Sunday, February 27, 2011

muffin revival: this time with more apples and cinnamon than ever!

i shall reward myself for all the self control i displayed in posting four non-muffin entires over the last few weeks by posting the tastiest muffin recipe ever.

i mean, it's only fair.

i love these guys because they are more fruit than dough, making them less hearty than your typical muffin. using just a bit of whole wheat flour keeps them extra light, but feel free to use up to a whole cup of it - just make sure to keep the total amount of flour to two cups.

also, if you really feel like living on the edge, you could try to fit even more apples in there (!!). i know what you're thinking: certifiably insane hobbit on the loose.

but hear me out. we thought 3 apples was going to be too much and the lil' guys would fall apart upon removal from their muffin tin. but alas, the dough really binds them together, and while the muffins might be slightly more fragile than one is accustomed to, i have enough faith in them to think they could carry the burden of 4 apples.

updates to come on how that works out... until then, enjoy!

apple cinnamon muffins:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup soy milk
3 apples, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped

preheat the oven to 350°F. grease your muffin tin.

mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, and set aside. in another bowl, add the sugar, oil, and egg. mix in the soy milk. stir in the dry ingredients and fold in the apple chunks.

divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups. bake for 15 minutes. eat while warm and gooey.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

curried greens and chickpea pita.

some savory! can it truly be?! you betcha! i told you: the hobbit chef can also cook things that aren't muffins. that said, she's also noticing and feeling slightly disturbed by the fact that her kitchen starts to feel "empty" when there aren't fresh batches of muffins in the pantry...

this quick and simple non-muffin dish is taken from one of my only favorite veggie blogs, fresh365. granted, i love the site primarily for its beautiful and appetizing pictures and recipes that don't require 800 obscure ingredients, but even the more advanced cooks among us can find plenty of more complicated, sophisticated recipes there.

i changed the recipe slightly, throwing in some leftover zucchini and substituting in turmeric when ground cumin was called for. to be honest, the dish wasn't quite as spicy as i had expected, so i wouldn't hesitate to throw in a bit more curry and coriander in the final moments. if you end up overdoing it (not that that's ever happened to me...), just toss in some additional pre-cooked rice to return it to a slightly more bland (and edible!) state.


1 ½ tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 14-oz can chickpeas, drained & rinsed
1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 ½ cups cooked rice
1 ½ cups kale, chopped
1 cup zucchini, chopped
1/4 c green onions, chopped
8 cherry tomatoes, diced
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
4 whole wheat pitas

to do!

heat oil in a large pan over medium heat and add cumin seeds and garlic. cook 3 minutes, until the garlic begins to brown.

stir in the chickpeas and coat with the oil. add in the broth and bring to a boil. mix in the rice, greens, curry, cumin, and coriander. cook 3-4 minutes, until the greens begin to wilt.

remove from heat and stir in the green onions and tomatoes. warm some pitas in the oven. serve chickpeas alongside or inside pitas!

Friday, February 18, 2011

heavenly cinnamon swirl nanner bread.

don't you even start with me. yes, all i do is bake, blah blah. let's move on.

this bread is heaven (see above!). armed with my winter holiday 2010 culinary partner-in-crime - who you may know from this roasted bruschetta - this was my first attempt at making "real" bread with "real" yeast. i've always been somewhat weary (and by weary, i mostly mean lazy) when it comes to making bread that I could just as easily and cheaply buy from a professional. but this bread might just be worth it. all you need is a few hours at home, a large countertop, and a buddy to help you roll the dough up at the end. we played a rousing game of scrabble while waiting for the dough to rise, but i could imagine boggle would also work.

i also feel it's worth mentioning that we rolled our dough out a wee bit too thin, which led to a few tears and the cinnamon leaking out one side of the final loaf. this then created an oozey, gooey brown sugar cinnamon waterfall of pure joy when we baked it. i would, under no circumstances, recommend preparing this bread any other way.


1/2 cup lukewarm water

3 teaspoons yeast

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup Greek-style yogurt

1/2 cup mashed overripe bananas (about 2 bananas)

2 3/4 cups bread flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

get 'er goin:

combine the water, yeast, and a pinch of the sugar in a bowl and set it a aside a few minutes to get frothy.

add the remaining sugar, yogurt, bananas, bread flour, salt, and vanilla. knead the dough until the sides of the bowl are clean and the dough starts to get elastic. add in the olive oil and continue kneading until the mixture is smooth, silky, and elastic.

form the dough into a ball and put back into the bowl. drizzle it with a little oil. cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until doubled in size, about an hour.

preheat your oven to 325 degrees. spray a loaf pan with a little baking spray.

flour your work surface and knead the dough a bit, then roll it out into a rectangle about 9 x 15 inches.

mix the brown sugar and cinnamon and spread it evenly over the rectangle, leaving about 3 inches un-sugared at the far end. roll the dough up (with a friend!), jellyroll-style, so you've got a 9-inch long log. pinch to seal the ends and the seam. place the dough seam-side down in the pan. cover the pan with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.

finally! bake at 325 degrees for 35-40 minutes, until dark golden brown.

remove the loaf from the pan and let it cool completely on a rack before cutting. break off a slice and eat right away with a dollop of honey. make sure to save some pieces for tomorrow and the next day - the bread really gets more and more delicious with time :)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

a healthier baklava. made with sonoran honey.

it's pretty much an undisputed fact that there's no better mid-afternoon fix than a rich, gooey (and decadent without being pretentious!) piece of baklava.

