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Irish Soda Bread and an Easy Crock Pot St. Paddy’s Day Dinner

March 17, 2016

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Maybe treat yourself to a Guinness and some Irish Soda bread today. Better yet, throw an easy corned beef and cabbage dinner in the crock pot before you go to work so you can kick back, relax, and watch The Quiet Man later instead of hanging out in the kitchen.  This recipe is nothing fancy (or photogenic!), nor is it health food- but we look forward to it every year. It’s also a pretty lazy kind of recipe. I pour a beer over it, scatter on the seasoning packet that comes with the corned beef and call it a day! You can easily customize it to make it more interesting, but we like it as is! Be forewarned, the cabbage cooking will smell kind of stinky, but cabbage actually has a pretty mild flavor. The soda bread is a little more labor intensive, and requires an hour to bake- but I promise its worth it!

 

Corned Beef and Cabbage in the Crock Pot

1  package of corned beef (ours was a little over 3lbs)

5 potatoes cut into large cubes

1 large onion, halved and cut into slices

5 carrots, cut in half

Half of a small cabbage, cut into wedges (wondering what to do with the other half of cabbage? Make this yummy cole slaw. I’ve made this dairy free by making “fake” buttermilk with nondairy milk and vinegar or lemon juice, and reducing the amount of sugar doesn’t hurt either! Change nothing else!)

Beer of your choice, we usually use a Guinness or a Bass

 

Place all of your chopped veggies, except for the cabbage at the bottom of your crock pot. Next, place the corned beef on top of the veggies, and then nestle the cabbage around it. Pour the entire beer on top of the layered meat and veggies, and then carefully scatter the seasonings from the flavor packet over the top. Funny story- this year I somehow bought a package without the seasonings. I improvised with a generous sprinkle of black pepper, parsley, and a little of Penzey’s Northwoods seasoning.  Cover the crock pot and cook everything on low for about 7-8 hours.

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When it is finished cooking, remove the meat and cut it into slices against the grain, and place the cabbage around it. Using a slotted spoon, strain out the vegetables (they will be hiding in all of that liquid), and place into a bowl.

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I like to eat this dish with a side of applesauce and Irish soda bread, and my husband likes spicy brown mustard instead of applesauce. Do whatever appeals to you! Please note: Corned beef leftovers make good sandwich meat for lunches during the week!

 

Now for the Irish Soda Bread Recipe! This is actually a recipe that my mom passed down to me from my dad’s mom, my grandmother. Its pretty special to me, and I hope you enjoy it! I always think of my Nana when I bake it. She was a pretty amazing lady. She and my Grandpa immigrated from Ireland and raised 10 children together! I remember climbing the trees in her front yard and having sleepovers at her house. I was always running wild, and she tried to get me to comb my hair. I really miss her, and wish she could meet my son.

Irish Soda Bread

4 cups of flour

3 tablespoon of sugar

1 teaspoon of salt

3/4 teaspoon of baking soda

1 tablespoon of baking powder

6 tablespoons of butter

2 eggs

1 and 1/2 cups of buttermilk (once again, you can make your own “fake buttermilk”, although the recipe does include butter, so it won’t be entirely dairy free)

1 and a half cups of raisins (I actually cannot stand raisins, so I always leave them out!)

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, then mix all of the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Next, cut in the butter by hand. Beat the eggs in a small bowl, and then pour most of it into the mixture, reserving a little to be an egg wash. Add the buttermilk and stir until everything is combined. Once the mixture is well combined, add the raisins. Form a loose ball with the dough (if it feels too wet, its fine to add a little more flour at this point), and then place into a greased pan (I use a round cake pan).  Use a brush or a spoon to coat the dough in an egg wash. Feel free to crack another egg if you didn’t have enough leftover. Lastly, use a sharp knife to cut a cross into the bread, and place in the oven. The recipe says to cook the bread for an hour and 20 minutes, but I usually keep a close eye on it after an hour.

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Once your bread is cooked and cooled a bit, spread with butter and enjoy!

I hope everyone has a fabulous day and enjoys this easy dinner!

 

 

Baking

Bourbon Banana Blueberry Muffins

January 26, 2016

Have you ever just gotten back from a weekend away and realized that all of your bananas are brown and mushy? Bueller? Bueller? Anyone? Well, after a weekend spent snowed in with family on Long Island (by the way, we love you guys and miss you all a ton already!), my fruit bowl was in a sorry state. I just made banana bread muffins two weeks ago, so I asked my husband if he was too tired of banana bread to eat it again. He looked at me like I was crazy. “Although,” he said, “maybe you could make them a little less sweet so that they are more like breakfast and less like a dessert.” Now it was my turn to look at him like he was crazy.  After all, I love the banana bread recipe I always use. It’s pretty much the best thing ever- I mean, there’s bourbon and chocolate involved. However, I enjoy a baking challenge, so I said, “Game on.” Not aloud. Just in my head.

After playing with this recipe, I will say that the result is much less sweet than Joy the Baker’s. However, it’s still moist, and the blueberries provide a lot of natural sweetness, so these muffins still feel like a treat. I also used all whole wheat flour, added oats, and threw in some chia seeds for a little fiber and protein. I left the bourbon in, but don’t worry-the flavor is nice and not at all overwhelming. For the sake of convenience, I used my stand mixture and did not mix the wet and dry ingredients in separate bowls. If you are mixing by hand, make sure you combine your ingredients very thoroughly!

