Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Vegan Ginger Spice Loaf

Vegan Ginger Spice Loaf

Vegan baking is sort of touch and go. This is the first vegan baked good I've ever made that tastes so good, has great texture and rises a bit while baking. You'd never know it was missing all that butter/dairy and what's more, has the teeniest amount of oil in the whole thing - 1 tablespoon! This is a fine breakfast with coffee, but an equally good dessert or snack. The texture is moist and hearty, with a crackling crunchy top thanks to a generous sprinkle of turbinado sugar. Warm and spicy, studded with fresh ginger throughout, it's quickly becoming my new fall favorite. The recipe calls for 2-3 tablespoons of fresh ginger. I use three. Two would be a normal amount for what you'd expect in a spice cake but three will send it just over the top and warm your throat with addicting spice. It's divine. It's so good in fact, that I made it twice in the same week. The second time I ate half the loaf in one sitting. I probably would have the first time as well, but I had to be polite and share since I invited a couple friends over for tea.

Vegan Ginger Spice Loaf

Vegan Ginger Spice Loaf

Who knew that cubing ginger spice cake would be better than a scone at tea time? It was.

Vegan Ginger Spice Loaf

Make this A-sap. You'll only dirty one bowl and a loaf pan, plus gain a recipe to add to your go-to repertoire, for breakfast, for tea, for dessert with a powdered sugar fits the bill most anytime. And made with whole wheat flour, healthy fresh ginger, and only 1 gram of fat per serving, it's practically a health food. Um, don't quote me on that.

Vegan Ginger Spice Loaf
adapted from girl who bakes
yields 12 slices

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup raw sugar, plus more for sprinkling (I used turbinado raw- you can use what you have on hand)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt
2-3 tbsp freshly grated ginger (or chopped very small with a serrated knife)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup water

 Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. 

In a large bowl whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, cloves, and ginger.

Make two wells in the dry ingredients and pour the vinegar in one and the oil in the other. Pour water over everything and stir until everything is just combined.

 Pour batter into a greased loaf pan. Sprinkle more turbinado or raw sugar generously over the top. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

It's happening. My son starts his first day of kindergarten tomorrow. I'm going to miss my little buddy :( He is very ready though. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Creamy Zucchini Strand Pesto Pasta + How to freeze Pesto

Creamy Zucchini Strand Pesto Pasta

I'm excited today because I have the honor of introducing you to your new favorite pasta. Chances are you don't know about it. The pasta I'm talking about is the single BEST pasta I have ever eaten. It has a deliciously chewy and al dente texture, is hard to over cook, and tastes like white pasta. Ahem, excuse me, it gets even better: Remember the pasta scene in "Eat, Pray, Love"where Julia Roberts twirls her fork in that marinara sauce with thick, white noodles in girlish delight? Yeah, it tastes like that looks.

And if that wasn't enough to make you leave your computer screen and hustle to the store, this pasta I'm raving about? It's organic brown rice pasta. I'm not kidding. It's wheat free and gluten free, 100% whole grain, NON mushy pasta.


I'm talking about this pasta specifically. Tinkyada brand. I'm not getting paid. I haven't been contacted by this company. I'm just nuts for their pasta. I can't vouch for any other brands. I got mine at Whole Foods.

Why is this pasta so good for you? People have a hard time digesting wheat. I'm not preaching a gluten free lifestyle here, I don't follow one, but hear me out. We don't have the enzymes in our saliva and stomach to fully break down and absorb gluten for our nutritional use. Even if you are not a celiac, or sufferer of wheat allergies, you might feel more energetic by limiting your wheat intake. Dr. Michelle Pietzak, a celiac expert at USC says 

"Depending on your genetic make-up, you can have an allergy, you can have celiac disease, or it could be that you're just not digesting it well." 

Your body can assimilate the whole grain nutrients in brown rice pasta easily and quickly, which does not tax our immune systems, and doesn't require so much energy for our body to digest. Which, basically means we aren't left feeling heavy and fatigued, like a traditional pasta dinner would and our bodies can recover faster. Cool?

