Posts Tagged 'cinnamon'

Gingerbread

Merry Christmas and happy holidays…

Santa Claus is coming to town…

Let it snow, let is snow, let it snow…

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Etc, etc, etc…

I HEART THE HOLIDAYS!

This really truly is my favorite time of year.  Something about the cheesy joyful Christmas music and festive decorations and anticipation in the air makes me warm and fuzzy and happy inside.  I am proudly a total sucker for it and feel all cozy everyday and everywhere I go.  Even the chilly weather is tolerable!  Ehh…sort of.  I don’t do well with cold.  Unless it’s snowing!  Sigh.  Contentment.

That said, the older I get, the more the season sneaks up on me.  It seems that Thanksgiving dinner dishes are barely washed when I blink and it’s Christmas.  All before I can even get a chance wear my favorite holiday sweater!

Well, this year, I said no more!  I made a vow to go immediately into holiday mode the second Thanksgiving weekend was over.  So my mini-Christmas tree quickly found its way out of the box under my bed and onto the dining table.  Little Santa and Mrs. Claus figurines stand by its side.  A scented candle is lit every night – smelling of cinnamon snap then spiced pear then Christmas cookie as the wick burns down.  Holiday tunes are loaded onto my iPod and played on the daily.  Both work and personal computer background images are now illustrations of Christmas trees.  My Google homepage displays the Winter Village theme – super cute btw! – right above a red and white Christmas countdown.  I even manually changed my Gmail colors to be red and green!

With all of these steps taken to be Miss Holiday Spirit 2009, all that was left to do was bake up a season-inspired treat.  So I decided to try my hand at Gingerbread!  I’ve always been curious about Gingerbread – because it is quite possibly the epitome of holiday baked goods – but have never actually eaten it.  I know, weird, right?  I guess I was always too busy filling up on peanut butter kiss cookies and Grandma’s pumpkin cake roll to bother looking its way.  It was about time.

Here’s my recipe for Gingerbread, adapted from this recipe:

1/2 cup Sucanat

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

3/4 cup molasses

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup brown rice flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons ginger

1 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup hot water

Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Spray an 11×7-inch pan with cooking spray and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix Sucanat, vegetable oil, egg and molasses until well combined.  In a separate bowl, mix whole wheat pastry flour, brown rice flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until just blended.  Stir in hot water.  Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes.

Now I know I don’t have anything to compare this to, but I thought the Gingerbread tasted delicious!  The spice combination worked wonderfully together and completely captured the flavor of the holidays.  And the brown rice flour gave the bread a bit of texture – sort of like cornbread!  I was a fan.

Is there a holiday treat you’ve always wanted to try, but never have?

Sticky Tahini Date Cookies

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So glad you guys are having fun with my European vacation posts!  I love reminiscing on good times, so am happy to share.  However, before I turn into a travel guide, I thought I’d break it up a bit by going back to my roots and giving you a new treat to bake!

I’ve been eating a lot of hummus of late.  I eat it at home.  I eat it at work.  I eat it down the street from my apartment at a restaurant called – yep – Hummus Place – which is excellent and cheap for any fellow New Yorkers out there!  Hummus with carrots.  Hummus with chips.  Did you know that hummus, avocado and tomato sandwiches are the best things ever?  No?  Well, now you do.

With all the hummus eating going on, I thought I’d try to make my own.  All I needed to add to my pantry was a jar of tahini.  Bought that, made the hummus, ate the hummus, ’twas tasty.

Then I had a nearly full jar of tahini to finish.

You may have noticed by now that any leftover ingredients in my apartment are destined to be featured in a baked good – ahem…Pumpkin BrowniesBanana Coconut Bars…ahem.  So obviously I was off to make tahini cookies.  Isn’t that what you would do?  Since I was recently drooling over giant Barcelona dates, it was only fitting that I toss juicy Medjools into the mix as well.

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Here’s my recipe for Sticky Tahini Date Cookies, adapted from this recipe:

1/2 cup tahini

1/2 cup honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup chopped Medjool dates

1 1/2 cups oats, coarsely processed

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Grease cookie sheets – don’t forget these are sticky cookies!  In a large bowl, combine tahini, honey, vanilla extract and Medjool dates until smooth.  In a separate bowl, mix together oats, cinnamon, salt, baking soda and walnuts.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until well-blended.  Drop spoonfuls of batter onto prepared cookie sheets.  Bake for 10 minutes. Cool on the cookie sheets for a couple minutes before removing to cool completely.  Makes 15 cookies.

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Off topic, but look out the window – isn’t my block cute?

