Ultimate, Everything Pumpkin Bread (with cherries, nuts, sunflower seeds and cream cheese)

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(Becky, the Mama.)

Yesterday, Colorado was cool, misty and alive with Fall color.  I snapped this picture out my upstairs bedroom window . Through the window pane and the mist, the photo came out looking like a painting, so beautiful it seemed almost unreal.
Room with an Autumn View

On a day like that, what else is there to do but curl up with a book and a blanket, take a long nap, then wake up, pad to the kitchen and bake pumpkin bread?

I searched for what I hoped would be the perfect recipe for pumpkin bread: I wanted it to be moist, spicy and full of tasty surprises.  I narrowed it down to six recipes.  In the end,  I threw elements from all six recipes into the bowl and pans, adding special tweaks of my own. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I’d doubled the spices, used both brown and white sugar plus a tad of maple syrup, folded chopped pecans and dried cherries into the batter.  Then I thought, “Why not?”  as I plopped dollops of whipped cream cheese in the middle of the batter. Then I wondered, “What could make a nice sweet n’ salty crunchy top crust?” I reached for brown sugar and roasted salted sunflower seed kernels.  Then I popped the loaves into the oven and waited.  I had created either a masterpiece, or disaster.  I worried I might  have tweaked this recipe to death.

Well, I am pleased to announce the results are in and they are a 10.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is the BEST pumpkin bread I have ever tasted, moist with deep flavor and so many treats-to-the-senses per bite: the sweet tartness of the cherries, the smooth bits of cream cheese and satisfying chew of baked-in-pecans.  The crunchy crust… with a hint of salt and sugar..oh. my.

But don’t just take my word for it. Try it yourself next time the baking mood hits you on one of these cool fall days that beckon you to the kitchen. And feel free to tweak away and make the recipe even more your own– switch out the dried cherries for any dried fruit you like, or use chocolate chips (hmmm… white chocolate chips? Butterscotch chips?).  Use nuts you prefer or have on hand.  I never let what’s not in my pantry keep me from making a recipe.  Go with what you’ve got,  what sounds good… and most of all,have fun.

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Becky’s Epic Pumpkin Bread

(Makes 2 loaves)

3 cups flour 

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 t. cinnamon

1/2 t. ginger

1/2 t. cloves

1 t. nutmeg

1 t. almond extract (optional)

1 1/2 t. salt 

3 t. baking powder

1 t. baking soda

4 eggs

2 T. maple syrup

2 cans (16 oz each) pumpkin 

2/3 cup light oil  (I used olive oil as it was all I had on hand.  Worked beautifully.) 

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (can use up to 2/3 cup if you love nuts)

1/2 cup roughly dried cherries or cranberries  (can use up to 2/3 cup if you prefer more dried-fruit-per-bite)

whipped cream cheese ( I used a light variety that comes in a tub)…  about 1/2  to 2/3 cup

For Topping:  

1/4 to 1/3 cup brown or turbinado sugar 

1/3 to 1/2  cup roasted, salted sunflower seed kernels  (If you can find fresh roasted pumpkin seeds this are also delicious instead of the sunflower seed kernels,  as are sliced almonds.)

 

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl with a whisk. Create a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add eggs, syrup, pumpkin, oil.  Whisk the wet ingredients together as you slowly incorporate the dry ingredients as well.  Finish stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula, slowly folding in pecans and dried cherries.  

Grease and flour two loaf pans.  Pour (or spoon) 1/4 of the batter into each pan, and spread evenly.  Then dollop heaping teaspoons of whipped cream cheese across the surface of the batter in both pans.  Pour the remaining batter over the top of the cream cheese, dividing it evenly between the two pans. Smooth with spatula.

Sprinkle the tops of the batter with brown or turbinado sugar and sunflower seeds.  

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until top is golden and a toothpick in the middle comes out clean. 

Cool thoroughly before serving.  I think the flavors of this bread get better as it sits and cools.   Freezes beautifully. 

Note: I made this at high altitude with no problem.  Many quick breads use more baking soda, but I just hate the after-taste of baking soda. This option rises perfectly, but without that funky  soda aftertaste…

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Light, Airy, Crispy Bacon Waffles (Best. Waffles. Ever.)

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(Becky, the Mama.)

If there was one dish I loved more than any other as a child, it would be my mother’s homemade waffles.  Life was good when that enormous waffle iron was plugged in and heating up.    She used a recipe for “Oh Boy!” Waffles from her stained, yellowed, old copy of her  red and white checked Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.  I asked for them for my birthday and every special occasion I could find or make up.

