Monday, February 20, 2012

Double Chocolate Muffins

Why stop at single chocolate when you can go double chocolate? We reeealllly liked these. They're obviously closer to a dessert than a breakfast item and that's what we used them for: snacks and after dinner dessert. I opted to sub in some whole wheat flour in a half-hearted effort to wholesome them up, and although it was probably a lost cause health-wise, I really liked the extra texture it added. And by leaving some of the white flour, they still retained an overall light and tender consistency. I think all whole wheat, for a more dense muffin, would work wonderfully as well. Perhaps working in some applesauce in place of the some of the oil would also be a decent alternative.
Totally worth the splurge and my brain would like to think they're still better than a cupcake, so there.

Double Chocolate Muffins
{Slightly adapted from Mels Kitchen Cafe. Makes 24 regular size muffins}

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cup white flour
3/4 cup baking cocoa
1 1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
3 eggs
1 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk (Come to think of it I may have accidentally left this out-and shockingly they were fine! How funny!)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 t vanilla
1 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 and line 2 12-spot muffin tins with cupcake liners, each sprayed lightly with cooking spray.

Combine dry ingredients in mixing bowl and then add chocolate chips and toss. In bowl of stand mixer combine all wet ingredients. When mixed well pour all dry ingredients in at once and mix briefly on low. You don't want to over-mix muffins, so it's OK if the wet and dry ingredients don't look as combined as you think they should. Stop just short of your mixed comfort level!

Scoop batter into prepared muffin tins-1/2 to 2/3rds full. Bake at 325 for 16-22 minutes. (The original recipe says 16-18, I checked at both 16 and 18 and still kept them in 2-4 minutes longer). They're done when a toothpick test comes out with a few moist crumbs. Remove tins from oven and cool on wire rack. I think they're best at almost room temp, when the chocolate chips are just starting to harden again.

Keep leftovers in an airtight container on counter for up to 2 days.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Tropical Green Smoothie

I've come late in the game to the whole green smoothie fad. (I seem to come late to a lot of things: pinterest, avocados, mushrooms, running, school pick-up the list goes on) But at least I have come and I dare say no one would challenge that I've embraced it whole-heartedly, think kale, spinach, flax seed, wheat germ, groats and the like. Better late than never then? And after a dozen misses in the kitchen lately (yummy keepers of meatless meals are hard to come by, man or things that were scrumptious but we ate them instead of photographing them so we'll have to catch them next time around), sprinkled with a couple cookie failures (really?) smoothies and snacks are about the only things we're getting right around here. But as the baby and I gulped this one down, I realized "hey this is actually worth sharing"!

This smoothie is full of sweet tropically goodness and spinach. I used to be afraid of the green and masked it with blueberries and pomegranate juice and still do because that's a tasty combo, but now I also say embrace the green! Let all that healthy, leafy green goodness stare you in the face. So here you go, a kitchen success. Now if I could just gets my hands on a vitamix...

Tropical Green Smoothie
{Lightly adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod-as an aside: I think some coconut in this would be tasty and while I used canned pineapple as it was what I had on hand, fresh pineapple would be even better}

1 cup vanilla almond milk
1 cup pineapple (canned or fresh-if canned may want to add some of the pineapple juice)
1 cup frozen mango
1 banana
2 cups fresh spinach
1/2 cup crushed ice

Not exactly rocket science here-blend up all the non-frozen items till smooth, then add the frozen (mangos and ice) till smooth again. Drink immediately.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Chicken Salad-My Way

Now we all know there are a million and one recipes for chicken salad out there. And each of us would probably like to think we have the tried and true. So I'm not going to claim mine is the best, but I will say that's it's pretty darn tasty. And it's reasonably quick with just a few ingredients so it's doable for weeknights and lunches not just fancy showers and the like. If you're looking to mix things up a bit or if you really don't have a favorite family heirloom recipe of your own, I can definitely recommend mine in good faith. Plus as you'll see it's open to interpretation. A great basic down home blend.

