Healthy fats are my excuse to eat [more] dessert

You see those classy Spongebob liners? Oh yes.

Okayyyy… I lied. I promised you healthy things, but oops oh well! You get cupcakes instead! Life happened and I was notified of a demand for sweet things. And of course, I can always be persuaded to make dessert. Teeheehee. Plenty of time for healthy things later.

Besides, in terms of desserts, these actually aren’t all that bad… perhaps they qualify as a healthyish item? I think so. Whole wheat and a good dose of healthy hazelnut and coconut fats. Plus, they’re vegan! So no pesky saturated fats from butter. And cupcakes are adorable. They’re like tiny cakes, which makes it totally acceptable to eat multiples in one sitting. Especially if the fats are good for you. (I will, apparently, come up with any excuse to eat dessert. Not like this is anything new…)

Life is too short to NOT eat dessert! I’ve decided I need about 5 stomachs to accommodate all the food I want to eat. Desserts included. I need to be like a cow. Except minus the ability to digest grass (they have… what is it… a rumen? to digest grass? I’ll pass on that bit, grass looks unappealing, thank you).

ANYwayyy. Let’s move on, after that semi-awkward tangentially irreverent thought. These cupcakes are fab! And they have nothing to do with cows. They’re full of coconutty goodness, and I highly recommend them. Make them, eat them, love them. Preferably with friends you haven’t seen in ages. Dessert with company is always the best idea :]

mmm, cupcakessss

Vegan Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut-Hazelnut Frosting

Slightly adapted from (Never home)Maker, here! Makes 12 normal-sized cupcakes.

For the cupcakes, acquire:

  • 1.5 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 c sugar (I used half turbinado, half regular granulated)
  • 1/2 c unsweetened, shredded coconut
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 c light coconut  milk
  • 1/3 c canola oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar

For the frosting!

  • 1/4 c light coconut milk
  • 1/2 c Earth Balance (vegan butter)
  • 2 c powdered sugar
  • 1/3 c finely ground hazelnuts (blitz whole ones in the food processor for a bit)
  • 1/2 c unsweetened, shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350, and line a muffin tin/cupcake pan with liners. Or not, depending on your preference.

In a large bowl, sift flour, sugar, baking soda, coconut, and salt. In  a smaller bowl, combine coconut milk, canola oil, and vanilla. Combine wet into dry, stir just to combine. Add apple cider vinegar at the last bit (so that you get max fluffiness out of the cupcakes, when the baking soda reacts with the vinegar). Pour the batter into the prepared cupcake pans, and bake for 20-25 minutes. Mine were done after about 23. They’ll be done when a tester comes out clean.

While the cupcakes are cooling, make your frosting!

In a bowl, combine coconut milk, Earth Balance, and powdered sugar. Use an electric mixer to beat until it reaches frosting consistency, on high speed. Stir in hazelnut and shredded coconut. Frost cupcakes when they’re completely cool! I topped mine with a sprinkle of cocoa powder, which I found to add a nice counterpoint to the sweet frosting.

Eat. Drool. Enjoy your good fats, and revel in the fact that you’re being sneakily healthy :]

Impatience-Free Baking is a virtue

Princess Leia's hair...?

I really do love cooking long and complicated things. I mean, like Austrian pastry complicated status. Something that makes you feel ridiculously accomplished at its completion.

However.

I might, perhaps, love instant gratification just a little bit more. Wouldn’t you rather have a cookie NOW, instead of waiting for the dough to chill for 24 to 48 hours?! Pshhh, I don’t plan that far in advance. I don’t even plan far enough in advance to have the butter softening on the counter. That’s what the microwave is for, jeez. Call me lazy. And I am. But. I make up for it occasionally with really absurdly complicated things…

This is not one of those things. Because let’s be honest, yeast is annoying. I mean, yeast is great when I want to make bread or pizza and I have lots of time and I’ve been thinking about a recipe for a long time. When I want gooey delicious goodness RIGHTNOWINFRONTOFME, it’s not so awesome.

Which is why I turned to this no-rise, no-wait, (nearly) instant gratification recipe for cinnamon rolls. That and because Vacuum Vati LOOOVES cinnamon rolls (like, as much as I LOOOVE chocolate chip cookies. that’s how much). AND because I happened to have all the ingredients handily to hand. AND it [was] the holidays (sorry, this was supposed to be a post around Christmas, oops). But it’s not like it has to be the holidays for you to make these… in fact, so not. Cinnamon rolls never need an excuse. Just like cookies! Wait. Let me clarify. Good food that makes you happy NEVER needs an excuse. Especially when you eat it with people who make you happy. Especially when there is no waiting involved. Even better!

gooey deliciousness

Impatience-Free Cinnamon Rolls

From the Dainty Chef, over here!

