Vegetarian


Getting old is not for sissy. Thankfully, I’m no sissy even when it means learning to avoid foods that cause inflammation, like refined carbohydrates and sugar. Sugar — sweet, sweet sugar — is apparently bad for my knees.

So began the adventure to transform my lovely, yummy way of eating into something that is kinder to my joints. I’d already given up artificial sweetener, and substituting Stevia seems to be  acceptable to my tongue. Giving up wheat and corn is less acceptable, but doable. Until you’ve had your 26th scrambled egg muffin for breakfast and you would do almost anything for a waffle.

So this morning, I decided to give coconut flour a try.  I bought it a while ago but just didn’t believe it would be good for baking. Turns out it works.

Ingredients

4 mashed ripe bananas
3 cage free brown eggs
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup organic, no sugar added peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 tbs cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips

How I Made Them

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin (12) with paper liners. Use 2 if the liners are thin — these are oily muffins.

Combine the mashed bananas, eggs, vanilla, and melted (and cooled) butter. Then, mix in the peanut butter until it’s all thoroughly blended. Add the dry ingredients and stir until it’s all blended, then fold in the chocolate chips.

Spoon the muffin batter into the muffin tins, filling each about 3/4 full.  Bake for 15-18 minutes or until a cake tester comes away clean.

How They Turned Out

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These muffins are not homemade cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing, but they’re good enough with coffee on the way out the door. Just 9g of sugar (compared to the usual muffin’s 30+ grams of sugar), so they won’t anger my knees.

I am one of those people who feels compelled to have a bowl of lemons in the kitchen — and then fails to use them all before they go bad.  Today, I decided to zest and juice them all and then make something yummy.  This pound cake is a basic recipe, with a few twists.

First, after throwing out all my baking and cooking sprays (one of my remaining bad habits in the kitchen), I decided to throw caution to the wind and use coconut oil (solid) to grease the pan.  Coconuts go with lemon, right?

Second, I recently read something somewhere (I have no recollection where) about the sweet crunch a cake will get if you sugar the pan instead of flouring it. So I sugared the coconut oiled bundt cake pan instead of flouring it.

Third, I didn’t have plain yogurt or enough sour cream for the recipe.  What I did have was 4 ounces of sour cream and a container of Noosa Raspberry Yogurt.  (I am addicted to Noosa yogurt — even the pumpkin flavor is good!)  Raspberries go with lemon, right?

Ingredients

2 tbs organic coconut oil
2 sticks of unsalted organic butter, softened
3 cups of sugar (I use Zulka Morena, a minimally processed sugar)
3 tbs lemon zest (this was about 4-5 medium sized lemons)
3 1/2 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour
juice from one medium lemon
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
6 eggs (preferably not straight from the fridge)
4 ounces sour cream
8 ounces Noosa raspberry yogurt (or other Greek or Australian yogurt)

How I Made It

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a bundt pan with coconut oil and sprinkle sugar evenly in the pan.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. Sift together with a fork.

In a standing mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until well-combined. Turn the speed down to medium and add the lemon zest. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing each into the mixture before adding another. Once the eggs are all combined, add the lemon juice.

Turn the mixer down to low. Add one third of the flour mixture, then the sour cream. Add another third of the flour and half the yogurt.  Add the last of the flour and the last of the yogurt. Turn up the speed for just about 30 seconds to be sure it’s all combined.

Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula and give the batter a few good stirs. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. You might have extra, which you can bake as cupcakes (just halve the baking time).

Bake for 60-65 minutes, until a cake tester comes away clean. Let the cake cool in the pan. Loosen the sides with a slim knife, and turn it out onto a cake plate.

How It Turned Out

Lemon Pound Cake (2)

The sugar trick worked on the sides but not the top (maybe that’s because of the pan?).  Otherwise, it’s an oh so summery cake to share.

P.S. What did I do with the juice from all those lemons I zested? I juiced them straight into an ice tray. When it’s done freezing, I’ll have little cubes of fresh lemon juice for whenever I need a couple of tablespoons for a recipe.

My best friend loves cucumber sandwiches, so whenever we have a tea party or other excuse for finger foods, I make them for her. These are an upgrade from my last cucumber sandwiches, made more elegant with a round shape and fresh dill garnish.

Ingredients

Seedless English cucumber, sliced thin but not too thin
Blue Isle Yogurt Spread, plain*
Fresh organic dill
Sea salt
White sandwich bread (1 loaf will make 12 sandwiches)

How I Made Them:

My sweet sous chef S recommended cutting the bread into circles by using a glass. Smart and easy! He cut the bread for us by pressing the glass into the center of each slice of bread.

Assemble the sandwiches by spreading the yogurt spread on the slices of bread. Arrange the cucumber slices on one piece of bread and sprinkle with salt. Top with the second slice of bread. Garnish with fresh dill (I used a spot of yogurt spread to make the dill stick).

How The Turned Out:

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Fresh and light and perfect. The Supersonic Seven Year (formerly known at the Stupendous Six Year Old) announced to his mother (my best friend, the cucumber sandwich connoisseur) “These are great! We should make them at home.”

