Sunday, January 30, 2011

So you've seen...

Carrot cake on the blog, but have you seen carrot bread? Well I'll tell you right now that you haven't. I call it carrot bread because instead of carrot cake which got its' rise from chemical agents, this one is an actual bread made with yeast!
I followed a recipe from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, except adapted it for the bread machine (by decreasing the amount of water) and used all whole wheat flour (the original calls for half white). The doughs from HB5 are no-knead doughs that are much wetter than the normal dough. I've tried this same recipe a while ago using HB5's no-knead method and the dough barely rose. So this time I wanted to see if it would fare any better if I made it in the bread machine!
Here's the dough before the oven-
Okay so it didn't rise as much as I hoped (there was a huge amount of dough) but rose much better than last time.
This had all the goodies a normal carrot cake would have: carrots, toasted pecans, coconut, cinnamon, and crystallized ginger (because I'm not really a fan of raisins)
Out of the oven!
Hey! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder...
While the outside didn't look very promising, I had to wait for it to cool before I could take a peak at the inside.
Not too shabby! The dough was too wet, so the bread was pretty moist. It seemed dense, yet light at the same time. Great flavor, though! My parents love this bread.
Sadly you can't taste the coconut (even though I toasted it!) so I think next time I might not add the coconut and add some coconut extract instead. This way, it will lighten the loaf (not as much bulk weighing it down) while still imparted that great coconutty flavor you associate with carrot cake (or bread).
I had a couple slices(toasted) the next morning for breakfast slathered with a hodge podge of toppings.
 Both had cream cheese on them, one had lemon curd and the other had ginger jam. YUM!
I am definitely going to try this bread again with my modifications very soon.

Speaking of quick breads..and coconut, I made Coconut Banana Bread with Lime Glaze a few nights ago when I saw we had some bananas about to kick the bucket and had a hankering to bake something. This is by far my favorite banana bread and have made it many different times in both bread form and muffin form with success every time. The lime glaze is essential to get the full effect of this amazing bread..
This time, I made a half recipe. And though I could have made the batter into muffins, I decided to just go the loaf route and just have a short loaf. It's easier (and less messy) for the glaze this way.
I used this recipe from Cooking Light but changed it up quite a lot.
Coconut Banana Bread with Lime Glaze:
 2  cups  whole wheat pastry flour
3/4  teaspoon  baking soda
1/2  teaspoon  salt
1/2 to 3/4 cup  granulated sugar (or turbinado sugar, if you have it)
1/4  cup  butter, softened (can also use applesauce, coconut oil, or Brummel and Brown.)
2  large eggs
1 1/2  cups  mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas) mixed with 1 tablespoon lime juice ***
1/4  cup  plain low-fat yogurt or greek yogurt
2  tablespoons  fruit juice (any flavor)
1/2  teaspoon  vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract (optional)
1/2  cup  flaked sweetened coconut (toasted)
Cooking spray 
1  tablespoon  flaked sweetened coconut

1/2  cup  powdered sugar
1 1/2  tablespoons  fresh lime juice

Preheat oven to 350°.
Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk to combine.
Place granulated sugar and butter (or alternative) in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 1 minute). Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add banana, yogurt, juice,coconut extract, and vanilla; beat until blended. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until moist. Stir in 1/2 cup toasted coconut. Spoon batter into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon coconut. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. 
Combine powdered sugar and juice, stirring with a whisk; drizzle over warm bread. Cool bread completely on wire rack.
 ***Put bananas in microwave safe container and microwave for a minute or two so the bananas get all gooey and sugary. (aka- Katie's melted banana trick) Let cool before combining with the rest of the ingredients.

As I said, the glaze makes this bread y'all! It really adds a lot of sweetness and if you let the bread sit for a day the glaze will kind of melt into the bread making it super moist. If, for some reason you're crazy and don't want to add the glaze, then increase the sugar to compensate.

