It’s Spring. The blogosphere is running wild with fresh fruits and fruit bars and fruit tarts. Not being a fruit-lover, I feel puzzled and occasionally jealous when I start seeing all of the colorful desserts splashed across magazine covers and blog entries. I have never once walked into a grocery store and gotten excited about raspberries. Thus, my kitchen knows no Spring, and honestly, I don’t think it knows the difference. Chocolate is timeless.
Today was the perfect day to curl up on the couch with some chocolate cookies and a book. Outside, the sky struggled to make up its mind…is it sunny? is it about to break into a thunderstorm? I erred on the side of thunderstorm and whipped up a batch of double chocolate chip cookies.
These cookies live up to their “double chocolate” headline. Filled with chocolate chips and Dutch-process cocoa powder, they are so rich they are almost black. They bake up crispy on the outside and soft, almost gooey, on the inside. One cookie is definitely not enough (though you should probably stop after two).
Okay, okay, these are really bran muffins…but I wanted to lure you here, and I know how many people are afraid of the word bran. Also, if you are smart and try these muffins out some time, now you will have a euphemism at the ready!
A few weeks ago, my very own copy of Super Natural Every Day arrived in the mail. I have been on a healthy kick lately, and I love Heidi’s blog, 101 Cookbooks, so I was sure this cookbook would be a hit–full of hearty vegetarian eats that would make my insides smile. I carried the book around with me…I put little yellow post-its on almost every page to mark the recipes I wanted to make…I decided to start with a breakfast food…but even I was a little afraid of the word bran before I finally got myself up early to make these muffins.
Let me just assuage your fears: these muffins are fantastic. They are crumb-y and flavorful, more filling than your average white flour muffin, but no less delicious. They are full of great ingredients to start your morning off right. In fact, my husband woke up to the smell of these muffins in the oven and broke his no-breakfast tradition to eat two of them.
I have told you before of my love affair with cardamom. It is by far the most interesting spice I have tasted to date. But I will admit that the first time I smelled it and tasted it, I was not so sure I wanted to do it again.
I found this recipe for tea cakes a while back, when I was trying to find a cookie I could make for my grandfather, who is diabetic but loves the classics (a.k.a., cookies with lunch). Ultimately, I doubt this itty-bitty spiced cookie would be up his alley, but I’m so glad I tried it! These are basically sugar cookies in ball form (not what you’d immediately think of when trying to find diabetic-friendly desserts…but hey, they are tiny so each one is low in carbs). The cardamom will kick you right in the taste buds, but let me tell you, as soon as I eat one of these cookies, it’s all I can do not to gobble up ten more of them!
Don’t worry, if you are afraid of cardamom, you can substitute ginger…or even cinnamon. But I recommend you be daring!
It’s so hard to find a good granola or trail mix when you don’t like fruit. Growing up, I was constantly chewing the yogurt off of the yogurt-covered raisins, or meticulously picking out the dried cranberries and holding them in my hand to throw away later.
So imagine my dismay when I got wind of the Greek yogurt craze: thick, creamy, fat-free yogurt (yay!) mixed with granola (uh-oh) and berries (danger!). I avoided the berries altogether and managed to find a granola that consisted entirely of oats and nuts…and a lot of high-fructose corn syrup. So I made a mental note that I’d better find a way to make my own granola.
As you probably know, granola is incredibly versatile. As I was searching the interblags for recipes, I came across so many different combinations that honestly, it took me 2 weeks to decide on what ingredients I wanted to include in my own version and buy what I didn’t already have. I knew I wanted something more complex than just rolled oats and almonds–surely there is something better out there for us fruit-haters!
This last week has been one of the most stressful weeks in my memory. I had two final projects due at the very beginning of the week (gah…30-page papers!), and I had to give quizzes to my students…then they had a meltdown about the quizzes, so I had to improvise my subsequent lessons so I could help them return to a calmer, more confident place. Anyone that knows me knows that I worship planning. Improvising freaks the crap out of me (yikes…maybe teaching is not my calling).
I also made many failed recipes recently: caramel sauce (I decided to refrigerate it so it would set faster…which caused it to bec0me extremely hard, more like toffee) followed by caramel candies (way stickier than I thought…ultimately a great, stretchy, sticky mess), golden gazpacho (is it supposed to taste like you are eating a grainy, raw tomato?), and last-minute microwave brownies (I know…that sounds like a horrible idea…and apparently when you halve the recipe, it actually IS a horrible idea). How frustrating! I keep trying to make great foods, but they are not coming out as intended!
However, I did have one minor success this week: Creamy Hummus!
I actually made a small gaffe on this recipe, as well (note to self: don’t start cooking 3 minutes after waking up). I made a double recipe of this hummus to serve to my students on quiz day…but in my sleepy stupor, I forgot to add the cumin! I actually didn’t notice this when I was sampling the hummus during school, though I thought the garlic was stronger than I remembered from the previous time I’d made it. Fortunately, none of my students (even those that grew up eating hummus regularly) noticed!
