Category Archives: Food Fun Friday

Gluten-ous

It’s time to get to the bottom of this gluten free business. It’s clear that it’s not just going to leave stage right. I’m finally going to investigate gluten and living gluten-free.

According to the Mayo Clinic “A gluten-free diet is a diet that excludes the protein gluten. Gluten is found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye).” The mayo clinic describes the purpose of a gluten-free diet as, “a treatment for celiac disease.”

Apparently Peter Gibson is the originator of the idea of gluten intolerance. He published a study in 2011 which found gluten to cause gastrointestinal distress in patients without celiac disease. This study was one of the strongest pieces of evidence to date that gluten intolerance is a condition.

Like any good scientist, Gibson was unsatisfied with these results and proceeded to conduct an even more rigorous study in 2013, where he found that subjects reportedly worsening gastrointestinal distress with each meal. Gluten wasn’t the cause, the cause was likely psychological and Gibson stated, “In contrast to our first study… we could find absolutely no specific response to gluten.”

Source: Gluten Free Club

It seems that going gluten-free is largely market driven and not based on any scientific evidence. Manufacturers, large and small, are jumping on the band wagon labeling products as gluten-free to appease the masses. But is it really good for us to adopt a diet sans gluten if celiac disease does not ail us?

Here’s my “professional” opinion: Of course you will feel better when you stop consuming all the pastries and cookies and crackers! It’s logic. Don’t replace these gluten-filled items with the gluten-free products that have come out. These are often even more processed and pumped with extra sugar and fat. If you HAVE to adopt a gluten-free diet, adopt a generally healthier diet as well. If you cook more at home using real ingredients, cutting out more processed foods, you will feel better! Regardless of the presence of gluten, so stop vilifying one food group… please.

Eat more vegetables and fruit. Eat more real ingredients and less processed items. Allow yourself a treat every once in a while. Donut, ice cream, whatever your vice is, everything in moderation.

Source: Flour Advisory Bureau

One good thing I’ve seen coming out of this fad is that gluten-free products are more easily available and less expensive for people who actually do have celiac disease. And that’s a win in my book.

Further reading

Vegan Cinnamon Sugar Cookies

This recipe comes from my College Vegetarian Cooking cookbook. The author describes these cookies as “giant Teddy Grahams” which is so accurate I couldn’t think of a better way to say it.

They are vegan and we all know the best thing about vegan baking is that you can eat the raw cookie dough (I guess I should add, “without worrying about getting sick,” because raw eggs have never stopped me from eating cookie dough). The other best thing about vegan baking is that you can take the cookies out early if you like soft cookies or leave them for the entire duration if you like them crunchier (for the same reason). So with all that said, here’s the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup softened margarine (I use smart balance)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325°F. Add margarine and sugars to a mixing bowl and combine vigorously until smooth and creamy. Add flour, cinnamon and baking soda. Stir until thoroughly incorporated. Roll dough into 1″-sized balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet, approximately 2″ apart. Bake for eight to 10 minutes or until lightly browned on the edges.
Dear my parent’s Ninja blender and food processor,
I’ll miss you when I move out. I have treasured our time together. We created delicious and nutritious smoothies in individual travel cups. You perfect the art of making cookie dough. If I wasn’t a poor unemployed post-graduate I would invest in your cloned family members. I will not forget you, let’s make the most of the time we have left together.
Love, Maggie
Dear my parent’s convection oven,

I’ll miss you when I move out. I have treasured our time together. You have made it so that I can cookie two trays of cookies at the same time for the same amount of time. Your light provides rays of light as if God is watching over the things that bake within you. If I wasn’t a poor unemployed post-graduate I would invest in your cloned family members. I will not forget you, let’s make the most of the time we have left together.
Love, Maggie

These cookies look so yummy…. mmmmm cinnamonny goodness. Did I ever tell you that cinnamon is my favorite food group? Well it is. 🙂
Cinnamon Sugar Cookies with Candy Cane Blossoms

Cooking Fats: Behind the Music

I didn’t realize I had so much to say on this subject but as it turns out I am quite passionate about cooking oils and fats. So passionate that I believe this is one of the longest posts I’ve ever written. Because of this epic of a blog post, I have included jump links so you can simply click on the oil you want to know more about to easily move around this article.

Recommended Oils

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is extracted from the brown meat of a coconut. It contains, 92% saturated fats, 6% monounsaturated fats and 1.6% polyunsaturated fats. These saturated fats were once considered unhealthy, but recent studies show they are a safe source of energy. Additionally, previous studies were conducted on refined coconut oil that contained hydrogenated oils (which are bad!). This is why you should be sure to buy virgin (processed without chemicals or high heat) coconut oil that is high in the medium-chain fatty acids, which absorbs quickly into the body.

Coconut oil also has important health benefits. It is rich in a fatty acid called Lauric Acid, which can improve cholesterol and acts against bacteria and other pathogens. Additionally, coconut oil provides a slight boost in metabolism and, compared to other fats, increases the feeling of fullness.

