Monthly Archives: September 2012

50 Shades of Green (+ a granola bar)

If you know me, you know my love affair with granola. If you know me well, you know I actually hate granola – that I despise myself for how I love it so: the power it has to weaken my knees as well as my will power to stop at one bowl. You also now know that I am crazy.

To mitigate such severe morning predicaments (and ridiculously important internal stuggles), I have created a new morning ritual: a green smoothie and an *individually wrapped and proportioned* grain-free granola bar. The green smoothie has been a standing ritual for a while now, but alone I tended to burn it off by 11 – my eyes involuntarily wandering to the top right corner of my computer screen, aching for a socially reasonable time to take a lunch break. We’ve all been there. I am a big believer in a respectable breakfast, so a supplement to the green smoothie was definitely in order. These bars are the perfect solution: suuuuper easy (no bake!) and have enough fat and sugar to keep you energized all morning long.

Every morning I tend to blend up a slightly different shade of green, making slight variations to keep it interesting – but the recipe that follows is definitely my favorite. Its pretty calorie packed, so definitely not an every day indulgence – I’d categorize it as a weekend smoothie. (Again, yes: crazy.) Typically, I just throw in almond milk, half a banana (or half an avocado), a more-than-generous handful or two of spinach or kale and a tablespoon of chia seeds. But we like to keep it exciting here, so I’m giving you the best of the best.

Make this your morning ritual and thank me when you finally glance at the clock mid-afternoon after an insanely productive morning has miraculously flown by sans hunger pains.

Breakfast of Champions:

1. Green Pineapple Coconut Smoothie 
(Adapted from here)

1½ cups fresh or frozen ripe pineapple
2 cups filtered water or raw coconut water
1 handful curly green kale (about 1½ large leaves)
1 ripe banana
2 dates
2 tablespoons dried unsweetened coconut
2 tablespoons cup raw almonds or cashews (optional for extra protein)
1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional for them omega-3s)

Pour the coconut water in your blender, then pineapple (if using fresh pineapple, throw in some ice cubes) then the rest of the ingredients and blend, blend, blend! Add chia seeds at the very end so they don’t stick to the blender, making a bitch of a situation to clean. Pour and enjoy!

2. Grain-free Granola Bars
(adapted from here)

2½ cups assorted nuts and seeds
1 cup dried fruit
2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
¼ cup coconut oil
½ cup honey
splash of vanilla extract
splash of almond extract
½ teaspoon salt
generous sprinkle of cinnamon

Roughly chop 1 cup of the nuts and throw the rest into a food processer. Pulse until you have finely chopped bits and pieces. Stir to combine with larger nut chunks and add dried fruit and coconut.

In a small saucepan, heat coconut oil and honey over medium-low heat. Add vanilla/almond extracts and salt and stir constantly until the mixture begins to bubble. Remove from the heat and pour over dry mixture. Stir to coat fruit and nuts completely.

Dump the mixture in a parchment or tin foil lined 9 x 13″ baking dish. With another sheet of parchment paper, press down the mixture REALLY HARD to condense and make the bars stick together. Like, use all you man-power to pack the suckers tightly.

Wait at least two hours to cool, or stick in the fridge for an hour or so. I left them overnight. The mixture will be hard enough to cut into bars.

Individual wrapping for the obsessive-compulsive and granola-addicts only.

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In Defense of Buttermilk

Buttermilk is a peculiar substance. Milk already unnerves me to no end, so obviously its thicker, sour-smelling cousin further creases my brow. However – and speaking from experience – baking with the stuff proves to be incredibly lucrative. The acidity and consistency of the buttermilk makes denser cakes, richer breads and fluffier biscuits.

