Sunday, May 29, 2011

Chocolate Banana Muffins

Happy memorial weekend!  I hope that you have something planned to celebrate your day off with loved ones.  I know I have a special date. 

Did I mention that my date is with these muffins?  Oh. yeah.  Oh, and Al and one of my leading ladies (hi Kelly!) are tagging along.  I think that Kelly is coming with for the sole purpose of eating these muffins (we sneak-peaked them tonight- and they are irresistible)!  

Tomorrow we will be picnicing at a park, hiking, hitting up a vineyard for wine samples, and visiting the troll statues in Mt. Horeb.  I'M PUMPED.  I'm crossing many things off of my Madison bucket list all in one day- woot woot!  I can't believe that in just over a week I'll be living in Minnesota full time.  Many of my bucket-list items are restaurants, and I don't think that I'll be able to get to all of them in the next seven days with work, all the food in my fridge that I need to eat (more than enough food to last Al and me for way over a week), and the sheer number of restaurants that I want to scope out.

Back to the important thing- these muffins.  I've never been so excited over a baked good- this recipe proves to be a great recipe for modifications over the seasons and years.  I think that next I'll add some vanilla extract, maybe some coconut, and in the winter time add in some cinnamon.  Did I mention that this recipe isn't horrible for your waistline?  Yeah, you're welcome.  Rating 10/10.

Oh- and I want to mention the liners that I used.  Reynolds (the tinfoil company) makes these cute liners that are lined with tin foil so that the pattern on the liner won't fade.  They also make it easier to peel your liners off. 

Recipe adapted from Handle the Heat
3 large ripe bananas- mashed
3/4 cup sugar (I used turbinado)
1 large egg
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce (have apples but no sauce?  See note below*)
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine the banana, sugar, egg and applesauce.
Mix in the flours, salt, baking soda, and baking powder until combined.
Pour in a tin lined with liners or sprayed with Pam baking spray.
Bake for 20 minutes- or until a tooth pick is inserted into the muffin and comes out clean.
Let cool and keep in a sealed container.
I frosted one of mine with nutella- but I found that I preferred to leave the flavor of the muffin unaltered by frosting.  Yeah, they're that good.

*Slice two apples, and place in a pot with 1/2 cup water.  Turn to medium heat and cook for 15-20 minutes, add water as needed

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Smoothie

This summer I haven't been able to go to the farmer's market at all since I have a weekend job.  This sad fact will probably be one of my biggest regrets of the summer.  My favorite part of going the farmer's market is hitting up my favorite bakery stand and purchasing a rhubarb turnover.  Rhubarb is definitely at its best when incorporated into a luscious pastry.

I am in general too lazy to make pastries.  I can blame it on my lack of exposure to producing them, but I mainly forgo making them because of sheer amount of high calories.  Once again the smoothie saves the day!

I have been asking Alex to bring me home some of his parent's rhubarb for the past week.  Last night he delivered, and I happily went to sleep thinking about how I was going to turn my acquired rhubarb into a pie smoothie (these thoughts were broken up by me pondering whether or not Dr. whatshisface is a good guy or bad guy on Battlestar Galactica- we are nerds who are behind on their TV shows). 

This smoothie is definitely more time-intensive than what I would prefer,  but I knew that I wouldn't like my end result if I threw in raw rhubarb.  Making the compote= worth it!

If you have a bunch of rhubarb lying around, I highly recommend making this.  It may be one of my best recipes yet!  Rating 10/10.
Round 1
2 stalks of rhubarb- cut into 2 inch segments
1 tsp agave nectar or honey
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp of sugar (of your choice)
1/3 cup riesling or other white whine (optional- I was trying to use up a bottle of wine that I opened up forever ago)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Combine all ingredients in a baking dish (covered with foil) or dutch oven. 
Allow the rhubarb to sit for about five minutes before roasting- this will allow the sugar to dissolve a bit.
Place on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 15 minutes- halfway through stir ingredients to make sure that everything bakes evenly.  Remove lid and use a fork to check if the rhubarb is tender.  Continue to roast until the rhubarb is more on the "extreme" side of tender.
Let cool.

Round 2
6 large frozen strawberries
1/4 cup milk (I used coconut)
1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1-2 tsp lemon juice
1-2 tsp honey
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

Combine round 1 with round 2 in a blender.
Adjust ingredients to taste.  
Let the smoothie sit refrigerated for about 10 minutes to allow the rolled oats to soak up some of the liquid.