This oil is semi-solid at room temperature therefore it won’t go rancid for months or even years. I recommend using coconut oil for frying, due its high heat tolerance, due to saturated fat content.

**Side Note** higher saturated fats means higher smoke point, the smoke point is the point at which the nutrients in an oil or fat begin to break down).

Coconut oil can be used as a replacement for other oils in a typical recipe by a ratio of 1:1. You need less coconut oil than you’d expect when sautéing (due to low water content).

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Butter

8 Health Benefits of Butter – Dr. Axe
Like coconut oil, butter was also demonized in the past due to its saturated fat content (68% saturated fat, 28% monounsaturated fat and 4% polyunsaturated fat), but there really is no reason to fear real butter. Real butter is good for you and actually fairly nutritious. It contains Vitamins A, E and K2. It also contains the fatty acids Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), which may help decrease body fat percentage in humans, and Butyrate, which can prevent inflammation, improve digestive health and fight obesity. For butter rich in Vitamin K2, CLA and other nutrients, make sure it comes from organic, grass-fed, unpasteurized cows.

When cooking with butter, it tends to burn at high heat, like for frying. This is because regular butter contains trace amounts of sugars and proteins. To avoid burning your butter, you can cook with ghee, clarified butter from which sugars and proteins have been removed, leaving only pure butterfat. I recommend using butter for baking, and cream-sauces and ghee for frying.

There’s a quick tutorial for how to make butter yourself at the bottom of my recipe for buttermilk cake. Here is a tutorial for clarifying butter.

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Olive Oil

Olive Oil Excellence

Extracted from the fruit of the olive tree, olive oil is loved for its heart healthy effects and is believed to be a key reason for the health benefits of the mediterranean diet. It can raise HDL (the good) cholesterol and lower the amount of oxidized LDL cholesterol circulating in your bloodstream. The fatty acids in olive oil are mostly monounsaturated (75% monounsaturated, 14% saturated, 11% polyunsaturated).

When buying olive oil, make sure to look for quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil, that is cold-pressed and unfiltered. It has much more nutrients and antioxidants than the refined type. It should appear cloudy and be golden in color. The bottle should be green to slow oxidation ( a process which creates free-radicals that are damaging to cells in the body)

To keep it from going rancid, store olive oil in a cool, dry, dark place. While olive oil is inferior to coconut oil for cooking at high heat, studies show that you can still use it for cooking or sautéing at lower heats (under 320°F). Olive oil is best used to drizzle on salads or other dishes after they have been cooked.

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Animal Fats – Lard, Tallow, Bacon Drippings

The fatty acid content of an animal depends on the animal’s diet: A diet primarily composed of grains results in higher proportion of polyunsaturated fats; if the animal is pasture raised or grass-fed, saturated and monounsaturated fats will be higher. That said, animal fats from naturally-raised animals are superior for cooking.

You can save the drippings from meat to use later, or you can buy ready-made lard or tallow from the store (just be sure to check the label for no hydrogenated oils).

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Avocado Oil

Avocado oil has a similar composition to olive oil: it contains primarily monounsaturated fats, with few saturated and polyunsaturated as well. Therefore, I recommend using it in similar ways to olive oil.

Recent studies show that avocados are a powerhouse of nutrients and healthy fats your body craves. Keep your eyes peeled for a post all about this wonderful superfood.

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Fish Oil

Fish Oil – Dr. Vlada Korol
Omega-3 fatty acids are DHA and EPA. This is old hat if you read my post about hemp, flax and chia seeds. Another way to satisfy your need for omega-3s can be found in a tablespoon of fish oil. The best source is cod fish liver oil, because it is also rich in Vitamin D3, a nutrient many people are deficient of. Due to its high concentration of polyunsaturated fats, fish oil shouldn’t be used for cooking. To unlock these health benefits, take it as a supplement, one tablespoon per day. Store it in a cool, dry and dark place.
Just check with the manufacturer to see where the fish came from and how it was caught and find it on you’re sustainable fish guide.

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Flax Oil

Flax oil contains lots of the plant form of Omega-3, Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA), which I discussed in my post about hemp, flax and chia seeds. Due to the high content of polyunsaturated fats, this oil is also best used as a supplement: added to salads, smoothies and other cold foods. However, unless you’re vegan, fish oil is probably a better option. Some studies show that ALA is not efficiently converted to the active forms, EPA and DHA (both of which are readily available in fish oil) in the human body. Therefore, it is absorbed slowly into the body and should be used in small quantities.

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Nut Oils and Peanut Oil

There are many nut oils available and they are generally rich in polyunsaturated fats. They can be used as parts of recipes, but are a poor choice for high heat cooking or frying.