Oh, and make sure you toast the coconut. I once made this and forgot to toast the coconut and it didn't turn out as well. If you follow these simple modifications you will come out with the most perfect banana bread that will likely become your favorite, guaranteed.
A trip to Costco and we came home with 4, 1 pound 11 ounce containers of ground turkey (along with chocolate covered pomegranates, of course) and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with (one of) them.
Turkey burgers!
The weather was was perfect for grilling and it would be my only chance to grill for a while with all these cold fronts coming through so it was either now or never.

I made these Spicy Chipotle Turkey Burgers from All Recipes. The only changes I made was use more chipotle chiles then called for and half the burgers were topped with colby jack while the other burgers were topped with jalapeno jack cheese (instead of mozzarella). I also made my own buns using the same recipe as this bread. Since that recipe made such a huge loaf, I took some dough out for the buns and used the rest of the dough to bake a sandwich loaf. I made 5 buns by taking 3 ounce balls of dough, flattening them out on a parchment lined baking sheet and let them rise for 30 minutes, then baked them at 350 until they registered 200 degrees.
Here's my burger before being dressed-

I opted for the colby jack because I thought the combination of jalapeno jack cheese plus the chipotles would be a tad spicy.
Look at the cute bun!
We just might be making our own buns from now on :D
Then I loaded on the toppings
It has tomato, ketchup, avocado, lettuce, pickles, vegan non fat mayo, and mustard..phew!
This guy looks like a slider but he was really quite large and delicious :)
As for the burger itself? I loved this recipe! It was oh so flavorful and no one missed the beef at all. The only change I would make is add more chipotles, it had spice but wasn't super spicy. I can't wait till the weather is warm so we can have these again! Plus, we have 3 more boxes of ground turkey in freezer..score!
Here's the rest of the loaf-
A much more manageable loaf! I sliced it up and put it in the freezer for whenever I need some sandwich bread.
Perfect slices! The trick is to let it sit out for a day so it firms up a little. This way you can get much more even slices and the bread doesn't scrunch underneath you as you slice!

And for dessert I tried something new that I have been wanting to try but have been a bit apprehensive about. The Zevia ginger root beer diet soda drink. 
You see, I stay far, far away from artificial sweeteners. I gave up gum this summer and haven't looked back. The last time I drank diet soda (or any soda) was I don't even know when! Even though, yes there is some debate as to if artificial sweeteners are really bad for you or not, I'd rather stick with the real stuff in moderation.

I have done some research on Stevia, however, and it seems like a very natural way to go. I still don't want to use it regularly but I'm willing to give it a try once in a while. With my first sip my impression was "sweet". I never drink sweetened beverages (besides some creamer in my coffee sometimes when I feel like it) and don't drink fruit juice so this soda was way too sweet for me. Once I watered it down with some club soda (carbonated water) I quite enjoyed it. It was like the root beer I remembered drinking as a kid  but with an extra level of spiciness (from the ginger) that really kicked it up a notch. It really had me craving a root beer float! It kind of feels like cheating when something is so sweet and registers in your body as sweet, yet has no caloric impact. I don't want my body getting used to my beverages being much sweeter then usual (which is normally tea, water, or lemon water) so this will definitely be a once in a while treat.
What's your opinion on artificial or zero calorie sweeteners?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Chicken Chickpea soup and more!

We have really been enjoying Costco dinners ever since we've gotten a membership. They have some really great pastas, and various other things that we have tried and loved. The best part is that they have great ingredient lists and take no time to prepare (usually just heat and eat!).
Just recently, we had falafels from Costco with an all out Greek-inspired spread. These falafel not only taste great but are quite nutritious!
I've made homemade falafel before and they didn't even compare to these. I liked how, when heated in the oven, they got crisp on the outside and stayed smooth in the inside.
We had everything you could imagine to pair with these guys.
Pita bread, hummus, cucumber and tomato slices, greek yogurt, feta cheese, and olives. I could have made a tzatziki sauce, but I was too lazy. Remember, its all about the "heat and eat"! Its always fun to be able to build your own meal, too.
Yum! Although we demolished all of the tomato and cucumber, we had some falafel balls leftover. I've been preparing myself repeat falafel pitas the past couple days that have been just as good as the first time around!