These are delicious, as a) they’re filled with gooey goodness, but also because b) they have an interesting mix of spices in the filling—cinnamon, cardamom, and allspice. It lends them an unusual taste, a nice change from standard cinnamon rolls.

For the dough:

  • 3/4 c low fat cottage cheese
  • 1/3 c low fat buttermilk
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2.25 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the gooey delicious goodness:

  • 2/3 c brown sugar
  • 3/4 oz (1.5 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
such an adorable little spiral... soon to be decorating my stomach.

Preheat the oven to 400.

In a food processor, combine cottage cheese, buttermilk, sugar, melted butter, and vanilla, pulsing until smooth. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and pulse just until the dough clumps together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead several times. Roll it out into a faintly rectangular shape… mine was a bit lopsided, although that turned out fine, as it made for varying roll sizes (nice for my family, and for Vacuum Vati, who got the big ones).

Combine the filling ingredients in a small bowl (brown sugar and spices). Brush the dough with the 1.5 tbsp of melted butter, leaving a small border. Press the sugar-spice filling into the dough, evenly covering the whole surface. Starting at the long edge, roll the dough into a log. Pinch the seam, but leave the ends open.

Using a sharp knife, cut the rolls into equal pieces. Mine fit perfectly into a standard loaf pan, but if you have fatter rolls, an 8″ square cake pan works just as well. They should fill the pan, but small gaps are okay. Bake for about 20-22 minutes (I took mine out at 20, and they had a perfectly gooey interior).

I frosted mine (because, seriously, cinnamon rolls are SO NOT complete without frosting) with the frosting/glaze that I use for Crazy Chocolate cake. I never measure, but it’s essentially powdered sugar, Earth Balance spread, and vanilla extract. Mix like crazy until you have the taste/consistency you want… and swipe over your cinna-rolls when they’re still slightly warm. The glaze will harden as it cools.

Drool. Eat. Gloat, since you only had to wait a little while for the oooewygooeydeliciousness to appear in front of you.

I do apologize for the glut of dessert recipes recently… I promise something healthy… soon! Ish. We’ll get there. Eventually…

Cookies are not structurally-sound building materials (sadly)…

mmm...

Wait… are those…?!

COOKIESSSS!!!

I dare you to NOT drool over these.

Even after the glut of holiday treats, why not have oneeee teensy cookie more? (Meeester Creeasote?! hehehee) It’s still New Year’s Day, after all, and as the Rose Parade isn’t until tomorrow, that kind of makes tomorrow New Year’s too. Ish. Enough that I can say it is, and eat holiday cookies. And really, chocolate chip cookies are my ideal way to ring in the new year. They go with champagne, right?! And if I eat them for New Year’s, along with my black-eyed peas and cabbage, doesn’t that mean I’ll have lots of chippies in the coming year? I hope so.

Besides, if I can drool over these, so can you. We know I’m the ludicrously picky chippy cookie-snob, the one who will only eat chocolate chip cookies that conform to my exacting specifications. Which is why I usually end up at my favorite bakery, rather than making my own (instant gratification has nothing to do with it, oh no, of course not). But THESE.

coooookies

These actually are deeeelicious. Not exactly to my bakery specifications, but delicious enough that I inhaled two fresh off the cooling rack (cooling? psh. Cookies don’t need to cool. Cooling racks are more like the cookie-waiting-to-be-eaten holding area). I would definitely make these again, which is saying quite a bit coming from me. They are perfectly crispy on the edges, with a chewy, vanilla-y middle. They do have a really pronounced vanilla flavor, which I (and Vacuum Vati) love. The only way they could be more perfect is if they were a bit fatter… they flattened out just a bit as they cooled. Not that this stopped me from eating them, clearly. Don’t let it deter you…

these are about to get up close and personal with my tummy gremlins

Crispy-Chewy Chocolate Chippies

Adapted from Full Circle Foodie, here!

I probably got about 30 cookies, most a few inches across, and several that were *ahem* larger (I may have eaten those myself. Shhh, don’t tell. Another picky specification: cookies are supposed to be BIG).

Rummage in your pantry for the following:

  • 2 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 tsp  baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 c unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 c brown sugar, packed*
  • 1/2 c white sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 c chocolate chippies!**

*I left the sugar content as is in these, since brown sugar is what makes them chewy. However… for a second batch, I think I would play with reducing sugar, like in  my other recipes. Though I like deadly sweet (occasionally), I’ve come to prefer less sweet versions. Likely the sugar could be cut by about 1/4 without effect. Oops, oh well, I guess I have an excuse to make another batch…

**I also prefer a higher cookie to chocolate ratio in my cookies, so I cut the chocolate by half. Up to you, whatever floats your cookie boat!

