Feeding Our Rump Roast: Carrot Cake Toddler Muffins

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One of my new favorite genres of books are the memoirs written by comediennes. I read Mindy Kaling’s book last fall and I recently finished listening to Tina Fey’s book Bossy Pants. I laughed out loud as Tina spoke about her experiences with motherhood and I particularly loved when she sarcastically said something along the lines of, “I have one young child, so naturally I am a parenting expert.”

What is it with becoming a parent that makes us think we know it all? I have to admit that I read some of the parenting and sleep training books before we had Smith. It was a form of nesting for me and it made me falsely believe I was ready to rock it. No refined sugar or processed food, breastfeed for 12 months, formula is evil, formula is wonderful, no television under two, no grains before an infant turns one, introduce grains at 4 months (no- 6 months!), no bottle after age one, let your baby cry it out, never let your baby cry it out. It’s all a little overwhelming and, quite frankly, some of these guidelines flew right out the window after the little one arrived. Of course, the major safety rules are non-negotiable; but, with my very limited amount of parenting experience, I’ve learned there is no one-size-fits-all.

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What matters most, again from what I’ve learned in my short 15 months of motherhood, is finding a method that works for you and your partner and being open to amending those methods about 345 times. The good news is that Smith is thriving at the moment. He is growing and developing well. He loves to eat ice cream with his Grandpa and he sill isn’t the greatest sleeper on earth, but he is not currently dipping my makeup brush in the toilet and that makes me feel pretty good about life.

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I came up with this recipe for my little rumpy last weekend when I was researching some new breakfast options for him besides his beloved baked oatmeal. I used the method of microwaving and straining ripe bananas from my favorite banana bread recipe to maximize banana flavor and decrease the mushy texture that can occur with this overripe fruit. Plus, the natural sweetness from the bananas and Zante currants, which are essentially mini raisins, allowed me to only add a small amount of honey to achieve a nice flavor. I also added oats and used whole wheat pastry flour instead of white flour to make these babies a healthier whole grain baked good. Smith gave the muffins his seal of approval and the little beeferoni even inhaled two of these muffins for breakfast one morning.

Happy Monday, everyone.

 

    Carrot Cake Toddler Muffins

Yield: 1 dozen muffins

Ingredients

  • 4 very ripe bananas, peeled
  • 1/2 cup grated carrots
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup instant oats
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup currants

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard-sized muffin tin with muffin liners. Set aside.

2. Place peeled bananas in a medium-sized microwave safe bowl with a microwave-safe lid (I prefer to use glass). Microwave for 4 minutes, checking the bananas halfway through to ensure the juice from the bananas doesn’t overflow. When the 4 minutes is up, place a mesh strainer over a bowl and pour the microwaved bananas and the juices onto the strainer. Allow to sit for 10 minutes, using a spoon to gently mash the bananas. After the fruit is well strained, place the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Cook the reserved liquid from the bananas in a small saucepan over medium heat until the juice is reduced to about half the amount, roughly 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add to the mashed banana mixture and whisk well to combine.

3. Add the carrots, melted butter, vanilla, and honey to the banana mixture and stir until well-mixed. Next, add in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

4.  In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk together the oats, whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, cinnamon and currant. Add the flour mixture to the banana carrot mixture in 3 batches, mixing gently with a spatula after each addition. Stir just until combined. Don’t over mix!

5. Using an ice cream scoop or large spoon, divide the batter evenly into muffin liners. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the muffin comes out clean. Remove from the oven an allow to cool on a baking rack until completely cooled. Enjoy! Leftover muffins can be frozen in an airtight container or freezer bag.

Source: Lolly’s Original Recipe :)

 

Maple Oatmeal Scones

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Weekend mornings. Aren’t they lovely? Some of my favorite moments occur during these times.  Sipping coffee,  chatting with Bert, cuddling up with my little rumpy while he is still cozy in his PJs and clinging tightly to his blanket. It’s simple and wonderful.