Creamy Zucchini Strand Pesto Pasta

The second part of this post is about the recipe. I have as much adoration for this recipe as I do the actual pasta if you can believe that. This meal was hands down the best I've eaten in weeks, maybe months. Please take into consideration that I tend to be extremely dramatic when it comes to food. Even so, this pasta was exceptional. The toothiness of the thick al dente pasta against the soft crunch of mild squash, and all swaddled together in a thick little pesto; that because of it's oil and cheese content (neither of which are that bad) becomes so silky and creamy that it causes the pasta to stick together when twirled with a fork. All this for a light dish. This pasta is many things, but heavy is not one of them. Glory be. 

Do you all know how to freeze pesto? You know, so you can save summers bounty for a cold winters night when you could use a cozy little bowl of pasta wrapped in summers warmth? 


Creamy Zucchini Strand Pesto Pasta

Creamy Zucchini Strand Pesto Pasta

This meal comes together in a snap.

Creamy Zucchini Strand Pesto Pasta

Creamy Zucchini Strand Pesto Pasta
serves 4-6

1/4 cup plus 2-3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 cup fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
2 small garlic cloves
2 tablespoons pine nuts (or 1 tbsp pine nuts, and 1 tbsp walnuts)
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese (grate it yourself. Pre-grated cheese contain stabilizers that won't allow the cheese to melt properly)

1 package Whole Grain Brown Rice pasta
2 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups zucchini and yellow squash strands (either julienned by a mandolin or by hand)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
Freshly grated black pepper
1 recipe frozen pesto (recipe above)

Make the Pesto at least the day before and up to three months ahead of making this dish so it has time to freeze. 

Place 1/4 cup plus one tablespoon olive oil, plus the rest of the pesto ingredients in a magic bullet or mini food processor and blend to combine. Place pesto into a mason jar and cover with a thin layer of olive oil (about a quarter inch). Make sure the entire surface of your pesto is covered by the oil. Put the lid back on and place upright in your freezer. It will keep for about 3 months. To defrost, just plunge your frozen jar, lid securely on, in a bowl of warm water for about 10 minutes. Replace with fresh warm water if it didn't thaw all the way through the first time.

Defrost pesto, and get a pot of salted boiling water going for the pasta. Boil pasta according to package directions.

While the pasta is boiling, heat a large skillet and 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add julienned squash and saute for about 5 minutes, or until squash is soft, but still has some texture to it. Season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat down to low, and add the pesto. Let it slowly heat and melt through the squash. When the pasta is done, drain and rinse under cool water for a few seconds. Toss the pasta with the pesto and squash until combined and heated through.

I'm pretty sure the thickness of the sauce in this pasta has to do with my pesto ratios, and being previously frozen. Perhaps due to the higher oil content? I highly recommend freezing the pesto before using it for this recipe since the cheese and oils melt together to create that blanket of sauce that covers the noodles so well. If you really can't spare the time and are hell bent on using fresh pesto, I would recommend adding a tablespoon or so more of oil to your mix.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Dinner Date Night-In

Jeremy and I needed a break last week. So, with nary a babysitter to be found, we decided to make our own date night at home. The plan was easy. Kids upstairs with a movie and Isabella and Jeremiah would get paid a dollar to make sure Olivia didn't fall off the bed. Pizza and wine from our restaurant, and one long episode of a great TV show for us - Downton Abbey- I've gushed about it before and for good reason. We camped on the couch and I had my hot red pepper flakes ready when we queued up Hulu.


Hulu didn't work.

Phone calls were made.

Then speaker phone chats with technical people while rebooting the network on the tv happened. I ate pizza.

So did Jeremy

45 minutes went by. I checked on Olivia. Then...

At long last. Hooray!

Our episode was awesome. Here, let me tell you about it, because if you know me, you know I can't not. How do you not love Maggie Smith? Here she is grilling "Sir something or other" on whether or not he is good enough for her daughter Rosemund. Much to my surprise, he wasn't. 

This is Lord Grantham and his butler, Carson. They always look tentative and serious like this. 

Ah, the gentlemen gather to size each other up and find out one another's motives, very politely.

Mary tells cousin Matthew something intense but she's really shouting on the inside "I love you, won't you love me, pretty please? Make a move, man!"