This is like the Isengard of cookies (only not evil)

Preheat the oven to 325, and line your cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Sift flour, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. In a mediumish bowl, whisk together melted butter and sugars until fluffy (no stand mixers allowed for this recipe! Use it as a bicep workout). Add in whole egg, yolk, and vanilla, and whisk until your arm falls off. Fold into dry ingredients, as well as choc chippies. Drop by one-inch ish scoop for smallish cookies, or fatty scoops like mine for bigger ones. Or a combo. Like I said, whatever makes your cookie float! (in milk, ha)

Bake for about 14 to 16 minutes. Mine were about 14 for the smaller ones, 16 for the larger ones. Let cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheets, and then transfer to the cookie holding area (as in, those waiting to be discreetly scarfed on the way through the kitchen).

Eat, and relish the fact that not only will you have good luck in the New Year (thanks to my Southern roots: black-eyed peas and cabbage), but that my future will be rife with cookies. Can’t ask for a better 2012 than that. Wait… are those…?! :]

playing with my food?! nahhhh...
heheh whoops... Isengard was apparently not seismically sound...

Tart-tastic Antioxidants!

mmm, antioxidants!

I’m feeling less than creatively humorous today…It must be on account of all of the holiday sweets I’ve been consuming lately. Oops. Whatever, that’s not stopped me from baking like a crazy! Really, does anything ever stop me? … Correct answer: No.

BUT.

Bring on the healthy (ish) dessert! I win, I win!! Delicious AND nutritious (or hey, I can at least tell myself that, right?!). I sort of needed a break from all of the layer cakes. A short break, mind you, but a break none the less. In comes the tart! This tart is sort of a combination of a rice pudding and a tart crust, but it’s vegan! Which is awesome, as I’d like to get into more vegan baking (I find it intriguing). Besides, I LOVE rice pudding, and this definitely qualifies. It’s also really akin to a sticky rice dessert, which I ALSO LOVE (are we seeing a trend here?!), which therefore also makes it delicious.

On the nutritious side, it has a mostly minimal amount of fat in it—coconut oil is good for you, anyway! It also is made with black rice (sometimes known as Forbidden Rice, as only the emperor of China was allowed to eat it for the benefit of his longevity), which has more of the antioxidant antohcyanin than blueberries! It’s high in fiber, iron, and an excellent source of minerals. AND Kind of can’t go wrong, when I’m eating antioxidants for dessert! No wonder the emperor was so protective of his rice. But the common people have it now, so ha! Besides all that, it is a gorgeous purple color. Which makes my eyes AND my stomach happy. Everyone wins. Including the gremlins that hang out in my stomach, as we know they loooove color.

But wait. There is even more nutritionalness to be found in this dessert! The crust is made with whole grains and cashews (which contain the same oleic acid–monounsaturated fatty acid found in olive oil), and coconut oil, which is insanely good for you (the lauric acid is an antioxidant, among a million other things).

Okaaayyy. Enough with the nutrition lesson. I just really had to convince you how good this is for you… so that you’ll go home and make it. It’s fab, you won’t regret it. And then eat a slice. Or two. Or five. And revel in the fact that you’re making your body happy! It will thank you later :)

mmm, antioxidants

Black Rice Tart

From NeverHomeMaker, original here! (and their blog is fab, check it out!). Makes one tart.

For the crust:

  • 1/3 c raw cashews
  • 1/2 c rolled oats
  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 c coconut oil (because it’s good for youuu!)
  • 1/8 tsp/a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp lavender (we grow our own)
  • 1 tsp vanilla

For the sticky rice

  • 2 c water
  • 1 c black rice, uncooked
  • 1/3 c maple syrup
  • 1 can of coconut milk (I used light from Trader Joe’s and it turned out fine!)
  • 1/3 c unsweetened coconut flakes

Whatcha do!

Preheat the oven to 325, and lightly grease a tart pan (or a pie dish—my tart pan is in Salem, so that’s what I used).

In a food processor, process the cashews and 1/4 c rolled oats until finely ground. Add the rest of the oats, lavender and salt, pulsing to combine. I left some slightly larger chunks. Pour into a medium sized bowl and set aside. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the coconut oil. Once melted, stir in vanilla and brown sugar, and simmer over a low flame for 2 to 3 minutes. Mine looked weirdly separated/congealed, but turned out fine. Pour the hot syrup over the dry ingredients, and combine thoroughly. Press the crust into your pan of choice, making sure to cover the bottom and go up the sides a ways. Bake for 5 minutes, then let cool. When cool enough, let it set in the refrigerator.

While the crust is cooling, start the water for the rice. When it boils, add rice, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes, until all the water is absorbed. Add coconut milk, maple syrup, and coconut flakes, and continue to cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes more. I stirred continuously (it makes for meditative thinking time, hehe), but I’m not entirely sure this is necessary—occasional stirring would likely be okay. Transfer the pudding to a bowl, and let cool. Chill briefly in the fridge before using. Once chilled, pour the pudding into the tart shell, and chill until serving. I topped mine with more shredded coconut.