Chicken Salad
{Makes enough for 8+ regular size sandwiches or several smaller, and it's easily doubled and beyond}

2 chicken breasts
2 stalks of celery, rough chopped
1/2 onion, rough chopped
3/4 to 1 cup miracle whip
1-2 t pure maple syrup
1/4 t + curry powder
Seasoning salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 hard boiled eggs, finely chopped
1/2 cup or more red grapes, halved
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Optional (if you want to get super fancy): crushed pineapple, minced red pepper, finely grated carrots-(the last 2 would do well to be mixed up in the processor with the onion and celery)

Hard rolls or croissants for serving

Cook chicken however you'd like. I simmer mine in chicken broth and water till shred-dable. (30 minutes to 1 hour). Place cooked chicken in food processor and pulse a few times to remove any large pieces, you can make it as fine or chunky as your palette prefers. We like ours on the fine side. Place into separate large bowl. Add rough chopped onion and celery and pulse till fine. Add to chicken. Mix in miracle whip, maple syrup, curry powder (to taste), seasoned salt and black pepper. Add juice of 1/2 lemon, grapes, walnuts, and hard boiled egg. Once everything is well combined, taste and adjust seasonings. I usually end up adding more syrup, curry powder, and lemon juice. Serve on cut rolls or croissants. May be made up to a day in advance. Keeps well covered in fridge for 2-3 days.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Restaurant Style Blender Salsa {in 5 Minutes!}

A new found love, this salsa has been made and rapidly consumed by us no less than 5 times in the past 2 months. It literally takes all of 5 minutes and is remarkably fresh tasting despite the use of canned tomatoes. The fresh onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and lime juice all help with that. I have zero desire to use store bought salsa from a jar now that we've tried this. And although it doesn't keep nearly as long as jarred salsa (through infinity and beyond?!), it does stay fresh in a screw top container in the fridge for a good week or more. Perfect for healthier snacking and semi-homemade condiment using. Enjoy!

Restaurant Style Blender Salsa
{Recipe only slightly adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks!}

1 can (28oz) whole tomatoes with juices
2 cans (10 oz each) Rotel tomatoes (diced tomatoes and green chilies)
1/2 onion, chopped (we prefer white, but seem to only ever have yellow on hand)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 to 1 whole jalapeno quartered & thinly sliced (may scrape out seeds for heat control)
1/4 t sugar
1/4 t + kosher salt
1/4 t ground cumin
1/2 cup + cilantro, coarse chopped
1/2 to 1 whole lime, juiced (to taste-we tend to like more)

This makes a very large batch as in barely fits in my blender. We usually do it in 2 batches and then mix it all together. A large food processor is recommended, that way everything doesn't get completely pulverized, but alas we don't have that option so the blender it is-and it tastes great regardless.

Combine first 8 ingredients (through cumin) in large processor or blender and blend until well combined. If using blender try to be minimal here, perhaps having everything basically finely diced to begin with (not tomatoes or course though) would help? Add lime juice and cilantro just till combined. Taste and adjust. Serve with tortilla chips or whatever your mexican food loving heart desires. If you can, make it ahead at least an hour so that flavors can meld together. But straight outta the blender ain't bad either!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Snack Time: 2 Ingredient Fruit Dip

This is really more of an idea than an actual recipe. I've had be sure to have 4 servings of fruit each day this week and while that's never a problem for me--it is yummy sweet fruit after all--it's nice to mix it up a bit. Most fruit dips I've come across are tasty and wonderful because of a sugary something and you betcha I'm a fan of that. But in consciously watching my sugar consumption I've had to think outside the box a bit. I found this idea on pinterest and we're already a houseful of fans. 2 ingredients: vanilla yogurt, peanut butter, and voila you're done. I've yet to try almond butter in any form, but might need to add it to the grocery list and see how well it takes the place of peanut butter sometime. Snack time has reached new and healthier heights, yay!

Peanut Butter Fruit Dip

Fruit of choice-apples seem to the obvious what with the peanut butter and all
2 parts vanilla yogurt (we go greek) to 1 part smooth peanut butter (or almond butter?)

