Date and Walnut Blondie

Healthy Experiment #2

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The first time I looked at this recipe, I was skeptical. And if I’m completely honest, I am still not 100% convinced that these little guys are worth the investment (Be warned– the maca powder cost me nearly 15 bucks). But, these date and walnut treats surprised me with their increasing appeal. The cacao nibs are the secret ingredient of the recipe, for me anyway. Not only do they provide a chocolately crunch, but they also are an excellent source of magnesium, iron, fiber, and all kinds of antioxidants! These raw blondies are piled up with superfoods, including walnuts, hemp seeds, maca powder, and cacao nibs. In other words, every single ingredient is worth having in your body, even if the price tag is a bit high.

This recipe is a slightly different version of “The Raw Blondie” found in the cookbook My New Roots.

Ingredients
– 2 cups whole raw walnuts
– ¼ cup maca powder
– ½ cup hemp seeds
– ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
– 2 ½ cups pitted Medjool dates
– ½ cup cacao nibs

Directions
1. Put the walnuts in a food processor and blend on high until the nuts are finely ground (but not too much).
2. Add the maca, hemp, and salt to the food processor. Pulse to combine.
3. With the food processor running, add the dates, one at a time, through the feed tube. The mixture should hold together, but should not form a paste. Sprinkle the cacao nibs in and pulse briefly to combine.
4. Line an 8-by-8 baking dish with plastic wrap. Press the mixture very firmly into the pan, so it holds together, especially around the edges. Chill in the freezer for at least 3 hours before eating.
5. Using a sharp knife, slice the blondie mixture into squares and serve. Store any extra blondies in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months.

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I’ve been spending quite a bit of time looking up different superfoods and their benefits. This post would be a book long if I wrote everything I have read. So I recommend doing some research. It’s amazing some of yummy healthiness you might be missing out on!

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Lentil Salad and Tzatziki

Healthy Experiment #1

As I begin this endeavor of living a healthier (technically I should say “more healthful”) lifestyle, I keep bumping into new ideas to add to my repertoire. Many are recipes. Others, ahem, are of a slightly more gross and experimental nature. Stay tuned in case I decide to share. Today’s is a wonderfully delicious and nutritious lunch to grab and go. It comes from Sarah Britton’s My New Roots recipe book. I made it on Sunday afternoon for the whole week’s worth of lunches. This black lentil salad with tzatziki and avocado has been a yummy meal that I look forward to. Something I recently learned about nutrition made eating this lunch even better. Here’s the beef– (well, actually the beans…) Humans need calories. However, what we need to be mindful of is how we get those calories. Only a small percentage of our daily caloric intake should be from fat. The rest is from carbs and protein. Hence, the lentils (protein) make a great filler for our hungry stomachs, providing the calories we need. You can find the recipe here!

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Raw Inspiration

This year I am looking forward to changing the way that I eat, however slight the change may be. I recently bought a cookbook called My New Roots by Sarah Britton. (Check out her blog here!) Just looking through the pages inspires me to choose and cook my food more carefully. I love it because the book focuses on using nuts, beans, fruits, and veggies, without completely eliminating things like fats and sugars (and eggs!). Sarah provides useful descriptions of the healthy benefits of various ingredients and techniques she uses, ranging from coconut and chia seeds to sweet potatoes and red lentils. I made a list of a few of the recipes I hope to make in the coming months.WP_20160114_10_53_24_Pro

How do you fit healthy meals into your week?

Cocoa Banana Cupcakes

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The best milkshake that can be made by human hands is the cocoa banana milkshake. Not chocolate and banana, oh no… cocoa! It’s the real deal. It’s not dumbed down with milk or any bad sugars. It’s healthy; some call it a “super-food.” But even if you’re not a health fanatic, you could always mix cocoa into a milkshake or cupcake as a source of (no, not antioxidants, though it does contain a lot of them) tastiness. The milkshake combo gave me the idea to use cocoa and bananas in a cupcake. Oooh, this is good. The cake is similar to banana bread, but with a bit of cocoa added; and the cocoa frosting is rich and delectable.

