Thursday, November 29, 2012

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins

I really love making muffins and trying new recipes. I tend to make at least one batch a week and freeze them for Tom's breakfasts during the week. That kind of makes me sound like a stepford wife, but I enjoy baking too much to consider that title.

This recipe often makes a frequent appearance our kitchen during the autumn months. The recipe comes from the cook book Best Muffins and Quick Bread from Pillsbury. Each standard size muffin has only 190 calories. These muffins are kid friendly as well, just make sure to chop the apples very small if young children will be snacking on them. 

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins
Makes 12 regular size or 6 large 

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chopped peeled apples
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup skim milk
1/4 cup melted butter or margarine
1 egg slightly beaten

1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tbsp finely chopped nuts
1/4 tsp cinnamon 

**The picture on this post is shown with a topping of coarse sugar and cinnamon instead of topping above

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line muffin tin with paper liners. 

2. In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup all purpose flour and apples; stir until apples are coated

3. In a large bowl, combine remaining 1 cup of flour, whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon; mix well. Add apples and all remaining muffin ingredients. Stir until dry ingredients are moistened. Divide batter evenly into prepared muffin cups. 

4. In a small bowl, combine all topping ingredients; sprinkle about 2 tsp over each muffin cup. 

5. Bake are 400 for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean (larger muffins will take longer to cook) Remove from oven, cool on wire rack and serve warm. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Chocolate Spice Cookies (Basler Brunsli)

"Once in a lifetime one should be allowed to have as much sweetness as one can possibly want to hold" -Judith Olney

This is the first recipe I am going to share from this past Thanksgiving. These cookies taste of the holiday season. They are chewy and chocolaty with a hint of cinnamon and clove.

I stumbled upon this recipe in one of my many cookbooks. This recipe comes from Great Cookies by Carol Walter. The title of the book speaks for itself. Every cookie I have made from this book are exactly that...GREAT cookies. The official name for these cookies are Basler Brunsli, a specialty of northern Switzerland (aka. Swiss Brownies)

I decided to make these because the recipe is naturally gluten free. It calls for almond flour (which is available in most grocery stores). I would definitely suggest making these cookies for any holiday party, especially if you love the flavors of autumn as much as I do.
***These cookies can also be made without the spices.
***Kirschwasser is a cherry brandy and is found in any liquor store

Chocolate Spice Cookies
Makes 4 dozen
Photo of chocolate spice cookies (maple leaf shape) and Almond Macaroons


8 oz fine-quality bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate (Ghiradelli or Lindt), Coarsly chopped
6 Tbsp strained Dutch Process Cocoa Powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
2 large egg whites
3/4 cup super fine sugar
3 tbsp Kitschwasser
3/4 pound almond flour (3 cups lightly packed and leveled)
1/4 sugar-for rolling
2 tbsp coarse ground sugar or sparkling sugar for garnish

1. In a bowl of a food processor fitted with steel blade, combine chopped chocolate, cocoa powder and spices. Process for 45-60 seconds, until chocolate is very finely ground, stopping occasionally to scrape bottom and edges. Remove chocolate mixture and set aside.

2. In a large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with whip attachment, beat egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form. Increase speed to medium-high and add sugar one tablespoon at a time, taking about 2 minutes to form meringue. Transfer meringue to a large bowl.

3. Using a large rubber spatula or wooden spoon, fold in the Kirschwasser, then fold in chocolate mixtures and finally fold in almond flour.

4. Shape dough into 2 rectangles, wrap each with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Shaping Dough:

5. Dab the corners of cookie sheets with butter and line with parchment paper.

6. Lightly coat a flat surface with 2 tbsp granulated sugar. Working with one rectangle at a time, place on surface and turn 2-3 times to coat with sugar. Roll out dough to 3/8 inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutter, no larger than 2 inches and place then on a piece of wax paper. Sprinkle with sparkling sugar.

7. Place cookies on the pans and let air dry for 1 hour before baking.

Bake the cookies:

8. Position the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds. Heat oven to 250 degrees F. Bake cookies 9-10 minutes, or until just set on top. To ensure even browning, toward the end of the cook time rotate pans top to bottom and front to back. DO NOT OVER BAKE. The cookies will firm as they cool. Let rest on the pan for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to cooking racks.

