Sunday, April 26, 2015

Vegan Doughnut Muffins

Some of you may remember my post a while back about Muffin Monday -- I have been keeping up with my commitment to this weekly work "holiday," bringing in freshly-baked treats to the office nearly every Monday morning this past fall and winter.  I've decided, however, that Muffin Monday needs to take a hiatus for the spring and summer; what better way to celebrate the "season finale" of Muffin Monday, than with Vegan Doughnut Muffins!?

Have any of you discovered the doughnut muffin fad as of late?  I've seen more than a few recipes pop up here and there, and have noticed doughnut muffins on the menu at a few area cafes and coffee shops.  I began experimenting with doughnut muffins around the holidays, when I stumbled into a recipe for Eggnog Doughnut Muffins from The Kitchn, and am hooked!  Why go through all the trouble of frying up doughnuts, when you can bake up muffins that are just as good?  (And arguably, a titch healthier?)

I clearly eat my fair share of dairy and eggs; why vegan doughnut muffins, you ask?  Well, I recently learned one of my coworkers is vegan, and therefore, I have been harkening back to my vegan baking days so everyone can enjoy the treats I bring to share.  Thanks to King Arthur Flour, (my new favorite go-to source for any new-to-me baking recipe,) I had a grand recipe with which to start.  Veganizing these doughnut muffins seemed like a snap -- swap in some Ener-G for a couple of eggs, Earth Balance for butter, plant milk for whole milk, and ta-da!  Vegan Doughnut Muffins for the masses!

The recipe was relatively simple to prepare, used nearly all pantry staples, and is downright fabulous.  Moist, tender, subtly-spiced cakey muffins dunked in melted Earth Balance and cinnamon sugar ... I'm trying my darnedest to not eat the ENTIRE batch tonight!  I can't WAIT to bring these to work to share tomorrow morning!!

Vegan Doughnut Muffins
makes 12 to 15

2 2/3 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp Penzey's Cake Spice (or nutmeg, cinnamon, whatever warm spices you like)
1/4 c Earth Balance, softened
1/4 c canola oil
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/3 c brown sugar
1 tbsp Ener-G egg replacer whipped with 1/4 c warm water
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c light coconut milk (the kind that usually comes in a can -- not coconut milk beverage)
1/2 c unsweetened almond milk (either plain or vanilla)
3 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp melted Earth Balance

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place paper liners in muffin tins.
2. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spice in a medium bowl and whisk until well-combined.
3. Using an electric mixer, beat together the Earth Balance, oil, and sugars in a large bowl until creamed.  Beat in the prepared Ener-G and vanilla until smooth.
4. Combine the milks in a glass measuring cup or small bowl.
5. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the Earth Balance mixture, beating until smooth, then add half the milk, half the remaining flour, the rest of the milk, then the rest of the flour, beating until smooth after each addition.
6. Scoop dough into prepared muffin tins.  (I love using my #16 disher for this task!)  Bake until muffins are domed and spring back when gently pressed, 16 to 18 minutes.  (Muffins may not brown much ... that's ok.)  Transfer the muffins to a wire rack to cool slightly.
7. Combine the remaining sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.  Brush the tops of each muffin with the melted Earth Balance while still warm, then roll the tops of the muffins in cinnamon-sugar.  Enjoy the muffins while still warm, or cool completely before storing.


Au revoir, Muffin Monday ... until the fall!

Monday, April 20, 2015

springtime sandwich FTW!

Hey hey ... is it spring in your neck of the woods?  While we are expecting a chilly, damp week this week, there are definitely signs ... trees are budding, grass is greening, bulbs are beginning to peek up and open, flowers are blooming!  An early spring in Minnesota is always a welcome treat, as we frequently have cold temperatures (and sometimes snow!) well into the first week of May.  Hooray!

It's entirely possible that the most exciting part of spring, for me, is the return of local, fresh produce. While we still aren't getting much locally grown, (other than some downright glorious, dark-green, Hulk-sized spinach,) one can pick up a bunch or two of California asparagus and dream of delicious things to come, right?

THIS SANDWICH.  I forget where I originally got the idea for this sandwich, (maybe The Kitchn?), but I don't even care -- I don't really even like sandwiches all that much, and I can't get enough!  Crusty, toasted bread, asparagus, hard-cooked egg ... what's not to like?  I believe the original article suggested making this sandwich on a length of baguette, but I have been loving these mini-stirato that I have picked up from the co-op bakery ... they are just the right size and shape for hollowing-out, toasting, and stuffing full of springtime goodness.

P.S. This sandwich is yet another way for me to use up the vast quantity of pickled onions I canned last summer.  Springtime sandwich FTW!