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Cocoa Banana Cupcakes

  • Prep Time 10 minutes
  • Total Time 40 minutes plus cooling
Yield Makes 12
INGREDIENTS

    • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 3 teaspoons cocoa
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
    • 1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 4 ripe bananas), plus 1 whole banana, for garnish (optional)
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  2. Make a well in center of flour mixture. In well, mix together butter, mashed bananas, eggs, and vanilla. Stir to incorporate flour mixture (do not overmix). Dividing evenly, spoon batter into muffin cups.
  3. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan; cool completely on a wire rack.

Cocoa Frosting

INGREDIENTS

2 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
powder
DIRECTIONS
6 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a medium bowl, sift together the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa, and set aside.
In a large bowl, cream butter until smooth, then gradually beat in sugar mixture alternately with evaporated milk. Blend in vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy. If necessary, adjust consistency with more milk or sugar.
Click here to find out more!

Cranberry Orange Scones

Citrus, sugar, and butter— a spring breakfast doesn’t get much better than that, does it? Mmmm, these scones are just the thing. I usually don’t love anything in the realm of dried fruits (ugh, raisins!); but in baked oatmeal and these scones, dried cranberries get their promotion. Welcome to delectability, dried cranberries! Yes, cranberry orange scones make me drool. One note: it is completely worth following all the steps (kneading, glazing, and all) in order to get the scrumptious end-product. That orange marmalade butter… I’ll just say it’s worth going to the store to buy orange marmalade.

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Cranberry Orange Scones

10 Servings   Prep: 20 min   Bake: 15 min

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 10 teaspoons sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup cold butter
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half cream
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons orange marmalade
DIRECTIONS

In a large bowl, combine the flour, 7 teaspoons sugar, orange peel, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs; set aside. In a small bowl, combine the cranberries, orange juice, cream and egg. Add to flour mixture and stir until a soft dough forms. On a floured surface, gently knead 6-8 times. Pat dough into an 8-in. circle. Cut into 10 wedges. Separate wedges and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Brush with milk; sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bake at 400° for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Remove to a wire rack. Combine glaze ingredients if desired; drizzle over scones. Combine orange butter ingredients; serve with warm scones. Yield: 10 scones.

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Soft Pretzels

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Today, I’ve been prancing around the house in this dress (I know it’s February!) and making these pretzels. This recipe makes the whole family’s mouths water. It seems that we only make them when we are planning to give them to people; so each of us only gets enough to whet our appetites. By the way, that’s “whet” pronounced with a whe, as in “wheat.” The former is not “wet” and the latter is not “weat.” Now that we have the pronunciation down, as I was saying, my appetite is whetted. I ate one pretzel. It was the perfect combination of butter, salt, and yeasty bread. I want another. Maybe you can make some several, and I will at least be happy that someone’s whetted appetite was satisfied.

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Buttery Soft Pretzels

Prep Time: 2 Hours (includes rising time)

Cook Time: 10 Minutes

Servings: 12

Ingredients:

4 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 teaspoon white sugar

1 1/4 cups warm water

5 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup white sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 cup baking soda

4 cups hot water

1/4 cup kosher salt, for topping

Directions:

1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center; add the oil and yeast mixture. Mix and form into a dough. If the mixture is dry, add one or two tablespoons of water. Knead the dough until smooth, about 7 to 8 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

3. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). In a large bowl, dissolve baking soda in hot water.

4. When risen, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope and twist into a pretzel shape. Once all of the dough is all shaped, dip each pretzel into the baking soda solution and place on a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with kosher salt.

5. Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes, until browned.

St. Valentine’s Day Cheesecakes

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I altered an old but yummy recipe to yield these sweet, addicting cupcakes. A while back, I made some little cheesecakes topped with apricot jam. They were, oh, so good!  Today, needing something rich and red, I made those same cheesecakes, but they had the same fate as the good Saint himself. They’re bleeding….. Just kidding y’all! It’s raspberry sauce. Well, they were tasty. For the crust, since I didn’t have any chocolate cookies, I used vanilla wafers and added a generous tablespoon of cocoa. That worked out nicely. In case I don’t get back before then, have a happy V-day!

