Monday, September 16, 2013

Whole Wheat Salted Caramel Apple Breakfast Pastries

Friday the 13th is not a big deal in my world. 
I do not enjoy being scared. 
Seriously, though.
If you jump out at me, I will simultaneously pee my pants and punch you in the face. 
You have been warned. 

Superstitions aren't my thing, either. 
Unless you count the whole not washing my socks while my team is on a winning streak. 
In which case, superstitions REALLY aren't my thing. 

Somehow (probably because I'm a girl and also because I do what I want so there) I get away with hating being scared but loving Halloween at the same time. It's my favorite holiday! I love the macabre decorations, the costumes (only the scary kind -no smiling pumpkins for me), the flickering lighting, the screaming soundtracks. 

Okay, fine. 
I just really love candy.
Especially oozy, gooey caramel. More on that in a minute.
  But K (my spouse of nearly-nine years) - he LOVES to scare himself silly year-round.
Scary movies, haunted houses, ghost stories in the dark. 
It should tell you a lot that my children heard the "Who's got my toe?" story on a camp-out when they were too young for us to know for sure whether the big "YOU'VE GOT IT!" made them pee themselves. 
You know. Because they were still in diapers.  
 Get it?

Yeah. Neither do I. 
It is pretty sick. 
That my kids love it is the worse part. 
I am an island. 

But, because love is blind (or just dumb), I like to throw K a bone every once in a while and get freaky with him!
Ooh... Dirty. 
You know what I mean. 

So on Friday the 13th I went all out - I rented a super freaky movie, pulled our bedding downstairs for a makeshift "sleepover" feel, set out just a couple of our spookiest Halloween decorations, and, since it's me, made a Fall Feast to ring in some Grim Grinning Ghosts!

Does it surprise you that the food was the best part?
Me either. 
  Somehow spooky menus and fall always bring caramel apples to mind.
Probably because there really is nothing better than a caramel apple.
Unless it's Salted Caramel Apples. a pie. 
But, since there are just four of us and I have no clue what I would do with leftover pie (and eating it all late at night while everyone sleeps is NOT an option if I want to keep my girlish figure/resolutions/dignity).
Avery has loved having miniature homemade Pop Tarts in her lunch every once in a while as a special treat, and my mom just bought me this toaster pastry mold thing from the sale bin at Williams-Sonoma (also known as HEAVEN), so I knew what I had to do.
And then I did it.

And boy, am I ever glad I did! The crust is flakey and tender, and the insides are packed with the perfect combination of salty, sweet, appley goodness.
Thankfully I fell asleep quickly, before the movie got too scary.
K, on the other hand, was up half of the night jumping at all of the things that go bump in the night and scaring himself silly.
I really don't see the appeal.
But no one could blame me for sleeping soundly, all full of warm toaster pastry (and extra caramel sauce that I may or may not have licked out of the pot).
[Spoiler Alert: I did it. And I'd do it again.]

Whole Wheat Salted Caramel Apple Breakfast Pastries
Hey, I just said that.

Whole Wheat Pie Crust
  • 2 ¼ cup whole-wheat pastry (or regular) flour, plus extra for rolling out the dough
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup cold cold cold unsalted butter (2 sticks)
  • ½ cup ice water

  1. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Measure the flour and salt into a food processor with the blade and pulse it together twice.
  3. Fill a glass measuring cup with ½ cup water and add a few ice cubes to it.
  4. Take the cold butter straight out of the fridge and cut it into small chunks. Sprinkle the pieces of butter on top of the flour in the food processor, spreading out the butter as opposed to letting it all clump together in one piece.
  5. Pulse the food processor about 10 times, blending until the mixture resembles a crumbly meal (you will be able to see butter clumps in the flour - they should be roughly pea-size). 
  6. Then pulse  the food processor while adding ice water through the top very slowly. When a dough ball has formed (dough clumps roughly together at one side of processor bowl), stop and turn out the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap, pressing the dough together into a disk shape. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days (or store dough in the freezer [in a freezer safe container] for up to 6 months).
Salted Caramel Apple Toaster Pastry
  • 2 cups small peeled, Granny Smith apples, diced fine (no larger than a corn kernel [so they are sure to cook through])
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 2 teaspoons whole wheat flour
  • 8 store-bought soft caramels (like Kraft), roughly chopped
  • Large flake sea salt (Maldon, Pink Himalayan, etc)
  • 1 egg beaten with a splash of water
  • Additional caramel sauce (made by melting 8 store-bought caramels with 2-3 Tbs evaporated milk on low on the stove-top)
Make the filling:
In a small bowl, combine the apples, lemon juice, cinnamon, sugar and flour, stirring until thoroughly mixed. Set aside.