The byproduct of butter-making, buttermilk is fermented longer than plain milk (gross), producing a high acidity that tenderizes the gluten in the batter (less gross, still wildly unappealing) to give baked goods a softer texture and more body (I’ve forgotten everything – hello gorgeous, and get in my belly!) Also, because most of the fat has been removed to make butter, buttermilk has a far lower fat content than its all-American whole/vitamin D counterparts, which TOTALLY makes up for the copious amount of butter and sugar used in the recipe that follows.

Clearly, I am the Bill Nye of buttermilk.

The point of all this is that the use of buttermilk is completely justified by and glorified in this Buttermilk Berry Bundt Cake. Even though it is such an easy recipe, the richness and density of the cake will make your eaters think otherwise. Let the buttermilk do all the work for you and (note to self) don’t think it about it too much.

Buttermilk Berry Bundt Cake
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

2 1/2 cups (355 grams) plus 2 TBS (20 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt
1 cup (8 ounces or 225 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups (340 grams) granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup (175 ml) buttermilk
3 cups (350 to 450 grams) mixed berries

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease a bundt pan with coconut oil. I like to use a paper towel to get it all the crevices and limit the mess.

In a medium bowl, whisk or sift flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer or large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and impossibly fluffy (3 to 5 minutes). Then, with the mixer on a low speed, add your eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each addition. Beat in vanilla, briefly. Add 1/3 flour mixture to batter, beating until just combined, followed by half the buttermilk, another 1/3 of the flour mixture, the remaining buttermilk and remaining flour mixture. Scrape down from time to time and don’t mix any more than you need to.

In a separate bowl, toss the berries with the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour, then gently fold the berries into the cake batter. The batter will be very thick and this will seem impossible without squishing the berries a little, but just do your best and remember that squished berries do indeed make for a pretty batter.

Plop the batter in the pan in large spoonfuls in the prepared baking pan and spread the top smooth. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, rotating the cake 180 degrees after 30 (to make sure it browns evenly). The cake is done as soon as a tester comes out clean of batter.

First Fall Soup


I decided to make my first soup of the fall season. I was torn about it at first, thinking I should hold onto those ripe heirloom tomatoes, California avocados, and summery salads for as long as I could. But there was no denying a certain crispness to the air, school starting again – even Smitten Kitchen decided it was time to start doing baked pastas. And then I got a sore throat and that sealed the deal – time to make soup.

I really love soup. This is one of my favorites, and it’s super easy to do. It’s from a Bon Appetit issue in January that included recipes for a 3-week health cleanse. I challenged myself to make all of them that month and ended up with a few recipes worth doing even when you’re not being particularly health-ambitious.

The recipe is simple – start by sauteeing onions, garlic and ginger, add lots of spices, and then squash, carrots, and an apple. To make it even simpler, buy pre-chopped butternut squash – yes it’s lazy, but my last attempt at chopping a whole butternut squash caused my entire hand to peel off (apparently some people are allergic to raw butternut squash). Go ahead and use the same excuse if you need to – pre-chopped is so much easier anyway! The recipe is highly flexible, so if you accidentally ate that apple yesterday because you forgot it was for this soup (true story) or accidentally dropped in way more cinnamon than you needed (also true story), the recipe still works out. Just simmer it all for about 25 minutes and finish off in an immersion blender. The spices alone make you feel like you can fend off a fall cold!

OH, and let’s not forget – I also made pumpernickel croutons from our fabulous star chef Chloe Coscarelli. A great great combo, and the croutons work just as well in salad the next day!

Spiced Butternut Squash Soup
From Bon Appetit

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 inch of chopped fresh ginger
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cardamom
a dash of ground cloves
2 peeled, chopped carrots
1 tart apple
4 cups chopped butternut squash
3 cups water (if you’re not on a cleanse, I recommend a combo of vegetable broth & water)

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until tender (6-8 minutes). Add the ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add carrots, apple, and squash, and liquid. Bring to a boil; cover partially and reduce to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper and cook until vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly, and then blend (either with an immersion blender or in a regular blender).