Rich Chocolate Cake and Raspberry Whipped Cream

The title of this blog post pretty much describes my taste buds. Cream+ raspberries+chocolate (not the guilt-free, light and fluffy kind) = best dessert PERIOD. I was going to make it in the form of cupcakes, which make this girl happier than a monkey eating a banana. But seeing the shelves cupcake-liner-free and my hands being less than willing to scrub hole after hole of the muffin tin, I resorted to a cake. It proved itself; if it had been anything less than what I expected, I would now be signing a paper shunning the idea of ever making a cake again. Fortunately, the cake will be given more chances. Anyway, the cake recipe follows, and I just topped it with a homemade whipped cream which I mixed with a small bit of liquid raspberry jam (got the idea from my Food Network Magazine).

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon table salt

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare a 10-inch round cake pan by greasing it with cooking spray and then lining the bottom with parchment paper.

2. To make the cake, pour the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. Whisk thoroughly to ensure that all of the ingredients are incorporated.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar, vanilla, eggs and granulated sugar on medium speed until light-yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

4. With the mixer running on low speed, mix in a third of the flour mixture and half of the milk. Scrape down the bowl. Add another third of the flour mixture and all the remaining milk. Remove the bowl from the mixer and, using a rubber spatula, fold in the remaining flour mixture until all of the ingredients are fully incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.

5. Bake for 25 minutes. Rotate the pan in the oven and bake for 20 more minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven and let the cake cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Then turn the cake out onto a clean plate, remove the parchment, and turn the cake back over onto a wire rack. Let the cake cool completely.

Raspberry Almond Vanilla Tea

Today I ran across a post about loose-leaf tea and the many different flavors you can buy it in. The problem— you have to buy it. So I went to David’s tea website and was even more inspired looking at all the different flavors: chocolate cake, pumpkin chai, mango diablo, toasted walnut, and tons more. And what was I thinking seeing pile after pile of various loose teas? yum, Yum, YUM, YUM! Ahhhh, I couldn’t make it through the evening without trying some. So I made my own version out of a few things I happened to have on hand. I used loose black tea, frozen raspberries, chopped almonds, and vanilla extract (this worked, but I think vanilla beans would be even better). It’s great with or without sweetener, though I might recommend either some sugar or honey. Another possibility I thought about trying was cocoa almond.

First, put all the ingredients on some cheesecloth or coffee filter (use a coffee filter if you’re dealing with super fine stuff, like spices or cocoa).

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Then tie up your little bundle…

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and throw it in a pan of hot water. Let it get to a boil, before you turn it off.

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Put in a pitcher with about as much water and drink hot or cold. Yum, yum!

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Cranberry Sauce

I don’t know about you, but cranberry sauce is one of the best things about the Thanksgiving meal. Well, really everything is the best part of the meal… hmmm, except the green  bean casserole. Anyways, back to the sauce. I love it so much I even eat that canned, jellyish, weird kind. But if you’re looking for some top-notch cranberry sauce, I’ve got the kind for you. It’s pretty sweet but fresh tasting, since, after all, it does use fresh cranberries. The recipe calls for cointreau, but considering we didn’t have any on hand, I used apple cider in its stead, which I think was a good move. It’s so fast and easy. I probably made it in about 20 minutes including cook time. I wanted to post  a pumpkin pie we made– I put the word “PIE” on top using crust. So excited about it… But the pie crust edges fell into the pie, so now we have a collapsed pie, not worthy of a photo. I also made a pumpkin cheesecake pie today. Let me know what you are making for the big meal. Y’all have a happy and thankful Thanksgiving!

Yummy Cranberry Sauce

Directions:

Combine one 12-ounce bag cranberries, 1 diced peeled Granny Smith apple, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup Cointreau or Grand Marnier, 1/2 cup water and 1/4 teaspoon each ground cinnamon and cloves in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the berries start to pop, about 10 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the grated zest of 1 each lemon and orange; chill.