Archive for February, 2009

Blog Award!

Shout out time!  

Thank you to the lovely Heather at Hangry Pants for recently awarding me with the Kreativ Blogger Award!  Miss Heather is quite kreativ herself.  She and her partner in crime, Mark, are learning all about raw foods this month and are incorporating them into their daily eats.  Head on over to their blog to follow along! 

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Btw – Isn’t the award pretty?  It kind of reminds me of a yoga mat wrapped up in a green and blue ribbon.  

It looks like the KBA has been going around the blog world for a bit, but I think I found a few of my favorite  bloggers who have not yet received it!  Without further ado, I bestow the Kreativ Blogger Award to…  

1. Angela at Oh She Glows – Angela’s blog tagline is “Food. Fitness. Fashion. Fun.” and she really does bring it all!  She is also a fellow baking fan, which makes me love her all the more.

2. Hayley at Buff Chickpea – Hayley cooks and bakes up some wonderfully delicious healthy foods on her blog.  Her mad photography skills and fun food facts make each post all the more enjoyable to read!

3. Lauren at food for living – As soon as I saw Lauren’s breakfast bread pudding variations, I knew the girl had creativity oozing out of her.  Plus, her dog can do yoga better than me, so she gives me something to strive for!

Thanks for sharing your creativity with all of us!

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Maple Almond Butter Cookies

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Raise your hand if you like almond butter!

I’m going to assume a unanimous arm lift just occurred out there in the blogosphere.  Because almond butter is sa-weeeet!  Peanut butter often takes the leading role in my life – can’t deny unending love.  But almond butter is truly one-of-a-kind.  It really has its own roasty, nutty thing going on.  And because it’s not an everyday eat for me, I do feel a little more special each time a spoonful meets my lips.

To celebrate the opening of a new AB jar – and my subsequently boosted self-image – I decided to make Maple Almond Butter Cookies!  Almond butter cookies were actually the brainchild of my sister – also known as Ashley’s Part-Time Muse, The Egg Separator or Amanda The Panda, if I’m feeling silly.  She’s a nut butta luva just like me.  I have taught her oh so well.

So Miss Muse e-mailed me last week with her genius idea.  A few days later, I stumbled upon the perfect recipe to adapt.  I knew it was meant to be.

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Here’s my recipe:

1/2 cup natural almond butter

1/2 cup maple syrup

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped almonds

Preheat the oven to 350*F. In a large bowl, combine natural almond butter, maple syrup, oil and vanilla extract until well blended.  In a separate bowl, mix together whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, along with chopped almonds, and stir until just combined.  Let sit for five minutes.  Roll heaping tablespoons of dough into balls, flatten to about 1/3 of an inch and place onto cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Makes 18 cookies.

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These were goooood. Dan ate five a couple last night.  After his first bite, a long silence and many questions on use of ingredients, he declared them “Hands down the best thing you’ve ever baked.”  Now I personally wouldn’t go that far.  But I, too, am a fan.

The cookies are softly chewy with a perfect almond crunch.  And I love that maple syrup is the sweetener.  I’ve been meaning to use a liquid sweetener cookie recipe for awhile and this one fabulously fit the bill.  The only change I’d make for next time is using almond extract instead of vanilla – to add some extra almond-y oomph!

What’s your favorite nut butter treat?

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Black Bean Brownies

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I promised you all a “fun – and very interesting – chocolate treat” on Valentine’s Day.  So it’s about time I deliver on that promise, don’t you think?!

I’ve been eyeing this recipe for nearly a year.  Every since I bought Baking With Agave Nectar and flipped through its pages “ooh-ing” and “ohh-ing” at all the yummiest sounding goodies.  There were a lot of those.  But one recipe in particular stood out for its novelty.  I was intrigued.  Being the curious cat that I am, I knew I had to give it a go. 

That’s how this Valentine’s Day became Black Bean Brownie Day.  Yep, you heard me.  Black bean.  Brownie.  Romantic, no?

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Here’s the recipe.  Besides halving it and using non-hydrogenated shortening instead of butter, I followed everything to a tee.  I may be an experimenter, but baking with black beans was a totally new experience for me.  Figured it would be best to go with the creator’s vision for this one!

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate

1/2 cup non-hydrogenated shortening

1 cup cooked black beans

1/2 cup walnuts

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 tablespoons instant coffee

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

3/4 cup agave nectar

Preheat the oven to 325*F.  Spray a 12×8-inch pan with cooking spray and set aside. Melt unsweetened chocolate and non-hydrogenated shortening in a bowl in the microwave for about 2 minutes on high. Stir with spoon to melt chocolate completely. Place black beans, 1/4 cup walnuts, vanilla extract and a couple spoonfuls of the melted chocolate mixture into a food processor and blend until smooth.  In a large bowl, mix together remaining 1/4 cup walnuts, remaining melted chocolate mixture, instant coffee and salt. Add bean/chocolate mixture to coffee/chocolate mixture and stir until well blended.  In a separate bowl, beat eggs with an electric mixer until light and creamy, about 1 minute. Add agave nectar and beat well. Add egg mixture to chocolate mixture, reserving about 1/4 cup, and mix well. Pour batter into prepared pan.  Beat remaining 1/4 cup egg mixture with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Drizzle over brownie batter. Use a wooden toothpick to pull egg mixture through batter, creating a marbled effect. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool in the pan before cutting into squares.

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Fuuuuudgy!