Bourbon Banana Blueberry Muffins  

(Inspired by Joy’s Bourbon and Chocolate chunk Banana Bread and makes 18 muffins)

muffins1

1 and a half cups of whole wheat flour

1/2 cup old fashioned oats

3 teaspoons of chia seeds

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 stick of butter (you can  substitute this for 1/2 cup coconut oil for a dairy free version)

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

3 brown or very ripe bananas

2 tablespoons of bourbon

1 teaspoon of lemon juice

A bunch of blueberries ( I forgot to measure, but judging from the container I bought, I used almost a whole pint! You can reduce this amount, but it is really delicious when you bite into the muffin, and blueberry sauce oozes out attractively on your plate. Can something ooze attractively? Blueberry sauce can.)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and either grease your muffin pan or line your pan with muffin tins. Next, cream together your butter and sugar. Add the eggs and beat the mixture thoroughly. Once your eggs are well combined, mash in your bananas, and then add the bourbon and lemon juice. Once  your wet ingredients are combined, add the dry. I add the flour, salt, baking powder, oats, chia seeds, and then I beat the mixture all together. Once your batter is done, add as many blueberries as your heart desires. The more the merrier! Just make sure they are all clean and stem free! Fold these in gently by hand, so that they don’t get crushed.

Scoop batter into your muffin pan, filling each a little more than halfway. Bake the muffins for 25 minutes or until a toothpick emerges from one clean.

Enjoy your muffins, and enjoy your Tuesday!

muffins3 muffins2

 

Baking Health & Home Life Parenting Uncategorized

Things I’ve Been Loving Recently

January 16, 2016

Hello folks, Kristen here. Just stopping by with a quick list of things that have been making me happy recently:

  1. Homemade Laundry Detergent– My mom came to my rescue with this fantastic detergent recipe. You see, store bought detergent is a huge trigger for my gag reflex. Prior to getting pregnant, I loved the smell of our detergent. Now, I can’t wear clothes that have been washed in that detergent without getting sick! There are a few other advantages to this detergent as well. It is gentle on your clothing, and is gentle for people who have sensitive skin and are prone to allergic reactions. It is also cheap to make, and easy to customize to fit your needs. I like that it smells only faintly of soap, but if you’d like a stronger scent, add your favorite essential oil to the recipe. Ilana recently posted some great information on that topic. The recipe is as follows- 1 bar of ivory soap (grated), 1 and 1/2 cups borax, and 1 and 1/2 cups of Arm and Hammer washing soda. I’ll be making some more as soon as I  run out!
  2. Smitten Kitchen’s Oat and Wheat Sandwich Bread– Holy moly- this is good bread, guys. I know that bread is not the healthiest thing to eat, so if you are going to eat bread- why not make it really delicious, good bread? I love the experience of baking bread on a cold day when you are cozy and warm at home. This recipe is not difficult at all. I didn’t have whole wheat flour, so I just used unbleached bread flour, and it turned out fine. The beginning of the recipe is a little time consuming, but once you get past that part, you can totally do other things while the bread is rising and proofing. I used that time to do dishes and clean up the house. It makes the house smell amazing, and it makes two loaves, so you can always freeze one. The simplicity of the recipe is inspiring me to see how long I can go without buying store bought bread! We ate ours with this yummy chicken salad. I left the sugar and poppy seeds out of the recipe when I made it, and used almonds instead of pecans, because that is what I had. I also added a bit of shallot pepper and rosemary to season it more.
  3. Electric City Roaster’s Coffee– Now that I am past my first trimester, coffee is back to being delicious! I do limit myself to one cup of half caf, but it’s a nice way to start the day! Recently, a friend has been making fun of us for buying the cheapest generic coffee the grocery store has in stock, and he encouraged us to try out this company. My mom has also been on me to make sure that my decaf is water filtered, because apparently a lot of decaf is filtered using some kind of chemicals. On Sunday, we took the plunge and ordered a few bags of beans online. By Monday morning, my coffee was hand delivered to my door. We are super impressed. The coffee is delicious and we ordered a roast with low acidity, so it’s not as tough on my sensitive stomach. So far, we are pleased and plan to reorder more when we run out. I highly recommend checking them out!
  4. Bringing Up Bebe and The Happiest Baby on the Block– I read Bringing Up Bebe a few months ago, and it was a really enjoyable read. It’s interesting to read about raising children in other countries and different parenting methods. It does make the French childhood sound idyllic, but some of it isn’t realistic for me because I do not live in France. I will not deliver my baby in a fancy private hospital with fresh baguettes and champagne on the menu! A girl can dream though! However, I enjoyed the chapters on gentle sleep training and making sure your child’s diet is diverse. I’ve witnessed how well that works with my niece! Little Miss happily eats whatever Ilana puts in front of her. It is pretty fantastic! I’ve been rereading it again recently, and my husband promises to read it soon. I just started The Happiest Baby on the Block. It deals with methods of soothing your baby. I witnessed my friend using a few of these methods on her newborn, and they really seem to work.
  5. Finding out our baby’s sex- a boy!!! We were in total shock, because everyone who looked at me predicted girl! I’m not sure how to feel about that- I guess I’m carrying kind of low and round? I am a short girl with hips though, there is not a lot of space for this baby weight to go! Luckily my doctor says that my weight gain is healthy and right on target. We are so thrilled to start being able to call Baby “him” and to start making plans for our little fella! His tiny kicks are the happiest part of my day. He even kicked hard enough for his Daddy to feel him the other day. It’s the best. I am so thankful for him, and pray for him pretty much all day every day.