Basically I just plop 2 heaping spoonfuls of yogurt and 1 heaping spoonful of peanut butter in a small bowl and stir to combine. Serve with fruit of choice. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Healthy Chocolate Banana Smoothie {The drink that's saving my bacon right now}

So remember how I mentioned that we're on a mission to be healthier? {AKA Operation: Lose the Donut around my midsection by not eating Donuts?) Ya so that's meant a rigorous (and yes it has felt rigorous to me) crackdown on sugar consumption-and a bunch of other things but those don't really pertain to this post. What does pertain though is the 6 days a week of no sugar (including honey), 1 day a week of blessed sugar. You should see my pinterest account, FULL of amazing baked treats that I'm somehow able to avoid actually baking. Go me! Anyhow, a life without chocolate and treats would be a depressing life indeed. So naturally I had to find a healthy alternative and I really think I have with this one.

It's cocoa powder, bananas, almond milk, and ice with an optional shot of cream and dash of vanilla. It's been a wondrous revelation. Sweetened by the bananas, no sugar needed. (Could even be vegan if you forgo the cream) Now I'm not gonna lie and tell you that it's just as good as a scoop of chocolate ice cream whizzed up in the blender, but you know it's almost as good and some might argue better since it's actually healthy. And you don't feel disgusting after eating it. It's truly saved my bacon these past weeks. Let it save yours too. (or just eat an extra cookie for me ;0)

Chocolate Banana Smoothie

2 ripe bananas
1/2 cup almond milk
1 T cocoa powder
Crushed ice (1/2 a cup or so)
Optional: 1 t vanilla & 1 T whipping cream-not as healthy but really good all the same!

Place everything but ice in blender and process till smooth. Add crushed ice and blend till smooth. Serve immediately.

Note: The above amounts are definite guesstimations. Really I just throw it all in there and taste/observe as I go. And it's easily doubled/tripled. Our family is hooked so we need lots to go around.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Multigrain Bread

This my friends is our new favorite homemade bread recipe. It's wholesome and healthy, chock full of the goodness of 7 grain hot cereal, wheat flour, and a touch of sweetness. It's hardy and makes superb toast and sandwiches. And although it's a double raise special with an hour of letting the cereal soften before you really get started, it's not fussy and so far has turned out consistently great results for me. And I'm no yeast bread pro! Definitely worth the effort and perfect for a cold winter's day indoor project.

Multigrain Bread
{Recipe from Our Best Bites. Makes 2 loaves}

1 1/4 cups seven-grain HOT cereal mix (make sure it's marked "hot", I found my in the bulk organic section)
2 1/2 cups boiling water
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
NOTE: I opted to use all wheat flour, a combo of white wheat and regular whole
1/4 cup honey
4 T butter, melted and cooled a bit
2 1/2 t instant or rapid-rise yeast (I think active dry would work fine, if you find yourself without instant)
Slightly less than a full Tablespoon kosher salt
Optional: 3/4 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats

Place cereal in the bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle and pour boiling water over it. Let stand, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour. Should resemble thick porridge. Mix flours together in a separate bowl.

Once grain mixture is ready, add honey, butter, and yeast. Mix on low until combined. Add 2 cups of mixed flour and mix for 2 minutes. Remove paddle and attach dough hook. Add remaining flour a 1/2 cup at a time until dough is tacky but not sticky. I found that I used all the flour every time. Cover bowl rightly with plastic wrap and let dough rest for 20 minutes. Add salt and knead on med-low for another 5-7 minutes. Add seeds (if using) and knead another 20 seconds. Knead by hand (5 or so turns) into a smooth round ball. Place in lightly greased bowl (i reuse the mixer bowl), cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

Grease 2 loaf pans. Transfer dough to lightly sprayed surface. Divide in half (I cut mine). Shape each chunk of dough into a loaf shape. Place in greased bread pan and spray lightly with cooking spray. Gently press a generous amount of rolled oats on top of each loaf. Cover lightly and let raise 40 minutes.

30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375. Bake until loaves register 200 degrees on a thermometer placed in the middle of one loaf, about 35-40 minutes. Transfer pans to wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Removed loaves from pans and continue to cool on wire rack. Slice and serve. Store in bread bags. Baked loaves may be wrapped well and frozen.