Springtime Sandwich
serves 1

Crusty bread, hollowed out and toasted
Olive oil
Roasted asparagus
Sliced, hard-cooked egg
Pickled red onion

1. Assemble sandwich: spread one half of the toasted bread with mustard, drizzle the other half with olive oil.  Stuff full of delicious ingredients.  Squeeze on a little lemon.
2. Devour.

I hear this sandwich keeps well, but, really ... why would you want to wait to eat something so delicious?


How have you been enjoying spring produce?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

THE pita pizza

So ... I haven't blogged in 3 1/2 months.  Sorry!  I have no real, solid excuse ... just lots of little, mini-excuses.  :)  They are, but not limited to ...

I haven't been cooking much of anything terribly interesting for the past 3 1/2 months.

Really, I haven't been cooking much of anything.

My ancient Canon point-and-shoot is pretty much dead ... the iPhone does ok, but just ok.  :)

Until we sprung the clocks ahead a bit ago, it was usually dark at dinnertime.  (Thus ... crappy photos.)

I've been busy knitting.  (And hanging with friends.  And working.  And doing yoga.  And watching "New Girl."  And other stuff.)

You know, same old, same old.  :)

Forgive me?

I figured it was about time I tried to get back into this food blogging thing again, and what better way than to introduce you to a meal I have been obsessed with for, oh, the past eight months?

THE pita pizza.

Now, we all get in food ruts, right?  Meals we eat over and over and over and over and over and over again, (ahem, 2 - 5 times a week for eight months straight,) because they are simple, because they are mostly healthy, because they are economical, because we can eat them straight out of the pot/straight off the cutting board, because we LOVE them.  Right?  We try variations on our food rut, always to be slightly disappointed, and return to our original.  The favorite.  The bestest.

This is one of those meals at my house, people.  In a bad, bad way.

But if this pita pizza is bad, I don't wanna be good.  :)

THE Pita Pizza
serves: 1

1 whole-wheat pita
extra-virgin olive oil
shredded mozzarella
sliced pickled banana peppers (pepperoncini would also be excellent) - homemade if possible
sliced/diced pickled roasted red bell pepper - homemade if possible
sliced green olives
crumbled feta

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat.
2. Assemble pizza.
3. Bake, until the pita is crispy and the cheese is beginning to brown.
4. Allow pizza to rest for a few minutes before slicing and devouring.


So, what food ruts have you been in?  For how long?  I challenge you, food bloggers of the world -- post about your food ruts!  It's liberating.  ;)

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Hoppin' John

Happy New Year!  I can't tell you how much I was looking forward to wrapping up 2014 -- the past year was filled with incredible, unexpected stress, pain, loss, grief, transition, and finally healing for me, but still ... it really was a pretty long, difficult year.  Beginning at the end of November, all I felt like doing was fast-forwarding through the holidays and beginning anew.

(Don't get me wrong ... my year wasn't all bad.  I took trips to Seattle, Stillwater, Boston, and Duluth, attended a brilliant training for work that inspired me to take a very challenging professional development class this fall, enjoyed every crumb of the inaugural Twin Cities Donut Crawl, reconnected with some old friends and strengthened other friendships, made yoga a regular part of my self-care routine, pickled every vegetable in sight, started getting regular pedicures and flossing, lost 17 pounds, found a therapist, started "Muffin Mondays" at work, moved into an apartment that has ended up being a really good fit for my life right now, learned how to knit, watched all 9 seasons of both "How I Met Your  Mother" and "That 70s Show" (and had a lot of laughs, thanks to those well-written shows,) enjoyed many live theatre productions, and sang weekly with my church choir. There was plenty of good ... just coupled with whopper stress.)

So, here we are!  A fresh start, clean slate, blank page, new beginning.  I felt almost required to make a big pot of Hoppin' John today, as it is supposed to bring me a prosperous year filled with luck.  And after the year I've had, I figure, I can take all the luck I can get.

Hoppin' John is traditionally made with bacon or ham hock; while not necessarily vegetarian-friendly at first glance, it is basically a humble, nutritious, thrifty meal of beans and rice.  Swap out that bacon for some diced tomatoes and a canned chipotle chile in adobo, and there you have it.  A steaming bowl of vegetarian luck and prosperity -- and a healthy dose of protein, fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients, too!

Hoppin' John
serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil
1 c finely-chopped onion
1 c finely-chopped celery
1 c finely-chopped bell pepper (red, green, or a mix)
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp paprika (you could try smoked if you want extra smoky flavor ... I chose sweet today)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
1 15-ounce can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed (or 2 c cooked black-eyed peas)
3/4 c long-grain brown rice
2 c low-sodium vegetable broth
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes (or fire-roasted diced tomatoes, if you're feelin' fancy)

1. Heat the oil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat, and add the onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, thyme, oregano, paprika, salt, pepper, and bay leaf.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and the spices are lightly toasted.
2. Add the chipotle chile in adobo, black-eyed peas, rice, broth, and tomatoes to the pot.  Bring to a boil.
3. Lower the heat to a simmer, (use a heat diffuser if you have one,) cover the pot, and simmer for 1 hour.  If you have time, remove the pot from the heat and allow the rice to continue steaming for another 10 minutes or so.  Remove the chile and bay leaf.  Serve as-is, or with greens, or cornbread ... or both!