I’ve tried dozens of other waffle recipes, and none compares to this very old standard.  Today I substituted almond milk for a little more than half of the diary milk and used a light olive oil in place of the vegetable oil in the original recipe.

Insert me high five-ing myself right here.  No kidding.  The BEST WAFFLES I’VE HAD IN MY LIFE.  Period.

Light as air, crispy…. Simply perfect.    To me there is nothing worse than a heavy waffle, the kind where,  if you take one bite you feel like you already ate the whole waffle and need to go lie down.  If you, like me, prefer an airy, tender waffle, brown and crisp on the outside, a waffle that leaves you perfectly, lightly satisfied instead of feeling like you swallowed a ball of dough,  prepare to fall in love.

We also love bacon with waffles, and I’ve found that cutting the bacon up before browning (I use kitchen shears) and then stacking the pieces atop the waffle to serve not only looks pretty, but allows you to easily get a little bite of bacon with each bite of waffle.  Plus you get a little syrup (we indulge in pure maple syrup and close our eyes at the price), on the bacon:  maple and bacon together make a very happy coupling in your mouth.

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Airy, Crispy, Bacon Waffles

Make 5-6 Round Belgian Waffles

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I always give the flour in my canister a little stir, then lightly put the flour into the measuring cup, leveling off)

4 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 tablespoons  sugar

2 large eggs

1 1/4 cups almond milk (I used 30 calorie per cup brand)

1 c. dairy milk (I used 1 percent)

3/4 cup light olive oil  (plus oil for waffle iron)

8 slices bacon, cut in 1/3’s,  cooked crisp and drained

Directions: 

Heat waffle iron to your desired temperature, putting a little olive oil on the bottom iron, closing the lid to let it distribute well and let the oil get hot. (I always use the Dark setting to get them extra crisp)

 In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour baking powder salt and sugar together.  Make an indention in the middle of the dry ingredients and put eggs, almond and dairy milks and olive oil in the indention. Whisk the wet ingredients in the middle of the bowl and graduation pull in the dry ingredients around the sides until thoroughly whisked.  Batter will be loose, and you make think it is a bit on the then side.  Also as it sits it will begin to rise a bit in the bowl.

Using a long-handled measuring cup, put about 3/4 cup batter into hot iron.  Cook to desired crispness.

Put waffle on a plate and pile up the bacon pieces in the middle, like a little bacon haystack.

Add butter and syrup and enjoy a little bite of bacon with every piece of waffle…  (I also like a little squeeze of fresh orange atop my waffle, for a bright citrus taste.)

Leftovers: Since this recipe makes quite a bit of batter you can use leftovers in two ways:  1) go ahead and make more waffles, on the light side, put them in ziploc bags and refridgerate or freeze.  When ready to heat,  put them on a cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees until re-crisped and golden.  2) Save leftover batter in Tupperware container in fridge.  Just before making waffles, add another 1/2 t. baking powder to batter to help revive the “lightness”  and cook as above.  This is my favorite method.

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Cheesy Garlic, Fresh Tomato Bread with Oil & Balsamic Drizzle

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Cheesy Hot Garlic Bread with Tomatoes, Drizzled with Olive OIl and Vinegar

(Becky, the Mama.)

What fun  Rachel and I are having hearing back from readers enjoying We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook. Here’s one I got a kick out of today from Linda: “Becky I’m only on page 18 and I’m laughing out loud like a nutcase. You really have made a career out of telling on yourself! OMG, too funny and you’re not exaggerating, not even a little? Starting with misplacing your car keys in Nashville, your suitcase exploding at the airport, you can’t find your car once you arrive in Fort Worth, then when you do, the battery is dead? I’m dying over here.”

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People often ask my daughter (now co-author), my friends, my husband, “Come on, tell the truth. Is Becky making this stuff up?” All they can say, with a slow head shake is, “We only wish she were.”

As I read the fun note above, I was in the middle of posting this episode on Facebook:
Leaving hotel room today. Close door, get 4 big suitcases in hall.
Me: “Uh I took my glasses off again.”
Greg: “Did you leave them in the room?”
Me: “I might have.”
All four  of our keys are behind locked doors so Greg goes to get new ones. Upon his return, I say, “I also can’t seem to find my cell phone.” He enters the room and turns it upside down. I look on the carpet, I’ve been sitting on the phone in the hall. I find my glasses, in the case where I put them in my suitcase. I don’t remember doing that AT ALL. We close the door pick up our things and go on. Greg never gets mad, not even testy. No matter how many times we exit a hotel room this way.

