Green smoothie

Green smoothie

green smoothie

Let’s talk about kale for a minute. A few years ago I read a weight loss blog where a woman had lost 100 pounds or something major. In one of her posts she listed one personal benefits about losing weight for every pound that she lost, one of which was that her new body craves kale. She said she was as shocked as anyone about it. Honestly, I didn’t believe her. I mean, I liked kale at the time, but I could never see my body craving lettuce. You guys, it’s totally true.

I started making these protein smoothies (full of kale!) as a way to sneak in some extra greens in our diet. They’re delicious. They’re so delicious. But also, after making them nearly every day for a month, my body seriously needs them. That weekend we just spent in Chicago? All I wanted was some kale. But also, I’m telling you, despite it’s suspiciously green color, you can’t even taste the kale. You’re going to have to try it. You’ll see what I’m talking about.

There are two secrets to green smoothies: 1) use frozen fruit and 2) make the green base first. This creates the best, most well blended texture. Also, here’s another secret, I make these the night before, pour it in two plastic solo cups and let them sit in the fridge overnight. Then I take one with me when I leave for work and drink it on my commute. They definitely  have a better consistency coming straight out of the blender, but making them the night before makes my mornings less hectic, and traffic is so much better when you  have a smoothie.

Let’s start. I make two at a time, so A.J. gets some sneaky greens in his diet too. Into the blender goes one container of light Greek peach yogurt, two scoops of vanilla protein powder (I buy this protein powder because it only has 6 net carbs), and one cup almond milk (I like Silk’s unsweetened, original). On top of that goes as much kale that can possibly fit. Blend. (I use the liquefy button.) [Read more...]

Apple kuchen

Apple kuchen

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Apple kuchen, or apple cake, is this lovely German family recipe from another blogger, That Skinny Chick Can Bake. I just love old family recipes. I love the idea of making things the same way they were made decades ago. This recipe was clearly developed before baking soda or baking powder became widespread, and so it uses yeast and rise time to make the dough fluffy. That means it takes a bit of time, but it’s well worth it. Also, there’s no kneading or rolling, so as far as yeast-dough goes, this isn’t the worst. And by isn’t the worst, I mean tastes the best.

We just a had a new neighbor move in across the hall from us, and since this recipe makes two cakes, I brought one over to him. I think he thought it was so sort of weird. If he only knew what his future holds for receiving even more unsolicited baked goods.

I started by combining some flour with yeast, melted butter, eggs, sugar, salt and heated  milk. This went into the bowl of my stand mixer. You can use any old bowl and any old mixer.

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After I had beat the first items together, I added more flour and beat again. [Read more...]

Apple strudel

Apple strudel

apple strudel

When I was in seventh grade, I had this delightful science teacher: Mr. Chisholm. And Mr. Chisholm was a bit of a hard-ass, but I feel like being a hard-ass is the same as survival when  teaching middle-schoolers. Anyway he really liked science and science class was fun, but he was pretty strict. One thing I remember were quizzes at the beginning of every class with questions such as, what is a difference between an acid and a base?

Now, during my early schooling years, I was unsurprisingly a bit of a show off. I really liked pleasing my teachers. I think the technical term for this is brown-noser. So I probably would have answered that question with a long meandering paragraph that said that acids register as less than seven on the pH scale and bases register somewhere between seven and 14, and, also, acids don’t react to phenolphthalein, whereas bases turn pink when mixed with phenolphthalein.

According to Mr. Chisholm that answer would be wrong. He did not ask for the characteristics of acids and bases, and he did not ask that we contrast the two. He asked for a difference. The right answer would have been something like, pH levels. I think, for one, this made grading quizzes more straightforward, and also it forced us to read the directions carefully.

Last fall, when I picked out this recipe as one of the dishes part of the applepalooza, I was imagining a different dish. I was imaging apple streusel, which is not the same thing as strudel. What are the differences between apple strudel and apple streusel?

I don’t know how to answer this question in true Mr. Chisholm style. Um, everything, besides the apples. Their construction. Their texture. In fact, streusel, alone, isn’t even a baked good. It’s like a baked good accessory.

