Double Chocolate Berry Nut Muffins

chocolate muffins 018

(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.

chocolate muffins 017

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.)

chocolate muffins 007

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….

chocolate muffins 012

chocolate muffins 017

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


Cinnamon Crisps (Easy to Make with Kids)

Cinnamon (Christmas) Crisps 004

(Becky, the Mama. It is the small things you do with small people that you and they will look back on and cherish. I hope and pray you get a little bonding time in the kitchen with young ones this week. Here’s a recipe that will make it easy during a time when many feel perpetually overwhelmed. Love and Merry Christmas to all our Blog Readers and thank you so much for sharing our love of cooking and passing it along to others.)

There is, of course, the Martha Stewart way to make Christmas cookies with your kids when they are home from school this coming week for Christmas break. It looks homey and fun, easy and bonding. Especially when using child actors on a TV set.

What it is, in reality, is a long process involving antsy children, along with lots of sugar, clouds of flour, rolling pins and sticky dough (that will take a jack hammer to remove after it is dry), food coloring stains, and sometimes tears of frustration (from either children or parent). The experience almost always ends with the kids giving up the thrill of “making Christmas cookie memories together,” after half-heartedly decorating one, maybe two, cookies. Then they start begging to go play outside, watch cartoons or play a video game. So Mom ends up finishing up the decorating, cleaning up the mess, and downing about six cookies she doesn’t really need or want that taste like thick sweet cardboard with green and red sugar paste on top.

I’m here to give you Becky Johnson’s (alias “Nonny”) Easier Way Out. (Merry Christmas!) It takes about five to ten minutes to make these “Christmas Cinnamon Crisps” with your children, start to finish. If you use whole wheat tortillas and dust them with organic coconut or date sugar, you can even claim them to be almost downright healthy. A cold glass of diary or almond milk will help balance the sugar with a bit of protein and keep your children off the ceiling from a pure sugar high. Also, these crisps are so light and crunchy, they will not end up feeling like a sugar dough ball in their stomachs. (Or yours.)

We made these for Christmas, but you can use any holiday or seasonal cookie cutters to make this an easy-to-make treat year round.

Cinnamon (Christmas) Crisps 003

Cinnamon Crisps

Ingredients:

2 large flour tortillas, whole wheat or white (I prefer to use the raw tortillas, such as Tortilla Land or Guerrero Brands because they puff up like little sopapillas,  but pre-cooked ones will also work)
1 to 2 T. coconut oil or other healthy oil
Cinnamon & Sugar Mix (1/4 c. sugar to 1 T. cinnamon)

Cinnamon (Christmas) Crisps 007

Directions:

Using good sharp edged cookies cutters, let the kids cut out cookies from the tortilla.

Anthony's birthday cookies reagan shower 001

In the meantime, melt 1 T. coconut oil in a medium skillet on medium high heat. Drop tortilla “cookies” into hot oil (obviously an adult will need to do this part).

Cinnamon (Christmas) Crisps 008

Then gently roll them in a bowl of the cinnamon and sugar, coating both sides.

Cinnamon (Christmas) Crisps 009

Let them cool a bit, but best eaten while warm and fresh! (You made need to add more coconut oil as you cook the crisps.) Cut up left over “scraps” of tortillas into “crazy shape” pieces to cook, coat and eat last!

Cinnamon (Christmas) Crisps 004

Variations:

There are so many ways you can jazz up this basic idea. You can coat them with coconut or date sugar, and use whole wheat tortillas (or even flat bread). You can make a quick vanilla or chocolate glaze and dip one side in (like a donut) and then dip again in crushed nuts or seeds or sprinkles or coconut, like thin tiny donuts. You can skip the cinnamon and sugar and dip in a honey-butter or peanut-butter and honey mixture. Have fun with this!

Cinnamon (Christmas) Crisps 005

The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Cinnamon Crisps
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Qw
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook


Sesame Chicken with Honey Garlic Sauce

(Becky, the Mama.)

One of my most-repeated cooking mottos is, “It’s all about the sauce.”  Growing up in Texas, pot luck suppers often provided informal competitions for whose mama made the best Bar-B-Que Sauce or home-made Salsa. My palette was set for big flavors at a young age.  And I am still like a kid when it comes to tasty dipping sauces.