One exception is macadamia nut oil, which like olive oil contains monounsaturated for the majority. The taste may just make up for the step price if you’re willing to shell out the dough (that was a pun). Macadamia oil can be used for low- or medium-heat cooking.

Peanut oil is derived from peanuts, which aren’t technically nuts (they’re legumes). Peanut oil is popular in Asian cooking and some fast-food restaurants use it for deep-frying.

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Sesame Oil

Despite this oil’s high proportion of polyunsaturated fats (41%), it is stable enough for cooking at high heats. It also adds flavor when drizzled over a stir-fry. Sesame oil is a great source of Vitamin E and other nutrients, and is beneficially for maintaining blood pressure. Sesame oil keeps very well at room temperature but storing it in the refrigerator keeps it from going rancid for even longer. Make sure you buy the unrefined variety.

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Avoid These

The following oils are created from genetically modified plants or must be highly processed before hitting the shelves at your local grocery store. This processing increases the shelf life but involves very high heats removing most of the natural flavor. It also causes oxidation, creating free radicals that can damage the cells of our bodies. The processing also creates a huge imbalance in Omega-6 to Omega-3, making them far too rich in Omega-6 fatty acids.

Many of these oils have been wrongly labeled as “heart-healthy,” but new research has linked them to heart disease and cancer. One study looked at vegetable oils commonly found in U.S. grocery stores and found that they contain between 0.56 to 4.2% trans fats. That’s why I continually strew the importance of reading labels. Trans fats are bad!

Trans fats increase levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol and lowers levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol. It is found in hydrogenated, or partially-hydrogenated fat products like margarines and vegetable shortenings. It is also used in packaged snack foods and by fast-food and other restaurants.

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Canola Oil

Canola oil, best used in baking and frying, is derived from rapeseeds. Fun fact: its name comes from the phrase “Canadian oil, low acid” referring to the first canola plants. These were bred in Canada to have lower levels of erucic acid, which was believed to have adverse affect on the heart, at the time.

The fatty acid breakdown of canola oil is fairly good, with a perfect Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio of 2:1. That’s before the heavy processing, the final product is completely devoid of this natural ratio. Watch this youtube video to see the whole disgusting operation.

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Palm Oil

Palm oil is derived from the fruit of oil palms. It consists mostly of saturated and monounsaturated fats, with small amounts of polyunsaturates. Which is why I would recommend using it for frying. Red Palm Oil (the unrefined variety) is best. It is rich in Vitamins E, Coenzyme Q10 and other nutrients.

Palm oil is a tricky one for me to classify because there are many beneficial qualities associated with this oil. Unfortunately, harvesting palm oil is terribly unsustainable: in areas where palm trees are farmed specifically for the production of oil Orangutans, an endangered species, are losing their native habitat. So if you are very attached to using palm oil check with the manufacturer to find out about their farming practices and whether they are sensitive to the habitat of orangutans.

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Avoid these too:

  • Cottonseed Oil
  • Rapeseed Oil
  • Grapeseed Oil
  • Soybean Oil
  • Corn Oil
  • Sunflower Oil
  • Safflower Oil
  • Rice Brain Oil
  • Hydrogenated Oil
  • Any oil labeled refined, hydrogenated, or partially-hydrogenated

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What is your favorite oil or fat to use for cooking?

Birthday Peach Snickerdoodles

Right before my birthday in June my co-worker Sally asked me ever so sneakily, “If someone were to make you cookies or cupcakes what would be your favorite flavor?” I answered Snickerdoodles because I lurve cinnamon oh so very much. On my birthday, I arrived at work and this was waiting in my cubicle.

The fish is an inside joke

So, as her birthday approached in August I wanted to return the gesture. Equally sneakily, I asked, “If you had to choose your favorite cake, pie or cookie flavor what would you choose?” She said peach pie and snickerdoodle cookies. Being the genius that I am, I combined the two.

Fortunately, it is currently peach season and my dad had just brought a box of peaches home with him from the western slope. In order to use them before spoiling my mom busily made peach jam, peach salsa, peach cobbler etc. and I made peach snickerdoodles.

This recipe makes 3.5 dozen cookies, which is a lot but I gave away about half. You could probably half the recipe but it was too complicated for me to figure out.

Select four medium peaches

Peel and dice (I used a knife, but blanching or a peeler would work too)
Add 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup margarine, 2 eggs and 1 1/2 cup sugar to a food processor

Mix well, then add half of the diced peaches

Mix 4 cups flour, 2 teaspoon cream of tarter, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 2 teaspoon in a large mixing bowl

Add pureed peach mixture

Mix until evenly blended

Add remaining peaches

Fold peaches into batter. Batter will be very wet. Dollop spoonfuls onto greased, parchment paper-covered cookie sheets. Sprinkle with mixture of 4 teaspoon cinnamon  and 4 tablespoon sugar. Cook at 400°F for 11 minutes or until just browned on top. Cookies will be soft.

Let cool on wire racks.