That is all for now! I hope you can all find a few things every day that make you feel happy. It’s the little things, right?

Baking

Baking breakdown

December 11, 2015

I love cooking, and I love baking, and I love experimenting – on my own time. I don’t mind changing up recipes or trying things from scratch when I’ve just had a grumpy day and want to throw together dessert. Because then it’s just me, my husband, and Little Miss and if it’s not perfect, no one really cares. But when I have an audience and a deadline, I get nervous.

I volunteered to make dessert for an event tomorrow. Just simple Christmas cookies, but still, several batches of cookies and limited time. Limited time and a toddler wandering around. Limited time and a toddler wandering around and a bunch of other things to distract me.

“No big deal” I thought, as I printed recipes for shortbread and gingerbread, I can handle this. I’ll just bust these out, everything will go according to plan, and I’ll be fine. Mhmm.

I decided to take advantage of my daughter’s good mood and start the first batch yesterday afternoon. Except my butter had to be room temperature and it was still in the fridge. I placed the butter next to the stove and angrily stirred up some biscotti dough instead, because that calls for olive oil instead of butter and it doesn’t matter what temperature the oil is.

Even though I’ve made biscotti a number of times, it’s not usually for a crowd. The fear began to creep in…are the two logs the same size? Will they bake evenly? Are the cookies drying out enough? Okay, breathe, breathe, it’ll be fine.

By the evening, my butter was nicely room temperature and I could move on. Next up was the gingerbread dough, which I luckily started first because it had to chill in the fridge for a while. Now I’ve never made gingerbread before. I was a little surprised at how little sugar the recipe called for, and I re-read it three times to make sure I was right. I was. Gingerbread, apparently, doesn’t have much sugar, but it does have a whole mess of ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Oh, and molasses. I’ve only used molasses once before, back in college when I decided that if Harry Potter was eating treacle tart, I wanted to try to make it. It was a weird, dark, gooey pie-like creation, and I’ve steered clear of molasses since.

Now you have to understand, it’s hard for my to keep a straight face when talking about molasses. As a child, my mother told me the following (extremely paraphrased) hilariously inappropriate joke, because she’s spectacular like that. And I mean that as a good thing.

A mole family is down in it’s mole hole, when mommy mole sticks her nose out and sniffs, calling “daddy mole, come quickly, there is the most delicious smell in the air.” Daddy mole comes over and sticks his nose out, sniffing appreciatively and calling “baby mole, come smell this, it smells absolutely delightful out here.” Baby mole is trying in vain to wriggle his way far enough up to catch a whiff but can’t quite reach with his parents in the way. As mommy and daddy mole are enthusiastically exclaiming over this delicious smell, baby mole shouts “what does it smell like out there? All I can smell is molasses!”

Yes, I just laughed. Molasses.

Anyway, I followed the instructions and put everything in my Kitchenaid. And I watched, muttering “please please please please” until finally, a nice brown dough formed out of the dark sludge that had previously filled the bowl. I wrapped the dough in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Onto the shortbread.

When last I made shortbread, it came way too dense. A sweet shortbread vendor at a craft fair once told me the secret is to not overmix, so I took that advice seriously and stopped the mixer the moment everything was combined. I pressed it into the pan, placed it in the oven and immediately started second guessing myself. Was it too thick? Should I have spread it out more? What if I can’t cut it properly? There is is again, baking performance anxiety.

AND WHAT IF THERE AREN’T ENOUGH COOKIES.

Okay, relax, just let it bake. Onto almond cookies, gluten free little goodies for a few people at the event who this is an issue for. The recipe is easy as anything, just mix the almond paste, sugar and an egg white. Is the almond paste and sugar mixing, GOOD GOD IS IT MIXING? It was just flattening out; the bowl looked like it was filled with slices of crystallized ginger as the sugar stuck to little paddle shaped bits of almond paste. They flapped around and around as I slid further and further into madness.

Okay, breathe, breathe, add the egg and mix it. Okay, we’re okay, now put it in the piping bag with the star tip and get it onto the parchment paper. Perfect, perfect, WAIT A SECOND WHAT IS HAPPENING? The dough is too thick, it’s pushing the star tip out of the bag, noooooooo! Okay, roll them into balls, it’s okay, breathe, breathe.

THESE COOKIES ARE NOT WORTH A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN, CALM YOURSELF DOWN WOMAN.

Old Fashioned Modern LivingIn the end, I got it all done. The gingerbread chilled well and cut out into pretty stars and stylized crosses, the shortbread is yummy as anything and the chocolate topping only slightly messy, and the almond cookies are actually pretty nice despite being little puffy balls instead of fluffy stars. And the biscotti, though angrily mixed, are just fine.

I’m normally fairly zen in the kitchen. I’m not a fussy cook, I just roll with it and make things work. I guess I also know my audience, the preferences of my family and friends. When I’m baking for a crowd though, I need to get that ringing “what if everyone thinks this tastes like butt?” out of my head. I think the combination of a looming deadline and the fear that everything will be gross is what gets to me.

It all worked out. They’re not perfect, but they’ll do. I’ll plate them up at the event tomorrow and everything will be fine. Plus now I’ve got leftover flour, sugar, spices, and half a bottle of molasses left to do something with.

Heheheh. Molasses.