One of my favorite flavor combinations are foods that use the following layers of flavor and texture:  crunchy, spicy, savory, garlicky, tangy and sweet.  A tall order, but I think I may have created the perfect irresistible dish that, as we say in the south, “has it ALL going on, ya’ll.”

These spicy oriental style chicken strips get an extra crisp texture by dipping them in a mixture of egg whites and siracha,  then rolling in seasoned flour and cornstarch before pan-frying in healthy coconut oil. 

And wait until you try this sweet garlicky sauce made with honey, soy and a touch of molasses.  So easy and only has to be heated to a boil then simmered for a minute before serving, but the depth and layers of flavor is amazing.

Move over Colonel,  I think I may have given a whole new defination to finger lickin’ good!

Sesame Chicken with Honey Garlic Sauce

 

Serves 3 to 4 people

Ingredients:

½ to 1/3 c coconut oil (may substitute other oil, but this is my favorite)

12 chicken tenders (or breasts cut in 12 tender-sized slices)

2 egg whites

1 T. siracha (or Tabasco or Frank’s Red Hot Sauce)

½ c. flour

½ c. cornstarch

1 ½  t. Tony’s Cajun Seasoning

1 t. steak or grill seasoning

1 T. sesame seeds (black or white, I used black

For sauce:

½ cup honey

¼ cup low sodium soy sauce

3 cloves fresh garlic grated

1 T. vinegar

1 T. molasses

1 T. sweet thai chili sauce

1 T. bourbon (may omit and sauce will still be delicious) 

Directions:

Heat Oven to 250 degrees.

Melt about 1/3 to ½ cup coconut oil in a large skillet, so that there is about ¼ inch of oil in the pan.  Heat to medium high.

Rinse and pat dry a dozen chicken tenders.   Lightly salt and pepper them.  In a side shallow bowl, mix egg whites and siracha sauce.   In another bowl, mix flour, cornstarch, Cajun seasoning, grill seasoning and sesame seeds.

Using long tongs, dip tenders first in egg white mixture and then in dry flour mixture, then carefully in hot oil in skillet, about 6 at a time.   Turn when golden brown and crispy on one side.  Repeat on the other side.  Put the first batch in a warm oven on a cookie sheet while waiting for next set of tenders to cook

In the meantime, in a saucepan, mix all the ingredients listed for the sauce.   Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally, and then simmer for one more minute.  Let cool a bit before pouring into small individual dipping bowls. Serve each person 3-4 chicken tenders about 3 T. of dipping sauce.   We enjoy this meal with brown jasmine rice and colorful stir-fried veggies as a side dish.  Fresh sliced pineapple makes the perfect  dessert.

(Vegan variation: use a vegan chicken-substitute product, extra firm tofu or seitan instead of chicken.  Substitute egg white with a 3 Tablespoons water mixed with 1 T. flax meal.)

 
 

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

The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com

The Title: Sesame Chicken with Honey Garlic Sauce

The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-L9

© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Healthy Skillet Apple Crisp (Vegan, Wheat, Dairy and Sugar Free)

Healthy Apple Crisp

After returning from a recent trip where I travelled without Greg (“The Other Half of my Heart and Brain”), we paused and took inventory of all the things I lost along the way: some clothes, my credit card,  my car keys (the kind with a computer chip that cost $70.00 to replace), and my camera.

Thankfully the credit card surfaced in a bag I’d left at home.  The hotel found my camera and zipped it to me quickly, Fed-Ex.  Three days later, my local library called to let me know that Frontier Airlines had my car keys in the Lost and Found. (My library card was attached to my giant key chain.  I remembered then that I’d let my grandbaby Jackson play with them on the plane.  Let this be a lesson to all:  Never trust a 13 month old baby to put your keys back in your purse when he is finished playing with them.)  Never found the clothes

Though Greg knows my absent-minded nature all too well, even he was amazed at all I’d managed to misplace in such a short time.

One morning soon after, he came upstairs to our bedroom to wake me up in time for a morning appointment.  “Becky,” he asked, “How in the world did you ever wake up without me to help you all those years when you traveled alone, speaking?”

“Well,” I answered sleepily, “the hotels had this thing where you could ask them to call you and wake you up. But I forgot what they call it.”