Assemble the pies:
How do you dice them apples?
  1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF.
  2. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a well-floured surface, rolling it out to a 14x14-inch square. (Alternately you can cut the dough in half, making a smaller area to work with. You know, if you're low on counter space. Which I am. So I did.)
  3. Using a cookie cutter, cup, pastry press - basically whatever shape you want, cut out as many *insert shape here*s as possible. Re-roll the scraps and continue cutting out shapes until you run out of dough, ensuring you end up with an even number of shapes. 
    Oh, this is going to be good.
  4. Place six of the dough shapes on a Silpat, parchment paper, or greased aluminum foil-lined cookie sheet. Spoon a small portion of the apple filling into the center of each shape, leaving enough of a border around the filling. Top the apple filling with a small portion of the chopped caramels and a pinch of sea salt. Place a second dough shape on top of each filled shape, then use a pastry press or fork to crimp the edges together, sealing each pie.
  5. Brush each pie with the egg wash.
  6. Bake the pies for 10-15 minutes, depending upon their size, or until they're golden brown.
  7. Remove the pies from the oven and allow them to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Repeat the filling and baking process with the remaining dough shapes.
  8. If desired, top each pie with a small drizzle of caramel sauce, made by slowly melting caramels in a bit of canned evaporated milk until homogenous. 
*Pies will last in an air-tight container on the counter for three days, or in the freezer (without caramel topping) for 3 months. 
**Reheat by toasting in your toaster (without caramel topping) or in a hot oven.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Have a Ball: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies with Homemade Peanut Butter Chips (...err, Chunks)!

It's still back-sweat-hot here in Portland most days, which I guess I shouldn't mind, considering I have months of gloom and rain ahead of me. But, the wacky truth is, I love the rain. Those grey, gloomy days make me feel contemplative and content.
...Okay, fine. I also really love being able to turn on my oven for a bit (read: all day) and not heat my house to butt-sweat-hot levels. 
Are you allowed to say "butt sweat" in a recipe post? 
Oh well.

  Baking season is nearly upon us, though, and between making healthy snacks that taste like treats (tricky me!) to pack away in my first-grader's lunch or greet her with when she gets home from school (or stuff in my face at 11 am) and yearning for cooler fall days, my oven and I have jumped the gun a little bit. 
...I may have jumped the gun here, too. I'm not sorry.
Lately I have been dreaming up a Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip cookie that can satisfy any craving- whether it be for dough straight out of the mixer bowl or a warm, gooey cookie. And today I finally did something about it.
But first, I had to problem solve.
You see, my children are always incredibly disappointed when I make traditional cookies and won't let them eat the dough (understandably). And I'm always incredibly disappointed when I crave something but don't have the ingredients on hand. Like this morning, when I wanted peanut butter chips in my then-imaginary cookies, but didn't have any on hand (who does?!).
A quick trip to the store (no such thing) with three kids (aka getting out of my sweat pants)?
 No thanks.
Then, just for funzies, I decided to look into the ingredients of peanut butter chips. 
Fifteen ingredients (and 7 net carbs per tablespoon!) later, I was glad I didn't have any in my pantry.

So... I made my own peanut butter chips. Crazy? Not really. It honestly took four seconds to mix together the three (yes, THREE! And only three carbs, too! Eat that, Mr. Hershey. ...well, I would let you eat that, but there are none left. Sorry, Mr. Hershey) ingredients required and popped them in the freezer to set up for five minutes.
Not exactly breaking a sweat here yet.