Strudel is a filled pastry made with layers of very thin dough. Streusel is a crumb topping that can go on backed goods — think, Starbucks blueberry muffins topping. Anyway I got all the way through making this and was very confused by the end because I was still expecting streusel. Finally, I talked to A.J.’s mom about it, and she was able to pinpoint my confusion — that I was confusing the two words. And then she told a lovely story about when she was young, and her mother would have a whole group of ladies over and they would all stand around a very large kitchen table and stretch out strudel dough into a very large (Wikipedia says 8 feet by 6 feet) sheet. Then they would brush the whole thing with butter and fold it over and over again until they got something roughly the size of a large burrito.

The earliest record of this recipe is from 1696 when it was hand written in a cookbook in the Vienna City Library. That recipe called for turnip strudel, which sounds … weird. For this apple burrito recipe, we used sheets of phyllo dough to replicate that same layering without the stretching of the dough. I’m pretty sure my kitchen is smaller than 8-by-6 anyway.

Some notes. It’s important to let your phyllo dough thaw properly — either overnight in the fridge or on the counter for one to two hours. Phyllo dough is a little difficult to work with, but not impossible. Also you’re doing so many layers that it’s OK if it tears. Once the phyllo dough packaging is open, it’s important to keep a damp towel over it, because if it dries out, it’s really going to be difficult to work with.

I started by soaking some golden raisins in bourbon. At this point, how could anything go wrong? [Read more...]

Coffee-soaked donut holes and a coffee-themed giveaway

Coffee-soaked donut holes and a coffee-themed giveaway

I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper amplification for Collective Bias, Millstone® coffee and Mr. Coffee®. Posts by others around the Internet will be identified by the hashtags #CoffeeJourneys, #CollectiveBias, and #shop.

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Can I talk to you guys about coffee for a minute? It’s essential, right? Recently I was given the opportunity to try a new drip coffee maker  and a new (to me) brand of flavored coffee. And now, I get to offer you guys the same! At the bottom of this post you can find out how to enter for a chance to win a Mr. Coffee® 10-cup Optimal Brew Thermal Coffee Maker and a bag of Millstone® coffee in the chocolate velvet flavor.

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I was really excited to try both the coffee maker and the coffee, mostly because a good cup of coffee is the only thing I enjoy about morning-time, and I’ll always welcome the chance to make that experience better. But I also wanted to make something delicious with the coffee, since Millstone® offers more than 30 blends including fun flavors such as French vanilla, chocolate velvet, caramel truffle and hazelnut cream, all available at Wal-Mart.

One thing I really liked about the coffee maker was its quick brewing. The entire 10 cups were brewed in seven minutes, which just happens to be considered by coffee experts to be the optimal time for brewing. Also, you totally don’t have to wait until it’s done brewing to pour your first cup, which is nice. It was easy to fill the water tank, since it’s removable, and I really liked the stainless steel coffee carafe. It looks snazzy, and it’s nice that it isn’t clear for a change. The carafe is also vacuumed-insulated to keep your coffee warmer longer.

I really liked the chocolate velvet flavor. I poured myself a cup while I was preparing these delicious donuts holes, also made with the chocolate Millstone® coffee. The coffee was smooth and strong, just how I like it.

To start I gathered my ingredients: the coffee, of course, along with sugar, flour, butter, eggs, lemon zest and salt.

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I combined the sugar, salt and butter in a saucepan over high heat. As soon as it came to an obvious rolling boil, I took it off the heat. [Read more...]

Applesauce breakfast roll

Applesauce breakfast roll

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Breakfast rolls are one of those wonderful versatile baked goods that can be made virtually any way you can think up. Want to roll up some jam? Totally cool. Want to make cinnamon buns? Yup, that’s been done. Last year, I even used mango iced tea mix, for a tropical twist.

This version is with applesauce on the inside and a sugar syrup on top. I made these one Sunday morning while the coffee was brewing. And anything that’s executed successfully before caffeine consumption is OK in my book.

I started by making the dough. I used a no-rise dough for these rolls, instead of the yeast-driven dough in the mango rolls or the chai tea rolls.