Greg smiled.  “A wake up call.”

“Yeah, that’s it!”

What is funny is the things my brain does remember: every word that Greg said to me when we fell in love, and the sweet things he continues to say to me almost a decade later.  Dozens of quotes I’ve found meaningful over the course of my life . Then there are recipes.  I have a remarkable taste memory, and can remember a long list of ingredients in recipes I’ve cooked and loved, simply by remembering the taste of it in my mind.

After cooking for years,  I can now imagine a dish I’ve never eaten, but would like to try making, and somehow my brain clicks off the  ingredients automatically.  Thus, the recipe for this skillet apple crisp that turned out exactly as I imagined it would: buttery, not-too-sweet, crunchy and rustic. It has no refined sugars, but is made with natural coconut sugar and tad of pure maple syrup. (It is easy to find coconut sugar these days in the baking aisle:  I found this bag at a local Wal-mart.) The topping has no flour: it is all oats and nuts and seeds, giving it a fabulous crunchy texture. It is loaded with fiber and protein, a comforting autumn dessert, and healthy enough to serve the next day for fruit-nut breakfast oatmeal – re-heated and served with a little milk, cream or almond milk.

Amazing Healthy Skillet Apple Crisp (Wheat, Dairy and Sugar Free)

 

Ingredients for Apple Layer:

2 T. Earth Balance Butter (or regular butter if you are not vegan)

2 T. coconut sugar

2 T. maple syrup

1 t. cinnamon

3 cups fresh organic apple slices,  loosely packed,  ¼ inch  thick, peel left on (This took about 5 small apples, so I imagine 3 or 4 larger apples would do)

2 T. raisins or dried berries

Ingredients for Topping:

1 c. old-fashioned oats

½ c. nuts (I used walnuts)

2 T. hemp, chia or flax seeds

¼ c. coconut oil (or other healthy oil if you do not have coconut oil on hand)

3 T. coconut sugar

¼ t. salt (unless nuts above are salted, then omit)

1 t. cinnamon

1 T. pure maple syrup

Optional: 2 T. Roasted Pumpkin Seeds for garnish (may also use sunflower seeds or slivered almonds)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a 10 inch iron skillet, melt Earth Balance butter over a low flame.  Mix rest of “Ingredients for Apple Layer”  into the melted butter.

Put all “Ingredients for Topping” into a food processor, except the maple syrup.  Process until mixture is crumbly, about the size of Grape Nuts cereal.  Sprinkle over the apples. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of maple syrup over all.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until topping is brown, apples are soft and juices beneath are thick and syrupy.  Top with pumpkin seeds, if desired. Serve plain or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, yogurt or coconut milk-based ice cream.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Healthy Skillet Apple Crisp (Vegan, Wheat, Dairy and Sugar-free)
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-GO
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Refreshing Mandarin Orange & Pineapple Cake (Vegan Friendly)

 

One warm day when my daughter Rachel was about fourteen, she bounced in the kitchen and said, “Mom, you have GOT to get the recipe for this cake called ‘Refreshing Cake’ that Cricket’s mom made today. It was cold and full of fruit and not too sweet, and creamy… and I want it for my birthday cake.”

Cricket was one of Rachel’s best friends, and luckily her mom was the sweet-natured recipe-sharing sort,  so her recipe for “Refreshing Cake” (made with cake mix, eggs, pudding mix, a cup of oil, canned fruit and Cool Whip) showed up not only at birthdays, but was our go-to Spring and Summer dessert for family gatherings.

Then Rachel grew up, married, and became a vegan, bravely waving good-bye to many of her favorite desserts made with lots of dairy and eggs.

I, too, became more health conscious in my own way. I grew up in the 70’s when our collective moms (prompted by TV and the health advice de jour) stocked the kitchen with the latest new-fangled foods: Fresca,  Tang (Why drink OJ from an actual orange when you can drink orange flavored sugar water?), margarine, IMO (A sour cream substitute. What those initials stood for is still a government secret.), saccharine, Mellorine (an artificial ice cream that melted into tile grout) and Cool Whip,  that luscious tub full of hydrogenated oil and air!

We were a generation of kids raised on NASA and  chemicals, basically eating astronaut food.