 *I stumbled onto this new Blue Isle Yogurt Spread when I was looking for cream cheese. I tried out the plain flavor for this recipe, and liked it so much that we whipped up a lovely veggie dip with a little garlic and dill.

 

After several months of business travel, “single girl specials,” and PB&Js, I am so excited to be celebrating the season in the kitchen. And to have a cohort of new recipes to share.  This first one is a great way to use up left over egg nog — while making a sweet treat for the neighbors.

Ingredients:

3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
5 eggs
1 cup plus 2 tbs egg nog
1 package of Trader Joe’s Orange Flavored Cranberries*
1/2 cup powdered sugar

How I Made It:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Prepare a loaf pan, or those fancy baking paper loaf pans, and set them aside.

Sift together the dry ingredients (the cranberries don’t count) in a large mixing bowl. Set that mixture aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a standing mixer (or with an electric hand mixer).  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating each into the batter completely before adding the next. When everything is nicely combined, turn down the mixer (low or low-medium speed).  Add the dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with the egg nog, until the batter is smooth. It will be thick, but should have no lumps.

Fold the cranberries in with a spatula (not the mixer).  Then transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pans.  You’ll have enough for 4-5 small loaf pans or 2 large loaf pans. (If you use the fancy paper pans, be sure to put them on a cookie sheet to go into the oven.)

Bake for 50 minutes or until a cake tester comes away clean.  Let them cool completely before glazing.

To make the glaze, combine two tablespoons of eggnog with the powdered sugar. Use a whisk to get the smoothest consistency. Use a pastry brush to glaze the top of the cakes.

How They Turned Out:

BEST POUND CAKE EVER!

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The mini-loaves turned out perfectly.  Festive and yummy!

And I’m ever so grateful that the big loaf didn’t quite cook through, even after resting in the oven (turned off but still warm) for 15 minutes after the others were done, because it meant I could keep it.  (Next time I’ll fill the pan just half full).

*I have a friend who enjoys cooking — and eating — food as much as I do.  He introduced me to Trader Joe’s (there isn’t one in Alaska) and now, whenever I go Outside, I come back with an extra suitcase of TJ yumminess.

 

We celebrated the start of my favorite munchkin’s school adventure (The First Day of Kindergarten!) tonight. He set the menu: spaghetti, chocolate mint cupcakes, and by request, homemade ice cream. What a great excuse to bring out the KitchenAid ice cream maker!

Ingredients:

2 cups crunchy organic peanut butter
1 cup organic granulated sugar
4 cups organic whole milk
2 cups organic half and half
2 tsps. organic vanilla
1 cup Guittard semi-sweet chocolate chips

How I Made It:

In your mixer, combine the peanut butter and sugar. Mix on medium-low speed with the whisk attachment until the peanut butter and sugar are combined. With the mixer still going, slowly pour in the milk.  Continue to whisk until there are no lumps of peanut butter left.  Add the half and half and vanilla and whisk for another 2-3 minutes.

Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate the mixture for 3 hours.

Transfer the cold mixture to your ice cream maker and proceed according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. Fold in the chocolate chips at the end, before transferring the ice cream to your container for freezing.  Freeze for 2 hours before serving.

Ice Cream Maker

How It Turned Out:

This batch turned out to be very tasty (though I think I could’ve used a little less vanilla). I try to serve my homemade ice cream within 3 hours of making it, before it gets too hard and crystalized. That means it’s kind of soft, but that’s okay.

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

 

This is a super-quick supper that is fancy enough for a dinner party.

Ingredients:

1 bag of frozen tortellini
1 lb of fresh asparagus
1 lb of fresh snow peas
3 tbs of Greek feta vinaigrette dressing
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

How I Made It:

Wash and pat dry the peas and asparagus.  Snap the ends off and de-string the pea pods.  Reserve 3 stalks of asparagus, cutting the remainder into pieces (tops, then three sections — I don’t keep the tough thick bases).  Create asparagus ribbons with the reserved asparagus stalks, using a vegetable peeler.  Set the ribbons aside and squeeze a little lemon juice over them.

Cook the tortellini according the instructions.  Use a big pot and at least 2 cups more water than called for, so that you can blanch the vegetables for 3 minutes in the same pot as the pasta.  I also add a little olive oil in the pot to prevent the pasta from sticking. When it’s all done, strain the pasta and vegetables in a colander (do not rinse).

In a large glass serving bowl (so you can see all the lovely green veggies), toss the hot pasta and vegetables with the dressing, then sprinkle half the parmesan on top.  Toss again, then top with the rest of the cheese.  Garnish with the asparagus ribbons and serve.

How It Turned Out:

The bright taste of fresh peas and asparagus pairs nicely with the creamy tortellini. I made this as the main dish for a dinner party, but it would also be a lovely side dish for grilled or poached salmon or a lemon chicken entrée.

Easy Peasy Pasta

Makes 4 servings.

I made these banana-riffic cupcakes for my nephew’s fifth birthday. They were almost as a big a hit as the remote control motorcycle.

Cupcake 1

Banana Cupcakes

I am a lazy blogger on a sunny Sunday afternoon, so I’ll just provide the links to the splendid banana cupcake recipe from Martha Stewart and the perfect buttercream recipe from Alice at Savory Sweet Life that made these sweetnesses possible. Thanks ladies!

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