i wouldn't consider myself a sweet tooth. i'd almost always turn to a mildly sweet cracker or cookie before chowing down on a decadent piece of cheesecake or brownie. but baklava is a whole other thing.

if i may: baklava is perfect. the flakiness of the dough, the intermingling of spices, the crunchiness of the nut mixture, and as i learned during this culinary undertaking, the teamwork that goes into making it (four hands are better than two when you're layering the dough, fyi).

this particular recipe gets its health benefits from substituting honey in for butter. the original calls for wildflower honey, but any runny honey will do. you can also feel free to mix and match whichever nuts you're craving/have on hand.

for the syrup:

1 1/2 cups sonoran honey
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 whole cloves
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick

for the filling:

2/3 cup unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup blanched unsalted almonds, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon salt

other stuffs:

cooking spray
24 (14 x 9-inch) sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed (don't forget to thaw!!)
1 tablespoon water

get crackin':

start by preparing the syrup. combine the honey, 1/2 cup water, juice, cloves, and cinnamon in a medium saucepan over low heat. stir until honey is completely dissolved. this should take between 2 and 3 minutes. turn up the heat to medium and then cook, without stirring for 10 minutes. remove from heat and cover with a lid to keep warm. remove solids and discard. using a slotted spoon if you have one works well for this.preheat oven to 350°.

make the filling by combining pistachios and next 6 ingredients (up until salt). set aside.

now it's time to assemble. lightly coat a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. working with 1 phyllo sheet at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), place 1 phyllo sheet lengthwise in bottom of prepared pan, allowing end of sheet to extend over edges of dish (see picture above). lightly coat with cooking spray.

repeat this procedure with 5 phyllo sheets and cooking spray for a total of 6 layers. sprinkle phyllo evenly with one-third of nut mixture (about 2/3 cup). repeat procedure with phyllo, cooking spray, and nut mixture 2 more times.

top your last layer of nut mixture with remaining 6 sheets phyllo, each one lightly coated with cooking spray. lightly coat top phyllo sheet with cooking spray; press baklava gently into pan. sprinkle baklava surface with 1 tablespoon water.

make 3 even lengthwise cuts and 7 even crosswise cuts to form 32 portions using a sharp knife. bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until the phyllo is golden brown. remove from oven. and now the clincher! drizzle honey mixture evenly over baklava. cool in pan on a wire rack. eat! and then store covered at room temperature.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

a bag of pearl couscous is a terrible thing to go to waste.

where one needs to go in bremen to find a carton of israeli couscous continues to elude me. i mean, i'm sure it's somewhere... but that somewhere is probably a place i would never think/want to go to. bremen-nord? or bremerhaven (shudders).

considering the last time i went to bremerhaven, my boyfriend got food poisoning and i soul-poisoning, i doubt i'll be risking a similar experience any time soon on my quest to locate this perfectly plump and rounded pasta-like treat.

for most of you, however, it should be available in your local supermarket (trader joes!). it's not a whole grain, no, but it certainly feels healthy. and in the end, isn't it about how food makes you feel that matters?!?!


this salad is a lovely side or main dish with minimal ingredients but packing a lot of nice flavors, particularly because of the roasted tomatoes. if you're looking for a main course, toss in some feta and chickpeas. it a also stores really well in the fridge and get tastier as the flavors sink in. that said, you'll be lucky if you don't wipe the bowl clean on the first go.

israeli couscous salad:
1 1/2 cups israeli couscous

4 cups washed baby spinach

1/2 red onion, chopped fine

15 cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 cucumber, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 cup kalamata or black olives, pitted and halved

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

1 handful chopped fresh parsley

6 oz. feta cheese, crumbled (optional)

1 can chickpeas (optional)

what to do:

1. preheat oven to 250 degrees fahrenheit. halve tomatoes and place, cut sides up, in one layer on a baking pan. roast in middle of oven until tomatoes are slightly shriveled around edges, approximately 1 hour. cool in pan on a rack for 30 minutes.

2. bring a pot of water to boil. add a pinch of salt and the couscous. reduce heat slightly and cook couscous in the water for 6-8 minutes until tender. Drain and set aside.

3. mix all salad ingredients, including tomatoes, in a large bowl. add cooked couscous, oil, vinegar and lemon juice and mix well. taste and add salt and pepper and/or additional dressing to taste, if desired.

Friday, February 4, 2011

almond poppyseed muffers.

i know i know: i need to either 1) stop baking or 2) change the name of my blog to reflect my apparently clear preference for muffins and sweet loaves over all other foods. i swear i eat other things! just the other day i had a cookie.

and yet, for some reason, i find myself only in the mood to photograph when it's with something as low-key and whimsical as baking. i'll work on it. until then, dear friends...

muffins galore! these muffins are especially light, fluffy, and ideal for a mid-afternoon snack. i enjoyed experimenting with vanilla soy yogurt, and i think next time i'll even try another flavor - hazelnut or banana, for instance. you can also transform these into the often adored lemon poppyseed muffins by adding a tablespoon of lemon zest. or... like all baked goods, you can take them to the next level throwing in some cinnamon. lots and lots of cinnamon.

please scrounge up:

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup soy milk
1 cup vanilla soy yogurt
1 tsp almond extract
3 tablespoons poppy seeds (feel free to go crazy here!)

preheat oven to 400. grease your muffin tin. in a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt. stir the poppy seeds into the dry mix. in another bowl, whisk together the oil, milk, yogurt and almond extract. fold the wet ingredients into the dry.

fill each muffin 2/3 full with batter. bake for 20-25 minutes. gobble!