Baking Cooking Uncategorized

Friendsgiving 2015

November 23, 2015

I will start by saying, we had a fantastic Friendsgiving weekend! However, like most  best laid plans, things did not go exactly as I thought they would. I did not hang the sparkly ‘Give Thanks’ banner I made last year, nor did I type up a menu or make place cards as planned. My husband and I finished cleaning the house the Friday night before, and we decided to take a nap because our friends were due to arrive around 11:30 pm. I started to realize that I wasn’t feeling so great, but managed to shake it off, even staying up talking for a few hours after our friends arrived.

The next morning, I felt slightly refreshed after getting some sleep, and we all went to Oliver’s Cafe for breakfast. The plan was to go shopping for the ingredients everyone needed after breakfast. By the end of breakfast, I still was not feeling great and I asked my husband if he could go shopping with my friend’s boyfriend, so all of the girls go stay home and I could relax. I felt worse when we got home, so it was ultimately decided that my husband would take me to the doctors and my sweet friends offered to do the shopping. I felt so guilty because we really needed to get started on shopping and cooking, and who wants to go to the doctors when you have a house full of guests and a dinner party to cook for? I was at the doctors for about two hours, which isn’t the longest time considering that it was last minute on a Saturday. Everything was okay, but it was determined that I was dehydrated, so I was sent home with instructions to put my feet up for the rest of the day and drink a lot of water.

When we got home, we found a clean kitchen. My friends cleaned up all the cups and snack dishes from the night before. They also went shopping for the remainder of the ingredients. The long, rambling point I am trying to make is, my friends are the best. They totally pulled together to make dinner happen when I wasn’t feeling well, and they even cleaned up all the dishes again after dinner, so I could lay on the couch. All in all, it turned out to be a good weekend, and dinner was only delayed by two hours. I got the ham in the oven, chopped veggies at the table with my feet up, and gave my husband directions to make the stuffing. Instead of the pie we planned to get, my other friends brought delicious homemade peanut butter cookies and apple cider donuts from Indian Ladder Farm for dessert! No, I did not put out the planned decorations, but to be honest, the table was full of food anyway. I also did not document the entire experience as thoroughly as I thought I would, but I still have some recipes to share! So to my friends-thanks guys! I love you all!

Here is what everyone made:

Turkey Cheese Platter

turkey

You’ll Need:

Sliced pepperoni

Sliced hard sausage

Two types of sliced cheese

Arrange all of your items on a flat platter platter to look like a turkey! It came out pretty fancy as you can see!

 

Chili Cheese Dip

You’ll Need:

1 can of chili

Cream cheese

Shredded Cheddar Cheese

Tortilla Chips

Spread the cream cheese over the bottom of a glass dish and microwave it to soften it- about 30 seconds. Next, spread the chili over the cream cheese, and sprinkle the shredded cheese over the top. Microwave everything for about 4 minutes, or until everything is hot and melty. Serve with tortilla chips. This dip is so good. My friend learned to make it from her mom, and now I want her to make this every year!

 

Pineapple Ham

ham

We ultimately decided to make a ham instead of a turkey, because we figured everyone would be having turkey soon anyway! This is how my mom makes her holiday ham.

1 bone in ham (we used a 7 lb ham)

2 cans of Pineapple

1 can or small bottle of ginger ale

Brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place your ham in the baking dish, and pour the ginger ale over it. Next pat the ham with a little brown sugar. Place the ham in the oven, and bake it for 20 minutes per pound. For us, that ended up being 2 hours and 20 minutes. Once the time is up (don’t turn off the oven), remove the ham from the oven, and let it cool enough to cut it up into smaller pieces. Drain some of the liquid, but leave a little at the bottom of the pan. Reserve some of the liquid that you drained and add a few table spoons of brown sugar to it. Now you are going to drain about half of the liquid from the pineapple cans and pour the rest over the ham slices. Finish by pouring some of the brown sugar mixture over the ham and pineapple. Put the ham back in the oven for another 40 minutes to an hour to let the pineapple and juices soak in.

Bacon Bourbon Stuffing

stuffing

I used the recipe from A Beautiful Mess. However, this year, instead of buying fresh loaves that I cut up, I used pre-cut hardened cubes from the bakery. I have to say, it did not come out as good. Buy fresh loaves of bread and cut them up the night before you use them. It makes all the difference. This recipe is also a great starting off point if you want to leave out the bacon or the bourbon and do your own thing to it. This Thanksgiving, I am making stuffing to bring to a vegetarian friend’s house, so I am excited to eliminate the bacon and possibly add fresh cranberries or something. Make it your own!

 

Potato Croquettes

Sadly, I do not have the exact recipe my friend used to make these delicious potato croquettes, but I searched online for a recipe that seemed similar, and provided it for you here! He did a fantastic job, and made these shaped exactly like baked potatoes, which he swore was a happy accident.

table

Mac and Cheese

This is the recipe my girlfriend used to make us delicious mac and cheese. Clearly, we did not avoid dairy this holiday! This mac and cheese is actually called Smack Yo Mama Mac and Cheese, and was featured on Good Morning America. It really was that good, although nobody was smacked on Friendsgiving! The name  did make us laugh though.

Cornbread

I did not get a picture of this, nor did I get the recipe for my friend’s famous cornbread! I do have two tips from her to share with you though. 1.  Use a glass baking dish. Cast iron skillets tend to dry out the cornbread (this is very true- its happened to me multiple times). 2. Once it comes out of the oven, rub butter all over the top. I never said this was healthy cornbread!

Although I don’t have the recipe for the exact cornbread my friend made, I do have a really good recipe given to me by one of my husband’s coworkers. I used the above tips with this recipe yesterday, and it came out really moist and delicious!