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One of the biggest differences that I’ve noticed life with a young child brings is waking up before 6am on Saturdays and Sundays. In my previous life, Bert and I would consider getting up at 7 on the weekends early. Now, “sleeping in” until 7 is considered an amazing miracle from God. On the bright side, this new normal means I am lucky enough to see the sun rise nearly everyday in every season of the year. It reminds me of a quote from Mindy Kaling, “There is no sunrise so beautiful that it is worth waking me up to see it.” While I once agreed with the fabulous Mindy, I have to say that I’ve grown to love the sight of the sun sneaking up on the horizon. It’s a symbol of the hope of a new day and I find it both comforting and inspiring. Thanks for summoning me from my slumber to see it, Smith.

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These maple oatmeal scones are a perfect breakfast for those weekend mornings when you have time to take in the morning light and wake up with the birds. They are delicate, buttery, and just sweet enough to feel like a special treat; but easy enough to whip up and eat the same morning. Or, you can easily make them during the week and freeze them until you are ready to savor the moment.

Happy Saturday, everyone.

Maple Oatmeal Scones

Yield: 8-12 large scones (depending on how you cut them)

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats, plus additional for sprinkling
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/2 cup cold buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk or water, for egg wash

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flours, oats, baking powder, sugar and salt. Slowly add the cold butter in at the lowest speed and mix until the butter is in pea-size pieces. Stir together the buttermilk, maple syrup and eggs and add to the flour-and-butter mixture. Mix until just blended. The dough will be stick and a little crumbly.

2. Pour the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Using floured hands, gently knead to ensure the dough is combined. Pat the dough into a big circle, about 1 inch thick. Dip a knife in flour and gently cut the dough into wedges. Again, the dough will be sticky, so keep coating the knife with flour as necessary and use a spatula to transfer the scones to baking pans lined with parchment or silicone mats. Space the scones about 2 inches apart.

3. Brush the tops with egg wash. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are crisp and the insides are done. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes before applying glaze.

4. To make the glaze, whisk the confectioners’ sugar, maple syrup and vanilla. Drizzle each scone with 1 tablespoon of the glaze. Sprinkle with uncooked oats.

Source: Ina Garten

Feeding Our Rump Roast: Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal

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Our not-so-little rump roast (also known as our son, Smith), recently celebrated his first birthday. As he hits more milestones and as he continues to cut those razor-sharp baby teeth, we are gradually introducing him to new foods. Now more than ever,  I am thinking about the meals that I am making for our family. I could live on bowls of cereal for dinner every night if it were my choice; but the nutrients that are going into our little whippersnapper’s body have taken precedence.

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One of my favorite go-to breakfasts is this apple cinnamon baked oatmeal. It’s full of fiber and vitamin C, and it is especially satisfying this time of year in the cold Ohio Winter months. Even better, Smith gobbles it right up. I typically make a batch on Sunday and it lasts us for the whole week.

I adjusted the original recipe that I used in the past to make this breakfast a little more nutritionally-sound. I reduced the amount of sugar and substituted applesauce in place of the butter. For the sake of my little dude, I also used whole milk since being a toddler is a glorious time in one’s life as they get to enjoy high fat dairy. Lucky Smith. :)

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Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal 

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • large eggs
  • 1/2 cup organic applesauce (unsweetened is fine, too)
  • 2 cups whole milk (low fat is fine, too)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 baking apples (I usually use Golden Delicious), peeled and diced

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease a 9-inch baking dish with butter. Place the diced apples in the bottom of the pan. Set aside
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the oats, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
  3. In another bowl, break up the eggs with a whisk; then whisk in the milk, vanilla, and applesauce until well-combined.
  4. Carefully add the milk mixture to the oat mixture and gently stir together until evenly mixed.
  5. Pour the oatmeal mixture into the baking dish and spread evenly. Bake for about 45-50 minutes, until the top is golden and the oats are set. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Source: Adapted from Once Upon a Chef

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

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Do you feel that crisp bite of cold in the morning air? Autumn has officially made its debut in Ohio. We’ve been in our new home for over five months now, and I am already adoring our first Fall here as a family. There are beautiful shades of maroon and yellow leaves starting to sprinkle the view from our front porch and it has validated our decision to move back to the country even more. Our area even made National Geographic’s top 10 list of places to see Autumn Leaves  (we’re number three!).