Makes 1-2 servings.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Black Forest Smoothie

I decided to treat myself to a gourmet smoothie to celebrate having everything booked for the wedding. To go along with the whole wedding-planning spirit, I decided to throw some ingredients together to make a cake-flavored smoothie.  It's pretty luscious.  Alex didn't like it (even though he guzzled it in a matter of seconds), but don't take that into consideration unless you don't like the taste of dark chocolate!  Rating 8/10.

6 oz container dark cherry yogurt (regular cherry works just fine as well)
1 ripe banana
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 1/2 tbsp turbinado sugar
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 ice cubes
1/4 to 1/2 cup frozen cherries (optional- totally fine without)

Blend all the ingredients together, top with whipped cream if you are feeling decadent!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Show and Tell- Mangosteen

I haven't made anything lately since I've been at home sleeping, riding horses, and trying to not scatter my belongings all over my mom's house which is on the market.  So, instead here is a story about fruit.  Exciting, I know.

One year ago today I was in China.  I was probably sleeping exactly one year ago, since China is on the other side of the world and all.  The mattresses were hard, and the pillows were ineffective at providing any head support.  I couldn't sleep past 6 am because I was so uncomfortable.  But I was so so so happy.

Way back then I wasn't into food.  I am kicking myself for this now!  I was initially reluctant to try anything that wasn't kung pao chicken.  For about a week I was convinced that I didn't like spicy food, but I eventually found out that most Chinese food isn't all that good unless it has a little kick to it.  I also ate a lot of ice cream.  Nestle has a strong hold on the ice cream market in China, and I stuck mainly to chocolate covered vanilla ice cream bars.  There were more exotic flavors like green bean, and other kinds of beans.  I don't think that I've ever had as much ice cream in my entire life as I did on that trip.

One of the great things about going to China was my new appreciation for how much things should and should not cost.  You want 10 kuai (not even $2) for that ice cream bar?  No way!  My best deal was a 1 kuai (1/6 of a dollar!) ice cream bar on a sketchy side street.  Yesterday I accidentally went against my rule of not buying overpriced goods.  My splurge was definitely worth it.
This is my friend the mangosteen.  The best part about Chinese food is the fruit.  It just tastes better than what we usually grow/import here, even regular old Chinese apples taste better.  The mangosteen is about the size of a clementine.  It has a thick skin that stains your fingers purple, and each white segment is juicy, has an edible seed, and tastes similar to a white peach.  If you haven't been to Asia or you aren't from a place with a prosperous Chinatown, you've probably never seen mangosteen (I can only find them at the Asian gas station/mini-mart by my house).  Oh, they also come canned in some grocery stores, but they aren't as good as their fresh counterpart.

Prior to 2007 fresh mangosteen couldn't be imported to the US because we feared that they would harbor the asian fruit fly and royally screw up our crops.  Yay for irradiation!  In WI a 3 lb bag cost me $16.  WHAT WHAT??  I didn't discover this until I reached the check-out counter, but I wanted them so bad that I found myself handing over a $20 bill while my head was screaming "WHAT ARE YOU DOING- THAT SHOULD BE GOING TO PAY OFF YOUR STUDENT LOANS!"
Lesson learned: don't buy imported fruit unless you can clearly see how much it costs (no price sign on these bad boys)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cuban Batido

My college career is practically over.  I am one exam (online, thankfully) away from getting my diploma.  Now what?  Drink smoothies.  Oh, and hunt for a job.  Anyway, this drink is really good.  It is light, refreshing, and goes great with my ropa vieja leftovers.  You should try it right now!  Rating 8/10.

1 1/2 cup pineapple chunks
1 cup of ice
3/4 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tsp sugar

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Ropa Vieja with Homemade Tortillas

I got on the make Cinco de Mayo train a little late.  I don't care though, because I LOVE Hispanic food regardless of what day it is.  Anyway, this was my first time cooking with skirt steak, and my first time eating ropa vieja.  I am addicted. When I am not eating my leftovers, my teeth have this weird urge to masticate the shredded beef into smithereens.  Usually my teeth don't feel anything except for sensitivity to processed candy, but they won't shut up about how much they want to chew, chew, chew!  I thought that this meal was the best that I have ever made. I ended up modifying the recipe a bit in regards to cooking time, because I had a hungry man to feed.

The fresh tortillas REALLY made this recipe.  I found myself tearing off chunks of tortilla just to isolate the flavor of absolute amazingness.  Try making them, they are cheap, easy (if you have a pair of helping hands), not full of weird ingredients, customizable, and they just taste better.  I even added a tortilla press to our wedding registry after making these.  A perfectly pressed tortilla sounds like the cure to all of life's problems.  Just kidding, but it would help my tortillas to NOT look like gyro wraps.  My rating 10/10. 