Another Costco dinner was an egg white quiche. The package came with two flavors: feta artichoke and broccoli cheddar. We decided to eat the broccoli cheddar and freeze the other one for later.
It's hard to tell from the picture, but this quiche is quite small. In fact, between the three of us, we finished it off!
We had the quiche along side some asparagus with some leftover lemon sauce.
This quiche was surprisingly very tasty! It had a lot of flavor going on and wasn't bland at all. The only gripe I have with it was that it was rather crust-heavy.
Oh and my second piece of strawberry rhubarb pie was even better the next day! The filling had thickened even more over night :D
I had fun with the whipped cream, as you can see.
Besides having "Costco Dinners" we've also had a couple meals that I made. In fact, I think I made all the dinners this past week!
In an "eggy" mood I made a frittata that contained potatoes, roasted broccoli and brussel sprouts, mushrooms, onions, and bacon.
I topped half with sharp cheddar and left the other half bare because I wasn't sure if the flavors would work or not. Luckily it did! This frittata was good, but I still have some work to do on my frittata skills. The bottom was burnt a little, I cooked it a bit too long, and I was a little over zealous with the veggies (it was kind of falling apart!).

I also made soup! It was definitely the perfect night for soup, aka-cold. I made a Chicken Chickpea Soup that I saw over at How Sweet It Is. I followed her recipe pretty closely except I added more spices, never added any salt, and more veggies!
Jessica recommended topping it with Parmesan cheese, so I did, but on my second bowl I went sans parmesan and actually liked it better that way.
I really liked this soup and my parents loved it too! The leftovers are all gone :D There was a lot of great flavors going on and this soup just hit the spot.

I had leftover chickpeas from that soup and it just so happened to be right around 1/2 a cup...perfect for a microwave bean brownie that Kate invented! I kind of changed a lot of things up so I'm not sure if it changed its outcome or not. I added a little instant coffee, 2 teaspoons of sugar, 2 teaspoons of mini chocolate chips, a dash of vanilla, and a dash of peppermint extract. I also spread it kind of thin in the container I was cooking it in, so I only cooked it for 2 minutes 50 seconds.
Here it is outta the microwave! Like Kate, I don't have the best processor, so there was still some visible garbanzo bean bits.
I broke it in half and had a half with a half a serving (yes that's a lot of "half"s!) of mint chocolate chip ice cream.
Yes, that is a half serving of ice cream. I weighed it! Soo tiny!
So the verdict on the brownie? Hmm. I don't know. It seemed to be lacking flavor and seemed really dry. When paired with the ice cream it tasted alright but by itself, I couldn't taste a thing. Now, I did change the recipe up a bunch so that could have been my problem.
I dont know Kate, is this what the inside is supposed to look like?
Probably over cooked it. Maybe I should try it again without messing with the recipe so much!
I thought this shot looked kind of artsy-
With the horizontal and diagonal lines :P Oh and that little blue circle is my dog's food bowl.

Oh! And before I go I have to share with y'all my lunch from today!
It was a hummus, cucumber, tomato, and sprout sandwich on some of my homemade bread that I had stuck in the freezer. So good!! I love this combo because not only does it taste good, but I feel good after eating it; such fresh ingredients :D
And don't you love my plate? Gotta love chubby farm animals!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The lemon and blueberry combo - three ways

You know how much I love the lemon blueberry combo. There's no denying that, teamed together, lemons and blueberries could rule the world. Well, maybe my world.
I am sad to say that there is now only a couple teaspoons left of lemon curd in the fridge, however, grocery shopping day is just a few days away. Can I make it? There's always the idea of making my own lemon curd. Less expensive, and in fact, I have made it before with great results! We'll see...