It was deeeelicous! Mine had a little trouble coming out of the dish cleanly—my crust was rather sticky. Next time… more coconut oil to grease the dish. It was a bit more like a crumble than a tart slice, but ridiculously tasty nonetheless, so I wasn’t complaining ;)

The Siren Song of Dead Bananas

mmm, buttercream!

Hmmp. Tis the season, indeed.

FOR CAKE! Ha. Prepare yourself. This is only cake one of two. For now, anyway. One never can tell in this household. Wait. Let’s be real. It’s ALWAYS the season for cake! But I have more of an excuse now, hooray! Hehe.

Anyway. This cake was supposed to be the dessert for company, but I decided to make it early, because hey, why have one cake when I can have two?! So there you have it. Cake greed and several dead-ish looking bananas won out. Totally not my fault—those bananas were singing their siren song from the counter, looking all dejected and spotty. Like, “Come over and eeeeeaaaat meeeeeeee, I am tastyyyyyyy and fermentedddd!” Well actually, if a banana said that to me, I would a) run screaming out of the house, and b)…yeah. Run screaming. Anyway, these particular bananas didn’t speak to me, thankfully, but notified me via their spottiness that they would prefer to hang with some buttercream in a cake.  Of course they would want to go in a cake! I mean, I could have made banana bread, but psshhh really? Why make banana bread when the holiday season gives me the excuse to cover everything that comes out of my oven in buttercream?

omnomnom

See? Cake.

This particular one was delicious to the max. Banana cardamom for the cake (I love banana cake already, so it wasn’t exactly a hard sell), with browned butter buttercream. WHaaaaattt. Browned butter makes everything so much better. Because there were only three of us, I decided to make a baby cake! I made half the batch, and then used a glass to cut out three layers from the 9″ cake pan… which of course left cake scraps to be eaten, yesssss! It was adorable, if I do say so. AND delicious. AND I’m on cake-making duty this Wednesday, which is excellent as this one is tragically gone.The more, the merrier!

Banana Cardamom Cake with Browned Butter Buttercream

Adapted from here! I’m including the full recipe; however, if you want a baby, halvsies cake, make half the cake and half the frosting. I had more than enough to frost the cute little three layer cake, plus the leftover cake pieces.

Cake!

  • 2 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom (I might play with adding more, next time—I felt the flavor could have been more pronounced)
  • 1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
  • scant 1/2 c brown sugar, loose (not packed)
  • 3/4 c granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 c greek yogurt (I used nonfat)
  • 2 c mashed ripe bananas, about 5ish, depending on the size
  • toasted cashews, for garnish (or, if you like nuts in your cake, you can add them to the batter… I don’t, so I left them out)

Frostinggggg!

  • 3/4 c unsalted butter
  • 3 c powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4-6 tbsp milk (I used 1%)
baby cake!

Preheat your oven to 350. Grease and flour your pans of choice, (it would be two 8 or 9″ for a two layer, full recipe), and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Whisk together dry ingredients: flour, salt, baking soda, and cardamom. In a large bowl, cream butter until smooth. Beat in sugars until light in color and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla, then yogurt, and then mashed bananas. Without throwing flour everywhere, add in dry ingredients and beat until incorporated. Divide the batter evenly between your prepared pans, and bake for 25-35 minutes. Mine was done more around the 35 minute mark, as it’s dense cake. It wasn’t dry at all though—just perfectly done just shy of 35. Let cool in the pan for 10ish minutes, and then turn out onto cooling racks.

While the cake is cooling, brown the butter in a medium saucepan. You’ll know it’s browning, as it starts to turn to an amber color, and smells FANTASTIC. When it’s finished, pour it into the bowl you’re using for frosting—this keeps it from cooking too much more and burning. Whisk in sugar, vanilla, and 3 tbsp of milk, until smooth. Gradually beat in enough milk to take it to a buttercream texture (you’ll know when it gets there—it’s lots thicker and spreadable). Frost cake when its completely cool. Garnish with toasted cashews and enjoy indulging :) Tis the season!

Squash-Powered Cat

butternuttttt

So I really wasn’t planning on blogging about these pancakes. I mean, laziness and whatnot took over, and I was going to blow it off. BUT THEN. Semi-epic things happened, and I changed my mind.

As in, I have discovered that my cat is squash-powered. He prefers butternut.

