A couple of weeks ago my husband bought a really nice new camera–a mirrorless DSLR, the Sony Nex-5–and I frankly know very little about it (not a great sign for a food blogger, right?) but I am eager to learn. The funny thing is that I’ve been experimenting using it to take pictures not of our three beautiful children, but of food, like these delicious muffins (possibly a good sign for a food blogger?) The truth is, muffins don’t squirm and don’t cry, they don’t have to all smile at the same time, and I can easily move them around to where I want them.
My kids, not so much.
These banana-chocolate olive oil muffins are great for plenty of other reasons besides being photogenic, though. With their use of olive oil, all whole wheat flour, and no refined sugar, they are a healthier alternative to a heckuva lot of other muffins recipes out there (I’m looking at you, streusel topping). And in my opinion, they’re some of the best muffins I’ve ever made–really moist, not too overpoweringly banana-y, with a little kick of chocolate inside.
These never seem to last long in our house, though, because they are such a hit with my (also photogenic, if not easily movable) kids. Here’s one of them:
Banana-Chocolate Olive Oil Muffins
(Adapted from Healthy and Fit)
1 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 c. olive oil
1/2 c. honey
2 mashed bananas
1/4 c. hot water
1 c. chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 12-cup muffin tin.
In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix olive oil and honey. Add eggs and mix, then bananas. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet, alternating with the hot water. Fold in chocolate chips.
Bake 17-20 minutes. Yields 12 muffins.
If there is any kind of ranking system for trendy foods, Greek yogurt has to somewhere near the top–up there with quinoa and craft beer. I don’t think I had even heard of it before about three years ago. And while I don’t tend to be a fan of the trendy, whether in food, fashion, or philosophy, I am totally, wholeheartedly on the Greek yogurt bandwagon. Yeehaw!
You’ve probably heard all about its health benefits–its surprisingly high protein content for a dairy product, its drastically reduced sugar (and therefore carbohydrate) content as compared to regular yogurt, and even its lower sodium. (Though you do have to read labels and be careful about saturated fat.) All of these pros give it a nutritional edge–definitely worth incorporating into your diet frequently.
….but how? I mean, you’re not a fan of sitting down with a heaping bowl of plain yogurt? Me neither, actually. But in our family’s reduced-meat eating habits, I do try to make use of this delightful Mediterranean protein powerhouse in a variety of unusual ways. Here’s a few. (And when I say “unusual,” I don’t meant like changing your oil with it or sleeping in a vat of it or anything, so don’t worry.)
1. In Salad Dressing. Mix 1/3 c. each Greek yogurt and mayonnaise, then add 1/4 tsp. salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, dried thyme, and dried parsley for a creamy ranch-style dipping sauce. Tasty with veggies, chips, crackers, etc. (Dilute with milk to thin, if desired for salad.)
2. In Baked Goods. This is one of my favorite uses for GY. There are so many great muffin and bread recipes out there that call for yogurt, giving them a wonderfully moist texture, so why not make it Greek?
3. As a buttermilk substitute. Does anyone ever really buy an entire carton of buttermilk? Unless you’re the flackjap flipper at your local 300-person pancake breakfast fundraiser, I can’t imagine why you would, especially when you can make a cup of your own buttermilk by mixing 3/4 c. Greek yogurt with 1/4 c. milk.
4. In place of sour cream in Mexican dishes, soups, and on baked potatoes. Most likely you’re familiar with this one, though you may not go so far as my admirable friend Renee, who brings her own secret stash of Greek yogurt when she goes to Chipotle to avoid the high fat content in their sour cream. Top that…literally.
5. On Salmon. Mix 2 parts mayo with 1 part Greek yogurt and 1 part grated Parmesan cheese for a super simple creamy salmon topping. Bake at 450 for 15 minutes. Top with chives as garnish.
6. In Faux Cheesecake. As I recently posted for the 4th of July, this is a great way to cut calories in a tasty cheesecake treat.
7. As a topping on waffles or pancakes (instead of butter). Better yet, add fresh or frozen fruit on top!
8. Give it a squeeze. Shake Greek yogurt and a bit of honey together in a plastic squeeze bottle, then drizzle on fruit, cinnamon buns, etc. for a fancy, aesthetically pleasing touch! (A drizzle always looks nicer than a glop.)
9. In healthier mashed potatoes. Yeah, I get it that most people don’t immediately think yogurt + garlic + herbs = delicious, but check out these healthy herbed yogurt mashed potatoes.
10. In chicken nuggets. Nope, not as a dipping sauce. Dredge chicken pieces in Greek yogurt before breading with seasoned Panko bread crumbs. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or so. Boom!
If you’re a parent of young children, you are familiar with that incredible window of productivity known as your child’s nap time. Since my 2-year-old blessedly still takes an afternoon nap, I try to get as much done as possible during those couple of quiet(er) hours of the day. My 6 and 4-year-olds are still very much awake at that time, but Legos are a beautiful thing for keeping them entertained…well, Legos and pummeling each other to the ground in what they call “Wrestle Fight.” (Did I mention they’re girls?…haha, just kidding.)
When my 2-year-old was younger and wouldn’t sit through a TV show while I made dinner, I relied on nap time to get prep work done on dinner, easing the pain of her standing at the baby gate screaming her guts out while I chopped vegetables…really not fun for either of us. Since then, the routine of doing dinner prep in the afternoons has become second nature, especially if I want to make a meal that takes longer than a Phineas and Ferb episode. When I meal plan, I typically gravitate toward recipes that I can chop/grate/mix/layer ahead of time.