I didn't have any candy molds on hand to make mine nice-looking, but I figure that the only thing better than peanut butter CHIPS is peanut butter CHUNKS, am I right?
(By the way, Peanut Butter Chunks would have been an amazing nickname for me in high school. You really dropped the ball there, High School Bullies. For shame.)
Dough Balls. NOT a good nickname.
And the only thing better than Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies is PBCCC with homemade Peanut Butter Chunks! That you can eat in any form and not worry about salmonella or Sal Mineo or anything like that (You Rebel).

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
*In order to make this recipe vegan, substitute ingredients for those found in parentheses

  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature (vegan substitute Earth Balance spread)
  • 3/4 cups Peanut Butter, plus additional Tbs if needed
  • 1/2 cup Coconut Sugar or brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (vegan) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda (Bob's Red Mill Brand is cruetly-free)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour 
  • 1/2 cup (vegan) dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup homemade peanut butter chips chunks, recipe below
  1. Cream together butter (margarine), peanut butter, sugars and vanilla in bowl of stand mixer (3 minutes).
  2. Combine dry ingredients (all but chips) in a small bowl. 
  3. Add dry ingredients to creamed ingredients on low. If the dough seems dry, add additional peanut butter or a splash of non-dairy milk one TBS at at time, until dough consistency is right. 
  4. Fold chocolate and peanut butter chip/chunks into the batter.
  5. Chill dough for thirty-plus minutes, then eat (yay!!) or scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheet and with a small scoop and bake at 350 for 10 to 12 minutes. **Note: The cookies will still be soft and look a lot like they did going into the oven- DO NOT overbake! 
  6. Cool cookies on baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. You know, if you want to wait for forever. 

Me? I'd rather burn my tongue and then take a picture of the evidence. Totally worth it.

Homemade Peanut Butter Chips
  • 2 tbsp virign coconut oil
  • 4 leveled tbsp PB2
  • 2 tsp pure maple syrup
  1. Melt the coconut oil if it’s not already liquid. 
  2. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and stir well to form a paste. (Note: You can also make these using cacao butter instead of coconut oil.) 
  3. Smooth into candy molds or onto a sheet of wax or parchment paper, and freeze until solid. If using the wax/parchment option, break chips into pieces once firm. 
  4. Store in freezer.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

For Good: Vegan Moroccan Soup

 Some weeks are so amazing. Everything goes your way and everything feels like contentment and sunshine and bunnies. 

At least that's what happens in movies. 

Contentment, sunshine and bunnies, be warned. You've been replaced.
In my home a daily battle occurs. Think of it as good vs. evil. Your first-grader making the school bus vs. missing it by about thirty-two seconds. Giving your husband a successful kiss-and-hug before he leaves for work vs. somehow getting your big toe stepped-on-and-consequently-broken by his big, shiny work shoes and bleeding on the kitchen floor when you try to lean in for a morning smooch. Getting a balanced dinner on table as said (toe-stepping) husband walks in the door vs. frantically searching through the back of the fridge and finally serving too-toasted toast and rubbery eggs (because moldy leftovers and spaghetti-for-the-third-night-in-a-row just weren't viable options) with a forced smile twenty minutes before your children's supposed-bedtime.

The great news is that this soup, adapted from the Peas and Thank You cookbook, is pure good. Good because all you have to do in order to make it is dump the ingredients in your crock-pot and come back hours later to a perfect, hearty meal. Good because your kids and husband will all love it and undoubtedly ask for seconds. Oh-so-good because it tastes even better on day two. And just plain great because it tastes like the greatest curry dish you've ever had while meat-and-riceless, packed with vitamins and protein, and easy on the carbs, calories, and, therefore, waistline. Try this anytime (but especially when it is chilly and rainy outside - oh! The comfort of this soup, a good book, and a lap blankie all in the hour after the kids have finally given up and fallen asleep... now my mouth is really watering) for an amazing(ly simple), quick, filling, delicious and good good good meal for you and your family.
Mmm Mmm Good.

