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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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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Banana Nut Soft Serve [Two Ingredients, Dairy-Free, Sugar Free]

Banana Nut Soft Serve

Jackson is 22 months old now and at that stage where he’s learning new words every day and starting to string together words to make phrases and sentences like these:

“Hoo Hoo” (Whoohoo whith his hands thrown in the air.)

“Cool man” (I don’t know where he picked up this phrase, but it’s super cute.)

“Yayyy, I did it!” (Even if he didn’t actually do whatever IT is, he celebrates every little effort with such enthusiasm. It’s contagious.)

“Leeeeeet’s GO!” (That combined with “Run momma” is turning him into a little personal trainer!)

“Yes.” (Finally, he is saying “yes,” instead of always “no,” in the most adorably assertive and confident way.)

Of course, with this precious phase, also comes the less than adorable phrases, like “Chur turn” (Your turn…which actually means my turn. And it’s always “chur turn”) and “Miiiine!”

My favorite phrase of late, though, is “Tank choo ma ma.” He emphasizes each syllable and I can tell he really has to work to say it. It’s a sweet labor of love and it’s reserved for his truly most satisfying moments of deep gratitude, like when I served him chocolate “ice cream” made of bananas and cocoa for a morning snack last week. “Choc! Tank choo ma ma!”

This idea for banana soft serve has been circulating for years. It’s not new, but I’ve turned a few people toward it this week with my Instagram picture of Jackson enjoying his morning ice cream treat and thought maybe some of our readers have yet to try it as well. The basic recipe is just frozen bananas processed in a blender. It’s magical! The bananas just whip right into a thick creamy soft serve that is delicious on it’s own. You can make all sorts of flavors: chocolate peanut butter, strawberry banana, cinnamon and sugar…wherever your taste buds take you. This version is one of my favorites. You can use peanut butter instead of peanuts, but I really love the texture and flavor from the whole peanuts.

Ready in under five minutes, it makes the perfect healthy summer snack, or even breakfast. You’ll earn some serious cool mom or dad points putting a bowl of this in front of your kids first thing in the morning!

Peanut Banana Soft Serve

Banana Nut Soft Serve

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 frozen bananas, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons peanuts (I used organic unsalted)
sprinkle of sea salt (unless peanuts are salted)

Directions

Put ingredients in a food processor and blend, stopping and scraping the sides as needed until it turns to the texture of a thick soft serve ice cream. Then stop. You don’t want to over blend or it will have more of a melty soft serve texture (not bad, but not as good either).

Peanut Banana Ice Cream

For this portion size, I use the smallest bowl on my food processor so I don’t have to stop and scrape the sides as often.  (It will be very loud at first, that’s okay, just be prepared.)

Serve immediately with a few extra peanuts and another sprinkle of sea salt on top for some extra crunch. I’ve heard this does not refreeze well, though I’ve never had any left to try. 🙂 You can buy yourself a little time keeping it chilled in the freezer, but it’s best to serve right away.

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The Title: Banana Nut Soft Serve
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Have you made Banana Soft Serve?

What are your favorite flavor combinations?

What are your favorite toddler phrases and phases?

 

We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook ThumbnailA little book update:

Zondervan, our publisher, has been so supportive of our book (coming out August 6). We’re having such a great publishing experience! They just decided to do an audio version of We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook and invited my mom and I to record it. One of us will be recording in the studio most of the week, each of us having two 5-7 hour days in studio. Prayers for good health appreciated. The following week I’m heading to Colorado (with Jackson in tow) to join mom for a photo shoot for a major Christian publication. We’re so grateful for all the encouragement and support we’ve received…and for our fabulous readers at the blog.

We also got all of the endorsements in for the book. Wow! We are floored by the generosity of our fellow authors. Click on the picture of the book above to read the endorsements and find lots of knew authors to friend and follow.


Trail Mix Parfaits

Trail Mix Parfaits

I have to admit, I’ve not been doing a lot of recipe creating lately. With the book editing and recipe testing process, I think I’ve caught a case of creativity burnout. When this happens, I know it’s time to break out my cookbooks and open up my pinterest boards and go back to where my passion for cooking began: following recipes. Following a good recipe is like doing a puzzle. Corners go here,  edges go there, this piece goes here, this piece goes there … and before you know it you’ve methodically created something new and complete … and lovely … and hopefully delicious, in the case of recipes.