There I was, casually opening the can of butternut squash, when Nosh (my Maine Coon goofball) comes sauntering over, looking decidedly interested in what I was doing. I looked down at him. He looked wide-eyed and cutely up at me. I said, “Surely you can’t be interested in eating this…”. He continued looking up at me, with a totally clear agenda. Whatever, I said. I let him sniff the can… and then went on with what I was doing. He kept watching. At which point I spasmodically dropped a spoon on the floor (the spoon covered in squash puree). I picked up the spoon and pointed out the squash on the floor to Nosh… who quickly trotted over and ATE. IT. ALL.

What?!

Since when do cats like squash?! But wait. It gets better.

Nosh is on the right. Jessie apparently wasn't interested in the squash...

Mom had gotten involved… and kept feeding him little bits of puree out of the bowl. (Which he ate. All of it) By this point, I’d finished at least a few pancakes, and since one was a total flip-fail (as in, it semi-splattered all over the pan…), we decided to feed it to him and see if he liked it (Keep in mind, my cats don’t normally get people food… excepting the odd bit of fish, they don’t eat much of what we do, which makes this SUPER WEIRD) (They did have a weird incident with refried beans, ages ago—perhaps they just like things in cans?!). Nosh proceeded to eat a pancake… and a half. Probably. I lost track, but what?! He’s obviously my cat, if he likes pancakes that much, hehehhe :]

Squash powered cat?!

Anyway, these pancakes were deeeelicious. They were originally supposed to be pumpkin, but the pumpkin we had wasn’t good anymore, so butternut happened. Much to the delight of Nosh, apparently. Who then proceeded to take a massive catnap (and by massive, I’m refering to the fact that when he sleeps, Nosh acts like one of those inflating sponges that you soak in water. Get up for two seconds, and good luck getting your spot back from the amazing expanding wonder!), and sleep off all he ate. And dream, too, with lots of chewing. I bet he was eating squash in his sleep! heeehe.

Pancake Cairn!

Butternut Squash Pancakes

Adapted from the Betty’s Diner Pumpkin Pancake recipe

  • 1.25 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 3/4 c butternut squash puree
  • 1 c 1% milk or your fave nondairy
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Combine flour, spices, salt, and baking powder. In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, squash puree, sugar and egg yolks. Add liquid to dry all at once and stir to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk egg whites until foamy or until your arm falls off. Fold into the batter. Do the pancake dance. Eat. Feed to your cat and watch him dream about them later :]

butternuts are rather awkward squash

Cleverly Averted Cornbread Fail

no, this is not *just* cornbread...

Cornbread is a hot commodity in this house. Like, better eat it while you can, before it gets sucked down into someone’s stomach (perhaps the resident vacuum cleaner, Vati?!). And by this house, I mean home home! As in, not Salem. Someoneeeee is home for the holidays, hoorayyy! Time for hopefully epic holiday eating, which translates to epic holiday blog fodder. Everyone wins :]

Anyway. Where I was going with this whole cornbread biz. Last night, to accompany tree-decorating, we decided on chili and cornbread (Because one without the other is clearly sacrilege). Cornbread is the first thing I remember learning to make, so I have rather a fondness for it…and besides. It’s delicious. So I got busily to work on the cornbready goodness…measuring here, whisking there… and into the oven it went. Simple pimple, right?

So not.

Twenty minutes later, I took it out. There appeared to be a number of things wrong with it. It was brown. This is a crime. Cornbread should not be brown on the bottom. Lightly golden, yes. Brown? NO. Borderline burnt? Absolutely NOT. Strike one. Second. It didn’t SMELL like cornbread. Which is not necessarily a deal breaker, but tipped me off there might be something funky with this particular batch. Strike two. Thirdly. I tasted it.

EW.

Blandest, most boring cornbread everrrr. Apparently I left something out?! Because I’ve made this same recipe with the SAME ingredients before, and it was mega tasty. Oops. Strike mega-three. After mutti and vati also tasted it and we all decided that it was not a fit partner for chili, I decided to make another batch (different recipe—I was too irritated at the last one). I really didn’t want to compost the last batch though—it felt wasteful, and I’m obviously not one to throw out food. So instead… I had a brilliant (if I do say so) idea to make it into a sort of cornbread-bread pudding, like for a breakfasty type dish! Huzzah, for frugality! AND. I winged it. But it was super tasty—Vati the Vacuum (hehhe) had two slices for breakfast. It’s lightly sweet but not overly so, and nice and corny—tasty with a drizzly of maple syrup.

Besides, I was quite proud of neatly averting a cornbread crisis… with the creation of some awkward cornbread pudding!

Natural light! Hooorayy, California!

Awkward Cornbread Pudding

Adapted from… the jungle of my brain. Makes one 8 by 8 pan.

For the cornbread: I used a failed version (obviously), but I’m sure normal cornbread would work too, you might just want to reduce the sugar. Mine was originally sweetened with a scant 1/4 c honey. Use your favorite, and adjust sweetness to taste. For a dessertier bread pudding-type, I would use cornbread that is already on the sweet side.