Life has been so busy lately with the book’s release and travel and finding things I have lost,  that when I do cook I want it to be fast and easy and delicious. One of the things I enjoy the most at some of the great Italian restaurants we’ve visited on our trip to Oregon this week, is fresh homemade bread dipped in a little plate of olive oil, good aged balsamic vinegar and a little garlic. Heaven.

Recently I found a way to turn Heaven into a quick snacky meal or a wonderfully easy appetizer for a bunch. Cutting a nice fresh loaf of French bread lengthwise, I sprinkled it with cheese, then layered sliced fresh garden tomatoes, followed  tiny pinches of salt, pepper, basil or oregano (fresh or dried, whatever you have on hand), a little fresh grated garlic. Pop this in the oven until the cheese melts and tomatoes are sizzling. Then, here’s the fun part: drizzle it all with good olive oil and balsamic, cut in slices and serve with plenty of napkins.

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Cheesy, Garlic, Fresh Tomato Bread with Oil & Balsamic

1 French baguette, sliced in half lengthwise

1 cup grated cheese (I used mozzarella, some white cheddar and feta. Use any combination you like.)

2-3 tomatoes (my baguette was small so Roma tomatoes were perfect size), sliced

Pinch fresh salt

Several turns of fresh pepper

1 t. dried oregano, or 2 t. minced fresh basil

1 clove fresh garlic, grated

¼ cup olive oil, approximate

2 T. good aged balsamic vinegar

Directions:

Preheat Oven to  400 degrees

Put both baguette halves on a baking sheet, cut side up.  Sprinkle about ½ cup grated cheese on each side.  Slice tomatoes and place atop both pieces of bread, overlapping slightly as shown.  Sprinkle each half with a little fresh salt, some turns of fresh pepper, the herbs and garlic.

Place in oven for about 5 minutes or until baguettes are hot, cheese is melted and tomatoes are sizzling.

Drizzle the baguettes with oil and vinegar, slice in 3 inch pieces and serve hot.  (With plenty of napkins.)

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Crunchy Amaretto French Toast

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I don’t know exactly when it happened, but at some point Sunday nights became our traditional Breakfast-for-Dinner Night.  In addition, when someone is feeling poorly, breakfast may be summoned at anytime of day.  There’s something comforting about a bowl of soft scrambled eggs and buttered toast when you aren’t feeling quite up to par

Yesterday, my six-year-old grandson Georgie battled a headache off and on all day. By evening, when  I got him in our tub — usually a special treat because it is so big — he looked a sad figure, sitting there in the water, holding his forehead in his hand. “Nonny,” he said pitifully,”will you please go to my Mom’s bathroom and get the Ocean Breeze soap that she usually uses? I just can’t deal with other people’s soap right now.”

I am pretty sure this will be our family’s new phrase in response to generic overwhelm: “I just can’t deal with other people’s soap right now.”  Whether your family enjoys  a traditional “Breakfast for Dinner Night,” or someone’s needing a little comfort food or “you just can’t deal with other’s people’s soap anymore,” here’s a dish sure to comfort and please, anytime of day or night.

I love French Toast, but when the bread has not only been dipped in egg (flavored with Amaretto) but also coated with a thin layer of  sliced almonds before being grilled in butter… well, as my husband Greg said, “That’s the best French toast I’ve ever had in my life.”  Top these crunchy, almondy French toast with butter, fresh sliced strawberries, real maple syrup and serve with a side of sizzling bacon or sausage and your day (whether it’s morning or evening) will take a sharp and instant turn for the cheerier.  And vegans, do not worry! There’s a terrific vegan alternative for this recipe at the end of the post.

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Crunchy Amoretto French Toast

Serves Two (Makes 4 pieces of toast)

4 slices bread (I’m partial to potato bread for French toast)

2 large eggs, beaten

2 T. almond milk (or dairy milk)

1 t. almond flavoring or amaretto liqueur

Small pinch salt

¼ c. sliced almonds

2 t. butter plus 1 t. olive oil for pan

Sliced fresh strawberries (or any kind of berries you like) – about ¼ cup per person

Softened butter and genuine maple syrup

Heat skillet to medium high, melting the butter with the olive oil and mixing in the pan with the edge of a pancake turner.  In a low wide bowl mix beaten eggs, milk, almond flavoring or liqueur and pinch salt. Dip bread, both sides, into the egg mixture, shaking off excess.  Lay each piece carefully in the hot skillet, and then sprinkle the tops, evenly, with about a tablespoon of the sliced almonds. Using the back of the spatula pat the nuts into the bread with gentle pressure (this will help them stick when you turn the bread).  When the bottom of the toast is getting golden brown, gently turn the bread with a wide pancake turner,  and cook until the almond-side of the toast is  golden, fragrant, toasty and crunchy.  Top with berries, soft butter and a nice drizzle of real maple syrup.