Another inevitable feature of this time of year is the pumpkin mania. Everywhere you turn there are people running around, all jacked-up with crazy excitement over this squash. I understand these feelings, and I am probably one of those people; but, while I do love this seasonal flavor, I try to keep the crazed love of all things pumpkin spice in check until the weather and calendar starts to reflect its arrival. Call me an old curmudgeon, but I was kind of disgusted with Starbucks’ decision to serve Pumpkin Spice Lattes before Labor Day. Midwest humidity and hot, nutmeg-laden drinks don’t mix, folks. Just my opinion. I’m sure Starbucks could serve PSL in June and tons of people would buy them.  To each his own.

Anyways, moving on to these pancakes.

On the particular Sunday morning that I made this breakfast dish, our little rump roast was up and ready to party at 5am. I scooped up my little ball of meat and cuddled him in our living room while the morning sun peaked above the trees. It was a chilly morning and I got the urge to add an Autumn spin to our favorite Sunday Morning Pancakes. All it took was cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and pumpkin puree and it was a little Fall explosion in our kitchen. Robert isn’t crazy about pumpkin spice, but he gave these pancakes a thumbs up. And, wouldn’t you know it- our little  two-toothed baby boy also enjoyed these for a special breakfast treat.

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Smith approves.

 

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Pumpkin Spice Pancakes 

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil
  • 2 Tbsp canned pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 heaping tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp pumpkin spice

Directions

1. Preheat a skillet over medium heat. Use a pan with a nonstick surface or apply a little nonstick spray.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. In a separate small bowl, mix together the egg, buttermilk, pumpkin puree, and oil. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk together until smooth. Allow the batter to sit for about 5 minutes.

3. Pour the batter by a 1/4 cup measuring cup into the hot pain, forming 5-inch circles.

4. When the edges appear to harden, flip the pancakes. They should be light brown.

5. Cook on the other side for the same amount of time, until light brown. Do not press down on the pancakes with a spatula- this makes them dense as opposed to light and fluffy.

Recipe from: Adapted from A Treasury of Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur

 

 

 

Caramelized Onion and Spinach Egg Casserole

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Sometimes, if I am lucky, my workday schedule works out well enough that I am able to eat lunch and catch up on documentation at a Panera Bread in the next county over. I’ve been there enough times now that I have noticed that there is an elderly couple that eats there on a regular basis. Being as I work with many members of the geriatric population, I know that not all old people are “cute” as I have heard many people say. In fact, there are a lot of really not-so-nice individuals in this age group just as there are in every other age range. However, this aformentioned couple is absolutely adorable. The husband dotes on his wife, they share their food, and they swap sections of the newspaper with each other. The employees call them by their first name and pay extra special attention to this couple. Whenever the staff are giving out free samples, they always start with these two. An observation I have duly noted, by the way.

Their love for each other is so endearing, I can barely stand it. The last time they were there when I was, I found myself daydreaming of Robert and me starting this tradition when we retire. Finding a cute little cafe to go to, where we can eat a couple times a week; and there will be nothing else on our schedule for the day. Though retirement is a long (LONG) way off, I hope that if this dream is realized, we will be enjoying dishes similar to this caramelized onion and spinach egg casserole. In my opinion, it’s the perfect dining option for a leisurely brunch. Caramelized onion, spinach, crusty artisan bread, and sharp swiss cheese make for a fabulous and hearty meal.

I served this for a get together with some dear friends about a month ago and it was very well-received. Robert was a little hesitant because of the spinach, but I know he will come around before I make this again. At least, he better get on board in time for all of the glorious lunch dates I have planned for us in about 35 years.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Make it extra special by whipping up this casserole.

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Caramelized Onion and Spinach Egg Casserole 