Make a lovely birthday card and deliver to recipient.

Hahaha I crack myself up!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter, unsalted, room temperature, cubed
  • 1/2 margarine, room temperature, spoonfuls
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 4 Tb sugar, divided use
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 3/4 cups flour, sifted
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 fresh peaches, peeled, seeded, diced, divided use
  • 2 tsp plus 4 tsp cinnamon, divided use

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400. Line 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Using a food processor, cream together the butter, shortening, 1 1/2 cups of sugar and the eggs. Add half of the diced peaches and puree until smooth. In a large bowl combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Stir in the creamed ingredients from the food processor. Fold in the remaining diced peaches. In a smaller bowl combine the remaining 4 tablespoons of sugar and the cinnamon. Drop a rounded tablespoon of cookie batter (the batter is very moist) onto the cookie sheets about 2″ apart. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture and bake for 11 minutes.

Happy Friday!

How to Make Butter, Buttermilk and Buttermilk Cake

 My mom had some leftover buttermilk from another recipe, which I find is often the case considering it comes from the store in large quantities, so we searched for a way to use it. We hoped that what we found would be a cake, because we love cake.

I found a recipe for a cake, which I altered a little to suit our needs. Mostly this means subbing softened butter for shortening, reducing the sugar content and number of eggs and increasing the buttermilk content. It also means adding dried cherries and miniature chocolate chips because, let’s face it, nothing can taste bad when it has cherries and chocolate in it.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • *add-ins to your desired concentration optional*


Directions: 

Beat sugar, butter, vanilla and eggs together with spoon or mixer.  Mix flour, salt and baking soda with a wire whisk in a separate bowl. Add to creamed mixture. Add buttermilk and continue mixing until smooth. Add in cherries, chocolate chips or other mix-ins. Pour into greased, 9×13 cake pan and bake in preheated 325 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes until centers tests done.  Let cool and serve from pan.

Yum… Buttermilk cake.

Interestingly, I recently learned how to make butter and buttermilk at home. You can learn this (and many other things, like how-to make soap, shingles and cooking in a wood oven) if you come to the free Summer Heritage Event tomorrow evening at 5:30-7pm at Walker Ranch, just west of Boulder. But I’ll enlighten you here in case you can’t attend this event.

It’s so unbelievably easy, and delicious you will be surprised you haven’t been doing it yourself for ages. Take a pint of whipping cream, pour it in a mason jar (you can do it in batches if your jar isn’t large enough). Be sure the lid is on tightly, then shake the jar up and down to the beat of “Stayin’ Alive” by Bee Gees.

Photo from I’d Eat It

Side note: This is also an excellent arm workout, probably where the shake-a-weight idea came from.

The whipping cream will start getting really thick and you won’t feel it moving around much. If you opened the jar now, you would have whipped cream, but keep shaking with that steady beat. Eventually (between ten and 30 minutes) the side of the jar, which were coated, will become clear. The butter will form a solid mass in the center of the jar and the liquid you see is buttermilk.

Add two ice cube to the jar to solidify the butter and separate the liquid from it. You can then pour off the buttermilk, collect and store it in a airtight container.

You are now a certified 19th century prairie wife (Not meant to be sexist but that’s the way it was in those days).

How do you use up leftover ingredients?

Why I Don’t Make Apple Sandwiches (anymore)

I remember when I first discovered apple sandwiches on pinterest. I thought the idea was so novel and I’m sure you’ve seen the idea floating around the internet. I decided to try it out. It was seriously the best thing I ever tasted. I ate it at least once every day. This is the general process.

Slice the apple. Using a cookie cutter or apple corer cut out the core, or a knife works too but it’s not as neat looking. Can we just take a minute to notice the lime green (I guess you would actually call it apple green) apple shaped cutting board and the lime green (again probably apple green) apple-picture apple corer. This is very matchey-match, is it not? Totally unintentional.

Spread your peanut butter. I like creamy but crunchy works fine.

Sprinkle some granola on two of your apple slices and add chocolate chips or raisins to the other two (or more granola).

Then stick it together.

After a while this process became irksome to me. Peanut butter does not like to stick to apples; I got more on my hands than the slices. The granola always landed everywhere but the peanut butter and precision with the chocolate chips was tedious. So now I cut apples like a normal person…

Add some granola and chocolate chips to a small dish,

Smear in some peanut butter,

And stir it around. It’s the same flavor combination with about half the work. You’re welcome.

Oh boy, you’re in for a treat!

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Butternut Squash Autumn Stew

The air feels crisp and cool, leaves are creating a beautiful mosaic of colors across the landscape and the days are growing shorter, which means it’s time to make soup!