  • 1 8 by 8 pan of cornbread, cut into 1/2″ chunks. Use mostly the soft middle, and some of the crust for texture
  • 2 eggs
  • 1.5 c 1% milk, or non-dairy sub of choice
  • a good slug of cinnamon
  • a few grinds of fresh nutmeg
  • brown sugar to taste (I used somewhere around a heaping tablespoon, perhaps a bit more)
  • 1-2 tsp turbinado sugar
mmm, maple

Preheat the oven to 350.

Place chunks of cornbread into a lightly greased 8 by 8 pan. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour the liquid over the cornbread in the pan, making sure to even distribute it. Sprinkle your desired amount of brown sugar evenly over the surface of the cornbread, and then use a fork to turn it under, and completely saturate the cubes of bread in the milk mixture. Sprinkle turbinado over the top (creating a yummy crust-type thing). Bake for just about 25 minutes, until custard is set, and a tester comes out clean. You shouldn’t see too much really liquidy/mushy business in the pan, but it also shouldn’t be too dry (you don’t want dry custard, ewww). Keep in mind that it’ll set up a bit when it cools in the pan. Just about 25 minutes should do it.

Eat. Preferably for breakfast, with maple syrup. MMmmmm… And revel in your cleverly averted cornbread fail.

I apologize for the slight overexposure... I was way excited to have natural light in which to photograph. Thanks, Oregon. NOT.

Operation Release the Tart!

Finals?

What finals?

I’ve come to the conclusion (through careful analysis and methodological research) that I spend far more time baking, cooking, and planing what I’m going to bake and cook than I do actually studying. Oops. Whatever, I did well on my finals, so there! Besides, at least I know where my priorities are… food. And prohibitively (or not…apparently this isn’t stopping me) expensive active wear. As a close friend pointed out, I have been known to drop semi-ridiculous amounts on a pair of yoga pants, but there is no way on this earth that I would ever spend that same amount on a pair of jeans. Ha. Like I said, I have my priorities.

Anyway. To illustrate this ridiculousness (no, not the yoga pants…anyone who sees me on a regular basis is fully aware that they comprise a good 75% of my wardrobe), I’ll give you the example of *the * tart. I’ve been eyeing my tart pan with a removable bottom (a genius invention, might I add) for about three months. And thinking about it, likely when I should have been paying attention to some theory or other. Thusly: Kira and I stumbled upon a tart in my La Boulange cookbook, that combined several of our favorite ingredients, and which looked like it could fly us to gastronomical heaven in about one bite.

gorgey dough

So. On Sunday, when we went grocery shopping, we bought the necessaries… goat cheese… creme fraiche… mushrooms… and BUTTER. (and hilariously ran into my painting professor, who then subsequently remembered that I bought creme fraiche, and asked  me if I was eating my way through the store. Duh. What on earth would I be doing instead?!) I have spent ALL WEEK up until today greedily awaiting the tart to be, to the point of pretending it was Thursday (aka Tart-Day), so I could make it earlier. But… I waited! Aren’t you proud? I satisfied myself with making the dough yesterday, so I could pretend to do something useful and productive besides studying. I did this after going to happy hour at the Wild Pear for a Peartini… And then I made dinner. And then I was tired, so I went to bed. Hmm. Being a senior is mildly exhausting. Teehee.

ANYWAYYY. I digress. Today was THURSDAY! TART DAY! The day I’ve been waiting for alllllll week, since my finals/semester is donezies (wheee!), and I got to make and eat this fab tart. And it was fab, believe me… Kira can attest, since after we ate it, we had to do some serious lying on the floor working on digesting. It was that good. I mean, I know it sounds a little sketchy, but just trust me. Such a gastronomical tasty win. Even better: We have TWO tupperwares of leftovers. Hellooooo, cold tart. Mmmm, you are going to be so delicious when I eat you. For every meal. Until you’re gone. At which point I will be terribly sad but probably also day-dreaming about the next gastronomical adventure. I’m just fickle like that.

creme fraiche is a beautiful thing

Tarte aux Champignons et Fromage de Chevre

From The American Boulangerie Cookbook. Makes… one tart, in an 11″ tart pan (or you could make smaller ones).

I found it easier to make the dough the night before, and then roll it out and put in the pan, so that it was ready to fill the night we wanted to eat it. Makes the dinner a little simpler.

Pate Brisee

  • 2.5 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 5 oz (10 tbsp) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4″ chunks (I happened to use sweet cream butter and it was still amazing—it was what we had around)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 c cold water
  • 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice

In the bowl of a standmixer (hello Kitchenaide I LOVE YOU!) fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour and salt. Add cold butter and mix on low speed, until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs (1-1.5 minutes). Add egg, cold water, and lemon juice, and mix until large lumps form. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead with the heel of your hand until the dough holds together. Shape it into a disc, and wrap it in plastic wrap (I stuck in a plastic bag). Refrigerate for at least and hour or overnight. I did mine for an hour and then rolled it out.