When I haven’t been following other people’s recipes lately, I’ve been throwing together salads and smoothies from the greens in my garden.  This is my first year to have a garden. I’ve already killed all the tomatoes and peppers and most of the herbs, but my greens are growing like weeds. I’ve not made anything terribly innovate with them yet, but oh my goodness, the simple pleasure of walking out my back door, picking some fresh spinach or swiss chard and enjoying a meal with it minutes later. I have been missing out!

I plan on doing a garden post and a recipe round up post soon with some of the hits during my recipe creating hiatus and my adventures as a newbie gardener.

Though my creativity neurons took a leave of absence, I think they may be slowly returning. I’ve made a few very simple recipes the last few days that have knocked my socks off. Like canteloupe dressed with honey, lime, and cayenne pepper or Tajin seasoning. So simple, yet so delicious. Or like yesterdays breakfast, a Trail Mix Parfait: layered ingredients you’d typically find in trail mix, like nuts and seeds and dried fruit and chocolate, slightly warmed and topped with diced bananas. Can I just say, yum!! I just had it again and thought, maybe I finally have a recipe worth blogging after my long dry spell. It’s kind of a recipe that’s almost not a recipe, but it’s so good, it’s worth putting out there anyway. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Other noteworthy updates:

  • I’m guest pinning this week at The Christian Mama’s Guide facebook page on Cooking with Kids. Come join us there for fun ideas to get your kids excited about food. Just in time for summer when the kids will be home “helping” you in the kitchen, whether you like it or not!
  • My lovely co-blogger and mother had a birthday a couple of weeks ago, and I totally missed a chance to do a birthday post. Mom, I love you! Happy Birthday. I cannot believe we get to share so much of our life together, from work to play, even when we are far away.
  • Jackson and I are heading to Colorado this week to spend a few days at my mom’s. We’re taking publicity pictures for the book, having a meeting with our editor about the next book, and hopefully spending some quality time cooking together in the kitchen … with Jackson and my nephew George sitting on the counter helping us. 🙂

And now for that recipe I promised….

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Trail Mix Parfaits

Serves 1

1/2 cup nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds, mixed nuts–I like unsalted walnuts or pecans best)
2 tablespoons dried fruit (like raisins, dried cranberries, blueberries, or bananas)
1 tablespoon seeds (like hemp, sunflower, chias, or sesame)
2 tablespoons chocolate chips (I like the dairy-free, soy-free ones by Enjoy Life)
2 tablespoons diced bananas or yogurt (like So Delicious Coconut Yogurt)

Directions

In a glass bowl or glass, layer nuts, dried fruit, seeds, and chocolate chips. Warm in microwave for 30 seconds or until chocolate just starts to melt. Don’t let chocolate burn. Top with bananas and/or yogurt. Enjoy.

If you gently stir it as you eat, the chocolate will coat the rest of the trail mix. Oooey, gooey gooodness.

If you gently stir it as you eat, the chocolate will coat the rest of the trail mix. Oooey, gooey gooodness.

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Quinoa Mango Black Bean Burrito

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(Becky, the Mama.)

Okay.  I have an honest confession.  If there were a support group for it, I should have joined.  Here it is:  I’m afraid of quinoa.  Not of eating it, mind you.  I actually love it and I know it is a vegetarian’s friends, full of all good things.  One cup of the nutty, fluffy tasty grain provides over 8 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, along with goodies like magnesium, zinc, iron, potassium and all for around 220 calories

My first encounter with quinoa was all positive: my daughter-in-law Julie took me to an adorable coffee shop called The Red Cup in Mukilteo, Washington, overlooking the water.  The kind of cafe with bright funky colors alongside soothing bohemian baristas in Birkenstocks and granny skirts.

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They serve an organic warm, tasty burrito stuffed with quinoa and cheese that comes with tangy fresh mango salsa.   I’ve often thought how much I’d like to try recreating one of those burritos, but I found my mind braking at this thought: “Oh, no, I’ll have to learn how to make quinoa.”

Finally, I told my daughter-the-vegan that I have a quinoa-making phobia.  Her response? “Mom, you are going to laugh at yourself when you find out how ridiculously easy it is.  Just use your $10.00 cheap-o rice maker and pretend it is rice.”

So today I faced down my fears. I marched to my rice maker, poured a cup of quinoa and 1 ¼ cups of water into the bowl, turned it on, then walked away slowly.  When I returned, hesitantly, 15 minutes later… a miracle had occurred.  The tiny little beads had burst and turned nutty and fluffy and … awesome.