Every year I always elect to craft a butternut squash stew; to me it screams fall. Therefore every year as the sales on butternut squashes begin I pick one up. I must be blocking the fact that every year it’s actually me who’s screaming (and fall is not mentioned once in said screaming). I wonder why I never remember how awful it is to deal with butternut squashes probably some psychological blockage. Well I am reminding you now to save you the trouble. They are literally the worst vegetable. And here’s why:

  1. They are impossible to slice into when raw. Are they made of steel or what?
  2. You also cannot peel them when raw. They wear the armor of the gods.
  3. After you cook them, you can’t peel them without burning the skin right off your fingers.

    On the other hand, butternut squash is also one of the most delicious vegetables and they’re packed with vitamins and other wonderful things your body needs. So here’s my solution, buy a bag of frozen, cubed butternut squash and save yourself the hacking, prying, swearing, and crying.

    If you, like me, enjoy torturing yourself this is how you tackle the Monty-Python-and-the-Holy-Grail-bunny-like squash:

    (Aside: this is a somewhat obscure reference so I will spell it out for you: the knights in the movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, underestimated the rabbit because it was cute and cuddly and did not intimidate them; then the bunny lurched at one of them and ate his face off. The butternut squash appears inviting and agreeable but then it turns on you becoming an impenetrable fortress. Was this allegory too much of a leap?)

    Right, sorry about the silliness… Back to squash (which is in no way silly):
    1. Preheat the oven to 375°F
    2. Cut the squash in half. Spoon out seeds and goop (technical term); save seeds.
    3. Pour a thin layer of water into a baking pan or cookie sheet with sides.
    4. Place the cut side of the squash face down in the water.
    5. Slide tray into oven and bake for 40 minutes or until fork easily pierces flesh of squash.

    Toss the seeds with salt and toast in toaster oven until crispy 🙂

    While the squash is baking, prepare your other veggies. Finely chop 1 medium onion, peel 3 potatoes and an apple, then chop, setting one potato aside from the others.

    Bring 3 1/2 cups of chicken broth to a boil. Add 1 1/2 pound chicken thighs and boil until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove chicken from broth and place on a plate to cool. Pour broth into a bowl.

    Meanwhile bring about 3 cups of water to boil in a separate pot. Add the apple and two of the potatoes. Cook until tender then drain water and add to a food processor. When squash is finished baking scoop half of the squash into the food processor and set the other half aside to cool. Pulse the potato, apple and squash until smooth. This thickens and adds a creaminess to the soup/stew without adding fat.

    Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and the third potato cook until onions are translucent, add 2 minced cloves garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (we enjoy spicy food here, feel free to reduce or omit this ingredient if you prefer non-spicy), 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon allspice and 1/8 teaspoon ginger, 1/8 teaspoon ground mustard, and 1/8 teaspoon celery salt. Stir until you catch a strong whiff of garlic (about 30 seconds), then pour in the reserved chicken broth. Reduce heat to simmer.

    With a fork and knife and fingers… remove the skins from the chicken. Then remove the chicken from the bones. Add chicken to simmering pot. Then add pureed potato, apple, squash mixture to the pot. Add one 15-oz can petite diced tomatoes as well (with liquid).

    Return to the other half of the squash that you set aside. Cut cubes into the squash and remove skin. Add squash cubes to the pot. Then add 1 cup (ish) chickpeas/garbanzo beans. Stir until everything is heated. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper (or to taste).

    Serve over cooked quinoa or brown rice or with bread.

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    Ingredients

    • 1.5 pounds butternut squash, halved and seeded
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1.5 lb chicken thighs
    • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
    • 1 can diced petite tomatoes
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 3 1/2 cup chicken broth
    • 3 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
    • 1 apple, peeled and cubed
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground mustard
    • 1/8 teaspoon celery salt
    • salt and pepper to taste (about 1 teaspoon each)
    • 1 cup garbanzo beans

    Well that’s a long list now isn’t it… trust me it’s worth it! (See that bowl of apples? my grandma gave me even more after I made the apple butter… look out for apple cake and applesauce posts coming soon!)

    What’s your favorite fall soup?

    Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

    On the first day of October it only seems fitting to post a recipe for pumpkin muffins…

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

    Whenever I make up a new recipe it is always a messy process. The first step is always the idea that acts as a catalyst for the rest. In this case the trigger was pumpkin. As the chill in the air gets stronger I always start craving pumpkin everything. It doesn’t help matters that Starbucks incessantly advertises the pumpkin spice latte, or that the scent of pumpkin bagels can be detected wafting halfway across campus, or that people insist on pinning every pumpkin recipe that comes under detection. Regardless of how the idea came to me, come it did.

    The next step is generally in what form do I want to eat the craving (sometimes this is linked to the first step, as in “I am craving tomato soup,” rather than simply tomato). I decided muffins would be the best mode of consumption. Muffins are compact on-the-go type foods. Sometimes you need that kind of thing around the house.