I started by mixing some flour, salt and baking powder with some shortening and milk. [Read more...]

Apple vanilla crumb bars

Apple vanilla crumb bars

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So, of course, I’m still working through the 40 apple dishes for the applepalooza, but apple recipes are so autumn-ish, and I really wanted to do something different with my apples. Something that didn’t include warm cinnamon, zippy nutmeg and earthy allspice. Those flavors are wonderful, but eventually the apple pies start tasting like the apple crisps and apple bettys, and please for the love of everything holy give me something that doesn’t take like red and orange leaves with a dash of pumpkin.

Enter this crumb bar. No fall-spices. No spices at all. A lovely, buttery shortbread crust, some apples doused with a vanilla syrup and a crumb topping. This does not taste like fall spices. This tastes like spring.

I started by making a shortbread crust. That involved mixing up some flour, sugar and salt. [Read more...]

A coffee cake for a (belated) National Coffee Cake Day

A coffee cake for a (belated) National Coffee Cake Day

Hey guys! I’m really excited to share a post written by my super creative, funny, fun cousin, Elisha. She recently celebrated National Coffee Cake Day, with none other than a coffee cake! The coffee cake is light and fluffy with delightful swirls of cinnamon-sugar and nuts!

(Also, have you filled out the readers’ survey, yet?!)

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Happy Belated National Coffee Cake Day!

Several years ago when my way cooler, younger cousin accepted my friend request on Facebook, I thought that I was cool by association.  Then recently she asked if I wanted to guest post on her blog!  Clearly, my coolness factor has gone up no matter what my teenage kids think.  However, what on earth would I blog about?  Then inspiration hit me at work on Friday.

I am the first person you see when you enter the office.  On my desk is a digital frame.  Each day I create slides to welcome clients to the office.  What started out as a joke between my CEO and I has become an office expectation:  I list the holidays that are celebrated each day.  More specifically, I focus on the lesser known holidays.  For example, April 7 was among other things: National No Housework Day (which I made a very dedicated effort to observe), National Beer Day and National Coffee Cake Day.

In addition to it being an office expectation, my family has enjoyed my observance of these lesser-known holidays, as well.  There was the night I made waffles for International Waffle Day, and the time I made a boatload of oatmeal cookies for National Oatmeal Cookie Day and forgot to take them with me to work.  (Don’t get me started on meals based on movie themes… I really hope that when my kids are old and have families of their own and get a good laugh when they remember these moments.)

Did you make Coffee Cake on Monday?  I made Coffee Cake really late Saturday night because I started my observance of National No Housework Day a day early and I knew there was no chance I was making a Coffee Cake after work on Monday.

According to Answers,  “Food historians generally agree the concept of coffee cake [eating sweet cakes with coffee] most likely originated in Northern/Central Europe sometime in the 17th century. Why this place and time? These countries were already known for their traditional for sweet yeast breads. When coffee was introduced to Europe these cakes were a natural accompaniment. German, Dutch, and Scandinavian immigrants brought their coffee cake recipes with them to America.”

For my version, I adapted Taste of Home’s recipe.

I would like to say that I followed the recipe exactly.  And if I said that, I would be lying.  For example, somewhere in my house is a 10-inch tube pan.  When we moved in (a year ago) I must have protected this pan and put in somewhere to keep it super safe during the 4.5-mile move.  So super safe, in fact, that I have no idea where it is.  I used a Bundt cake pan.  It worked.  Also there was a little issue with the sour cream.  And as much as I would like to share that I switched out the sour cream for nonfat Greek yogurt to make it healthier, I would again be lying.  I didn’t make it to Target to pick up sour cream until about 9 p.m., and they were completely out, and I didn’t want to make another stop on my way home.  (Maybe I shouldn’t grocery shop at Target…) Lastly I swapped the walnuts for pecans, for no other reason than I don’t like walnuts.

I started my creaming the butter and sugar together until the batter was light and fluffy.

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Then I added the eggs, one at a time, beating after each time and added the vanilla. [Read more...]