But Mary's mother, Lady Grantham, catches them in their quiet moment and clearly disapproves.  But really, she knows they were meant to be. If only Mary wasn't engaged to that other bastard, Sir Richard Carlisle.

Even Matthews mother, Isabel, knows Matthew and Mary should be together and she tells him so while walking home from the graveyard in the rain--for extra drama.

Meet Anna and Bates. Servants and star crossed lovers. Too bad he's in prison being accused of killing his witchy ex-wife. Will he hang?

This is Thomas. He is the bad seed.

Oh, look, he found the missing dog. Whatdoyoknow? Oh, that's right, he stole the dog and pretended to "find" it to gain like-ability.

Carlisle is stunned and pissed when Mary breaks off their engagement because she's hot for her cousin. He threatens to expose her bombshell of a secret. 

Matthew breaks in during their argument and Carlisle and he throw a few punches. Oh my!

As the drama peaks, there is a dance held to honor the servants. Thomas sucks up by asking Granny to dance. What a tool.

Of course Matthew asks Mary to dance

Oh look, they find themselves alone outside

And because this was the Christmas episode (last year) and Christmas episodes are special indeed...he asks a very special question

And she says... ? You'll have to watch.

Just another episode of Downton. 

I've strung you along this far so you'll probably be mad that theres no new recipe with this post. But that's because this is more about the idea of a dinner date night in. We had so much fun, and will definitely do it again. I'm hoping for tomorrow. More interested in making your own pizza for your date? My healthier version of  Pizza Margherita is awesome.

Happy Weekend Everyone!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Dairy Free Strawberry Lime Ice Cream

Dairy Free Strawberry Lime Ice Cream

Holy Smokes, is this stuff delicious. I just churned me up a batch and put it in the freezer to harden. Meanwhile, I am scrapping the sides of my ice cream maker to get every last frozen morsel out and into my mouth. Milk drinkers! Don't let the "dairy-free" label scare you off. You could definitely substitute heavy cream and half and half for the milk in the recipe, but that would be silly because you really don't need to. Can you tell how pleased I am with this ice cream? And the best part is that honey (a little bit at that) sweetens the whole thing. This ice cream is creamy and slightly tangy from the lime with the perfect amount of sweetness. It's fresh, like a creamy and healthy sherbet.

Lindsay, over at Delighted Momma first blogged about this ice cream. She likes to follow a Paleo diet and this ice cream is allowed. If you are in need of some paleo friendly recipes and all-natural beauty tips, head on over to her blog and say hi. I'm talking to you, Stephanie.

Of course, the summer strawberries are beautiful right now but if you happen to use frozen, like I did, theres no need to chill the mixture before running it through your ice cream maker because it will already be quite cold. Yes, proper chilling does make a difference in the texture of your ice cream. I'm sorry to have to tell you that.

Dairy Free Strawberry Lime Ice Cream

You all must know that I have to mention that this is actually healthy ice cream. Coconut milk is non-dairy, delicious, packed with electrolytes, potassium, strongly anti-inflammatory, and full of good fats for your body (this equals energy). Fresh, whole strawberries and lime provide nice fiber and vitamin C. Honey is an all-natural form of sugar, but too much is not good for you. Luckily this recipe only has 1 1/2 tablespoons for the entire batch! I'm in heaven.

Side note: This is best eaten soft serve right out of the ice cream maker, or after a few hours of hardening up in the freezer. After a day, my ice cream was not very scoop-able.

Dairy Free Strawberry Lime Ice Cream
makes 4 servings

14 large strawberries (fresh or frozen)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 15-oz can full fat coconut milk

*note- this does not make a full batch of ice cream. To do that, use 21 strawberries, 1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice, 2 tablespoons honey, 1/3 teaspoon sea salt, 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract, and 1 1/2 cans of coconut milk.

Blend everything together in a blender. Chill mixture until cold (2-4 hours and up to overnight). If you are using frozen strawberries, you can skip this step. Place chilled blended mixture into an ince cream maker and follow manufactures instructions. Place the soft serve ice cream into a glass bowl, cover, and freeze until firm. Let frozen ice cream sit out and soften for about 5 minutes before scooping

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Corn Fritters with Sharp Cheddar, Scallions and Herbs

Corn Fritters

The song "Dammit" just came on. You know the one--that Blink182 song that goes

"Well, I guess this is growing up" 

It came on, and I haven't heard that song in years. It's like high school entered into my kitchen and literally came back to me.