Vegan Version. Use 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk plus 1 T. flour, 1 T. nutritional yeast (gives it an “eggy flavor”) and 1 T. maple syrup and 1 t. almond flavoring or amaretto for the “egg  mixture.”  Substitute vegan butter for the dairy butter.   This will actually coat six pieces of French toast rather than four.

More Variations:  Try adding cinnamon or nutmeg to the egg batter; or use orange juice instead of almond milk and a bit of orange zest. Thawed, heated sweetened previously frozen dark sweet cherries would also be wonderful with this. Substitute vanilla or rum flavoring for the amaretto or almond.

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Double Chocolate Veggie Nut Bread (Zucchini, Carrots & Applesauce)

  • huevos rancheros, choc veggie bread 033(Becky, the Mama.)

Yes, you can have your moist, dark, chocolate cake-bread, and enjoy your health, too!

This recipe began stewing in my mind when my sister-in-law Gail came to visit.  Every morning, without fail, she has the same breakfast: a chocolate chip chocolate muffin and a Starbuck’s frappucinno.  I am not a big fan of breakfast foods, in general, but those double chocolate muffins …. oh man, they looked and smelled and tasted soooo good!

Since Gail’s muffin’ lovin’ visit,  I’ve been in search of a moist, super chocolately bread or muffin that I can feel good about eating, even for breakfast.  I came across a Cooking Light recipe for chocolate zucchini bread that used squash and applesauce to substitute for most of the oil. It was quite moist and… pretty okay, but a “fer piece” (as they say in Texas) from that perfect dark, rich, chocolately bite I was looking for.

So I started tweaking and baking like one of those OCD chefs from America’s Test Kitchens.  By the time I was done, I’d changed every ingredient and added more, and made the recipe entirely my own. I don’t like the taste of baking soda so I switched to baking powder. It wasn’t chocolately enough so I used dark Hershey’s cocoa, added ¼ cup Hershey’s syrup and doubled the chocolate chips. I added a cup of chopped walnuts.  I substituted ½ the zucchini for grated carrots because that’s what I had in the fridge.  (Actually I just put all the veggies in the food processor and whirled them.I’ve no patience for hand-grating veggies and I value my knuckles.)

When the finished loaf came out of the oven, fragrant with rich chocolate aromas, I took one bite and said, “Now, that’s what I’m talkin’ about!”  Chocoholics rejoice! You have seriously got to try this recipe to believe how good it is.  No one will suspect it has 1 ½ cups of veggies and 1 cup of applesauce & only 3 T. of oil and ¾ cup sugar – in two loaves.

Valentine’s Day is coming up and this would make a fun breakfast or snack or dessert for yourself or your kids or your Honey Pie.  Just garnish it with a few heart shaped strawberry slices and serve it with all the love in your heart. 

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Double Chocolate Veggie-Nut Bread

Creaming Ingredients

¾ c. organic sugar

3 T. olive or canola oil

2 large eggs

¼ c. Hershey’s chocolate syrup

1 t. vanilla

 

Sifted Dry Ingredients

2 cups unbleached or whole wheat white flour

2 T. Hershey’s dark cocoa powder (you can use regular cocoa as well, just won’t be quite as dark a loaf)

3 T. plus 1 t. baking powder

½ t. cinnamon (more if you like a stronger cinnamon punch)

½ t. salt

 

The Goodies!

¾ cup grated or ground squash, any kind (zucchini, yellow, butternut, pumpkin….)

1 c. applesauce

¾ cup grated or ground carrots

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup chopped walnuts

2 T. flour

Directions:

Using a mixer cream all the “creaming ingredients” together until eggs are very well beaten and mixture is smooth.   Sift together all the ingredients from the “Sifted Dry Ingredients” list.  Use food processor to grind/process carrots and squash, or grate them by hand.   Alternate adding squash-carrot mixture and sifted dry ingredients to mixing bowl.   Mix until well incorporated.  Put chocolate chips and chopped walnuts in a small bowl and toss with 2 T. flour (this helps them not fall to the bottom of your bread, keeps them floating evenly throughout the loaf).  Stir these final goodies into the batter, by hand.

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(In the picture at top above, I had frozen grated yellow squash and zuchinni from the night before, and just tossed it back in food processor with a couple of large carrots. Next pic is batter awaiting the bowl of floured walnuts and chocolate chips.  Finally my super-long bread pan, found at an estate sale.)