Moroccan Soup
 *adapted from Peas and Thank You
Makes 6 large servings (8 for my family of four (the four of us with teeth, that is)

  • 1 14 ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 small head cauliflower, diced
  • 3 tsp curry powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 Tbs minced ginger
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • a dash of your choice of sweetener (I use evaporated cane juice)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 14 ounce can of fire-roasted tomatoes in juice
  • 14 ounce can light coconut milk
  • 3 cups veggie stock
  • 2 Tbs peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup red lentils, rinsed
  •  Garnishes: chopped cilantro, dairy-free sour cream (or my favorite- coconut cream!), chopped peanuts, nann bread, lime wedges
Combine all ingredients in a crock pot and set on high for about an hour, then low for an additional three plus hours. Serve garnishes at the table.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

first day of school: Walnut Kale Basil Pesto

What do you do when your baby is going into the first grade and you are panicking?
And not because she can't handle it- she's pretty wonderful. 
It's you. 
You're having trouble letting go. 

And by "you", I mean me, of course. 
The answer is fairly simple, it turns out.
What does a natural-born chub do for her daughter on the first day of first grade?
Well, first there's crying. Then she spends the weekend before stocking the freezer full of delicious snacks to send in her daughter's lunchbox.
And by "she", I also mean me.

I'm talking homemade Pop Tarts, muffins, pizza rolls, soup, refried beans, pesto- anything  and everything I could think of to make the mornings easier on me and lunchtime delightful for my first-grader. 

Showing off her shoes. I have taught her well.
I'm just realizing that it might be weird that I prepared the most for my daughter's Back to School experience by baking.
...Don't judge me, okay? I'm still working on the whole food ≠ love thing.

Mostly, I just want her to eat well and not run out of energy during her long days 
(away from me!! Waaaa).
And I don't want to spend the wee hours of the morning running around and hollering like a crazy person. I want to save that for when my hair is dry and there is company over.

Anyway, I'm pretty proud of my first attempt at a healthy school lunch and snack for my grown-up girl. 

Snack (above) and lunch.
For snack time, Avery made caprese skewers with chunks of mozzarella I had cut up the night before and grape tomatoes from the Farmer's Market (skewered onto plastic toothpicks). Then I added a big scoop of Walnut Kale Basil Pesto (ridiculous name, but how many superfoods does your pesto contain? Come on, it can show off a little. [recipe below]). In the other compartment I put some purple grapes.
Lunch is an apple, peanut butter and Craisin sandwich (with the extra slices from the apple on top, per Av's request - she couldn't bare to let her little sister eat them, I guess), greek yogurt with honey, sugar snap peas, a teeny bit of leftover applewood smoked cheddar (Av's fav - "I love this cheese! It smells like turkey!!!" she declares while I try not to gag in the background - I'm not big on cheese) and a banana bread muffin.

This weekend we got to help out at our Bountiful Baskets site, and I was struck anew at how much delicious fresh food we got for so little money! They provided the grapes, sugar snaps and apples (I got the LunchBox pack on top of our usual basket). 

You may find it silly, but I feel proud of what I sent with my girl on this huge day, and I am super happy to realize that incorporating packing her lunch in our busy mornings is going to be no big deal! Especially not if I keep prepping when I have the free time. I also love the ownership Av showed over her lunch- she was thrilled to get it all together, which I know will make a big difference when it comes time to eat.
 Anything to keep her healthy, happy, and full for a long day of learning and fun!
See how excited I sound?! 
Am I fooling you yet?! 
I still miss her.
And I have allowed myself one day of mourning. 
Tomorrow, just joy. Joy for my three beautiful children and my kind husband and our great life. 

But today, tears. 
And Ben and Jerry's.
I called No Judgesies, okay?

Walnut Kale Basil Pesto
  • 4 leaves kale, thick stems removed 
  • 1 small bunch basil, stems removed
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and cooled
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (add more for a smoother pesto)
  • the juice and zest of one lemon 
  • 1 tbsp.grated parmesan or pecorino cheese (or to taste)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
  2. Blanch the kale and basil leaves for about 30 seconds, remove and place in the ice bath to stop the cooking process.
  3. Dry the kale and basil with papertowels, gently squeezing out the excess water.
  4. Blend everything together in a food processor. The longer you blend, the smoother the pesto. Taste and adjust - add more salt, pepper, lemon, olive oil, to taste.
And then spread on bread, pasta, tomatoes and cheese... eat with spoon... whatever. There's no judgement here.

Happy Back to School/Mourning Day!