    Then comes the Googling and the comparing and the improvising. I tend to have about 13 web pages open along with at least two cookbooks on my lap. “A cup and a half of oil; that’s outrageous! I’ll need to reduce that, Maple syrup? Nope don’t have any of that, I’ll use brown sugar… What’s the conversion factor again? Baking powder, baking soda, salt… How can I slip some flax seed in? Can I use almond milk and yogurt instead of milk?”

    It’s a nightmare, honestly. But, it’s definitely rewarding when something wonderful comes out of all this hard work. Luckily this is one of those times. This is what my recipe card looked like after all of that.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

    I wanted to use flax seed to give them some more nutrition. Flax seed can increase the fiber, unsaturated healthy fats, phytoestrogens and omega-3 content when added to foods.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Flax seed

     In a medium-sized mixing bowl add 1 3/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup flax seed, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda and a pinch of salt.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

    I wanted a lot of spice flavor so for the spices I used cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and allspice. I prefer the flavor of ceylon “true” cinnamon because it is sweeter than the cassia variety (most of the store bought cinnamon is cassia). Cinnamon is my favorite flavor, in Maggie’s world, we look for excuses to add cinnamon.

    To the flour mixture add, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon allspice and 1/4 teaspoon cloves.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

    Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin is the best pumpkin puree out there. I’m not usually able to tell the difference between store-brand and name-brand products so I tend to stick with store-brand because they are cheaper. In this case there is no comparison. I am generally disappointed with the quality of the store-brand pumpkin purees.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

    Pour the entire 15-ounce can of pumpkin into a larger mixing bowl. (Be sure to remove any large metal items that fall in).

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

    Add 3/4 cup brown sugar to the bowl.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

    Next add 1/4 cup plain greek yogurt.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

    Then an egg…

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

    Mix it all together then add the dry ingredients.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

    Whisk together all the ingredients until just mixed.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

    Then add about 1 1/2 cups of your mix-ins (I used 3/4 cup walnuts and 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips).

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

    Spoon into greased muffin tins. Each cup should be between 1/2 and 2/3 full. (I hope this picture doesn’t give you vertigo. I’ve rotated it every possible way, it’s just a weird angle).

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

    Bake for 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

    Cool in pan for ten minutes then remove and continue cooling on a wire rack.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts
    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts
    Yummy! Hello autumn; I welcome you with open arms…
    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

    …as long as I can eat one of these everyday for the duration of the season. Please and thank you!

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    Stop looking because these are the best brownies you will ever find…

    As many of you know I am a firm believer in eating healthy. I am also a firm believer that denying yourself something is not healthy, especially when that something is chocolate. So to clarify my firm beliefs… Moderation is key. That is why everyone needs to have a good brownie recipe. I honestly think it should be included in life’s handbook. 

    Here’s some information on chocolate (*I am not a doctor, please consult your doctor for more information on the following*):

    • Cocoa contains flavenol, a type of flavenoid and natural occurring antioxidant, which researchers suggest may protect neurons (Huffington Post, 2012)
    • The antioxidants in cocoa can also prevent aging caused by free radicals, which may lead to heart disease (Cleveland Clinic, 2012)
    • Dark chocolate may lower blood pressure and cholesterol (Longevity, 2009)
    • Dark chocolate contains theobromine, caffeine and other stimulating substances (Longevity, 2009)
    • It also contains serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant (Longevity, 2009)
    • Dark chocolate also increases endorphin production, which increase pleasure (Longevity, 2009)
    • Surprisingly dark chocolate can prevent diabetes (Women’s Health, 2012)
    • It can reduce stress (Women’s Health, 2012)
    • And help protect against sun damage (Women’s Health, 2012)
    • On top of all this it tastes goooooood!
    Like I said, moderation is key and be sure that your grabbing a quality bar of dark chocolate, and you can receive some of these benefits and more.


    So brownies… My idea of the perfect brownie is crispy crust, gooey inside, chocolate chips, not frosting, no nuts, and not too cakey or fudgey. This is it. This covers all bases for my ideal brownie. This recipe has a short ingredients list so be sure to use quality chocolate.

    Add 1 1/2 cup sugar to a mixing bowl,


    Pour in 3/4 cup flour,


    Then add 3/4 cup cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli dark chocolate cocoa powder).


    Crack three eggs into the bowl…


    Add 3/4 cup melted butter (I have no idea why the butter looks neon in this picture)


    And 1/2 teaspoon salt (I skipped this because I used salted butter). Then mix it together; don’t mix too thoroughly just enough to combine the wet and dry ingredients.



    Mix in chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips).


    Pour the batter into a greased baking dish. That is the best looking chocolate batter I have ever seen. I’m totally drooling.


    Bake at 325 for 30 minutes (sorry it’s a bit blurry, I was shaking with happiness). Test with a toothpick for doneness (remember there are chocolate chips in there so your first poke might not come out clean.


    Let cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes (or as long as you can wait… I made it 2 minutes). Cut into cubes and serve with a nice cold glass of milk.