Pour batter into two well greased and floured loaf pans.  (Note: I baked my bread in one super-long baker’s loaf pan, a find at an estate sale.  But I’ve never seen another bread pan like it, so just use two regular bread pans instead.)

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Bake at 350 for 55 minutes. Let cool to warm and carefully run sharp knife around edge to loosen and remove from pan.  Let cool some more and then slice with a sharp serrated knife to serve. After first day, store in fridge (otherwise the moist veggies and fruit could start fermenting)  and either nuke for a second or heat slices in skillet with a little butter.

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This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook

The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com

The Title: Double Chocolate Veggie Nut Bread

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Double Chocolate Berry Nut Muffins

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(Becky, the Mama.)

Food memoirist Alyssa Shelasky described her mother as being a strict health-nut (who’d never eat anything that would “tick off Michael Pollan”), before being green and organic was cool. Alyssa’s school lunches were healthy leftovers like chicken salad and fruit, with notes of hand-written inspiration tucked into the brown bag. Nary a Dorito or Slim Jim in site.  And yet, even this Whole Foods Mama had a daily vice.  Every morning alongside with her cup of milky white tea, she ate a chocolate packaged snack cake filled with goopy marshmallow cream. Yes, she ate a Devil Dog.

In her defense she ate one and only one.  Every single day.  For  sixty years.  Without guilt.

Later in the day, Alyssa’s mom would  walk to the Farmer’s Market, loaded down with fresh veggies, enjoying every antioxidant-filled bite.

Now that Hostess has gone out of business, a box of Devil Dogs can be found on the internet for about $35.00 a box.  “Freshness guaranteed.”   (Presumably because they are so rich in chemicals, they are guaranteed to last forever.)

Though I draw the line at Twinkies and Devil Dogs for breakfast (even if I could afford such luxuries), I’m all in favor of making Chocolate a breakfast food.

To that end, I offer you this recipe for  Double Chocolate Berry Nut Muffins.  If I’d had blueberries or dark cherries on hand, I would have used those in this muffin. What I did have on hand was strawberries and kiwis, so improviser that I am… into the bowl they went. I’ve never let lack of correct ingredients stop me from whipping up a recipe.  I once made a carrot cake without any carrots, subbing zucchini and crushed pineapple.  It was delicious.

The result of my experiment was a just-right sweet muffin made moist from the coconut oil, Greek yogurt and fruit, chocolaty from cocoa and chocolate chips, with a nice crunch from chopped pecans.  I used white whole wheat flour  (which has the same nutritional value as whole wheat flour, but is made from white instead of red wheat);  and organic unprocessed sugar to ease my conscience even more.

So, okay, I’m not ready to declare these chocolate muffins a “health food.”  But hey, they are no Devil Dogs.

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Double Chocolate Berry Muffins

Makes 2 dozen regular muffins, and one pan of miniature muffins

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Ingredients

2 ¼ c whole wheat white flour ( I used King Arthur brand)

1 ¼ c.  organic sugar

½ c. unsweetened cocoa powder (if you like extra dark chocolate use dark chocolate cocoa)

2 t. baking power

1 t. baking soda

¾ t. salt

1 cup Greek Yogurt, plain

½ cup milk or almond milk

1/3 cup coconut oil, melted if it is solidified

2 eggs

1 t. vanilla or almond extract

1 cup berries (blueberries don’t need chopped, but strawberries, cherries, raspberries or blackberries will need to be diced into about ¼ inch pieces.)

1 cup chocolate chips

½ c. to 1 c. chopped nuts

Directions

Sift and stir together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a separate large bowl, and make a well in the center; set aside.

Whisk together the yogurt, milk, coconut oil, eggs, and almond or vanilla extract in a bowl until evenly blended. Pour the yogurt mixture into the well, then stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Fold in the berries, nuts, and chocolate chips. Spoon into prepared muffin cups, filling half full. (I used cupcake liners.)

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Bake until a toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

Try with a little smear of Nutella;  or a slice of banana and peanut butter, or a spoon of cherry or strawberry preserves.  Heaven….

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This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title:Double Chocolate Berry Muffins
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-RT
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook


Oat Nut Fruit Gems

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(Becky, the Mama)

My mother, Ruthie, went from loving her sugary desserts (a la last week’s Honey Slice cookie recipe) to a diet almost completely without sugar a couple of decades ago.  A health crisis with her blood pressure and heart, meant major changes in her daily diet – all for the better.  Out went everything white: sugar, white flour and white rice… and in came the brown and fiber-filled replacements.  But, we are not the sort of women to suffer deprivation in our family.  Being the creative and resourceful cook, Mother found several ways to satisfy her sweet tooth while also getting healthier, sporting an adorably slim figure, and having more energy than women decades younger than she!