To store cookies: Store in air tight container layered between wax paper for up to 3 weeks. These cookies may be frozen.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Greek Yogurt Parfait

I am planning on sharing a bunch of recipes I made over the Thanksgiving holiday, such as sausage and herb stuffing, perfect pound cake, chocolate spice cookies, and almond macaroons. In the meantime, enjoy this recipe for an extremely healthy breakfast or lunch, perfect for detoxing after a long weekend of indulgence.

I eat a variation of this for lunch all the time. It may not look like a satisfying meal, but between the 18 grams of protein in the greek yogurt plus the protein in the quinoa or flax cereal and the fruit, it will definitely fill you up. This time of year I LOVE to buy pomegranates and add the seeds to my yogurt. It is one of my absolute favorite things to eat.

I came across these two products in the gluten free isle. These are healthy choices even if you don't have Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance. Pop Quin is 100%  puffed quinoa. It has a nutty flavor and is full of protein. Enjoy Life, Perky's Crunchy Flax cereal tastes more like standard plain cereal, it contains no preservatives and is vitamin fortified.

Greek Yogurt Parfait
1 Serving

6oz plain greek yogurt
2 tsp agave nectar, maple syrup or honey (add more to taste)
Fruit of choice (oranges, berries, pomegranate seeds etc...)
1/3- 1/2 cup popquin or crunchy flax cereal
Chopped Nuts-optional

Mix yogurt and sweetener of choice together. Layer the ingredients starting with yogurt, cereal, nuts then fruit. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Recipes

Here are some previous blog posts of recipes that would be great for this coming Thanksgiving. I have made each of these recipes many times and they always come out great. I hope you have a great holiday!

Slow cooker Artichoke Dip: This recipe is great for a crowd because it involves very little work on your part and it doesn't take up oven or stove top space.

Side Dishes:
Honey Roasted Root Vegetables: The ingredients in the side dish are all in season this time of year.
Baked Onions with Gruyere Cheese: This is a favorite among all my family and friends. If you have a lot going on in your oven,  I would suggest baking this early in the day (it takes 2 hours) and adding the cheese and reheating before dinner.

Cranberry Upside Down Cake: If you love the combination of sweet and tart this is a perfect dessert for you.
Rum Raisin Rice Pudding: An amazing take on rice pudding. It's perfect for a crowd because you can make this the day ahead of time. The warm apple compote makes this a very "Thanksgiving" dessert.

Also, take a look at these different ideas on dessert platters and presentation:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Artichoke Crostini

A great appetizer to make for the holidays. Each component can be made ahead of time and assembled right before serving. This recipe comes from a new cookbook I recently purchased Rocco Dispirito Now Eat This Italian. The recipes are classic Italian dishes "lightened" up for a healthier alternative. If you are on a gluten free diet this cookbook has many GF recipes, including pasta dishes that work better with GF pasta.

A "fun" fact (written in the book): In 16th century, eating an artichoke was reserved only for men. Women were denied the pleasure because artichokes were considered an aphrodisiac and were thought to enhance sexual power....we sure have come a long way, so ladies eat as many artichokes as you want.

Using artichokes packed in water versus oil will save you around 120 calories and 10 grams of fat. Making two of these crostini (good size) 111 calories.

Artichoke Crostini
Makes 10-15 slices depending on size of bread

1 (10oz) jar whole baby artichokes, packed in water, drained
2 tbsp minced celery, leaves removed, chopped and set aside
4 tbsp jarred green peperoncini. sliced thin
4 tbsp roughly chopped fresh parsley
1/2 ounce parmesan cheese, grated
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ground pepper
8-10 slices from a baguette

Preheat broiler

Cut artichokes into 1/8 and place in medium bowl with celrey, peperoncini, parley, parmesan cheese and olive oil. Toss together and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place baguette slices on a baking sheet and toast under broiler until crisp and lightly brown on both sides; about 1 minute per side.

Place crostini on platter and top each with equal amounts of salad mixture. Scatter celery leaves on top .

Friday, November 16, 2012

Molten Chocolate Souffle Cakes

This recipe is quick and easy and makes a perfect dessert any night of the week. It tastes somewhere in between a molten chocolate cake and a warm brownie that is slightly under cooked. What makes this recipe so great is that you can prepare the cakes ahead of time, refrigerate, and bake them right before you are ready to serve. I have served this with both whipped cream and ice cream, either one is delicious. An added bonus for me, its naturally gluten free!

The unbaked cakes can be refrigerated in ramekins, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 2 weeks. If frozen, thaw in refrigerator. The cold cakes may take slightly longer to bake 10-15 minutes. 