You’ll Need:

1/2 cup butter (plus extra to spread on at the end)

2/3 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 cup buttermilk (I had none, so I added 1 teaspoon go white vinegar to slightly under a cup of almond milk  to make my own “buttermilk”. This trick works with regular milk as well. It’s a  decent substitute. I even used the almond milk version in coleslaw once, and nobody noticed!)

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

1 cup of cornmeal

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon of salt

Preheat the oven to 375, and grease an small glass pan. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add it to a bowl and stir in the sugar and two eggs. Combine the buttermilk with the baking soda and stir the mixture into the other ingredients. Add the cornmeal, flour, and salt until it is well blended and only a few lumps remain. Pour the batter into a prepared pan. Bake the cornbread for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. I baked mine for 35 minutes. Next, spread butter over the top, and let it seep in as it melts. Enjoy!

Greenbeans

Believe it or not, but we did in fact eat something green on Friendsgiving! Sadly I did not get the recipe for these yummy green beans, but I believe they were sauteed and dressed with some kind of lemon, garlic sauce.

Applesauce

Remember when I made applesauce a few weeks ago? I brought out one of my jars for this occasion and sent a few back to Long Island with my friends. It was a big hit, so if you haven’t made some yet you totally should make some for Thursday!

 

I hope that you’ll try some of these recipes for your own celebrations this year! Don’t let the holidays get you down if things don’t work out exactly as planned. Sometimes they end up being pretty wonderful anyway!

 

 

Baking Recipe

Autumn quick bread – er, cake

November 14, 2015

My family has issues.

Gluten free spiced apple quick bread. Old Fashioned Modern Living.No, I mean, food issues. With one person non-dairy, another gluten free, and a third low sugar, I joke around that my baking consists of oil and sand. I’ve largely gotten used to substituting coconut oil and cashew milk for butter and milk, and using different flours to make my recipes gluten free. The low sugar thing has thrown me for a loop though. Some ingredients just need sugar. Have you ever had something with unsweetened cocoa powder and very little sweetness? It’s not much of a dessert.

I’ve found that by lowering the actual sugar content and utilizing maple syrup and sweet mix ins like dried fruit, I can bring the sugar down a little without the flavor suffering. And if I can’t dramatically bring down the sugar level, I bump up the protein so it metabolizes better.

Earlier this week myself, the man and Little Miss went to visit my parents and my grandfather, and I wanted to bring a little something along for dessert. I grabbed a couple of prickly pears and persimmons at the supermarket, knowing they’re both favorites, and then set out to find a recipe that was fast and simple, wouldn’t require dirtying the whole kitchen, didn’t require gluten or dairy, and wasn’t super sweet.

Did I forget to mention that grandpa can’t have coconut? I’m always at a loss when I can’t use coconut oil. So I weighed my alternatives. Applesauce would have worked, had I remembered to buy it. But hey, I did still have some apples from when we went picking! I settled on a basic quick bread recipe, with modifications to make it gluten free, dairy free, and a little lower in sugar and higher in protein.

It should be noted that the name “quick bread” is a bit misleading. It doesn’t bake that fast, and it’s more of a cake than a bread – think about the consistency of zucchini or banana bread and you’ve just about got it. It’s not light and fluffy and crusty, it’s moist, dense and cakey.

This cake is sweet, but not too sweet, with a nice little kick from chocolate chips and cranberries with lovely, moist apple chunks – this is a liquidy batter by the way, so don’t be surprised if your heavier dried fruits sink to the bottom and your lighter chocolate chips stay up top! The apple and spices are warm and homey, and the cranberries are tart, giving it a nice contrast. I’m a big fan of apples all year round, but especially in the fall when everything is PUMPKIN PUMPKIN PUMPKIN, I think it’s nice to let apples shine.

If you’re not a fanatic about Penzey’s Spices like I am, and don’t happen to have Cake Spice on hand, just add a little more cinnamon and if you have, a dash of nutmeg, clove, anise, allspice and ginger.

Yes, it’s gluten free, it’s dairy free, it’s coconut free, and it has a little extra protein to balance things out. I think a little less sugar and it could make a very decent morning treat as well as a dessert.

One last note before the recipe. You can buy oat flour, or you can make it. My husband’s Ninja blender came with individual serving smoothie cups which are perfect for quickly grinding some organic rolled oats into flour. Other blenders or food processors should do the trick as well.

Gluten free spiced apple quick bread. Old Fashioned Modern Living.Spiced Autumn Quick Bread

  • 1/2 cup gluten free flour
  • 1/2 cup oat flour (or ground rolled oats)
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1 tbsp ground flax/chia seed mix (optional)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Cake Spice
  • 1 apple, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup cashew milk (or your preferred milk substitute)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (I like grapeseed or sunflower)
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4-1/2 cup dried cranberries
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, and lightly oil a loaf pan (I like to line mine with parchment paper for easy removal).
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the gluten free flour, oat flour and almond meal, then mix in the baking powder, cinnamon, Cake Spice, brown sugar and chopped apple.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together the eggs, oil, vanilla, cashew milk and maple syrup, then pour over the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Stir in chocolate chips and cranberries.
  4. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean from the middle.