This is one of my all-time favorite sweet, healthy, satisfying treats that she baked. She served them in a pretty cloth-lined basket at a family supper and they disappeared in what seemed like minutes. Everyone from kids to adults raved about them.

The basic ingredients are so simple:  oats, mashed bananas and grated apples.  From there you can throw in the kitchen sink:  any nuts, seeds, flavorings or dried fruit that you like.   Another bonus is that you can serve this recipe to most of the people in your family (or friends) on special diets.  The recipe is naturally vegan, and if you use gluten-free oats, it is gluten-free and can easily be adapted to use less sugar or made sugar-free.  Kids not only love them, but as you can see from my little helper below, they also love to help make them.

My grandson Georgie, furiously mashing the bananas with a potato masher.

My grandson Georgie, furiously mashing the bananas with a potato masher.

If you want to create warm memories of baking with little ones this Christmas, but prefer not to send them into a Sugar Orbit in the process: this is the perfect mom and child, or grandma and grandchild project, to whip up together.

The texture is somewhere between a muffin, an oatmeal cookie, trail mix, and baked oatmeal.  Made with sugar they get a nice crunch on the outside but are moist and slighty chewy on the inside.  Perfect for quick breakfasts-to-go, they also make great snacks for school lunch boxes and any outdoor enthusiasts in your family.  Wrapped in foil they are wonderful sources of energy when hiking, camping or snow-boarding.

This recipe makes 2 dozen.   Best stored in fridge and then heated for a few seconds in microwave.

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 Oat Nut Fruit Gems

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees

Ingredients

2 large bananas, mashed (use 3 if bananas are small)

2 large peeled apples, grated (use 3 if apples are small)

3 cups oats (I like Old Fashioned Oats for the chewier texture)

½ t. sea salt

1/3 c. raw organic sugar (or use other sweeteners such as brown sugar or coconut sugar or even  Stevia, according to taste )

½ c. dried chopped fruit (I used dates and dried cranberries. Coconut also works well in this recipe.)

1/2 nuts and/or seeds (I used walnuts and pecans)

2 t. vanilla

 

Directions

Mix all of the above together in a large mixing  bowl.  Spray or oil muffin pans.  Fill them about 2/3 full and gently press down with back of spoon. if you want them to look more muffin-like you can mound them a bit in the middle, as they won’t rise. (No leavening or eggs.)

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Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until just golden brown around edges and top.

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When cool to touch, gently remove from pan.  If not eaten in a day, store in fridge in a sealed bag or plasticware and zap for a few seconds in microwave to warm.

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This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Oat Nut Fruit Gems
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Pz
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook


French Toast PB Sandwich with Warm Jelly Syrup

(Becky, the Mama.)

I was faced with a true dilemma. We were packing up to vacate our vacation the next morning, our condo cupboards were almost bare and I still had to create something for this food blog.  Normally, I love these conditions.  They make me feel like a contestant on the show, “Chopped,” where chefs are forced to create a 5 star meal out of five unlikely ingredients in a basket.  Say, pickled pig’s feet, Lucky Charm’s cereal, passion fruit, Worcestershire Sauce, and edible fern fronds.

My “basket” was not as challenging as that list, but I was at the end of our book deadline for We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook. (Lord willing, it will be turned in by the time you read this!)  The manuscript was absorbing every available brain cell leaving me with precious  leftover neuron’s kitchen creativity. My available list of ingredients were: mustard (2 kinds), Ranch Dressing, Peanut Butter, Jelly, Bread and four iffy apples.

I put the list on my Facebook status, asking for help.  Within seconds my brilliant daughter came back with, “Do you have any eggs?”

“Yes, I have one egg,” I replied

“Butter or oil?”

“I have about a tablespoon of butter and plenty of olive oil.”

“Then how about a French Toast Peanut Butter Sandwich with Warmed Jelly Syrup?”

What can I say?  My daughter is brilliant. And thankfully, since I am not a contestant on “Chopped,” I am not required to incorporate Ranch dressing, mustard and iffy apples into this recipe.

I had just enough stuff to make two French Toast PBJ Sandwiches for our final morning of vacation,  and they turned out, well….. quite fabulous, actually. Greg loved it and said, “I’d definitely enjoy eating that again!”  It’s a fun way to fancy up a PBJ for kids, or when you are hankering for something a little sweet as a midnight snack with a glass of ice cold milk.  We often do “breakfast for supper” on Sunday nights, and this would be a perfect recipe for those occasions, perhaps served with some sliced oranges and bananas.