(I must hasten to add that my mother turned into something of a health nut in the decade of the 80’s, and has remained healthily and happily so ever since.)

But somewhere along the way to adulthood, I tasted real butter and ice cream (Blue Bell), promptly fell in love with the real McCoys, and began cooking with all things “natural.”

Now recipes with “artificial food” ingredients leave a slight chemical aftertaste in my mouth,  not to mention an ache in my tummy.

But with the coming of Spring, visions of that moist pineapple and Mandarin orange cake, with its pineapple-whippy-pudding frosting started dancing in my head again. Along with the thought, “I wonder if I could create a ‘real food’  vegan-friendly version of this cake that doesn’t taste like fruit flavored mashed tofu and lentils?”

I’m pleased to say that with a quick trip for a couple of specialty items at Whole Foods, I produced a Refreshing Cake that is not only chemical free, organic and vegan… it tastes better than the original to me. No weird aftertaste, no achy tummy.  Just a pure “real food” moist, yummy cake.

It would also make a great make-ahead cake for Easter lunch or dinner. A little preview tip: two cans of whole full fat coconut milk will need to go in your fridge overnight before making the recipe. This allows the “cream” to solidify and rise to the top so you can skim it off and whip it!

Becky’s Refreshing Mandarin Orange and Pineapple Cake

Serves 9 to 12, depending on size of pieces

Ingredients:

Some of the ingredients for “Better for You” Refreshing Cake

For Cake:

Dr. Oetker’s Organic Vanilla  Cake Mix,  (This mix has no dairy or eggs in the mix, so if you don’t add any, it can be vegan.)

4 eggs (Vegans use egg-replacer equal to 4 eggs.  You can click on link for recipe or buy “egg-replacer” in a box at most health food stores.)

1/2 c. coconut oil

1/2 c. applesauce (you may also use another 1/2 c. of canola or coconut oil instead, but applesauce makes it lighter in calories)

1  11 ounce can Mandarin Oranges with juice

For Frosting:

2 16 oz. cans full-fat coconut milk, chilled overnight in fridge. (You will only use the coconut cream that rises to the top.)  If you prefer dairy,  you can use 1 c. whipping cream instead.  Or 1 can of coconut cream and 1/2 c. whipping cream combined which is what I use most often as it seems to render the best of both!

1/2 c. vegan vanilla pudding mix (I used about half a package of Mori Nu vanilla pudding mix. If you aren’t vegan you can use any 3 1/2 oz. package of instant vanilla pudding mix.)

1 28 ounce can crushed pineapple, drained

1/4 c. raw organic sugar or agave nectar

2 t. good vanilla

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make the cake,  mix the organic cake mix with eggs or egg-replacer of your choice, coconut oil and applesauce. When thoroughly blended, fold in mandarin oranges with juice,  breaking gently as you stir. Pour batter into an 11 by 13 inch pan and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and cake springs back to touch in the middle. Cool and refrigerate until cool to the touch before frosting.

Refreshing Cake before frosting

Using an electric mixer, whip the coconut cream as you would cream until it has the consistency of whipped cream.  (Or if you prefer to use dairy, whip 1 c of heavy cream. I often use half coconut cream and have whipping cream.)  Add 1/2 c. of vegan pudding mix (save rest for another cake, another day:)  and continue to beat.  Add vanilla and 1/4 c organic sugar or agave.   Fold in the can of well-drained can of pineapple.  ( Really squeeze the juice out, pushing pineapple against the colander holes.)   Keep in fridge until you are ready to frost.  If frosting feels too thick, add a little pineapple juice until it has the consistency of easy-to-spread, slightly stiff,  whipped cream. If too thin, let it set in fridge for up to an hour and it should thicken.

Whipped Coconut Cream with Pineapple folded in

When the cake is chilled,  frost with coconut-cream-pineapple frosting. You may want to garnish with a little flaked coconut. Cover with plastic wrap and keep in fridge until you are ready to serve. I think this cake tastes even better the next day or two as flavors have a chance to chill and mingle.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Refreshing Mandarin Orange and Pineapple Cake (Vegan Version)
The URL: https://welaughwecrywecook.com/2012/04/04/refreshing-mandarin-orange-pineapple-cake