So here’s my two cents on these brownies…

They’ve definitely got the chocolate-y fudge factor going on – a brownie requirement in my book.  And you can’t beat the stellar ingredient list.  You’d never guess beans are a key player!   And no flour?!  No way!

But there are a couple things I’d change next time around.  I wouldn’t do the whole egg and agave swirl.  I can only imagine this is for looks and the marbled visual effect faded away after a day. So just adding all the egg and agave into the batter at once seems fine with me.  I’d cut out some instant coffee because that flavor stood out too much for me.  I’m not a coffee fan, remember?  And I’d un-halve the recipe, but use the same size pan.  I say the thicker the better!

Overall though, cool recipe.  Good times.

What’s the most unusual ingredient you’ve used in a baked good?

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Hooray hooray!  It’s Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Day makes me happy.  What is it about those red and pink hearts that gets to me so?!  I know it’s a Hallmark holiday and all, but I say embrace it and enjoy love, share love, spread love.  I’ve had some memorable V-Days over the years.  Some romantic.  Some sweet.  Some silly.  Some with the bf.  Some with the gfs.  Some with Ben + Jerry.  Oops, did I say that out loud?

This Valentine’s Day Dan and I are double dating with our friends, so it will be twice as fun.  Hope you get to spend time with someone you love!

Oh, I should also mention that Valentine’s Day puts me in the mood for chocolate.  Shocking, I know! Check back soon for a fun – and very interesting – chocolate treat!

What are you doing this Valentine’s Day?

Honey

624785_29980377You know sugar never ever was so sweet…

Honey was the first unrefined sweetener I ever used in baking.  I still consider it my favorite to this day.  And it’s not because of the nostalgia factor.  It’s because honey is awesome.

Honey is a liquid sweetener produced naturally by honey bees and derived from the nectar of flowers.  The human hunt for honey began at least 10,000 years ago.  We know so because there’s a Mesolithic rock painting on a cave in Valencia, Spain that shows two hunters collecting honey and honeycomb from a wild nest.  Honey went on for centuries to be regarded as sacred because of its sweetness and rarity.  I know I still bow down to the honey gods.  You?

The honey-making process begins when bees – 20,000-40,000 of them per hive! – collect sugary flower nectar in their mouths.  They may travel up to 55,000 miles and visit more than two million flowers to gather enough nectar for just one pound of honey.  I wish I had that kind of endurance!  This nectar then mixes with special enzymes in the bees’ saliva and – voila! – it’s transformed into honey. Back in the hive, bees deposit the honey into wax cells that line the walls – the honeycomb – and flutter their wings to evaporate excess nectar water and make the honey sticky sweet.  Oh, and the honeycomb?  They make that too.  Ever hear the phrase “busy as a bee”?!  When all is said and done, the honey is removed from the hive by a beekeeper.  And to market it goes!

There are 300 unique kinds of honey in the United States.  Wowza.  They range in color from white to amber to red to brown to black.  In general, the lighter colors have a mild flavor and the darker colors are more robust. Polyfloral honey – aka wildflower honey – is made from the nectar of many types of flowers.  Monofloral honeys – like clover, orange blossom, tupelo – are made from the nectar of one type of flower.  They have the most distinctive color and flavor. The honey you find in your regular old grocery store – the one in that cute little bear jar – is a blended honey, which means it’s a mixture of two or more different kinds.  You can read up on some different honeys here

If you don’t think honey is cool by now, I should also tell you that it contains a wide array of vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Hello antioxidants!

In baking, I substitute about 3/4 cup honey for 1 cup sugar.  Honey is sweeter, so you can use less!  I also reduce the other liquid in the recipe and add a bit extra baking soda.  “Experts” are very precise and say to reduce liquid by 1/4 cup and add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda for each cup honey.  But I just go with whatever seems to be a nice, rounded amount for the recipe I’m using.  They also say to reduce the oven temperature by 25*F to prevent over-browning, but I only do this if I’m feelin’ it.  So reckless, I know.

Fun tip – Coat your measuring cup with non-stick cooking spray before adding the honey.  It’ll be way easier to get out!

What’s your favorite way to use honey in baking?

Blogging Bake Sale

Want to buy some tasty baked goodies?!

Fellow blogger Meghann from The Inner Workings of a College Graduate is hosting a Blogging Bake Sale this week to benefit her Team In Training efforts.  She’s running the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon on May 31st and has committed herself to raising $3900 for The Leukemia + Lymphoma Society in the process.  Amazing, right?

There are LOTS of delicious treats for sale by many of your favorite bloggers.  We’re talking homemade bread, fudgy brownies, peanut butter cookies, macaroons, and more.  YUM!  My Maple Banana Cornbread is up for grabs – see below for a reminder of its deliciousness! – so head over here if you’d like to buy yourself a loaf.  You’ll be getting something yummy and helping out a great charity at the same time!

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Happy Birthday To Me!

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Today is my birthday!

Am I allowed to wish myself a happy birthday on the internet?

I say yes. 🙂

I love birthdays!  My birthday, my boyfriend’s birthday, my friends’ birthdays, my family’s birthdays.  I love that everyone has their own special holiday.  I love the celebrations.  I love the surprises.  I love planning the celebrations and surprises.  I love the cake.  Obviously.  

I’m actually in Germany this week on a last minute work trip.  An all day client meeting on my birthday – what a present!  But Dan treated me to a delicious dinner and some awesome live music – Dan Craig = amazing – last Friday.  And I’m hoping to celebrate with the rest of my friends when I return this weekend.  So fun will be had.  And cake too!

Have a happy day everyone!


Contact

ashley.sweetandnatural@gmail.com

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