One half a sandwich was plenty filling for me, so if you make this for light eaters or children, one portion could easily feed two.

French Toast PB Sandwich with Warm Jelly Syrup

Serves 2 hungry people, 4 kids or light eaters

Ingredients:

4 slices bread

2-4 T. peanut butter

¼ c. Jelly, Jam or Preserves (I used blackberry)

1 egg

1 T. milk (dairy, almond or soy)

1 T. Butter

1 T. olive oil

Optional: 1 T. powdered sugar

Directions:

Put butter and oil in skillet and heat until bubbly and melted, stirring to mix them.  (The oil will help the butter keep from browning and burning.) Beat one egg with the milk in a shallow wide bowl.  Make two peanut butter sandwiches, using as much peanut butter as you like.  Dip the whole sandwich, both sides, into egg mixture and place in skillet.  Do the same with the second sandwich.  Turn over when one side is golden brown.

While the French Toast Sandwich is cooking, place jelly or jam in an oven-proof bowl or measuring cup.  Heat for 10 seconds at a time until it is hot, melted and the consistency of a thick syrup.

When sandwiches are cooked on both sides, move to a plate and carefully cut at a diagonal, propping one corner up on the other for a nice presentation.

Sift a little powdered sugar over all, if you like. (Alas, I had no powdered sugar in my “basket.”)  Slowly pour the hot melted jelly in a zig zag pattern over the French Toast Sandwiches and serve warm.


Quick Buttery Coffee Cake (made with Pancake Mix)

(Becky, the Mama.)

This is our second week of condo living in regions of the U.S. where the sun is shining, the grass is green, the birds are singing and this week, in Oceanside, California, the ocean is waving.   


The sentence (and scene) above is brought to you by our much younger selves, when we each bought Time Share, never dreaming that someday we’d end up married to each another, with four vacation weeks to use up, per year, between us.  (And it is a use it or lose it proposition. So what can we do but go play?)

Neither of us would say that Time Shares are great financial investments; but man oh man, they have been AWESOME investments in terms of fun, extended get-aways  for our marriage. We’re both blessed with jobs we can do anywhere, as long as we have laptops and cell phones.

Some ways that we save money and also get business done while we’re away:

1) We drive instead of flying whenever possible, getting crazy good deals on hotels using Hotwire.com or Priceline.com.  I stock up on books on tape from the library (Greg listens with earphones while driving),  and we have wifi – via his cell phone– and a plug for my lap top (goes in the cigarette lighter)  in the car, creating a roving office-on-wheels. I get some of my best writing done on the road, my feet up on the dash, computer on lap, pillow behind my head. Greg also sees clients everywhere we go.

2) We always look for places to stay that have a full kitchen, bringing along a couple of boxes of kitchen essentials so that I can cook “on location” rather than eating out.

For whatever reason, cooking is an enormous treat for me, and especially when on vacation. I like the challenge of creating good meals from whatever supplies I bring, plus fresh local meats and produce.

It has been a long time since I’ve baked something sweet, at home or “abroad,” but today  after a nice long walk through an artsy Farmer’s Market with Greg, I began thinking that a warm coffee cake with a crunchy, buttery, cinnamon topping sure sounded good. 

Coffee cakes are one of my favorite treats to make because they typically aren’t overly sweet, they whip up and cook quickly, and it makes its own topping while baking.  If you have a good basic recipe, you can swing it a dozen ways!   Add blueberries or chopped apples, a variety of nuts, a little citrus zest, or even chocolate chips and you can dress up a basic cake anyway you want to go.  The added bonus: you get to eat cake for breakfast.  What’s not to love?

I didn’t bring baking powder or soda with me, however (a HA!) I brought some pancake mix.  Sure enough, I sleuthed up a recipe online for coffee cake made with pancake mix that got some lovely reviews.  I used it as a starting point, played with it a bit, and within 30 minutes… from stir to cut and serve…I was eating a fluffy, moist, perfectly balanced coffee cake.  So good, this will be my Go-To Coffee Cake Recipe from now on.  This recipe makes a small cake (perfect for a couple),  so I plan to double the recipe when I get home and make this for our big family next week, arriving for what we call “Thanksgiving Camp.”