Yield: 8-12 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 cups 1-inch cubed day-old bread (I used leftover Artisan Bread)
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced (lengthwise)
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried thyme)
  • 12 oz fresh spinach, cleaned well
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 10 large eggs
  • 8 oz (about 2 cups) sharp Swiss cheese, grated and divided
  • 2 oz (about 1 cup) Parmesan cheese, grated and divided
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and melt the butter and oil. Add in the onions, sugar, thyme, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Allow mixture to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are a golden brown (about 30 minutes). Add the spinach to the pan over the onions and cover the pan. Cook for 2 minutes and then start mixing the spinach into the onions with tongs. Cover the pan and cook for another minute; continuing to stir until spinach has wilted into the onion mixture. You may have to gradually add in the spinach, depending on the size of your pan. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  2. While the vegetables cool,  add the cream and milk into a large bowl. Whisk in the mustard, eggs, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper until well-beaten. Stir in 1 ½ cups of the Swiss and ¾ cup of the Parmesan cheeses.
  3. Spread the cubes of bread in a greased, 9x13in baking dish. Top the bread with the onion-spinach mixture. Carefully pour the egg mixture over the bread and onion-spinach mixture, making sure to cover all of the bread. Scatter the remaining cheese over the top. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight.
  4. When you are ready to make the casserole, remove the casserole from the refrigerator to allow the dish to warm up while the oven preheats. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Place the dish on a baking sheet. Bake until the casserole gets puffy and is golden brown, about 65-75 minutes. Allow the casserole to stand for 5 minutes before cutting and serving. Enjoy!

Source: Barely adapted from Smells Like Home 

Peach & Blueberry Crumb Coffeecake

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You know those quizzes that are all over social media right now. The “What kind of dog are you?” or “Which state should you live in?” quizzes. I am a sucker for those. Because they are all very accurate and not at all a colossal waste of time. Plus, I truly need to know which character I am on House of Cards (I’m Christina Ghallager and Robert is, slightly disturbingly, Frank Underwood in case you are wondering).

Anyways, there seems to always be some question that asks about your ideal vacation or day off. I always go for the option that includes staying in, curling up on the couch, and/or a quaint brunch with friends. Oh, man. If there is ever a brunch option, I choose it no matter what the other options are. I’ve made that promise to myself and won’t go back on my word.

Brunch is just fabulous, isn’t it? I mean, it’s a great excuse to eat cake for breakfast and it be okay. That’s why I served this coffeecake at a brunch I hosted this past weekend for some of my most beloved girlfriends from high school.  It seemed like the natural thing to do. The peaches and blueberries are in full bloom around here and I just so happened to stumble upon this recipe last week. The cake has a great crumb to it and the cinnamon streusel topping doesn’t overpower the slightly tart chunks of fruit speckled throughout. I wrapped the leftovers in plastic wrap and aluminum foil and put it in the freezer. I just had a piece for breakfast this morning and I am happy to report the integrity of the taste was not negatively impacted.

I will definitely be making another batch of this breakfast “bread” for future brunches, even if those brunches are a party of one. :)

Peach & Blueberry Crumb Cake

Ingredients

For the Topping:

  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened, cut into 8 pieces

For the Cake:

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and dry
  • 2 cups peeled and chopped fresh peaches (about 3 medium peaches)

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 inch cake pan and line with a circle of parchment paper. Set aside.

2. Make the Topping: Whisk together the flour, sugars, cinnamon, and salt in an electric mixer on low speed until well combined, Add the butter and mix on low speed until no large hunks of butter remain and the mixture is uniform and looks like flakes of oatmeal. Place in a small bowl and set aside.

3. Make the Cake: In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, powder, and salt.  Set aside. Cream together the butter, and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix until combined. Next, add in the eggs, one at a time;  scraping down the side of the bowl as needed. The mixture will appear curdled at this point. Reduce the mixer speed to low, then gradually add the flour mixture and beat until the mixture is just combined, about 20 seconds. Use a spatula to finish mixing the batter, making sure to scrape any flour off the bottom of the bowl. Lastly, carefully fold blueberries and peaches into the batter with a spatula until evenly incorporated.

4. Assemble & Bake the Cake: Pour the batter into the cake pan and gently smooth the top with a spatula. Take the topping and squeeze a handful to pack it together and then sprinkle it over the cake. Repeat with the remaining topping until the batter is covered. Place in the oven and bake for about 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out with only a few crumbs. Place on a cooling rack and allow cake to cool for 20 minutes before removing from pan.

Source: Brown Eyed Baker, originally from Cook’s Illustrated

Homestead Living: Maple Syrup Granola

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It’s  been three weeks since we moved into our little house on the hill and I must say that settling into country living is going pretty smoothly so far. Smith and I are starting to get into a good routine and I am really enjoying my newly updated kitchen (pictures to come soon). One of the goals I have for our new location is to attempt to embrace more of a homestead type of living. This doesn’t mean I’m swearing off modern medicine (I’m a physical therapist, after all). It just means I am hoping to broaden our horizons with more made-from-scratch foods, gardening, and composting. I plan on including my steps toward a modified version of this type of lifestyle. The first project? Homemade granola.

t am always shocked to see the price of granola in grocery stores considering how easy it is to make and that all the ingredients for a basic batch are readily available. Robert has finally joined the Greek yogurt train, but he prefers eating it with a bit of granola. As a result, i decided it was time to start making our own at home.