On  lightly floured work surface, roll out chilled dough (this is probably sacrilegious to the baking gods, but I zapped mine in the microwave next to a bowl of water for 15 seconds, to get it a little less dry to roll out. It seemed to work, and didn’t compromise the flakiness of the dough later). Try to roll it out to about 1/8″ thickness, and carefully transfer to the tart pan. Remove excess, and prick the bottom with a fork. Cover with foil or plastic, and refrigerate for an hour or overnight (mine was overnight).

The TART!

  • 1 pound mushrooms (we used half cremini and half white button)
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 c creme fraiche
  • 8 oz log of goat cheese, cut crosswise into 1/4″ rounds (ish, mine were inexact) (we also used a honey chevre, which was aaaaa-mazing)
  • 1 chilled, unbaked tart shell

Slice the mushrooms, reserving the 12 prettiest slices for a garnish. In a large saute pan, melt butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute mushrooms until they render their juices, and then until most of the juice is absorbed. Ours had a bit too much juice, so we drained them prior to use. Season with salt and pepper and let cool.

Preheat the oven to 425. Spread 1/2 c of creme fraiche into the bottom of the chilled tart shell. Top it with sauteed mushrooms, and then with the goat cheese rounds. Garnish with the reserved mushroom slices, and then dollop (what a great word) the tart with the remaining 1/4 c of creme fraiche. Bake immediately until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling, 25-30 minutes (ours was more like 30). Let cool in the pan, on a wire rack (do not attempt to release the tart while it’s still hot… it’s a bit difficult, and may require 2 people…) (whatever. we were hungry). Serve with salad and bread, mmmmm.

I am DEFINITELY making this again. As soon as I get my hands on more goat cheese.

it kind of looks like pizza. believe me, it's not.

Close encounters of the Leek-kind

I think Salem might finally be getting out of its RIDICULOUSLY cold weather funk, hooray! I’ve scraped ice off my car before class for the last three days, but it’s lookin’ like a squeegee (that is such a great word) might suffice today. Thankfully. I mean, as much as I like treating ice scraping as a bonus early-morning workout, I’d really rather pass, thanks. Because ice in the uggs is no fun. And because when I’m trying to listen to the radio on  my way to class and the antenna is trapped in its little frozen antenna house, due to sub-artic conditions of 29 degrees, I am not a very happy camper. Although it did make me giggle, I have to say, when I heard this weird noise and turned around to see the antenna trying to fight its way up to the light and majorly struggling. We got there in the end, thankfully… Toots and I ventured out into the freezing fog, and my heater kicked in just as I was pulling into the parking lot at school. Psh. Fail.

Whatever. All this cold weather makes me want to stay inside and cook tasty things (not like I really need an excuse for this, do I?! I think I cook more than I do homework) (But a girl has to eat, RIGHT?! At least I’m doing something productive). When Kira and I were at Trader Joe’s on Sunday, we encountered LEEKS! Which is awesome. Leek is such a funny name for a veggie. I just like the way the word looks, leek leek leek leeeeeek! It’s just fun. Call me crazy, but whatever. Besides, they’re really a hilariously awkward looking veggie. I’ve never dealt with a leek up close and personal, but I’ve eaten them in soup. Which is delicious. But since we had soup at the end of last week, I wasn’t feeling super soupy… AND there was an abundance of quinoa lurking in the cabinet, clamoring to be eaten.

Close encounters of the leek-kind

So now, I can cross dealing with leeks off my to-do list (because you know it was on there, right?!)… thanks to these quinoa-leek cakes! Kira and I had them with salad for din din last night, and they were leekily delicious.

Quinoa Cakes with Leeks and Corn

Loosely adapted from Annie’s Eats, kind of. Makes 13 small cakes, about 3″ in diameter. Or you could make enormous patties…

Procure:

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and cooked
  • 1 leek! Cleaned, with the green bit removed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 c grated Parmesan, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 slice whole wheat bread, made into crumbs
  • Frozen corn (or fresh, if you’re lucky)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 garlic hunk (equal to one clove, I use the frozen ones from TJ’s, because they’re mess free and awesome)
  • pepper to taste

To start… Cook the quinoa! Combine 1 cup of quinoa and and 2 cups of water, bring to a boil and then simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.

In the meantime, clean the leeks! Cut off the root end and the really green bits (those are bitter and woody, you don’t want them), and then slice and dice the leeks into little bitty pieces. Put them in a bowl full of water and swish them around, to get all the grime out (this is also why you buy organic!), then drain them through a collander. Kira and I sauteed them in a bit of olive oil, and the garlic clove. Set aside until cool.