Molten Chocolate Souffle Cakes (Recipe adapted from Sweet and Skinny cookbook)
Serves 6-8

Non stick spray
1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons semi sweet chocolate chips
2 tbsp (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 tbsp unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 egg, lightly beaten or 2 tbsp egg substitute
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
3 egg whites, from large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 tsp cream of tarter
1/3 cup sugar
Whipped cream or ice cream-optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and position rack in center of the oven. Coat 6-8 4 ounce ramekins with non stick spray and space evenly on a baking sheet.

Combine the chocolate chips, butter and 2 tbsp water in a double boiler or microwavable bowl. Heat until you can stir the mixture smooth. Let cool for a few minutes then whisk in cocoa powder, egg, vanilla and salt. Set aside in warm spot.

Using a stand mixer with whisk attachment beat the egg whites on high until they are foamy. Add in the cream of tarter and with motor still running gradually add in sugar a few teaspoons at a time. Continue to beat until soft peaks form (You can also use a hand help mixer for this step)

Fold the chocolate mixture into the white just until there is no more visible white streaks.

Spoon mixture into prepared ramekins and bake 6-8 minutes, until the tops a slightly puffed, the edges are set and the center jiggles when you gently shake. (I found that the cake took a little longer in the oven, just make sure to check them after 8 minutes and continue to cook until they are set) 

The unbaked cakes can be refrigerated in ramekins, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 2 weeks. If frozen, thaw in refrigerator. The cold cakes may take slightly longer to bake 10-15 minutes.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Healthy Snacking for children and recipe for Whole Wheat Carrot Raisin Muffins

Here are some healthy snack ideas for children ages 15 months to 3 years. I have also included a healthy whole wheat carrot/raisin muffin recipe below. Layla loves to eat 1-2 of these mini muffins as a nutritious afternoon snack. I made a large batch and wrapped individual muffins with plastic wrap and placed them in the freezer. I take 1-2 muffins out of the freezer and reheat in the microwave for 15 seconds. These also make a great healthy breakfast for adults. Make a combination of mini muffins for baby and regular sized for yourself.

For calcium:
- Half a mini bagel with tomato sauce and cheese; toasted under broiler
-Single serving of cottage cheese or yogurt topped with fresh fruit, such as blueberries or peaches
(serving size 1/4-1/2 cup)
-Small bowl of whole grain cereal with chopped raisins and milk
-Small bowl of ricotta cheese (1/4 cup to 1/2 cup) with cinnamon and sugar or fruit puree
-Applesauce mixed with cottage cheese

For Protein:
-Thin slices of ham or turkey breast tucked into whole grain pita bread
-Whole wheat crackers with peanut, almond, or soy nut butter (for older children)
-Half a warm wheat tortilla, spread with spoonful of mashed beans, sprinkled with shredded cheese, rolled up
-Hard boiled eggs (sprinkle with mild curry powder or paprika)

For Produce:
-Sliced apples or ripe pears with sliced cheddar cheese
-Ripe banana dipped in strawberry yogurt
-Toasted slices or zucchini or banana bread with cream cheese
-Roasted red and yellow peppers with hummus
-Veggies such as cooked carrot sticks, broccoli with black bean or spinach dips

**Snack ideas from The baby and toddler cookbook

Whole Wheat Carrot Raisin Muffins (adapted from Martha Stewart Living)
Makes 36 mini muffins or 12 regular muffins


Nonstick cooking spray
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup raisins
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large egg
1/3 cup skim milk
3-4 medium carrots, shredded
1 medium ripe banana, mashed

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a muffin pan with cooking spray or line with muffin liners.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt until there are no lumps. Stir in oats and raisins. Add oil, egg, milk, carrots, and banana and stir until blended.

3.Fill each muffin cup 2/3 way full with batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean, check mini muffins between 10-15 minutes (depending on oven) and 23 to 25 minutes for regular sized muffins. Serve muffins warm or at room temperature. Freeze extras.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Butternut Squash Lasanga with Pork Ragu

Over the summer I watched an episode of Anne Burrell’s show on the food network, she happened to be cooking a gluten free meal. I knew immediately that I wanted to try the butternut squash lasagna recipe, it looked amazing. At the time squash wasn’t in season so I saved the recipe and waited for a better time to try it.