I perused through recipes and landed on this one. It’s from the folks of the ever-reliable Cook’s Illustrated. It’s a simple concoction with a delicious result. The original recipe calls for almonds and raisins, but old Bert is a no frills type of guy and we kept it simple. This is a great granola recipe that you can jazz up with lots of ingredients depending on your personal preferences. Nuts, dried fruits, seeds, chocolate chips, etc. The possibilities are endless so save yourself some moolah and start making your own granola today!

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Oh and I just couldn’t resist throwing in this picture of my little ham loaf…

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Maple Syrup Granola

Yield: 5 3/4 cups

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 5 3/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together the maple syrup, vanilla, brown sugar, and salt. Whisk in the oil until well combined. Add in the oatmeal and mix until the oats are evenly coated.

3. Pour the mixture onto a baking sheet. and gently pat down with a spatula.

4. Bake for 40-45 mins, or until lightly browned. Be sure to rotate the pan after about 20 minutes to ensure even baking.

5. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 1 hour. Break up the granola with a spatula and store in an airtight container.

Source: My Year Cooking with Chris Kimball

Homemade Lemon Curd

I’ve grown to love the peace and solitude of the mornings. Now that we’ve put up our Christmas decorations, I especially look forward to getting up before the sun rises, drinking my coffee, and sitting under the glow of the lights from our tree. The mornings keep getting colder and the low temperatures seem to magnify my affection for these moments.

On the weekends, I obviously have more time to cherish these times and I like to savor something special for breakfast besides my standard cereal or oatmeal to celebrate the freedom from the daily grind. This lemon curd fits into that category.  It helps cultivate my ongoing daydream of sitting in a French cafe with Ina Garten and her friends (and maybe even Jeffrey is there too,  on leave from Yale) and we’re sipping espressos and planning our day. Ahhh…. I live a wild life.

But seriously, this lemon curd is delightfully tart and sweet and a little bit goes a long way. It goes very well with plain Greek yogurt or as a tasty addition to pancakes. It’s also a delicious in baked goods and I actually used the majority of this batch to make lemon curd cupcakes for a friend’s birthday (recipe coming next week!).

Enjoy your weekend, my friends. And don’t forget to take a few extra minutes to relax and sip your cup of coffee, with or without Ina on your mind.

Homemade Lemon Curd

Yield: 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup (7 oz) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (7 oz) fresh lemon juice, from roughly 8 lemons
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 9 tablespoons (4.5 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Directions

1. Whisk together the eggs and egg yolks in a medium-sized bowl.  Set aside.

2. Pour the lemon juice through sieve to ensure there are no seeds or pith remaining. Combine the lemon juice and sugar in a medium, heat-resistant bowl. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water (also known as a double boiler). Stir occasionally until the sugar fully dissolves.

3. Take the lemon juice mixture off the simmering water, but don’t turn off the stove or remove the pot. While whisking the eggs, slowly add in about 1/4 cup of the lemon juice to the egg mixture at a time, stirring vigorously after each addition. If you add the eggs all at once, you will end up with chunks of scrambled eggs. Not cool.

4. Next, put the bowl with the egg and lemon juice mixture back onto the double boiler. Whisk continually, for about 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to thicken. You’ll know it’s done when the curd coats the back a spoon and doesn’t slide right off.

5. Remove the curd from the heat and add in the butter. Whisk until smooth and no lumps of butter remains. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd and over the bowl so that a film doesn’t form on top of the curd while cooling. Place in the fridge for an hour to allow to cool completely. Store in the refrigerator.