This is one such recipe. You can mash the chickpeas, chop and process the onions, parsley, and garlic, mix it all up with some egg, spices, and bread crumbs, and mold the result into patties in maybe 20 minutes:
Finished patties before cooking
Stash in the fridge until dinner time and it’s ready to bake. Same goes for the tzatziki…without the baking, obviously. This leaves your 24 minutes of Phineas and Ferb for things like checking Facebook and enjoying a glass of wine.
Baked Falafel and Tzatziki Sauce
(Adapted from Allrecipes.com)
3/4 c. Greek yogurt
1/2 cucumber–peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
1 tsp. dried dill weed
1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 15-oz. can garbanzo beans, drained
1 small onion, chopped
2 1/2 Tbsp. dried parsley
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. dried cilantro
1 tsp. salt
1 dash pepper
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3/4-1 c. dry bread crumbs
In a small bowl, mix the Greek yogurt, cucumber, dill weed, lemon juice, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
In a large bowl, mash chickpeas until thick and pasty. In a blender, process onion, parsley and garlic until smooth. Stir into mashed chickpeas.
In a small bowl combine egg, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon juice and baking powder. Stir into chickpea mixture along with olive oil. Slowly add bread crumbs until mixture is not sticky but will hold together; add more or less bread crumbs, as needed. Form balls and then flatten into patties. (I got 13 smallish patties.)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Spray foil with high-quality vegetable oil cooking spray, then place falafel on foil and spray them as well. Bake for 10 minutes, then flip and spray falafel again. Bake another 10 minutes. Finally, broil 1.5-2 minutes on each side.
Serve with tzatziki sauce (and other fixin’s as desired, such as pita, tomato, spinach, etc.)
I always used to be skeptical of granita. Typically containing only three ingredients–fruit juice, water, and sugar–it kinda sounds like some Weight Watchers trick to make you think juice is dessert. (Nice try, Weight Watchers.) But then I started making it, starting with this fancy-schmancy lime recipe, and I’ve been hooked ever since. It still doesn’t exactly fit the bill for a “real” dessert in my book (I think my definition for real dessert is “must contain fat”) but it is a lovely, light, refreshing after-dinner palate cleanser. Any fruit juice will do to make it. I’ve tried grapefruit, watermelon, lime, and lemon, and I’m especially curious to try this sangria version.
This time around, I happened to have a couple of lemons hanging around waiting to be put to some culinary use, so Dear Old Uncle Google willingly obliged an appropriate recipe. I love the unique twist the thyme infusion gives the flavor here–a subtle depth that balances the lemony sweetness nicely. Excellent for a little something different!
From Taste of Home
1 c. water
2/3 c. sugar
2/3 c. fresh lemon juice
2 fresh thyme sprigs
In a small saucepan, bring water and sugar to a boil. Cook and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat; stir in lemon juice and thyme. Transfer to an 8-in. square dish; cool to room temperature.
Remove thyme sprigs. Freeze for 1 hour; stir with a fork. Freeze 2-3 hours longer or until completely frozen, stirring every 30 minutes.
Stir granita with a fork just before serving; spoon into dessert dishes. Yield: 2 cups.
Okay, so this is the recipe that made me realize I was really asking too much for anyone reading my other blog (which doesn’t exactly have a theme, but is definitely not a food blog) to keep indulging me posting about food. If I’m gonna keep posting about food, might as well start a food blog, right? I’ve been so inspired by some incredible food blogging ladies like Annie of Annie’s Eats, Christy of The Girl Who Ate Everything, and Shawnda of Confections of a Foodie Bride that I feel like I just want to add to the conversation about great food. Indulge me and have a look at this beautiful bread.
I never, ever thought I could or would make a bread like this in my own kitchen. I’ve come a long way as a home cook since the early days of my marriage when I made a list of things I knew how to make (It went something like this: 1. Omelets, 2. Burritos, 3. Fish Sticks.) But as time has passed and I’ve expanded my repertoire, I’ve realized that cooking is one small, relatively safe area of my life in which I can consistently try new things, and therefore progressively conquer little fears. As someone who is always trying to shake the specter of fear and anxiety from my life, this gives me confidence. My little kitchen victories–learning to use the broiler, cooking with jalapeños, finally buying and using a food processor–remind me that the best way to fight a fear is to face it. Same is the case with yeast breads–one of those things I have long had an irrational fear of making. Not like I thought it was going to morph into a menacing, drooling dough monster…more just like I thought I would screw it up. Bread is something you buy from the grocery store, where the bakery elves have made it magically appear, not something normal people make on their countertops. There’s all that rising time, the mysterious and somewhat nasty foaminess of the yeast, and then what are you supposed to bake it in?
Well, luckily, in the case of cooking, all you really usually have to do is follow the recipe. (If only everything else in life were so clear-cut!) I found this delightfully simple recipe after deciding to bust through my yeast bread angst by hunkering down and making some. And what do you know? It turned out awesome, rather like the pre-meal bread you get at Carrabba’s or Macaroni Grill. I’ve made it three times now, and this last time I added rosemary for a different flavor. Take that, yeast angst!
What are some of your kitchen victories–things you’ve been afraid to cook but went ahead and tried anyway? How did they turn out?
Rosemary Crusty Bread
(Adapted from Simply So Good)
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon Instant or Rapid-rise yeast
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 cups water
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt and yeast, and rosemary. Add water and mix until a shaggy mixture forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12 – 18 hours. (Overnight works great.) Heat oven to 450 degrees. When the oven has reached 450 degrees place a cast iron pot with a lid in the oven and heat the pot for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, pour dough onto a heavily floured surface and shape into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let set while the pot is heating. Remove hot pot from the oven and drop in the dough. Cover and return to oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes. Remove bread from oven and place on a cooling rack to cool.