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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The Title:Double Chocolate Berry Muffins
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This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook


White Tea Fruit Slushies: My New Summer “Coffee”

Becky’s White Tea Fruit Slushy

Nobody loves the first sip of morning coffee like I do! In fact, I used to use this moment as an inspirational speech illustration on how to capture “Eden moments” in our lives.

Obviously we aren’t living in Eden anymore, but that does not mean we don’t get glimpses of Eden.   “The way we catch ‘Eden moments’,” I would say, “is the same way we acknowledge that first sip of good coffee in the morning.  Many of us audibly say, ‘Ahh, that’s good.’  The same way God paused and said, ‘It is good’ after every phase of creation. We live more meaningful lives by noticing small blessings and pausing, even a second, to say, ‘Ah, that’s good.’ String enough of these small moments of gratitude together and you will find yourself happier.”

I still believe this is true.  But this week,  I had my favorite illustration taken from me!  Due to a spike in blood pressure, I’m cutting out foods that may raise BP, and adding in foods that may lower it. One of the toughest things to give up was that sacred, holy, blessed… Cup o’ Morning Joe.

Since I, like most people, am more motivated by pleasure than I want to admit, I had to find a substitute morning beverage that would be worth getting out of bed for.   I’ve experimented with several alternatives. There was a canned non-caffeinated health/energy drink.  It tastes like chilled, diluted cough syrup.  No go.

I tried various mugs of green and white teas, hot, with honey. They were nice, but hardly exciting enough to compel me to crawl from under the sheets.

Not a fan of de-caf coffee.

Then it hit me.  Our cute local tea shop offers “tea slushies” during the summer months.  I love them but they are a bit too sweet, full of sugar.  I also need to add more berries and fruit in my diet, so I wondered about making a white tea berry slushy.  A little of this, and a pinch of that went into the blender and in no time, out came The Winner.  (Insert angel voices singing here.)   Meet my new morning beverage of choice.  So perfect for back porch sitting and sipping, that I often enjoy an afternoon tea slushy, too.

You’ll find me under the shade tree with my new icey-brew tomorrow, savoring a first sip and saying,   “Ahh.. that is good.”

P.S. I like both green and white teas, but have found white tea has a milder flavor and even more nutritional benefits.  White tea has been shown to fight cancer, help with weight loss, improve and protect the skin and the heart in a myriad of ways among many other benefits.  I often mix it with decaf black tea and sip on this all day.  Here’s an informative link: White Tea Information.

Becky's White Tea Fruit Slushy

Becky’s White Tea Fruit Slushy

Serves 2 large glasses, or 4 “wine” glasses

Ingredients

2 cups brewed white or green  tea, cooled  (made from 2 to 4 tea bags, depending on how strong you like it)

10 ounces (or a little over 1 cup) frozen berries, any kind

1/4 cup agave nectar or a tad of stevia or other sweetener of your choice

1/2 cup ice

Optional: citrus slices for garnish/flavor

Directions

Put all ingredients into a blender and whirl until slushy.  Serve immediately, garnishing with a slice of lime, lemon or orange if desired.

Variations: Try other teas. (A visit to a nice tea shop is like a visit to a cool wine bar these days!) Substitute other frozen fruits such as peaches, cherries, mangos or kiwis.   Even veggies like celery and cucumber would be refreshing.

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The Title: White Tea Fruit Slushies
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Refreshing “Lemon Drop” Berries, Walnut & Greens Salad

Not long ago, I enthusiastically wound up my Cuisinart salad spinner, a gift from my efficient salad-loving daughter. What I did not do was read the instructions, which I’m now guessing said something like, “Wait until the inner whirling colander comes to a complete halt before removing the lid.” If you remove the lid early in the spinning process, I can testify that you will immediately give your entire kitchen, including ceiling and floor, a certain lettuce-based Rain Forest look. However, if you use it correctly, a salad spinner is quite the nifty item to dry the lettuce mix for this recipe below, one of my favorite salads.

The “dressing” is mixed as you toss the salad, no need for a separate bowl.

Becky’s
Refreshing “Lemon Drop” Berries, Walnut & Greens Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 to 6 cups of early spring mix lettuce (rinsed, patted, or spun dry)
½ c. toasted walnuts or pecans

1/2 c. fresh blueberries
1/2 c. sliced fresh strawberries
Juice of one small lemon or ½ large lemon
Olive oil (about 2 T. or to taste)
Sea salt (to taste)
Organic sugar (to taste)
(Blue cheese , feta, goat cheese or  Gorgonzola crumbles can also be added if you want a heartier salad.)

Directions

In a large salad bowl place the greens, berries and toasted nuts. Squeeze juice of one small lemon over all. Toss. Sprinkle the leaves with sea salt and sugar to taste.  (Hint from professional chefs: salad always tastes better and you use less dressing if you lightly salt the greens just before serving.) Toss. Finally squiggle about 1-2 Tablespoons of olive oil. (My good friend Lucille gave me a bottle of Meyer Lemon Olive Oil featured in the picture- so good in this recipe!) Toss gently again. This is a taste-as-you-go salad. The dressing should taste sweet & sour — like lemonade or “lemon drops” — with just enough salt and olive oil to make it savory.

This salad is a light go-to side dish that goes especially well with heavier main dishes. Once you get the method down, it is also one of the fastest, easiest salads you can throw together – and everyone loves it!  Try using sliced green or red apples or sliced peaches in place place of berries, for a salad that refreshes in all seasons.

I made a huge version of this salad on a big oval platter fothe holiday. Not a drop of salad left, and it was so beautiful. Looked like a Spring garden! Added some goat cheese to this version. Yum!

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The Title: Refreshing “Lemon Drop” Berries, Walnut & Greens Salad
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