Anyway If you haven't heard of it, don't go googling it or anything- lest you think worse of me. It's a bad, bad, catchy little song; kind of like My Chemical Romances "Teenagers", except that song reminds me of being newly married  and riding around in my blue Audi. I was older in that instance and have no good excuse like being in high school for listening to it. Dang. Now I've given myself away.

Listen, I'm not about pretending to be somebody I'm not. If I'm going to give it to you straight, I'll tell you I grew up listening to Blink 182, Eminem, Offspring, and Green Day. My husband was known to love Metallica, NIN, and Rage Against the Machine (in fact I made him stop telling the story about how he wound up at a U2 concert quite accidentally one time because he went to see Rage who was the opening act..because that's plain embarrassing) and we turned out okay. In fact, we turned out to be a couple who listens to Frank Sinatra at night and reads our bibles during the day. So next time your teenager holes up listening to Lady Gaga or something, you need not fear. Chances are they'll grow up to be distinguished, decent people who rock out to Jay-Z occasionally, like we do.

Wow. This post is not going the way I intended it. Needless to say, I did NOT want "high school" in my kitchen, so I changed "dammit" promptly. But then I wrote about how catchy MCR's "Teenagers" was and have since listened it five times on repeat. And that about brings us up to speed.

Corn Fritters

Ah, corn fritters, how the heck am I going to fit you into this mess now?

That's as good a way as any, I suppose.

These things are out of this world. Gwyneth Paltrow does it again. The recipe is mostly fresh corn, bound together by just a whisper of sharp cheddar cheese, and accented with scallions, basil and cilantro. A little balsamic vinegar drizzle and a bed of arugula and dinner or lunch is served. The only problem I had with this recipe was my corn to batter ratio was off. I needed to add another egg and a splash of milk in order to make  enough batter and hence, a proper fritter. The problem, I believe, is that the recipe calls for 4 ears of corn instead of an exact measurement. I used frozen corn and eyeballed what I thought about 4 ears would yield. Use your judgement and add another egg and/or milk if needed to make a batter. You won't ruin anything. If worse comes to worse, just test one out. Griddle up your first fritter and if you have problems flipping it because it won't stick together, add wetness. A fritter is a chunky pancake. That's what your looking for.

I loved this on the bed of arugula because it made this a meal. Who makes fritters for snacks anyway? The balsamic and herbs on top makes it, so be sure to not leave them out. If you are looking for a fresh, tasty, meatless summer dinner this is definitely my pick. If you are serving this for company, may I suggest you start out with a bowl of watermelon gazpacho to start? And, I'm just sayin' these here fritters would be excellent with a bright, crisp white wine.

Corn Fritters with Sharp Cheddar, Scallions and Herbs
serves 4

4 fresh ears of corn, shucked (I figured between 1/2 to 3/4 cup of corn for each ear)
1 organic large egg, beaten
1/4 cup packed grated sharp Cheddar cheese
1/3 cup packed grated Parmesan cheese
2 scallions (white and light green parts), finely sliced
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more for finishing
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
10 fresh large basil leaves
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves
1 box Arugula
good Balsamic Vinegar

Cut the kernels off the cobs and discard cobs. Combine the corn, egg cheeses scallions, flour, cornstarch, pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt together in a large mixing bowl. (Check for batter like consistency- If needed add another egg and/or a splash of milk) Heat the vegetable oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Pour the fritter batter onto the skillet using a 1/4 cup measure and fry for 2 minutes on each side, or until dark golden brown and very attractive. Drain the fritters on paper towels, sprinkle with more salt, and keep warm while you repeat the process with the remaining batter. Roughly chop the basil and cilantro leaves.

To serve, mound some arugula among 4 plates and drizzle balsamic over top (maybe a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper if it's around). Place fritters on top of lettuce and scatter the fresh herbs over top. 