I had a client state during parenting group Tuesday evening that he is wishing for a "drama-free" 2015 ... and I couldn't help but concur.  :)  To a drama-free 2015!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Muffin Monday

I started a new "thing" at work.

It's called Muffin Monday.

Apple-Oatmeal Muffins
Simply, I bake muffins on Sunday afternoon, then bring them to work on Monday to share with my coworkers.

Pumpkin Streusel Muffins
I've received many thank-yous from folks, and even more comments about my generosity -- some people have been downright shocked that I would bake muffins and give them away every single week.

Pumpkin, Millet, and Chocolate Chip Muffins
But, I'll let you in on a little secret ...

Cranberry-Orange Muffins
I don't do it for them ... I do it for me.

Whole-Wheat Gingerbread Muffins
I LOVE TO BAKE.  Always have, for as long as I can remember.  One of my favorite childhood photos of myself was taken at about the age of three, standing at the kitchen counter, helping my dad knead bread.

Eggnog Doughnut Muffins
Baking is in my bones, people.  It's who I am.

Mini Cranberry Cakes
I love nothing more than to whip out the flour and eggs and sugar and mixing bowls on a Sunday afternoon, filling the apartment with delicious smells ... and enjoying delicious treats later.  I also love to try new recipes and new flavor combinations, and welcome any opportunity I have to experiment in the kitchen, whether it is by baking, cooking, or canning.  Wee!

Banana-Walnut Muffins
However, I alone cannot keep up with consuming the quantity of baked goods I love to produce.  So, that's where my coworkers come in.

Bran Cream Cheese Muffins
Thanks, all y'all, for helping me eat all of the muffins I've baked.  I'll keep it up, if you'll keep eating them!

Whole-Wheat Blueberry Muffins

So ... any favorite muffin recipes to share?  What should I make next week?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Eggnog Oatmeal

While I love a glass or two of eggnog around the holidays, I never can seem to get through a whole quart on my own.  (Why don't they sell eggnog in pints anyway?  It would make more sense for me, and also act as a single serving for others, I assume!)  I made eggnog doughnut muffins, sipped a couple of servings, and made a few eggnog lattes, but still had quite a bit left ... until I discovered eggnog oatmeal!  Rich, creamy, sweet, and subtly spiced, eggnog oatmeal makes a comforting, quick, nourishing breakfast during the busy holiday season.

Eggnog Oatmeal
serves 1

1/2 c full-fat eggnog
1/2 c water
pinch kosher salt
1/2 c rolled oats
dried cranberries and grated nutmeg, for serving

Combine the eggnog, water, and salt in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil.  Stir in the rolled oats, lower the heat, and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the oats are cooked and the oatmeal is thick, about 5 minutes.  Top with dried cranberries and grated nutmeg.

What are your favorite uses for leftover eggnog?

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Cookies 2014

I've reached the moment in time where I have made peace with the fact that my iPhone takes better pictures than my 10-year-old Canon point-and-shoot.  Sigh.  I made a huge tray of cookies on Monday to take to work, and tried taking pictures, and they were just ... awful.  (Darkest day of the year certainly didn't help!)  So this year, instead of viewing the entire spread, you get a shot of my "snack plate" that I fixed for myself today, for periodic nibbling in-between meals, walks, knitting, reading, laundry, and maybe, just maybe, a nap.  (Because I got home from singing for Christmas Eve service well into Christmas Day last night!)  Merry Christmas!

Cookies after breakfast?  Yes, please!

Chewy Gingersnaps
I have made this recipe several years in a row now, and they have become a mainstay.  I love gingersnaps, and I love them even more when they are chewy (and STAY chewy several days later.)  Gingersnaps are one of those cookies I believe are actually better a few days after baking ... maybe it's that whole "flavors having a chance to blend" thing?  Anyhow, these are great -- nicely spiced, but not "too spicy."  A cookie for adults and children alike.  I used coconut oil this year (instead of the canola oil called for in the recipe,) and they are perfect.

Magic in the Middles
This fall, I had a peanut-butter stuffed chocolate cookie at a local restaurant, and fell in love -- I HAD to find a recipe!  King Arthur Flour to the rescue!  I strayed from the original recipe a bit, adding an ounce of Neufchatel and a tablespoon of milk to the chocolate dough, (recipe reviewers complained the dough became dry with storage,) and ended up having to add a few teaspoons of milk to the peanut butter filling (using natural peanut butter made the filling a bit dry and crumbly.)  These weren't nearly as fussy as I thought they were going to be to shape, and have been a huge hit with friends and coworkers.  My friend Dora told me, as she dropped me off after church last night, that "the chocolate cookie with the peanut butter surprise" was the best one I made this year!  They were the first to go off the tray at work, too.