Anyways, I would like to present to you the LB combo three ways. All in one day!
First, the most boring-
Eh, blurry picture, sorry. This was toast (using that huge loaf I made) one side with homemade chocolate hazelnut spread and the other with blueberry jam and lemon curd. Well, the jam is actually "mixed berry" but really, it tastes just like blueberry so I'm still deeming this a LB combo (and yes, I will be abbreviating from now on).
Next LB muffins!
I made these muffins with the same base as the coffee cake recipe but majorly adapted it. I love these! I also love how they're non fat (besides the almond topping) and around 85 calories a muffin..who can argue with that?
Low Fat Lemon Blueberry Muffins
Makes: 6-8 muffins
¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup blueberries, divided
½ cup non fat blueberry yogurt
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
½ tablespoon grated lemon zest
3-4 teaspoons lemon curd
2 tablespoons chopped toasted almonds (optional)
Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a bowl.
Combine blueberry yogurt (alternatively any sweetened flavored yogurt OR plain yogurt but add one more tablespoon of sugar) vanilla, egg, and lemon zest.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix briefly. Stir in ½ cup of the blueberries.
Pour batter into muffin cups filling 2/3 the way full; depending on the size of the cups this will fill around 6 to 8. Top each cup with a ½ teaspoon lemon curd and then evenly divide the almonds and the remaining blueberries among the cups.
Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted (not directly in the middle where the lemon curd is) comes out clean.
I just had to try one straight out of the oven and let me tell you, it was fab-u-lous. So moist and the perfect amount of sweetness! I think it would be cool to adapt this recipe to use raspberry yogurt and raspberries! In fact, I could have used lemon yogurt! Next time, next time. Its a plus for me that this recipe only makes around 7 muffins because I don't like having huge batches of stuff laying around. I like variety!
I used some awesome silicone muffin cups my mom gave me for Christmas. They seem a bit smaller than the normal ones but that just means I can have two small muffins instead of one medium one :D
The muffins didn't stick one bit, which is always a problem for me with my often low fat muffins.
And they leave your muffin with cute little ridges! I think these silicone cups will be perfect for making homemade dark chocolate peanut butter cups ( I know my mom is "mmmmm!"-ing as she reads this)
Aren't they cute? You can see the silicone cups stacked up in the background. I think these will work great :D

And lastly, my LB combo #3 is..well, I don't know what to call it!
It's a Carlyn original, that's for sure. I used my leftover pie crust from the Strawberry Rhubarb pie to make little mini pies. Can you guess what's in it? Yuppppp, lemon curd and blueberries. Okay here's how I made them.

First I line 3 muffin cups with my leftover pie crust dough.
It required some patchwork.
Then I filled the muffin cups with all that was left of the blueberry (mixed berry) jam that I had heated on the stove with some cornstarch (to thicken it).
Got a lil' messy..
Then topped the jam with fresh blueberries.
And then covered the blueberries with lemon curd...
Popped them in the oven at 375 for around 15 minutes or so, until the crust started looking brown.
Then I took them out and topped them with a simple whipped meringue (1 egg white, pinch of cream of tartar, dash of vanilla, 1/2 tb sugar)
And put them back in the oven until the meringue turned golden.
How cute is that?!?!?
Its adorbs. Yes, I just said adorbs.
Almost too cute to eat...almost.
Okay so the inside, not so pretty. I took a picture anyway because I knew you guys deserved to see a cross section.
Best. Idea. Ever.
I love just going with the flow and not using a recipe sometimes; you can sometimes end up with something great!
Never throw out those extra dough scraps y'all!
The possibilities are endless. Mmm, like apple pie or, better yet, pumpkin pie! I just might have to do that next time around...
Happy eating!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ever wonder how to make a Strawberry Rhubarb Pie?

Wonder no longer!
Strawberries were on sale this week and the rhubarb was looking good so my mom and I just knew that it was strawberry rhubarb pie time! I had actually found a recipe I wanted to try out a long time ago but wanted to wait till there was a good price on the strawberries. I wanted to use this recipe I found over at Smitten Kitchen because it seemed she had solved the "too-liquidity" pie issue which seems to always be the issue when my family makes strawberry rhubarb pie.  I also wanted to make homemade pie crust because her pictures looked amazing and also, have you seen the ingredient list on the store-bought kinds? Not pretty.