The rest was easy and familiar: I grilled a tortilla, sprinkled a little cheese around, then layered quinoa, black beans, salsa, mango,cilantro and chopped green onions.  Rolled that baby up, cut it in half at a diagonal. and dipped it in a bit more salsa mixed with diced mango.

I was immediately transported to that café in Seattle.

Just give me some Birkenstocks and a granny skirt and call me the “Quinoa Queen.”

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Quinoa Mango Black Bean Burrito

Serves 1

1 medium to large Tortilla (white or wheat, I prefer Tortilla Land brand)

1/4 -1/3 cup grated cheese, depending on preference
1/3 cup cooked quinoa, warmed (click for Rachel’s simple directions)
2 T. black beans, warmed
1/4 c. diced mango, divided
Sprig cilantro, rough chopped (optional)
1 green onion chopped 
1/4 cup salsa

Grill tortilla on both sides until brown in spots, hot and pliable. (Use a bit of olive oil if needed to keep from sticking.)
Layer cheese, quinoa, black beans, 2 T. magno, cilantro and onion.

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Tuck in two sides and then roll up into a burrito. Cut on the diagonal, in half. Mix salsa with remaining mango and serve alongside the burrito.

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Potatoes Rancheros (Vegan Huevos Rancheros)

Potatoes Rancheros

About a month before I switched to a plant-based diet, I perfected the fried egg. I wasn’t much of a cook back then, so this was a big accomplishment and it quickly became my go-to breakfast. When we gave up eggs,  I must admit, I was a little bummed that I only had a month to enjoy my perfected egg-frying skills. I’m over it now and I’ve learned some great ways to substitute eggs in my cooking: tofu scramble breakfast tacos and flax eggs and chia eggs for baking, but the fried egg seemed impossible to duplicate, until I got this idea to use a fried potato as the fluffy egg white and avocado as the creamy yolk. A “green egg” if you will.

For those transitioning to a vegan diet and facing those early egg cravings or for those just looking for something different than the traditional egg breakfast, this potato and avocado “fried egg” is delicious. It’s really hard to go wrong with fried anything, right?  I could see using this green egg for a vegan eggs Benedict too, stacked on an English muffin with a creamy vegan hollandaise.

Potatoes

Try them! Try them! You will see. These green eggs are so easy. You can eat them in a box. You can eat them with a fox. You can make them for a friend, maybe during a relaxing weekend. You will like green eggs. You’ll see. Especially with tortillas, beans and ranchero sauce. Spicy!

Potatoes Rancheros, a vegan twist on juevos rancheros. The creamy avocado and soft french fry-like potato rounds give the texture of a fried egg.

The creamy avocado “yolk” and soft fluffy potato round “whites” give the texture of a fried egg.

Potatoes Rancheros

(A Vegan Version of Huevos Rancheros)

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

Ranchero Sauce
1/2 medium-sized onion,diced
1 garlic clove, diced or minced
3 small sweet peppers, red, yellow, or orange (or 1/2 red, orange, or yellow bell pepper), diced
~ 1 tablespoon Olive oil
1 15-ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1/2 cup green chili peppers (or 4-ounce can)
~1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste
~1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder, to taste (can also blend in 1/4 of a chipotle pepper in adobo sauce)

1 russet potato sliced thin (about a 1/4 inch thick–you want about 12 rounds or 3 per serving)
Oil to coat pan
Salt & pepper
4 Tortillas (smaller taco sized ones, not the big burrito ones)

1 Avocado, cut into 1/4 inch thick rounds
Refried pinto beans (I actually used leftover cajun red beans, cooked down and smashed)
Cilantro or chopped green onions (optional garnish)

Directions
In a deep-sided skillet or medium sauce pan, saute onion, peppers, and garlic with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt on medium heat until soft. Add the tomatoes and green chilis and simmer for about 10 minutes. Transfer to blender (or use immersion blender) and blend until combined into a thick sauce, blend in salt and chipotle powder to taste. Transfer back to skillet and keep warm.

Before blending the ranchero sauce. Look at all that flavor and color!

Before blending the ranchero sauce. Look at all that flavor and color!

In a separate skillet (iron skillet works well for this), heat a thin layer of olive oil on medium heat (about a 1/8 inch thick).* Add a single layer of potato rounds and pan fry for 2-3 minutes per side until golden on the outside and soft in the middle (think texture of a french fry.) Transfer potatoes to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Repeat, adding oil to pan as needed, until all the rounds are fried.

Golden on the outside, soft on the inside.

Golden on the outside, soft on the inside.