Apple fritters

Apple fritters

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When A.J. and I went apple picking last fall, and I revealed my plans to make 40 different apple dishes, A.J.’s single request was that I make apple fritters.

Nope, I said. I knew apple fritters required deep-frying, and I can’t express to you guys how much I hate deep-frying anything. Not particularly for health reasons. It’s just messy and hot oil is not your friend. But A.J. had a hard week last week, with his car breaking down and then having to rent a mini van for the week to get to and from work.

Perhaps it was six months worth of guilt for telling him no initially, or perhaps it was an urgent need to use up our apples, but I bit the bullet and made the fritters today. He was pleased. And to be honest, so was I. Having never had an apple fritter, they are delightful! Warm, fluffy pockets of apple goodness!

I started by mixing together some flour, sugar and baking powder in a large bowl. [Read more...]

Irish you were here: soda bread

Irish you were here: soda bread

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Soda bread is called such because it uses baking soda and buttermilk as a leavening agent instead of yeast.

So, in case you don’t know, leavening occurs (in any case) when heat heats the agent (yeast, baking soda, baking powder, eggs, beer, sourdough starter, etc.)  which causes carbon dioxide to form bubbles and then pop. That’s why you get little pockets in bread, those are all areas where a bubble popped and forced the dough/gluten to cook around the bubble.

Baking soda came into culinary fashion in the 1800s as a cheaper leavening agent, compared to, say, yeast. But, baking soda needs acid (or technically, phosphates) in order to force the chemical reaction that causes the carbon dioxide to form. So, you need something to introduce acid into the dough. This can be buttermilk, lemon juice, cocoa, cream of tartar, yogurt or vinegar. In the case of this bread, we used baking soda and buttermilk.

So in poor, rural Ireland in the 1840s, cheap bread (with just four ingredients — flour, baking soda, sour milk and salt) was welcomed, and soda bread used to be made every few days over an open fire. Now soda bread has evolved to include bits of dried fruit and nuts.

I wasn’t sure how soda bread would taste — I thought it might taste tin-y, as baking soda can sometimes be, but it’s a delicious quick bread. The crust is hard and chewy and the inside is dense and soft.

I made soda bread to serve with the Guinness beef stew. I thought the raisins might make it too sweet to go with stew, but the raisins really were just a nice little surprise in an otherwise hardy and savory bread.

I started by rinsing the raisins under hot water. [Read more...]

Apple pie bread

Apple pie bread

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Have I talked about brunch with my friends before? Stop me if I have. Or you know, since this is one-sided, scroll to the recipe part. But, when I was in college, my friend, Anna, made brunch for us practically every Sunday. And it was glorious. It was a cure-all for every hangover. And we were often hung over. And mostly it gave us a chance to work through the misery of waking up on Sunday and recap the weekend’s events together. Brunches and Anna’s waffles are some of my favorite memories of college.

So I’m trying to bring brunch back in snowy Natrona Heights. When we moved to Cheswick, I brought with us a bushel or peck or some odd measurement of apples that we had picked that fall. And suddenly they were taking up a lot of space in our smallish kitchen/pantry. So I used most of them up in one weekend, and then our kitchen was overflowing with baked goods. (See applepalooza, Swedish apple pie, applesauce gingerbread, healthy apple bran muffins, apple crisp, etc., etc.) So the best course of action, of course, was to host brunch and get rid of some it!

Thus, a tradition was born. We invited A.J.’s parents over for an apple-filled brunch, and then again for a slightly less apple-filled brunch. And now we try to have them over once a month or so, which is a nice way to start a week. Next time, I’m planning on making my mom’s Christmas breakfast buns. Anyway, I also made this apple pie bread as one of the brunch munchies, and I think it was A.J.’s mom’s favorite.

It has the sweet spices of apple pie in a dense loaf, with small chunks of softened apples sprinkled throughout it. The crust is sort of flakey and crumbly, not unlike a pie crust. The spice created this swirl pattern (purely by accident) throughout the inside the bread, which made the loaf look so pretty.

I started by beating cane sugar together with oil, butter and eggs. [Read more...]