Now, I'm no pie crust expert, but I think I did pretty well, so I hope I inspire some of y'all to try making your own pie crusts too! Its not as hard as it seems.
First you assemble all your ingredients.
You will need:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I used half white, half whole wheat pastry flour)
2 sticks butter (yes two sticks. Trust me.)
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon table salt

I diced up my butter and then popped it in the freezer for about 5 minutes while I got the other stuff ready so it would be nice and cold.

To start off, fill a one cup measure with water and a couple ice cubes.

Then add all the dry ingredients to a large bowl-
Combine with a whisk-
Add very cold butter that has been cubed into smallish pieces-
You will need a pastry blender for this next step, otherwise you may have to do this in the food processor.
This is a pastry blender.
Cut into the butter and blend until your butter is evenly dispersed and in small pea-sized chunks. Like this-
Then add in about 1/2 cup of your very cold water-
Mix with a spatula until it starts to come together. Add more water by the tablespoon if needed (it will probably need 1/4 cup more). Change to kneading with your hands until the dough comes together into a ball that looks like this-
Divide the dough into two portions, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for 1-2 hours, at least.
The crust didn't seem that hard to make, but its how the crust ends up once it cooks that counts! I was apprehensive, to say the least.
If you want the actual expert's (Deb over at Smitten Kitchen) photos and how-to directions, click here.

Now on to the filling!
You will need:
3 1/2 cups (about 1 1/2 pounds, untrimmed) rhubarb, in 1/2-inch thick slices
3 1/2 cups (about 1 pound) strawberries, hulled and sliced if big, halved if tiny
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup quick-cooking tapioca
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

I ended up being just a tad short on rhubarb so I used a little more strawberries.
As long as, in the end, you have around 7 cups of fruit, then you're good!
As I was cutting up the strawberries, I noticed a strawberry that had a flower petal on it!
I forgot that strawberries were actually the stamen of the strawberry flower! I really want to grow my own strawberry plants.. wouldn't that be awesome?
 ANYWAYS, combine the diced strawberries and rhubarb with the rest of the ingredients except the butter.
Now it's time to roll out your dough!
Unwrap one dough ball and lightly flour a working surface. Roll the dough into a 12 inch circle.
Transfer to your 9-inch pie dish. I gently folded mine in half for the transfer, which worked out great.
Being a novice pie maker, I crimped my edges, but you'll want to wait until you put the top layer on to do that. Just let the crust hang over the sides.
Next, pour in your filling.
And dot with 2 tablespoons of butter.
Then take your remaining pie dough and roll it into a 11 inch circle.
I trimmed it a bit for prettiness sake :P
This is where you can have some fun and cut out decorative slits. I didn't really know what to do so I just cut random holes that didn't end up looking very pretty..oh well, c'est la vie!
Transfer the top crust to your pie.
Crimp the edges and take off the excess dough. Make sure all the seams are sealed.
Look at that little cute butter cube sneakin' out!
Next, transfer to a baking sheet and brush the crust with a mixture of one egg yolk and one teaspoon of water. Sprinkle with some turbinado sugar if you'd like (and I liked).
Bake for 20 minutes then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, until the pie is golden and the juices bubble visibly.
Look at that crust!
I've never seen a store-bought crust look that good, ever.
Let the pie cool for several hours before devouring.
Talk about the longest hours of my life! I kept coming upstairs just to sniff it...I know, I know...I just really wanted to dig in to see if all my hard work had payed off!
After dinner, I cut the pie in slices. This is the moment of truth because in the past, our pies have turned into soup! Thankfully, this pie stayed in place and didn't have a crazy amount of juice leaking all over the place. YAY!

Here's my slice-
 No excess liquid!
 Super flaky crust!
 Topped with whipped cream, for good measure.
And promptly demolished! MMM! This was so good and I think everyone absolutely loved it. My sister said she didn't like the texture of the tapioca in the pie, but I didn't notice it that much. I love how this pie isn't crazy sweet (other recipes call for double the sugar!) and my mom said it could even be less sweet.

Guys, if you've never had the strawberry and rhubarb combination you need to go out and get the ingredients for this pie pronto. You will not be disappointed! We sure weren't :D
Happy pie baking y'all!