In the same pan used to fry potatoes, drain off excess oil and warm tortillas.

Working quickly to keep food from getting cold, put each tortilla on a plate, smear tortillas with refried beans, down the middle stagger stacks of a potato round topped with an avocado round. Top with warm ranchero sauce and optional garnish of cilantro and/or green onions. Serve immediately. Eat with a fork or pick up and eat it like a taco.

*For a lighter version, toss potatoes in a light coating of olive oil and salt & pepper, line them on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray and cook under the broiler for about five minutes on each side or until cooked through (like these Blistery Balsamic Potato Chips).

* Make it kid-friendly: (leave off the sauce or make a milder version without the chili peppers or chipotle powder)

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The Title: Potatoes Rancheros (Vegan Huevos Rancheros)
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Green Chili Huevos Rancheros (with Perfect Poached Eggs)

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“I thought eggs were going to be greasy and slimy, but it tastes like cheese sauce. Yum.” Julie Powell, “Julie and Julia”

(Becky, the Mama.)

The short list of foods my husband Greg can cook are: hamburger patties,  grilled cheese sandwiches and pancakes.  So it may come as a surprise to you, as it did to me, that Greg is the one who taught me to poach a perfect egg.   His mother taught him as boy, and he taught me as a newlywed,  and I have to say that when I cooked one correctly: whites firm, yolk thick but still with plenty of liquid gold, it was something of a revelation.

I’ve never been a fan of eggs.  And I have no clue why poaching an egg in boiling  water,  rather than scrambling, boiling or frying  (without benefit of bacon fat or butter!) transforms the lowly egg into something exquisite, but it does.  To Julie Powell it tasted like cheese sauce; to me, with a tiny sprinkle of sea salt, a poached egg tastes like melted butter.

Last week I had a little left-over homemade green pork chili, along with some left-over homemade refried beans, and decided to make Huevos Rancheros.  It was so good, hitting all the right flavor notes,  I proceeded to have it every day for breakfast and lunch for the next three days. There was just something comforting and delicious about the combination of the flavors of warm corn, earthy beans and tangy green chilis topped with one perfect, buttery poached egg.  Where had this dish been all my life?  And why had I not made it before?

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Green Chili Huevos Rancheros 

Serves 1 or 2, depending on how hungry you are!

Ingredients:

2 large eggs

2 t. vinegar

Sea salt & pepper

Water – to fill about 2 inches depth in a small skillet

2 corn tortillas

½ cup refried beans, warmed

½ cup  *pork green chili, warmed. Or if you prefer, any kind of salsa you like

Optional: garnish with slice of fresh jalepano

Directions:

Fill a small skillet 2/3 full with hot water.  Add 2 t. white vinegar.   Bring to boil.  Carefully crack at egg into a small heat-proof bowl.  Slip it carefully into the boiling water.  Repeat with other egg.

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Some of the white will float away, like foamy clouds. That’s okay.  You can capture them later with a slotted spoon and eat them or ignore then and toss them away with the “bath water.” Cook about a minute, but this is not an exact time.  (I like to cover the pan with a lid for a few seconds to insure a film forms over the yolks.)

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When you see the whites are firm and yolk is still soft and gooey,  remove carefully with a slotted spoon and let drain on a couple of folded paper towels. Sprinkle them with a little sea salt and pepper while still hot.

Wrap corn tortillas in a damp paper towel and microwave about 15 seconds until they are hot and soft.  Immediately put them on a plate and put ¼ cup warm refried beans on each tortilla and spread just to edges. Next, carefully set a poached egg on top. Finally ladle all with ½ cup of warm green pork chili or salsa. Garnish with slice of fresh jalepano if desired.

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*You can find green chili of all varieties in the Hispanic food aisle of most grocery stores.  I made my own quick green pork chili by blending 1 cup  chicken broth with ¼ cup mild canned green chilis and 1 clove garlic in a blender.  Then I mixed 1 1/2 T. flour with 1 T. olive oil and 2 t. butter until it made a smooth paste in a hot skillet.  Then I slowly added the contents of the blender plus another cup chicken broth and ¼ cup more green chilis – whisking all the while until it was a desired thickness. (You can add more broth if needed. It should be the consistency of a good stew broth.)  Finally I added about 2/3 cup of cubed leftover pork loin, a pinch of sugar (to balance tang of green chilis), then seasoned with salt and pepper to taste.  You can use veggie or miso broth and omit the pork and make this a filling and delicious vegetarian meal.


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

The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Tu

 

 

 


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