Baking Life Recipe Uncategorized

Why I Write and a Pumpkin Muffin Recipe

October 22, 2015

Hello Friends. Kristen here. I haven’t been feeling good recently, so I have not done any baking or crafting. In fact, I have two big bags of apples sitting in the kitchen, calling my name that need to be turned into applesauce like, yesterday. So that will be my big project tomorrow- hopefully made easier by the cool apple peeler/corer/slicer I got from Pampered Chef! I am completely at ease with the idea that my house will smell like cooking apples and cinnamon tomorrow.

As my daily life has not been terribly interesting lately, I’ve kind of been at a loss as to what to post. Ilana pointed out that October 20th was Why I Write day. Although I am a few days late to the party, I thought I’d share what writing has meant to me throughout my life.

My first memory of me writing is not really me writing at all. I am really little, maybe 3 or 4, sitting at my parent’s wooden kitchen table, trying to make a dog book out of construction paper. I think I was trying to copy pictures from a book about Jack Russells and I remember feeling a little disappointed that my scribbles did not look anything like the pictures inside the book. My parents kindly stapled all of my construction paper together. I think it was blue.

My next memory of writing is sitting at my parents’ first Mac computer with my dad. It was a little gray box with a tiny rainbow apple on it. Does anyone remember those? We had that computer for a long time. My dad was helping me write a story and I was thrilled to hear the computer read my story back to me.

I think as a child, I loved making books and trying to write stories because I loved hearing stories so much. Every night before bed, I’d be tucked in with stuffed animals and a yellow lab draped across the foot of my bed and my parents would tell me long stories. There were a few recurring characters, but they always featured me and some friends going on adventures.

My parents took me to the library a lot when I was little. I would be allowed to check out a bunch of picture books that they would read to me over and over throughout the week. My favorite was Maggie’s Moon, by Martha Alexander. Sadly, her books are out of print right now, but you may get lucky and find them at the Library or on Amazon. I think many of us would agree that there is almost nothing more enchanting than a really well written children’s book with beautiful pictures. I am growing my little collection nicely.

Although I struggled to read as a kindergartener and first grader, my parents were always there to help me, and to make sure I had independent reading time each day. It was not a big formal thing, it was just part of our routine. Thankfully, due to my parents’ dedication, I did not struggle for long. I grew to love reading more than doing almost anything else. Jo March, Jane Eyre, Elizabeth Bennett, Betsy Ray, and Anne Shirley- these characters all became good friends of mine. Interestingly enough, many of them liked to write as well. Writing was always just something I did as an extension of a love of reading. My parents have done a lot of stapling of construction paper, and computer paper over the years.

In elementary school, I used to love to journal. That started in a little marble notebook in school. The teacher posted a silly or thoughtful writing prompt on the board, and invited the class to respond. These assignments were the perfect experience for capturing the imagination of creative young minds, although now that I’ve taught, I know that these were also a lot of fun for the teachers to read. I recently read my little brother’s fourth grade journal. It involved defeating Freddy Krueger with his own sharp nail, and it is the best.  Teachers, please never get rid of journaling. Sometimes, we’d share our journals with the rest of the class. I love how unselfconscious we all were with sharing. I used to be nervous about speaking in class, but never nervous about the sharing my journal part. I sometimes wish we could all share our creativity just as boldly as adults.

I also journaled at home. I think I have one  of them up in my attic, as well as a two notebooks filled with poems. I remember writing about daily life, as well as my  inner life and worries.  I wish I kept all of my journals. I think I felt embarrassed by them once I was a little older. If I could go back I’d say, “Young Kristen, keep your journals. The only thing you should be embarrassed about is your AOL away message right now.”

So as I grew up, writing was always just something I did. What I wrote changed as I got older. Less stories and more essays for school and love letters to my now husband. Every now and then, I’d write a story or part of a short story. My husband sometimes finds little descriptions or story parts written on scraps  around the house now.  I also write down some of my prayers and letters I may not send. They are not for anybody, just me.  It’s all very fragmented. It is hard to finish a story, isn’t it? I think I am still figuring out what to say. If you put all of those fragmented bits together though, I think you’ll find they make up a girl who loves to read, and can’t help but write.

I will leave you with a muffin recipe. This fantastic recipe is from Table for Two and is a fall tradition for me. I just changed the recipe to make the muffins nondairy and I add as many chocolate chips as I want!  I’ll be making these once I feel completely better.

Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chunk Muffins

1 2/3 cup all purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1 tbsp. pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

2 large eggs

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cup of soft (not liquid) coconut oil

Chocolate Chips- the recipe calls for 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, rough chopped. I use chocolate chips and add them until the batter looks chocolatey enough.

Mix the dry ingredients together in one bowl, and the wet in another bowl. Combine the two, and bake your batter at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Baking Recipe

Warm fall cookies, and they’re vegan too!

October 1, 2015
Vegan cherry, chocolate, oatmeal cookie recipe. Old Fashioned Modern Living.

Happy October!

I love fall. I’m an October baby, so I guess it’s sort of my birthright. My favorite is when the temperature is hovering in the 60s; jeans and t-shirt weather. No bulky jackets, just a light sweatshirt if it gets chilly. Perfect. Then there’s the leaves changing color, the apple and pumpkin picking, apple cider…and my Uggs. Sorry, don’t care if you think they’re ugly, they’re comfortable.

And just for the record, I think Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes are kind of gross. Whoooops.

Anyway, it’s been a dismal, rainy week. Goody goody gumdrops, there’s a hurricane heading up the east coast sending plenty of raindrops ahead, scouting the area out before its arrival. Little Miss and I have run a few errands, but overall we’ve been hunkered down in the house. We’ve done some housework, some playing and practice walking up and down the hallway, and my favorite when it’s getting chilly, some baking!