These. are. so. GOOD!  Like surprisingly delicious!  You can definitely taste the sesame seed flavor, and it’s totally enhanced by the cinnamon and vanilla.  I’m already imagining all the things you could add to these cookies – other dried fruits or nuts, flax seed, more spices.  And they’re so nutritious!  Make them now!

Have you ever used tahini when baking something sweet?

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Pumpkin Brownies

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I found myself with a whole lot of of pumpkin to use up the other day – remains from the giant-sized can I was forced to buy when my grocery store ran out of cans for normal-sized people.  What else is a girl to do but purchase enough squash for a small army when pumpkin pancakes are on the mind?  I promised myself I’d bake something with the leftovers.  And so here I am!

There’s obviously LOADS you can do with pumpkin, but I wanted to get creative.  Actually, what I really wanted was a brownie.  But I couldn’t forgo the pumpkin mountain in my fridge to fulfill my chocolate-y desires.  How utterly wasteful that would be.

Then it hit me. Pumpkin. Brownies. Half fudgy brownie.  Half dense, pumpkin-y delight.  I was so very excited about my highly original, super fun, and simply ingenious idea. Then I found out Martha Stewart had already done it.   Of course she had.

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Not to be outdone by the diva homemaker, I set out to put my own twist on the pumpkin brownie idea.  And twist it I did!  Along with performing my standard Sweet + Natural adaptations to Martha’s recipe – whole wheat pastry flour for all-purpose, Sucanat for sugar, etc. – I made a bunch of other changes to ensure I got exactly what I was looking for.  Added some extra spice to the pumpkin…used a bigger pan…but most importantly, eliminated the baking powder.  Martha’s brownie pics look too much like cake, right?  Now, I have nothing against cake.  Unless it’s trying to pose for a brownie.  In that case, believe you me, I will not be fooled.  I want fudge, not fluff.  No baking powder = lower rise = density-dense flavor-packed yumminess.  Yes.

Here’s my take on Pumpkin Brownies:

Base mixture:

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cup Sucanat

4 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Chocolate mixture:

6 ounces grain sweetened chocolate chips

1/3 cup vegetable oil

Pumpkin mixture:

1 1/4 cup pumpkin

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/4 teaspoon ginger

Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Spray an 11×7-inch pan with cooking spray and set aside.  For the base mixture, mix together whole wheat pastry flour and salt in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix together Sucanat, eggs and vanilla until well-combined.  Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients until blended.  Divide this mixture into two bowls.  For chocolate mixture, melt chocolate chips and oil in a bowl.  Stir into one half of the base mixture.  (Note: If batter feels dry, just steal some base mixture from the remaining half and add it in.  I found the chocolate batter to be drier than the pumpkin batter, so this is totally cool to do.  The pumpkin batter is very generous and will not hold it against you.)  For pumpkin mixture, combine pumpkin, oil, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger in a bowl.  Stir into other half of base mixture.  Spread chocolate batter evenly into prepared pan.  Top with pumpkin batter.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Makes 24 brownies.

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Success!  The no baking soda idea did the trick in making these Pumpkin Brownies brownies and not cakey, chocolate-and-pumpkin flavored squares.  They were indeed the fudgy, dense, pumpkin-y delights I set out to achieve.  They also just so happen to be orange and black – quite fitting for the upcoming Halloween holiday, wouldn’t you say?

What’s the most interesting brownie you’ve ever eaten?

P.S. After mentioning it in my last post, I’ve had a request to share my European vacation with you all. Now I know such a trip is totally unrelated to Sweet + Natural baking, but I’m highly tempted to oblige – mostly because I love reliving it! Would you guys be interested?

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Pumpkin Banana Oat Muffins

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Hiiiiiiiiiiiiii.

I’m back!  You’ll have to forgive me for the past couple months.  They were arguably the busiest of my entire life.  But I am baking once again!  Before we get into the details of my latest delicious creation, here’s a brief recap of recent events to give some context for my absence and perhaps entice understanding from my wonderfully patient readers:

  • Moved into my new apartment
  • Unpacked – umm…amidst the busyness, this took several weeks
  • Waited for cable / internet to be installed…twice – thanks for not showing up the first time Time Warner!
  • Travled to Rhode Island for a weekend to attend a wedding
  • Planned and conducted a major brainstorming workshop for clients at work
  • Cheered for the Cardinals at a Mets game – they’re in the playoffs now!
  • Celebrated a good friend’s birthday
  • Drove to CT and back for work meetings – times two
  • Vacationed in Europe with Dan for 10 days – an absolute DREAM!  If this were a travel blog, I could do a billion posts about that trip!
  • Worked 75+ hour weeks for a month straight, including through Labor Day weekend…
  • …while I was in Chicago visiting my sister – and having lunch with Jenn!
  • Traveled across the country for a week to watch market research focus groups
  • Played host to my parents while they were in NYC for a weekend
  • Researched and bought a new bike – wheeee!
  • Brunched with old friends from high school
  • Went to several doctor appointments
  • Plus a whole bunch of other very important stuff that I need to keep secret for now…shhh…