Quick Buttery Coffee Cake (with Pancake Mix)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

1 c. pancake mix, any kind (I want to try Trader Joe’s pumpkin pancake mix! Vegans use an egg & dairy-free mix)

1/3 c. sugar

1 egg  (vegans can use fave egg substitute)

1/3 c. almond milk (or any kind of milk you like)

¼ c. butter, melted  (I used ½ olive oil, ½ butter, Or use your favorite vegan butter.)

Topping:

2 T. softened butter (or vegan butter)

¼ c. brown sugar

2 T. pancake mix (or flour)

2 T. oatmeal (or mixture of oatmeal, hemp seeds, chia seeds)

1/3 c. chopped pecans (almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, peanuts)
Instructions:

In a medium sized bowl whisk pancake mix and sugar together.  Add egg, milk, butter and stir until smooth.

Butter a small pan, such as a round cake pan.  (I found a small broiler pan in the condo that worked well. It’s smaller than it looks in the pictures, only about 8 by 10 inches. )

Mix topping in another small bowl and crumble on top of batter.  

Bake for 20 minutes.  It will look a bit like the surface of a crater, but with each “dent” there’s the yumminess of melted butter and cinnamon going through the cake. Sooo delicious.  Serve warm and crumbly!!  (Or if I serve it later, I’ll zap a piece for just a few seconds in microwave.)

 This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The title: Quick Buttery Coffee Cake
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This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook


Pistachio and Caramelized Onion Pizza

I have been working out fairly consistently since last August, thanks to the encouragement of my good friend Ingrid.  I get up by 7:00 am (a great feat for this non-morning person) and meet Ingrid at a local gym at 8:00 where we exercise while solving the world’s problems and…often talk about great food. (Perhaps this is why the pounds aren’t just dropping off of us?)

Here’s our conversation from last week, both of us huffing and puffing on ellipticals, side by side.

“Becky!” says Ingrid. “I was visiting my friend in California who is a vegan, like your daughter.  And I came up with the best recipe for a pizza.”

“Let’s hear it.”

“Well, you start with a pizza crust and then sprinkle it with almond cheese.”

“Does almond cheese tastes good? Because I think soy cheese tastes like shredded rubber bands, and I’ve been looking for a good vegan cheese to use when I cook for Rachel.”

“It  does! And it melts. Then you cook some garlic and onions in a pan with a little olive oil until they just start to brown and caramelize.  Put these on top of the almond cheese,  top with a few unsalted pistachios and — hey, Becky, why did you stop walking on your machine?”

I looked down and sure enough, I was so caught up in Ingrid’s description, that I’d completely frozen, thinking of nothing but how those flavors might taste together, my head in a pistachio-caramelized onion pizza cloud.

“Sorry,” I said, resuming my exercise.  “What can I say?  I brake for  food. Even descriptions of it.”

After our gym session, I  didn’t even change out of my gym clothes before heading to Whole Foods and gathering the ingredients. I chose garlic Naan bread instead of pizza dough because I was in a hurry to try this feast.

Let me just say,  this new pizza recipe may  cost me a few extra miles of exercise.

And it will be totally worth it.  You have to try this!

Ingrid’s Pistachio and Caramelized Onion Pizza

Ingredients:

Serves Two


2 pieces Naan Bread (I love Whole Food’s Garlic Naan Bread. But it is not vegan, so if you want to be pure vegan here, you may want to use Whole Food’s pizza dough.)
1-2  T. olive oil, divided
1. c grated almond cheese (or Mozzerella cheese, but if you are a vegan and haven’t tried almond cheese, it is the best tasting vegan cheese I’ve tried thus far)


1 red onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 c. roasted, unsalted pistachio nuts

Directions:

Using a grill pan and a little olive oil, grill the Naan bread on both sides until it is crispy and has light golden grill marks. Set aside on a heavy duty cookie sheet or clay pizza pan.

In a skillet, saute the onions and garlic in a tablespoon or so of olive oil until onions have started to caramelize but still have a little bite/crunch to them.

Put 1/3 cup grated cheese on each piece of Naan. Top each with half of the onion-garlic mixture.  Sprinkle each pizza with 2 T. roasted, unsalted pistachios.

Bake at 375 until cheese melts.  (The almond cheese takes a longer to melt than does “real cheese,”  and I actually ended up nuking the pizza in the microwave a few seconds to get it to “melty” consistency.  It is much better than soy cheese, very good –but not as yummy as the Real Mozerella McCoy.)  Cut in wedges and serve alongside fresh fruits for a light supper or beautiful appetizer to go with your next wine party!

*Besides being handy behind a stove top, Ingrid is also a social media whiz, and serves as a social media consultant for my husband’s literary agency. (Click on her name to read her most recent article on blogging tips.)