    I had almond milk which was quite delicious…


    Brownies: seriously the best things on the planet. These are the perfect balance between fudgey and cakey, with the signature brownie crispy crust.

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    Slow-cooker Apple Butter

    In my plum cake post I talked about the plums my grandmother gave me. Well, the same day she gave me a dozen apples. I knew I needed to make something with the apples to use them up before they went bad. Enter: Apple Butter

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

    I started by gathering my supplies: washed apples, bowl for peels, peeler. And found a comfortable place with a nice view: my porch at my outdoor table.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

    It took about an hour to peel all the apples… (Julia Child never had this kind of problem peeling apples… then again Julia Child probably had an apple peeler)

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

    I turned it into a bit of a game; here’s my longest peel (the whole apple without breaking) I am an apple peeling champ!

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter


    Then I cored and cubed the apples and added them to the crock-pot and gathered the remaining ingredients.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter
    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

    Next, I added 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon allspice (next time I will probably use less sugar because it turned out very sweet since the apples add their own sweetness).

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter
    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

    Then I left it for 10 hours and checked it.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

    It was still pretty liquid-y so I gave it a couple (2) more hours until it was mostly all evaporated. I put it all in the blender to blend it smooth.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

    And poured it into jars… I froze the little one and left the big one in the fridge.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter


    It tastes wonderful by the spoonful but a few suggestions: added to plain yogurt and mixed with granola, mixed with boiling water for apple cider or spread on toast.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple ButterMaggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

    You can make most fruit butters this way. I’d like to try pumpkin butter this fall.

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    How have you used apple butter? What other fruit butters have you tried?

    Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German

    This is a great example of older generations passing on their knowledge and experience to the younger generation. My grandma makes a delicious plum cake. Recently she picked about three million (this is an exaggeration it was more like 1 million) plums from the plum trees at my childhood church. She gave a sack and the recipe for said cake to me, my mom, and my aunt at my cousin and uncle’s birthday party.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German


    Coincidentally, I needed to bring a dessert to my Rangeland Ecology Club meeting that week and I was stoked to get a chance to bring this dish.

    I got out my food processor, added 1/2 cup sugar, 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon lemon peel.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German

    I pulsed all this in the processor, then I added 1/2 cup butter.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German

    I pulsed that too, and added the 1/4 cup milk and an egg.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German

    So I pulsed that into a soft dough, just like the recipe said. I removed this dough and pressed it into a buttered baking dish.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German


    Then I washed all the plums…

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German


    Cut them in half, took out the pit and pressed the cut side into the dough, cut side down. I fit as many in as possible, as the recipe tells me too.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German


    All of that was perfect… but that’s the end to that. Here’s where everything went wrong…

    The recipe my grandma gave me says 

    “Top with:
    1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon”

    Do you see why I was confused? Does this mean 1 cup sugar? Did she write that twice by accident? I decided that the second 1/2 cup sugar was mistakenly added twice. (I was wrong, as you will see).

    So I went along, mixed together the 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 sup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. 

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German

    And I sprinkled it over the plums in the baking pan. I remember thinking to myself, this looks very dry. I had experience once with a cobbler in which the topping didn’t mix well enough with the butter so I had a floury substance left on the top. Gross! But I figured the plums were juicy so they must contribute the liquid that moistens the topping. Again how wrong I was.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German

    Hahaha! I can only laugh at myself at this point. I stuck the whole thing in the oven, (which was pre-heated to 375), and set the timer for 45 minutes (anxiously waiting for the brown, bubbly and juicy dessert the recipe promised. 


    It was not brown, it was still white. Bubbly and juicy were covered. I thought at this point something is wrong. So I sprinkled some water over the still dry flour parts (I have no idea what drove me to do this). I ended up with a gel type top over a pastry base. 

    I took it to the Range Club meeting (I cannot believe I served this to the general public) and though it looked gross (not as gross as this picture shows, but still gross), Range Club people are a nice group and they ate it. The whole thing was gone by the end of the meeting. I managed to get a small piece and it actually had a quite good flavor. So now that I’ve talked it up a bit I will show you a picture of it. Please don’t laugh…

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German


    Oh gosh, it looks worse every time I look at it. If I didn’t know what this was I probably would not have eaten it. Like I said, Range Club people are a nice group.

    So now I will tell you what I did wrong, (some of you probably already know).

    I told you my grandma gave the recipe and a bag of plums to my mom as well. I was visiting her this weekend while my dad was out of town. She made the plum cake too. I was watching her make it to try to figure out my mistake. Right before she put it in the oven I said to her, “mine didn’t look like that.”

    She turned to me and said, “Oh, did you see what the recipe said? There’s a typo.”

    I said, “Ya I saw that, but I just ignored the second sugar.”

    She laughed a little, “It’s a standard strudel recipe, one of the sugars was supposed to say butter.”