Best Cut-Out Sugar Cookies
Thank you, Faith Durand and The Kitchn, because these are, hands-down, the BEST cut-out sugar cookies I have EVER HAD.  The dough is a dream to work with, froze beautifully, and yielded soft, yet sturdy cookies.  I also love that the additions of both lemon zest and almond extract make the cookies themselves more of an event, rather than just an avenue for buttercream and sprinkles.  :)  Decorated sugar cookies are always my favorites, and these have elevated what I've come to think of simply as "Christmas Cookies" to a whole new level.


Peppermint Cream Squares
Another Kitchn recipe I tried this year, and a good one.  For a few years growing up, we made a cookie called "Peppermint Snowballs," which I believe may have been a grandparent to these bars, and Peppermint Snowballs were always a favorite of mine.  I don't love chocolate, although I LOVE mint, and I fell for the buttery shortbread and minty cream filling instantly.  However, we gave up on those cookies after a few tries because they were too fussy and just didn't store well.  I was thrilled to find this recipe, because I missed the flavor of Peppermint Snowballs, but not the fuss and mess.  Bars to the rescue!  I made a few changes to the published recipe, (including using all of the shortbread as the crust and simply sprinkling the peppermint/powdered sugar over the warm cream cheese layer,) but may even make more changes next year.  I wanted a slightly thicker, more cheesecake-like peppermint layer on top, rather than the more moist, sticky layer I got using the original recipe.  I think I will increase the cream cheese and add an egg next year.  Regardless, these have still been hugely popular ... people who love shortbread and mint were coming back for seconds!

Fig and Cream Cheese Bars
These babies are unassuming at first glance, but folks who are brave enough to try them are richly rewarded.  I think people either love or despise figs; I am a lover of figs, both fresh and dried, and consequently, LOVE these bars.  (Plus, hello lemony cream cheese topping!)  A day after delivering tins and gift bags of cookies, I received a text message from my friend Stephanie: "It's like a fig newton but better!  Yummmm."  Agreed.  I follow the recipe as printed, baking the bars in a smaller 8- or 9-inch square pan, rather than the 9x13 called for.

Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels
Salted caramels almost seem like a cliche these days, but maybe for good reason -- starting around Thanksgiving, I start getting the "are you going to make caramels this year?" questions.  This recipe from Alice Medrich's Pure Dessert is a hit, and in my opinion, both reliable and relatively easy to make.  (The hardest part of making caramels, in my opinion, is CUTTING THEM.  Sigh.)  I love the gentle flavor golden syrup lends to baked goods, (it's the not-so-secret ingredient in my pecan pie,) and these caramels are no exception.  I decided to salt the caramels using Maldon sea salt this year, instead of the coarser salt I've used in the past -- and I love the gentler flakes, instead of the crunchy chunks.  Last year, my friend's (then) 4-year-old daughter scarfed three of these caramels in one sitting while no one was looking ... smart girl.  :)  (They got a whole bag of extra caramels this year!)


Apricot Coconut Bars
I have wrestled with these bars for years, because I love the dense, chewy, sweet, rich, apricot-coconut topping, but DESPISE the crust as written -- it is crumbly and difficult to work with, and literally shatters and disintegrates when cutting.  This year, I added an extra ingredient (an ounce of Neufchatel,) and changed my technique (creaming softened butter, cream cheese, and 1/4 cup sugar together, before stirring in the flour,) and was promptly rewarded by a sturdy, flavorful shortbread crust for that glorious topping.  (P.S. flipping the bars out of the pan upside-down on a sheet of parchment paper to cut also helped.)  Success!  Only took me three tries to figure that one out.  I think we will call this holiday season the year of Neufchatel, since it became a key player in many of my cookie recipes, all of a sudden.  :)

Cream Cheese Meltaways with Lemon Glaze
This is another one of those frequent repeats, as I get several "are you making the lemon cookies this year?" requests, again beginning at Thanksgiving.  One of my work friends reported these were her husband's favorites, and I "caught" at least one coworker rushing back for seconds of this one just moments after returning to his desk with his first selections from the tray.  I decided rather than toss out the surplus glaze this year, I would simply double-dunk the cookies.  More sugar!  Yes.


English Toffee (from the Betty Crocker Cookbook)
The toffee is not pictured, because it is gone!  It's gone for several reasons, really -- I have a couple of gluten-free treat recipients who deserved extra toffee and caramels this year, and well, I just really like toffee.  It's easy to sneak a bite here and there, you know?  :)

Off to eat a post-breakfast cookie now.  Merry Christmas!