Chloe’s Pumpernickel Croutons
Chop up 6 slices of pumpernickel bread. Toss with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and bake at 325 for about 30 minutes. Store in an airtight container – lasts surprisingly long.

How to Make New Friends

Ah, peanut butter and chocolate – such a reliable combination. Not only do these cookies employ the notoriously beloved duo, but they take it up a notch with a dollop of creamy, almost-too-decadent fudge and a hearty dose of oats. The oats make a moist and chewy cookie and set the perfect background for the fudge to take center stage.

If you want to get people to like you, bake these cookies for them. That is, unless they have a peanut allergy – these guys do have quite the (deliciously) lethal dose of PB. I made these a few weeks ago on a baking binge, and the people are still reminding me of their success!

A super easy recipe and one definitely worth trying (and subsequently inhaling). Bakers enjoy, eaters rejoice!

Peanut Butter & Fudge Oatmeal Cookies (Recipe from here)

1/2 cup unsalted butter, very soft
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups chocolate chips
One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350°F and line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix the butter, peanut butter, and sugars. (You can use beaters, but it’s easiest to just vigorously mix by hand.) Mix in eggs and vanilla until thoroughly incorporated. Add the oats, baking soda, and salt, and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate the dough while preparing the fudge topping.

Mix the chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk in a small saucepan. Warm over low heat, stirring frequently, until the chocolate is completely melted. Stir vigorously to make sure the mixture is evenly mixed. Turn off the burner under the chocolate.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll half of it into walnut-sized balls, pressing each one semi-flat on the cookie sheet. Top each ball of dough with a teaspoon of the warm chocolate mixture.

Bake the cookies for 10 minutes or until just golden around the edges. Repeat with the remaining dough and fudge topping. (Warm and stir the chocolate over low heat if it has hardened too much to scoop.)

Dainty Little Salads


In my favorite cooking blogs and magazines I often find the Dainty Little Salad – ultra light, usually with shaved this or grated that, and featuring some type of seasonal fruit, usually pink – the most idealistic recipe there is. I usually write these off as a highly attractive, but kind of improbable meal. Then I had a labor day weekend that included a buffet of four types of mac & cheese, several some serious Giants ballpark fare, and copious amounts of beer at every turn. In a cruel coincidence (?), both pairs of jeans I own ripped straight down the bum. True story. So I thought it might be time to give one of these trophy wife salads a try.

Turns out this salad was as delightful to eat as it is to look at, provided you keep a few things in mind:

Recommendation one: thinly shaved fennel is a must. I have really enjoyed having a roommate with a mandolin, and can confidently say that the recommendation to buy this particular kitchen gadget is sound advice. When you’re crunching into a big old piece of fennel, you really do lose the effect.

Recommendation two: a salad bowl. It makes food ten times better. Even if it’s ridiculously large for one person. Just try it.

Recommendation three: sturdy greens. I used a spinach mix from the farmers market. If there’s one culinary pet peeve I have, it’s wilted, wimpy little lettuce leaves – and these guys have lasted a week and still look peppy.

Final and probably most important recommendation: supplement your salad. Dainty Little Salads are a lot more enjoyable when you aren’t starving. I threw a little tuna salad on the side of this one night, and had it with a fried egg over a slice of dark bread the other. I promise it doesn’t make you any less cute.

Spinach Salad with Sprouts, Fennel, and Grapefruit
1 bag of mixed spinach leaves or other fresh greens
1/4 of a grapefruit
1 bulb fennel
1 packet sprouts – alfalfa, broccoli, or mung bean
Olive oil
Apple cider vinegar
Dijon mustard

Wash spinach and sprouts and throw in a big salad bowl. Shave fennel with a mandolin and add to the bowl. Slice grapefruit with a knife into any dainty shape you want – you can slice it or just chop it.

Mix 1 part apple cider vinegar with 2 parts olive oil. Add some freshly ground pepper and a little squirt of dijon mustard. Beat with a fork and pour over salad.