    So it was BUTTER! Of course, I even thought of that while I was thoroughly messing up my plum cake. Here’s what it was supposed to look like.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German

    A thing of beauty! My mother is a kitchen wizard. But there you have it: my grandma and my mom will never stop passing down their wisdom and helping me grow in my baking journey.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German

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    Tell me about you baking mishaps, so I don’t feel like I’m the only one. 🙂

    Edamame Hummus

    Hummus is one of the best things in life, and adding a few soybeans can only help. The first time I had edamame hummus was my freshman year at CSU. There was always some hummus at the salad bar and very rarely they served edamame hummus. Those were good days, but now I make it at home whenever I want.


    Gather your ingredients: some edamame hummus recipes use only soybeans and no chickpeas, but I love chickpeas so I use both, tahini is optional but tastes yummy (I didn’t have any), ¼ cup water, lemon zest and juice, smashed garlic, salt, cumin, coriander and olive oil.



    Boil the edamame (fun fact: edamame is actually the Japanese word for soybeans in the shell, when you buy shelled soybeans they’re actually called, “mukimame”) according to package directions. Drain and add to a blender or food processor.



    Add the drained chickpeas to the blender or food processor.



    I’ve never figured out if it’s easier to zest first and juice after or vice versa. I juice first. Roll the lemon on the counter to loosen the juices before cutting it in half and juicing it.

    Then add the water, lemon zest and juice and olive oil (I used 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon sesame oil to add a little of that sesame flavor since I didn’t have tahini)… Followed by the tahini (if using) garlic, salt, cumin, and coriander.


    Pulse the blender or food processor until smooth. Add more water if mixture is too thick; add more soy beans if it’s too runny. Taste test and adjust spices to preference.


    Serve with vegetables, pita chips, pretzels, or whatever you fancy. This stuff is blended gold my friends. 🙂 AND now you have another dip to serve at your next St. Patrick’s Day party (besides guacamole I mean). Yay!

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    Total Time: 15 minutes Difficulty: Easy Yield: 1 ¼ cup


    Ingredients:

    • 1 ½ cup frozen shelled green soybeans
    • 1 can drained chickpeas
    • ¼ cup tahini (optional)
    • ¼ cup water
    • ½ teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
    • 1 lemon (about 3 tablespoons), juiced
    • 1 clove garlic, smashed
    • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
    • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
    • ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
    • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

    Suggested serving: Sliced cucumbers, celery, olives, and pita

    Directions:
    Boil the beans in salted water for 4 to 5 minutes, or microwave, covered, for 2 to 3 minutes. In a food processor, puree the edamame, tahini, water, lemon zest and juice, garlic, salt, cumin, and coriander until smooth. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and mix until absorbed. Transfer to a small bowl, stir in the parsley and drizzle with remaining oil. Serve with the suggested vegetables, or refrigerate, covered, up to 1 week (this time is very finicky, check for signs of spoilage such as ingredient separation, off taste or smell and slimy appearance).

    Zucchini Bread – Homemade Style

    One thing I forgot to mention in Summer Lovin’ post last week is all the fresh produce from my mom’s garden. I probably forgot since I don’t live there much in the summer anymore, but my childhood is full of baby carrots covered in dirt, tomatoes that I can only describe as nature’s candy, and zucchini bread (or at least those are the things I loved the most from her garden).

    I wanted to make zucchini bread but my mom warned me that many of the recipes contain a lot of oil. After a lot of research and some improvisation I think I’ve concocted perhaps the perfect recipe. You be the judge.


    Start by preheating the oven and preparing an 8-inch loaf pan (I got to use my Misto!).

    Grate zucchini(s); you can peel them before hand, I personally like the peel in the bread so I don’t. I used the largest grate size on my 4-sided cheese-grater. You can use the smallest side (or an attachment on your food processor)… it really depends on preference.

    Mix together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl.

    Doesn’t that just look sooooo appetizing? Whisk together egg, oil, applesauce, yogurt, honey, and vanilla in a larger second bowl. The honey is from the bee hive on some land my Range Club manages just north of Fort Collins… Yay local stuff!

    Add flour mixture to the larger bowl and stir until well combined.

    Fold in grated zucchini.

    Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until risen, deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean – 50 to 60 minutes.

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    Cool in pan on wire rack for 30 minutes, then remove from pan and continue cooling on rack.

    Ingredients:

    • Cooking spray
    • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1 egg
    • 1/4 cup oil
    • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
    • 2 tablespoons nonfat plain yogurt
    • 1/2 cup honey
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1 cup grated zucchini

    Instructions:

    Preheat oven to 325 °F. Spray an 8-inch loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. In a separate larger bowl, whisk together egg, oil, applesauce, yogurt, honey and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and stir until well combined. Fold in zucchini, then transfer batter to prepared pan and bake until risen, deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean – 50 to 60 minutes. Cool in pan on rack for 30 minutes, remove bread from pan and continue cooling on rack.