And now, I have to tell you that Rage Against The Machine's "Wake-Up" is on. What are the chances? I only know it because it plays at the end of "The Matrix." I always think "Wake-Up" is "Bombtrack" because that's a way cooler name. So when people ask if I listen to Rage (which of course happens all the time or just once) I reply with "No, but I like Bombtrack"which is not at all the truth.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Oatmeal Pancakes with Strawberries

Oatmeal Pancakes

These are hands down the best pancakes I have ever eaten. The recipe comes from a cookbook I happen to love, Kim Boyces Good To the Grain. I love my pancakes on the denser side to provide some bite, with crispy, buttery edges, salty butter, and real maple syrup. I'm not a huge sweets eater in the morning (trust me, I more than make up for that as the day goes on) so I like my pancakes at night, for dinner. We do this a few times a year and it's always really fun. I don't feel so bad eating pancakes for dinner when you start with oatmeal --a whole grain-- as the base because it's healthier and will keep you fuller and satisfied much longer than white flour alone. Plus, I use almond milk instead of regular milk which helps with the health factor too. This way I can feel way less guilt about slathering an obscene amount of butter on top. I like a salty sweet pancake- one teaming with melty butter and warm maple syrup, like they are each fighting for center stage. We don't use a lot of butter in our household, but pancakes are definitely an exception.

Oatmeal Pancakes

Oatmeal Pancakes with Strawberries
adapted from Good To The Grain, by Kim Boyce, and adapted from
makes 18 pancakes

3/4 cup oat flour (you can make this by pulsing rolled oats into a food processor or vita-mix)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly (plus extra for the pan)
1 1/4 cups whole milk (I used unsweetened Almond milk)
1 cup cooked oatmeal (I used leftover steel cut oats)
1 tablespoon unsulphured (not blackstrap) molasses or 1 tablespoon honey
2 large eggs

Strawberries, for serving

Whisk the oat flour, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk the butter, milk, cooked oatmeal, honey and eggs together until thoroughly combined. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Don't overwork the batter, being gentle with the batter is essential for tender pancakes. The batter should be slightly thick with a holey surface.

Heat a 10-inch cast-iron pan or griddle over medium heat until water sizzles when splashed onto the pan. Lower to medium-low. Rub the pan generously with butter; Boyce says this is the key to crisp, buttery edges. Working quickly, dollop 1/4-cup mounds of batter onto the pan, 2 or 3 at a time. Once bubbles have begun to form on the top side of the pancake, flip the pancake and cook until the bottom is dark golden-brown, about 5 minutes total. Wipe the pan with a cloth before griddling the next pancake. Continue with the rest of the batter.

Serve the pancakes hot, straight from the skillet or keep them warm in a low oven.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What I'm Dying to Make From My Pinterest Boards

Pinterest is one of my favorite things ever. I pin recipes like crazy, and actually do end up making a quite a few things from my boards. Here are some of my pins I'm loving lately.

Preserving Herbs in Olive Oil and Freezing- Genius.

Dairy Free Strawberry Lime Ice Cream (paleo)- Isn't this the prettiest color you've ever seen? Plus ice cream that good for you? I'm in.

Roasted Veggie and Black Bean Burritos- I'll probably be making these for lunch soon.

Easy Pad Thai- No strange ingredients required.

Mini Cannoli Cups- Drool. I want these, like, now

Two Ingredient Pumpkin Spice Cookies- Carrot cake mix and canned pumpkin. Good for the kiddies.

Baked Egg Rolls- These look easy, and I'm a sucker for Chinese food.

Green Gazpacho- Health in a bowl. I can't wait to try this one.

Spaghetti with Garlic, Olive oil and Crushed Red Pepper- This is a no-cook meal. Easy, easy, easy.

Black Bean Tacos- This might make its way onto my menu for next week.

Coconut Panna Cotta with Vanilla Syrup and Figs- dairy free, gluten free and delicious.

Cinnamon Water- This just sounds interesting

Adult Capri Sun's- Bag-O-Vodka Lemonade- And this one sounds too fun. Presentation is everything.

If you like these ideas too, make sure to visit my Pinterest boards and follow the ones you are most interested in.