Tortilla Recipe (you can refrigerate the leftover dough)
Adapted from Budget Bytes

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1.5 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vegetables oil
3/4 cup warm water

  • Combine the dry ingredients and wet ingredients in separate bowls.
  • Slowly start to incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry, continue to add the wet ingredients until all of the ingredients have been incorporated into one piece.  Add more water as necessary.
  • Knead the dough for one minute, shape the dough into a ball, cover with a wet paper towel and let rest for ten minutes.
  • Divide the dough into smaller balls.  If you are going to be rolling them out with a rolling pin, you might want to make the balls larger so that you don't go crazy trying to make the tortilla substantial enough to be used as a wrap.
  • Let the dough rest for another ten minutes.  
  • Roll each piece out to desired width.
  • Heat up a skillet over medium heat, spray with pam, and cook the tortilla until lightly browned on each side.

Ropa Vieja
Recipe adapted from Crepes of Wrath

Round 1
2-3 lbs skirt or flank steak
8 cups water
2 large carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped (I omitted this ingredient since I never use up all of the celery before it goes bad)
1 bay leaf
8 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed with the side of your knife
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

  • Combine all of the ingredients from round 1 into a large pot.
  • Bring to a boil, cover, and cook for 2 hours or until meat falls apart.
  • Remove the meat from the pot and set it aside.
  • Strain the vegetables over a large bowl that will collect the broth.  Toss the vegetables in the garbage (or compost pile)

Round 2
1 green bell pepper, cut into long strips
1 red bell pepper, cut into long strips
1 orange bell pepper, cut into long strips
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into long strips
1 Vidalia onion, sliced into half moons
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups leftover braising liquid from the first step
14 oz can diced tomatoes with juices
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Wash out the original pot.
  • Heat the oil over medium-high heat and add the onion, green bell pepper, and garlic.  Saute for 4-8 minutes.
  • Add the diced tomatoes, stir to combine the ingredients, and simmer until the tomatoes have heated through.
  • Add the shredded skirt steak, cumin, paprika, oregano, and remaining peppers to the pot and cook for half an hour.
Serve the ropa vieja over freshly cooked tortillas.  Directly go to Heaven.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Key Lime Pie Smoothie

I'm sure that I'm not the only person out there with this problem.  I love sweet things.  I could care less for sugary processed things that have intimidating ingredients, but I yearn for goodies that combine taste with health benefits.  Enter the smoothie.  For those who have perused this blog, you may have come across my smoothie binge.  I've re-entered this phase, and boy am I glad to be back in it! 

I found this recipe on Munchin with Munchkin.  I love this blog.  For a whole bunch of reasons.  The first four letters of her name are the same as mine, my grandfather called me munchkin, and because she loves healthy wholesome treats too. 

Anyway, this smoothie is absolutely fantastic AND I was lucky enough to have all of the ingredients on hand (yay decreasing bulk!).  I don't have much more to say about it, but you really ought to try it out.  Rating 9/10.

Recipe Adapted from Munchin with Munchkin

1 cup of coconut milk
2 tbsp key lime juice
2 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
1 frozen banana
1 tsp zest of key lime
1 tsp agave nectar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp graham cracker crumbs (I used old fashioned rolled oats)

Combine everything in blender and serve. 
Makes 2 servings

Millet Muffins

A few weeks ago I ordered Heidi Swanson's new book, Super Natural Every Day: Well-loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen, and for some reason I never got around to touching it until today.  I made it my mission this morning to open it and try to find a recipe that I could make with the ingredients that I already on hand.  Luckily, I had almost everything for these muffins.  I didn't have an actual lemon, so I had to skip the lemon zest.  Next time I'm going to make sure that I have one on hand, because I think that the zest would add that something special that will make these muffins pop.  Aside from that, these are great!  I've already had 2 so far today, and I'm hoping to keep my hands off of them long enough to bring them to my food buddy in class tomorrow.  They are filling, moist, and would taste great smeared with butter or jam.  Rating 8/10.
Recipe adapted from Heidi Swanson

2 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup raw millet
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt

1 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup room temp unsalted butter (or 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup all natural sugar free applesauce)
1/2 cup honey
Grated zest and 2 tbsp juice from 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Combine the dry and wet ingredients in separate bowls.
Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until all of the flour has been thoroughly incorporated.
Divide the batter evenly amongst a 12-cup muffin pan that has either been sprayed with PAM baking spray, coated with butter, or lined with paper liners.
Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until the tops are cracked and light brown.
Let the muffins cool before eating.