(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.
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.
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
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
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.)
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…
(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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
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
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.)
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.
Double Chocolate Veggie-Nut Bread
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
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
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.
(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.)
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.
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Double Chocolate Veggie Nut Bread
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Tu
(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.
Double Chocolate Berry Muffins
Makes 2 dozen regular muffins, and one pan of miniature muffins
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
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
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
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.)
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….
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
(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
4 slices bread
2-4 T. peanut butter
¼ c. Jelly, Jam or Preserves (I used blackberry)
1 T. milk (dairy, almond or soy)
1 T. Butter
1 T. olive oil
Optional: 1 T. powdered sugar
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.
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!
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
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.)