Now I’m not actually vegan, but these cookies are. Because my husband can’t handle dairy, we always have cashew milk in the house instead and I happened to run out of eggs (Little Miss has taken to having a scrambled egg with parmesan each morning), so straight vegan seemed like the way to go. I started out with The BEST Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies from Daily Rebecca and made some tweaks. Tweaking “the best”?! Crazy, I know, but stay with me. I actually made them once following the original recipe and they were good, but the general consensus around here was that they just needed…something more. So in the second batch I made some additions and changed a few quantities and the final product was good. Like, really good. They came out of the oven soft and stayed soft. 2 days in zip lock bags and they were still soft and lovely.

Ready for the recipe? Make sure to buy vegan chocolate chips for these cookies to be truly vegan. No eggs. No dairy. You can substitute the cashew milk for another similar substance, I just tend to have cashew milk in the house.

I used my KitchenAid to mix, but you can easily do this by hand. And hey look, this recipe stars coconut oil! Remember that coconut oil is solid when it’s cooler, but it’ll melt down as it warms up.

Vegan Cherry, Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal Cookies

Cook time: 14 minutes, makes 27 cookies

Vegan Cookie Recipe. Old Fashioned Modern Living.Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup cashew milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup organic rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped

Instructions:

  1.  Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees
  2. Cream together the coconut oil and brown sugar, then add the cashew milk and vanilla
  3. In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon
  4. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix well, then fold in your oatmeal, mini chocolate chips and roughly chopped dried cherries
  5. Use a tablespoon or approximate; scoop balls of dough and place them onto your parchment paper or silpat, flatten slightly
  6. Bake for about 14 minutes, checking periodically. When done there should be a slight browning around the edges and the tops should be set
  7. Let cool on the pan for up to 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling

And that’s it! Easy, vegan and super yummy. I think the cinnamon just gives it a subtle extra warmth which is really nice. Try mixing in cranberries instead of cherries for a more autumnal kick. Enjoy!

Edited to add: I made these cookies again with expeller pressed coconut oil rather than cold press because it was what was in the house I was at. The cookies still came super yummy, but much flatter and crispier. Be prepared for variations based on your ingredients!

Baking Life

My Top 5 Uses for Coconut Oil

September 18, 2015
Top 5 Uses for Coconut Oil. Old Fashioned Modern Living.

Coconut oil has become a bit of a joke due to it’s alleged magical properties. I saw an image circulating on Facebook recently, a photo of a baby with the text “my mom solves all our problems with breast milk, coconut oil and essential oils.” Then another, a list of symptoms and solutions along the lines of “Acne? Coconut Oil. Dry skin? Coconut Oil. No friends? Coconut Oil. Bad credit? Coconut oil.”

The thing is, it’s all true (okay, maybe not the bad credit thing). Coconut oil is a miracle substance that is useful for everything. Really, everything. I started out buying it in glass jars at Trader Joe’s to cook and bake with, but now I live further from the store and its not always in stock anyway, so I’ve taken to buying it in bulk at BJ’s. A 36 ounce container costs around $11 and it lasts. I keep the big container in my pantry, with small plastic food safe containers in the other rooms.

Now, coconut oil is a funny thing. When it’s cold, it’s solid. When it’s warm, it’s liquid. 76 degrees Fahrenheit is the official melting point of coconut oil, so when I get ready for bed in the evening and see my little container solidifying, I know it’ll be a nice cool night. My personal preference is for cold pressed over expeller pressed coconut oil. It seems to have a little more body, and holds up a little more when used in baked goods. Coconut oil is popping up everywhere, from grocery stores to Target, and most of it is expeller or hot pressed – but you may find no difference.

So now, my top 5 uses for coconut oil, in no particular order. This is by no means an exhaustive list of uses, but it’s where I find myself using this miraculous compound most often.

1. Baking

Dairy is a problem in this house. Little Miss and I are big fans of it, with cheese being a pretty major dietary staple. My husband unfortunately, can’t say the same. It’s not so much that he doesn’t like dairy, as that it doesn’t like him in a big way. So when I’m baking and come across a recipe that calls for butter, what do I do? I could buy non-dairy butter in stick or tub variety; the taste isn’t bad at all, but it gets a little bit pricey and I don’t always have enough in the house. So what’s a baker to do? Coconut oil! I’ve substituted coconut oil for butter in more recipes than I can count, and I don’t think any have been any worse for it. Depending on the amount the recipe calls for and the potency of the other flavors, you will get a mild to moderate coconut taste to the finished product. Personally, I don’t mind.

2. Cooking

Most often, I cook with olive oil. My mom’s family is Italian, it’s just what you do. But every now and then when I’m looking for another flavor and wishing I could drop a lump of butter in the frying pan, I reach for the coconut oil instead. It melts down quickly and gives a rich flavor, almost reminiscent of butter. And who can argue with that?

3. Moisturizer

I bake with it, I cook with it…I rub it on my face. Yes, you read that right. Coconut oil is an amazing moisturizer. Some people have different results depending on the type of skin they have, but I find that it absorbs quickly and doesn’t leave a greasy feeling. It helps moisturize dry skin, and helps treat problem skin – coconut oil has antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties. So while putting oil on a zit may seem counter intuitive, it can actually help. Coconut oil also makes a mean base for a sugar scrub (coconut oil + sugar = killer scrub).