I have mentioned previously that I am obsessed with several other food blogs, one of which is SmittenKitchen. About six months ago, when I was trolling through Deb’s archives, I discovered a delectable vegetarian entree called a galette, which could also go by the name of crostata or even “rustic tart.” I was, in a word, smitten.
The first galette I tried was a spicy autumn variety with butternut squash. The galette was an immediate hit with my husband and his meat-loving best friend, so I knew I would have to try some of the other variations posted on SmittenKitchen. Thus, I am bringing you a lighter and brighter filling that fits the spring weather. Last weekend, when I announced that I was making a galette for dinner, my husband practically started drooling.
Although delicious, the Zucchini Ricotta Galette is a once-in-a-while kind of meal. For one thing, it is loaded with cheese, but the biggest kicker is that it takes about 2 hours to make! I only ever make it on weekends, often when I am procrastinating other chores. It’s worth the wait, but it’s not a low-maintenance meal by any stretch.
That being said, please do carve out some time to make yourself a galette! Serve it with a nice, colorful salad. I promise, you will be happy if you do…
Yesterday I went to my brother- and sister-in-law’s house for dinner and games. And it was glorious…because we had breakfast for dinner!
I made zucchini bread at the last possible second…which is a good trick, since it bakes for an hour! It is really more of a cake than a bread–it’s moist and sweet, but not too sweet, which makes it ideal for breakfast. Despite its name (and like most similarly named treats), this isn’t a particularly healthy breakfast, but it sure is delicious.
Zucchini bread is very easy to make, and I almost always have all of the ingredients on hand. I love bringing this to friends, because it requires almost no effort and it’s always well received. When I brought a batch in for my students recently, they devoured it in 10 minutes flat and were quite surprised to discover that the “green stuff” in it was a vegetable!
I’m not really sure when Easter was reduced from celebrating the life and resurrection of Jesus to dying eggs with vinegar…and even further to stuffing plastic eggs with sugary treats…but I think that slippery slope has had an everlasting effect on Americans. Eggs and Easter are alliteratively associated (haha…ya like that?…I’m an English teacher, give me a break. Okay, I’ll stop).
So a few days ago on Easter, I woke up very early so that I could poach myself and my husband some eggs for breakfast before church.
When I was growing up, one of the most exciting breakfast treats was my dad’s poached eggs. This was a collaborative effort between my parents, and it was a highly elusive breakfast, because my mom had to make bread AND then my dad had to decide to poach some eggs, all in the same weekend. But when it happened, it was so great! In fact, I like this breakfast so much that it’s what I requested on the day I got married. (Weird, right? You’d think I’d go for chocolate chip pancakes given my choco-obsession…)
Growing up, there were few pleasures so simple as eating a fresh slice of my mom’s white bread spread with butter. The bread would release whirls of steam when she cut into it…the butter would instantly melt into the warm surface…and my slice would be gone in about 10 seconds flat.
Apparently, when my mom and dad got married, she made sandwich bread every week, rather than buying Wonderbread at the store. Unfortunately, waning free time (er…and probably the neediness of two small children) ultimately demanded she stop this tradition, but we still lucked out every now and then. In fact, my favorite thing about snow days was that my mom would make several loaves of bread and my brother and I got to enjoy the most delicious sandwiches EVER for a week or so.
By the way, in case you don’t know anything about snow in Richmond, VA, where I grew up, let’s just say that the mere prediction of snow causes mass insanity among the natives. Everyone simultaneously panics–no one would dare risk their lives driving in snow–and races to the store to buy every loaf of bread, gallon of milk, and carton of eggs in existence. Because naturally, the 1 inch dusting of snow that covers the lawns and trees and just maybe the streets of Richmond will prevent anyone from buying such commodities ever again.
My mom is much more sensible than that, having grown up in Long Island, and so she contents herself to fill the house with the most delicious smell that was ever created: fresh, homemade bread.
I have been on a mega scone kick lately. It all started a few months ago when I got together with several of my work friends for brunch. I brought cinnamon swirl scones…and loved them so much that I made them again the next day. And then I made scones again the week after that. And then it was clear that I was obsessed.
I first became interested in scones after a trip to England a bit over a year ago. I had seen several references to scones with clotted cream on cafe menus, but somehow I never managed to try them (maybe because the word “clotted” doesn’t strike up a lot of confidence within me…). But when I began my recipe project, making the perfect scones was high on the list. I tried to make clotted cream, too, but after several lengthy and failed attempts, I gave in to the cold truth that the right kind of cream (unpasteurized) is simply not sold in the U.S., and you can’t make proper clotted cream without it.
The good thing that came out of all that disappointment was a fantastic recipe for scones, compiled from a lot of reading and several different recipes.
Scones are a great treat for any time of day (as I proved to myself repeatedly during my manic scone-making phase); the only problem is that they are not exactly the healthiest baked good on the block. So when I was tasked with bringing snack to one of my MEd classes, I decided to tinker with the scone recipe I usually make and try to improve its health factor.