly wrapped, it will keep up to 2 months in the freezer.

The verdict
Tasty! The loaf is really pretty–it baked nice & high with impressive cracks. The flavors were more developed the next day. It’s definitely chocolatey but you can still taste the banana. I’d love to try making a bread pudding with it because I think it would be super yummy dusted with powered sugar and topped with homemade whipped cream for dessert.

Next…the healthier sweet treat that would be a fun recipe for the kids to help make.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bars (Paleo) by iambaker

I followed iambaker’s recipe exactly so I’m not going to repost the recipe here but rather link to it here. Her photos are perfectly mouth watering! Check it out.

The verdict
I like her philosophy & skepticism (about Paleo “baking”) and was encouraged to try these due to the fact that she is a baker who typically uses all of the traditional  ingredients like flour, eggs, butter, etc. We liked these a lot. They were best right after baking–warm or at room temp–but I was hesitant to store them on the counter because they aren’t baked for very long & are quite dense/moist. So I cut them in the pan & stored them in the refrigerator. I let them come to room temp before enjoying (or warmed them in the toaster oven/microwave). When I make them again, I might use almond flour to add a little extra texture.

Best Frosting Ever | Nutella Buttercream Atop Chocolate Cupcakes

5 Sep

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I can’t post this without first acknowledging that it’s been a LOOOONG time since my last post. Phew, so sorry! I promise this hasn’t turned into an orphan blog. She still has loving parents. 🙂 I hope this recipe is well worth the wait (I think it is).

A note about the cupcakes. Yes, they are indeed vegan. Gasp. Your friends, family members, neighbors and co-workers won’t notice. It’s a great recipe to have on hand when you are low on things like butter & eggs but want to make an amazing treat to brighten someone’s day. If you are making these cupcakes for a vegan friend, frost these with a vanilla or coffee “buttercream” (make any standard buttercream recipe but use shortening and/or a vegan “butter” substitute for the butter & soy, almond or coconut milk for the liquid) — sadly the Nutella buttercream recipe that follows the cupcake recipe is not vegan.

Your Basic Chocolate Cupcake 

Recipe credit: Original recipe from “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World” baking book — adapted by Jess.

Makes 12 cupcakes (We almost always double the recipe!)

Ingredients

1 cup soy milk (You can use almond milk or if you’re not worried about making these vegan you can also use regular milk or buttermilk. If you use buttermilk, omit the vinegar below.)

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup canola oil

1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup cocoa powder, Dutch-processed or regular

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon espresso powder (It’s our secret weapon! When added in small amounts to chocolate baked goods, it brings out their chocolately goodness. It can be found in the coffee aisle of most markets and/or specialty stores. It is different from ground espresso as it dissolves completely in water.)

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line muffin pan with paper or foil liners.

2) Whisk together the soy milk (or whatever you’ve decided to use*) and vinegar in a large bowl, and set aside for a few minutes to curdle. *You’re basically making “buttermilk” so, again, if you decide to use buttermilk, skip the vinegar & this step.

3) Add the sugar, oil, and vanilla extract to the soy milk mixture and beat until foamy.

4) In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and espresso powder. Add in two batches to the wet ingredients and beat until no large lumps remain (a few tiny lumps are okay).

5) Pour into liners, filling three-quarters of the way. Bake 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (we rotated the pans after 13 minutes).

6) Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely before frosting.

Nutella Buttercream Frosting

You don’t have to love Nutella to love this frosting but it’s true, you MUST like a chocolate/hazelnut combo. The frosting is super fluffy & light. The salt is an absolute necessity as it perfectly cuts the sweetness of the Nutella. We use a pastry bag to appropriately gob the frosting on top of each cupcake — and be warned — it’s quite tempting to pile some onto a spoon for eating.  Try to show some restraint, okay?

(Recipe credit: I referenced a few recipes online before mixing & matching & adapting.)

This should frost a layer cake and 12 cupcakes but I usually second guess it and double the recipe (and always end up with leftovers but I’d rather have leftover frosting than be scrambling to make another batch!).

Ingredients

1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup of shortening

2 cups powdered sugar

2/3 cup Nutella (hazelnut spread)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt

2 tablespoons whole milk

1) In a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, shortening and sugar together on low until well combined. Add the Nutella and increase speed to medium. Beat for two minutes.

2) Add the vanilla and salt, beating for an additional 30 seconds.

3) Last, add the milk and continue to beat for about one minute, or until frosting lightens slightly in both color and texture.

4) Frost cupcakes & enjoy. YUM!

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