4. Diaper Rash

We’re getting really crazy around here, aren’t we? I keep a separate little container of coconut oil and cotton swabs on the changing table. Back when Little Miss first started eating solids, the acidic fruits she liked were wreaking havoc on her poor sensitive skin. The A&D ointment locked the moisture against the skin and did nothing for the irritation. I tried Boudreaux’s Butt Paste hoping for better results and was disappointed. So why not? I tried coconut oil and miracle of miracles, sweet girl’s baboon butt cleared up. Since then that’s all we’ve used. From minor irritation to tough rashes, coconut oil does the trick.

5. Oil Pulling

Oil pulling made the rounds on social media about a year ago. It’s the Ayurvedic practice of swishing oil around your mouth for about 20 minutes, supposed to improve not only dental health, but overall health. I do it now and then with coconut oil. Take up to a tablespoon of oil and swish it around and around (try not to swallow it) and then spit it into the garbage can. Do I think it’s affecting my overall health? Not really, but then again I don’t do it often. Do I think it affects my dental health? Maybe! My teeth do feel awfully clean after. But moreso, I have TMJ which means I clench my jaw when I’m angry, stressed, or sometimes, just not paying attention, and oil pulling helps me soften up my cheeks and stretch out my jaw muscles.

Are you a fan of coconut oil? What are your favorite uses?

Baking Recipe

The Famous Banana Bread

September 16, 2015
Gluten free dairy free banana bread recipe. Old Fashioned Modern Living,

My husband likes to buy bananas for smoothies. Sometimes they get used for their intended purpose, but often they’re forgotten for days and rediscovered at peak ripeness, brown skinned and tip-toeing into overripe territory. To be honest, I think he does it on purpose. I think he calculates how many bananas he’ll use, and how many will slip his mind so that I have no choice but to make banana bread.

I used to joke around about my “famous banana bread” – sure, it’s a favorite around here, but there’s only two of us (okay, three, I do let the toddler have a bite). Then I made it for Little Miss’ first birthday party and it was a hit. An open house style party to accommodate a large number of people and their differing schedules, I set the desserts out on the kitchen table as decoration throughout the day. By the time dinner rolled around, the cupcakes were untouched, the cake was intact, the cookies were missing a few, and the banana bread was nearly gone. Gluten free, dairy free, and nearly gone already. The reviews were surprisingly enthusiastic, and I was asked by no fewer than 5 people to type up the recipe and email it to them. I’d say that’s pretty successful.

About a month later, I made the banana bread for company, a friend who had recently left his job as a barista at Starbucks and his girlfriend who still works there. My husband jokingly told them that this recipe was based on the Starbucks banana bread and asked them how it stacked up. “Better”, they agreed, “this is better than the Starbucks banana bread.”

I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. That’s pretty high praise!

So here are the details. The original recipe was from A Basic Foodie, a blog that no longer seems to exist – I’m glad I printed it when I did! It was titled “Starbucks Banana Walnut Bread”, and right off the bat I eliminated the walnuts because my husband is not a fan. Over time I started making small tweaks and adjusting the recipe to make it suit my needs.

I have made this recipe dairy free in two different ways with good results, as well and gluten free AND dairy free. Yes, you heard me right – gluten free banana bread that is dairy free also, and is still moist and rich and delicious, and doesn’t taste at all “off”. The texture created by the bananas and the mix of gluten free flour and almond meal saves it from feeling gummy or gritty.

It doesn’t take that long to prepare. It’s easy to make. It’s wonderful – my absolute go to dessert recipe. I even made french toast out of the leftover banana bread recently! Talk about decadent.

Without further ado, here is the recipe. See my notes for tweaks at the bottom.

Gluten free, dairy free banana bread recipe

Gluten free dairy free banana bread recipe. Old Fashioned Modern Living.

Just mix it up to make the streusel layer!

Ingredients:

  • 3 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup gluten free all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup almond meal
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons cashew milk (or other non-dairy milk)

Streusel layer:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease one loaf pan.
  2. Mix sugar, oil, egg, vanilla, milk and bananas in a mixing bowl. Combine completely.
  3. Add in flour, baking soda and salt.
  4. Pour a thin layer into the pan, then mix together and sprinkle the streusel so you have a nice layer over the batter. Cover with the rest of the batter and bake for 60-75 minutes, checking at 60 minutes. The loaf will turn golden brown and a toothpick in the center will come out clean when it’s ready.

To make it “normal, with gluten”: instead of the gluten free flour and almond meal, use 2 cups of regular unbleached all purpose flour. If dairy isn’t an issue for you and your family either (lucky you!), feel free to use 2 teaspoons of regular milk or buttermilk.

To avoid nuts: I recently made the gluten version to bring to a meeting, but remembered that a friend was allergic to nuts – no cashew milk allowed! I substituted 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce for the cashew milk and found the batter slightly thicker than usual, but the bread still baked up as lovely as ever. I think it browned slightly less, but the taste and texture were still spot on.

What do you do when you need dairy free and nut free, and you’re out of applesauce? I just used water instead of milk/cashew milk, the 2 teaspoons the recipe called for, plus a little extra splash to thin out the batter a little. Guess what, it worked!

 

Look at that streusel layer!

So you can go gluten or gluten free, and non-dairy with a milk alternative or applesauce. You could add walnuts. Or go crazy and drop in a handful of chocolate chips. This recipe makes such a beautiful, popular banana bread, and it’s so versatile!

Now go bake! Hope you enjoy my very favorite, famous banana bread recipe.