When quinoa and leeks are cool: In a large bowl, combine quinoa, leeks, eggs (lightly beaten), parmesan, corn, salt, pepper, and the crumbled slice of whole wheat bread. Form into patties, and cook until they are browned and hold together, about 5 minutes. Serve sprinkled with extra parmesan, and with a side salad :)

***Note: We both found these to be a bit on the bland side. Next time I make them (and believe me, there WILL be a next time, they were super tasty), I think I might experiment with adding some spice of some sort, like cumin (pairs well with parmesan), or something of that sort. At least more salt needs to happen, but I also think they could use a bit more flavor. We also did half our batch with corn, and loved it—next time corn is going in the whole shebang. Kira and I were also postulating that the addition of chicken sausage would be good—it would provide the saltiness/flavor that these lacked.

Quinoa up close and personal
this is what happens when you're hungry and your food is hot. steamy lens!

Umpteen zillion ripe pears, and what to do about it.

Before I start, I just want to share this:

sad.

There is a disturbing lack of food in here… particularly veggies. Except the emptiness kind of makes me giggle… and makes me proud! No wasted food over the vacation to be found here. This, however, has been semi-rectified, and the Nerdaerie fridge looks a tad happier now. By the way, Nerdaerie is Kira’s and my nickname for our apartment… get it? We’re nerdy. We live on the second floor, like an nest or aerie of smarty eagles. Because eagles are smart. And we’re smart. And nerdy. And awesome :)

Whilst I was home, I of course had to do something besides bake pumpkin biscuits. Besides, what else was I going to do with umpteen fifty-zillion over-ripeish pears, and a new convection oven?! How can you resist? Answer: you can’t. I had to break the oven in somehow, right? Right. And the holidays = baking. Well, really anytime = baking, but that’s just a small technicality I’m willing to overlook.

mmmm, umpteen ripe pears!

So. I ended up using the remaining bits of flour (just enough, but I was SO NOT going to brave the madness that is Whole Foods at any time during the holidays. No cart roller derby for me, thanks… I really don’t prefer having to throw an elbow just to get to the broccoli) to make a cake! With pears. And chocolate. And things we already had lying around the house. Because THEN, Mutti, Vati and I could sit around and eat cake and watch the Civil War (Are YOU Duck enough?!). Because, as Vati so rightly said, all bets are off on game-day. One slice of cake per quarter? Done. And oops. We ate half the cake in one sitting. Whoopsie! Good thing it has fruit and is therefore good for me.

This cake is delicious. It’s not too sweet, with just the right balance of chocolate, fruit, and lightly sweet batter. Oh yeah. It goes perfectly with that leftover Fra Angelico spiked whipped cream you have sitting in the fridge. Because everyone knows that pear and hazelnut are a match made in heaven. Add in chocolate, and you can forget about eating anything else the rest of the day. Unless of course you’re Vati, in which case apparently beer is a nice accompaniment. But you’ll have to ask him about that one…Maybe I should have made him some beer spiked cream! Ew. No. We’re not even going to try to go there!

ANYwayyy, back to the cake!

Pear Cake with Dark and Semi-Sweet Chocolate

Adapted from The Pastry Affair, here!

  • 1 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 tbsp (half a stick) of unsalted butter
  • 4 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 c turbinado sugar
  • 4 or 5 smallish pears, diced, skin on
  • 3/4 chocolate pieces (I used about 1/2 semisweet choc chippies and 1/2 70% dark chocolate bar, chopped)

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9″ or 10″ springform pan (mine was 10″).

Combine flour and baking powder in a bowl. Set aside.

Begin by browning your butter. Over low heat, melt the butter until it begins to foam up. Scrape the little bits off the bottom of the pan as you go. Watch it closely, since it burns quickly. When it’s finished, pour into a separate bowl to keep it from cooking.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs using an electric mixer. Beat until light, foamy and thick, about 8 minutes. Add sugar, and keep beating for a few minutes. Turn the mixer to low, and add about a third of the dry ingredients. Then add half the butter, then another third flour, then the rest of the butter. Add the last third of flour, and then the applesauce. Continue beating until incorporated, but avoid overworking the eggs, and stop when things are just mixed.

Pour batter into the pan, and top with diced pears and chocolate. The batter will creep up as it bakes. Bake for 40-50 minutes (mine was perfectly done at 40, but it was also thinner in a larger pan), or until a tester comes out clean.

Scarf, whilst watching the ducks do a dance on the beavers. buahahhha. Live green, yell o! (and yes, I do go to Willamette, but Oregon will always be my adopted school)

oops. Half of it mysteriously disappeared somewhere...