Whew!  A lot of work (sad…) but a lot of fun (happy!) in there too.  With all of the above going on, I haven’t had much time – or kitchen access! – to make my own meals, let alone do any awesome baking.  However, the dust seems to be settling – knock on wood – so I am keeping my fingers crossed that we can now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

To kick it off, let’s play a little game of Train of Thought, shall we?  I’ll show you how I decided to make what I’m sharing with you right now!

Today = October.  October = fall.  Fall =  pumpkin.  Pumpkin = great oatmeal mix-in.  Great oatmeal = pumpkin + mashed banana + flax + …  Ooh – I got it!

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These Pumpkin Banana Oat Muffins both welcome the new season and celebrate my re-found ability to make breakfast in the morning.  Pumpkin, banana, flax and maple syrup are the ingredients that make up my favorite bowl of oatmeal – and they’re now brought to you in muffin form!  Top these off with some peanut butter and you’re good to go.  Yum!

Here’s my recipe for Pumpkin Banana Oat Muffins, adapted from this recipe:

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin

2 ripe bananas, mashed

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs

3/4 cup flax seed meal

2/3 cup maple syrup

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup oats

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375*F.  Spray muffin tins with cooking spray and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin, mashed bananas, vanilla, eggs, flax seed meal and maple syrup until well blended. In a separate bowl, mix whole wheat pastry flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients until just blended.  Pour into prepared muffin tins and bake for about 20 minutes.  Makes 18 muffins.

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I was quite pleased with these muffins!  Seems like the ole baking skills haven’t gotten too rusty from lack of use.  Dan liked them too – though his enthusiasm might have been more reflective of the fact that I was baking anything at all!  Moist, chewy and filled with healthy ingredients – they’re a perfect way to start the day.

Do you eat oatmeal?  What would your fall + oatmeal muffins look like?

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Honey Yogurt Cheesecake Bars with Cinnamon Graham Cracker Crusts

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Any cheesecake fans out there? I love the stuff and it always reminds me of two things…

Thing #1 is my mom’s no-bake cheesecake – light and fluffy and so easy to make.  It was a go-to dessert in my house growing up.  My family would top their slices with cherry pie filling, but I always thought – and still do think – that that is SO not the way to go.  No putting fruit on my desserts, no sir.  I’ll take the cheesy goodness all by itself.

Thing #2 is The Cheesecake Factory.  Obvious, yes.  Impersonal, hardly!  I used to LOVE going to Cheesecake.  Hello Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple and Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Dough! My adoration for all things cocoa and PB indeed started at an early age.  Every time we went to TCF, I made sure to save room in my belly to fit a whole slice.  Then I’d roll myself out of the restaurant in a sugary, cheesy, sweet bliss.  Ahh…those were the days.

Anyway, Kristina from Stonyfield Farm recently contacted me to see if I’d like some coupons for free Oikos.  She had spotted me using Greek yogurt back when I made Yogurt Glazed Carrot Cake and thought I might be interested.  Umm…yes please!  I promised to come up with a fun recipe to spotlight my Oikos and – BAM! – cheesecake bars popped right into my mind.  Actually, cheesecake popped in there first, but I don’t have the right pan for that.  So bars it was!

Since Greek yogurt was to play a key role in these cheesecake bars, I let it be my inspiration as well.  I asked myself, what kind of cheesecake bars should I make? Well, I replied – does anyone else have conversations with themselves? what do I like to put in Greek yogurt? Ooh ooh!  I like honey and cinnamon and vanilla… And that’s pretty much how it happened.  Before I knew it, I had created Honey Yogurt Cheesecake Bars with Cinnamon Graham Cracker Crusts.

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Here’s the recipe:

Crust:

1 cup whole wheat graham cracker crumbs*

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Cheesecake:

16 ounces Neufchatel cheese

1/2 cup honey

1 egg

1 egg white

1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

* I used MI-DEL Honey Grahams to make my crumbs – 100% whole wheat and sweetened with only honey and molasses.

Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Spray an 8 x 8-inch pan with cooking spray.  To make the crust, combine graham cracker crumbs, canola oil, honey and cinnamon until well-moistened.  Press mixture into prepared pan and bake for about 8 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside.  To make the cheesecake, beat together Neufchatel cheese and honey until well blended.  Add egg and beat well.  Add egg white and beat well.  Add Greek yogurt and vanilla extract and beat well.  Pour mixture on top of graham cracker crust.  Bake for 40-45 minutes.  Let cool and refrigerate for several hours or overnight before serving.  Makes 16 bars.

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These cheesecake bars were uber cheesy and creamy and subtly sweet.  I enjoyed my bites with a bit of honey drizzled on top – just like in the pics!  Next time I might even add extra honey to the batter.  Yum!

Have you ever baked with Greek yogurt? How do you like to use it?

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Peanut Butter Apple Muffins: Take II

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Ladies and gentlemen…we have a winner!

Remember my Peanut Butter Apple Muffins from last week?  They did not live up to my expectations, so I wasn’t totally pleased.  They needed more peanut butter tastiness.  They needed more sweetness.  But I saw potential in their little muffin crumbs.  I knew they wanted me to be proud of them.  They just needed some help getting there.  And I was determined to provide that help. 

After a baking brainstorm and reading all of your suggestions – thank you! – I formed a plan of attack.  I’d use honey instead of Sucanat.  And I’d swiiiiirl the peanut butter into the batter once it was already in the tins.  To keep the flavor alive! 

Ready, set, GO!

Well, when it came down to it, I made a game-time decision that I believe took these muffins to the right place.  Instead of swirling the PB, I just plopped a glob right into the middle of each muffin.  You gotta go with what you’re feeling, you know?  And I was feeling the glob.  Kristie suggested this and she was right on.

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So here you go peeps.  The new and improved Peanut Butter Apple Muffins:

1/2 cup honey

2 egg whites

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup white whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups chopped apples

1/2 cup natural peanut butter

Preheat the oven to 325*F.  Spray a muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside. In a large bowl, mix together honey, egg whites, unsweetened applesauce and vanilla extract until well blended. In a separate bowl, mix white whole wheat flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just blended. Stir in chopped apples.  Pour half of the batter into 10 muffin wells from the prepared pan.   Place a glob of peanut butter in the middle of each.  Top with remaining batter.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Makes 10 muffins.

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See the creamy line of peanut butter running through the muffin?  THAT’S what I’m talking about!

These muffins are what I was going for the first time around.  Chunky apples, cinnamon spices, subtle sweetness.  And enough PB to make them stick to the roof of your mouth.  I am now pleased.

Have you ever re-worked a recipe to make it better?

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Peanut Butter Apple Muffins

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You know what I realized the other day?  I’ve only made muffins once for this blog.  Jigga what?!  Muffins are one of my favorite things to bake, so that’s just crazy.  They’re super easy.  They’re totally versatile.  And after you’ve made a batch, you get to eat a sweet treat for breakfast until they’re all gone!  Very awesome.

I decided it was time for the return of the muffin.  Obvi.  Then I went looking for muffinlicious inspiration.  I thought back to my Blueberry Coconut Oaties – modeled after my favorite breakfast.  And it hit me – let’s model these muffins after my favorite snack!  You know what I’m talking about.  What better snack is there than an apple with peanut butter?  None, my friends.  None at all.  And that’s how Peanut Butter Apple Muffins were born.

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I started with this recipe and it became this one:

2 cups chopped apples

1/2 cup natural peanut butter

1/2 cup Sucanat

2 egg whites

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup white whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 325*F.  Spray a muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside.  Place chopped apples in a bowl, coat with natural peanut butter and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix together Sucanat, egg whites, unsweetened applesauce and vanilla extract until well blended. In a separate bowl, mix white whole wheat flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just blended. Stir in peanut butter covered apples.  Pour into prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Makes 10 muffins.

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Chunky apples!  PB coat!

Ok, I’m not gonna lie.  These weren’t the best muffins I’ve ever baked.  They were good, but they weren’t the muffins dreams are made of!   I needed more peanut butter flavor.  And maybe a little more sweetness.  But I’m excited about the idea and I’m not giving up.  I think next time I’ll use honey as the sweetener.  And maybe swirl the peanut butter into the batter once it’s already in the tins.  I tried to keep it separate til the very end instead of stirring it right into the mixture, but I think it got lost anyway.  And peanut butter is not a taste that should ever be lost.  Am I right?

What do you guys think?  Any suggestions to help these muffins be all that they can be?

UPDATE: I reattempted these muffins and the results were great!  Check out the new and improved recipe!

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