Source: This very informative video from The BALSAMS Grand Resort Hotel (skip to 0:30 to avoid the intro)

Homemade Larabars (No Bake Granola Bars)

Thanksgiving week is upon us. We’re busy preparing our house for guests and getting things ready for the big feast this Thursday. Some of the first items I made were easy breakfast foods for people to enjoy while they are staying at our house. It’s always chaotic in the kitchen on Thanksgiving day and as the day goes on and it gets nearer and nearer to dinner, certain unnamed relatives (ahem… my brother and sister) tend to gravitate towards the kitchen for samples of what’s to come. While I love my siblings dearly, I think it would be better for everyone if they can have food early on in the day to keep them away from the war zone.  As a result I made banana bread, pumpkin bread, and these incredibly easy homemade Larabars for everyone to enjoy.

They’re made with very few ingredients and are especially wonderful because they are a no-bake treat that is customizable and comes together in a flash. The main binding ingredient are Medjool dates, which can be found in the produce section at the grocery store. The sticky and sweet fruit acts as the glue and then it’s easy to basically throw whatever else you want into the bars- dried fruits, nuts, chocolate chips, peanut butter, oatmeal. The choice is up to!

Besides being an easy breakfast, these bars are also great pre-workout snacks to fuel you through a good calorie burn before you sit down to a big plate of food this Thursday. :)

Homemade Lara Bars

Yield: 10-12 bars

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pecans (or other nut)
  • 3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups Medjool dates, pitted and coarsely copped
  • 1 cup dried tart cherries (or other dried fruit)

Directions

1. Place the pecans, oats, chocolate chips, and coconut in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Pour into a large bowl and set aside.

2. Place the dates and cherries in the food processor and pulse until a sticky ball forms. Add the date mixture to the nut/oat mixture and mix with your hands until uniformly mixed.

3. Pour the mixture onto parchment or wax paper and form into rectangle. Wrap up the dough and place it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to allow it to harden. Cut into bars and enjoy! Wrap individually in parchment or wax paper if desired. Store in the fridge.

Inspired by 100 Days of Real Food

Zucchini, Walnut, and Oatmeal Scones

My idea of a perfect weekend morning involves getting up early before the rest of the world starts to stir. I love to fire up our Keurig and listen to the motor run as the water heats up, the anticipation of the hot fuel about to course through my veins is enough to clear the morning fog from my brain. After I have the steaming hot cup of Joe in hand, I love to stroll to my treasured pile of magazines I haven’t read and select which one to peruse while lounging in my jammies. It is fabulous. Even better, though, is when I have a special breakfast treat to enjoy- just like these scones.  Not too sweet, but just sweet enough, with a little more substance than a typical baked good. A perfect pair for a perfect moment.  I wish, in those moments, that time would slow down; but, alas, that is what makes those mornings special.

There is good news, though, my friends. The weekend is upon us and those Saturday and Sunday mornings are just around the corner, waiting for us to greet them with open arms. Make these scones to help make it even more special. You won’t regret it.

Happy Friday, everyone.

Zucchini, Walnut, and Oatmeal Scones

Yield: Approximately 1 dozen scones

Ingredients

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar (plus extra- or coarse sugar- for sprinkling on top)
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup cold buttermilk
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini (about one large zucchini

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 40o degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mat and set aside.

2. To shred the zucchini: Rinse and dry a whole zucchini. Slice it up (skin and all) into 1-2 inch chunk and place in a food processor. Pulse until shredded into uniform pieces. Dump the shreds out onto the center of a clean kitchen towel. Wrap the towel over the zucchini and ensure it is sealed. Wring the towel (with the zucchini inside) over a sink or bowl and get rid of as much liquid as possible. Continue to wring until no more liquid can be squeezed out. Set the zucchini aside.

3. Whisk the flour, oats, sugars, walnuts, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together in a medium-large bowl. Add in the chunks of butter and use your hands to incorporate the butter pieces until the mixture is about the size of peas.

4. In a separate small bowl, mix together the buttermilk and egg.  Carefully fold into the dry mixture just before fully incorporated. Gently add in the shredded zucchini and fold just until combined.

5. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead as necessary. Divide into two equal hunks. Mold each hunk into a 6 inch disc. Dip a sharp knife in flour and carefully cut each disc into 6 wedges.

6. Use a spatula to place the scones on the baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle with sugar and bake for 20 to 22 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Store in an airtight container for two days or freeze.

Source: Adapted from Dorie Greenspan Baking: From my home to yours Oatmeal and Nutmeg Scones