After hurricane Sandy hit us and left us without power for a week, I was really looking forward to cooking and baking as soon as we got our power back. This recipe was perfect for my first night back in the kitchen for two reasons: my mother-in-law offered me fresh picked butternut squash from their garden and it served enough people to allow me to invite my extended family over for a meal to thank them for all the hot showers and dinners over the past week. (They happened to have hot water and a gas stove top, but no power)

I was so happy with how this recipe came out; I wouldn’t change a single thing about it. I would categorize this recipe under intermediate, unless you have a child under 2 years old, then I was put this under the extremely difficult category. At the very least make this recipe during nap time. Layla tore apart the kitchen as I cooked and when I turned around all my tea bags were opened. I was left with a baby covered in blueberry tea leaves!

My suggestion would be to make the pork ragu (which is amazing on its own) ahead of time or the day before. Then you can finish the other components of the lasagna and assemble in less time. You can prepare the entire recipe the day of but it is just a little time consuming…BUT WELL WORTH IT!! I am definitely going to make this again and again and I would feel very confident serving this dish to any crowd of people that make their way into my dining room.

Please don’t think this recipe is for gluten free eating only. It will impress anyone who loves lasagna. I really hope you try this one out. Enjoy!!!!!

Butternut Squash Lasanga with Pork Ragu (Recipe from Anne Burrell-
Serves 8-10
Butternut Squash Lasanga with Pork Ragu


Pork Ragu:
4 cloves garlic, smashed
3 ribs celery, cut into 1/2-inch lengths
1 large Spanish onion, cut into 1-inch dice
1/2 fennel bulb, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Pinch crushed red pepper
2 pounds ground pork
1 cup tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups pureed canned tomatoes
4 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1 fresh thyme bundle

3 butternut squash, peeled, quartered lengthwise, seeded and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices, preferably on a mandoline
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, smashed
Pinch crushed red pepper
2 pounds assorted wild mushrooms, or any kind you like, stemmed and sliced
2 pounds washed baby spinach (I used a mixture of baby spinach and frozen)
1 1/2 pounds ricotta cheese
1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and finely chopped
2 cups grated Parmesan

For the pork ragu:
1. Place the garlic, celery, onions and fennel in a food processor and puree to a coarse paste.

2. Coat a large, wide pot with olive oil and toss in the pureed veggies. Bring the pan to a medium-high heat and season generously with salt and a pinch of crushed red pepper. Cook the veggies until they start to get brown and form a crust on the bottom of the pan; (be patient...this will take a little time.) Scrape the crud off the bottom of the pan and let it re-form. Stay with it and DO NOT let it burn.

3.Add the ground pork, sprinkle with salt and repeat this process. This takes patience...accept it and move on. THIS is where BIG flavors are formed.

4. When the meat is nice and brown, add in the tomato paste, stir to combine and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the white wine and let it cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

5. Toss in the pureed tomatoes, bay, cinnamon stick, thyme and 2 cups water. Taste and season with salt if needed. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, add more water and reduce again. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed. Turn off the heat and use immediately or store for future use.

For the lasagna: 

1.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Working in batches, toss the butternut squash slices with olive oil and salt. Lay the squash slices on sheet trays and bake until the squash is tender but still holds its shape, about 20 minutes. Repeat until all the squash is roasted.

2.Coat a large saute pan with olive oil, toss in 2 of the garlic cloves and a pinch of crushed red pepper and bring the pan to a medium-high heat. When the garlic is golden and very aromatic, remove it and toss it in the "thank you for coming bowl". Add half of the mushrooms to the pan, season with salt and cook until they are soft and wilted. Remove from the pan and reserve. Repeat this whole process--starting with the oil and garlic--with the remaining mushrooms, followed by the spinach in 2 batches. Drain and cool the cooked spinach in a colander or mesh strainer.

3. In a large bowl combine the ricotta and parsley.

4. To assemble: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place a ladleful of the pork ragu in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and spread it around to LIGHTLY cover the bottom of the dish.

5. Arrange an even layer of the roasted squash on top of the ragu; be sure the squash completely covers the surface of the baking dish--this acts as the "pasta". Cover the squash layer generously with more ragu. Spoon 1-tablespoon scoops of the ricotta mixture over the ragu. Arrange an even layer of spinach and mushrooms over the ricotta. Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan. Lay another layer of squash over the Parmesan and repeat the process until the baking dish is full, ending with a top layer of squash topped with a little ragu and Parmesan.

6. Cover the baking dish with foil, place on a sheet tray and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 10 minutes more. Remove from the oven and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Muffins (Pumpkin Nutella Muffins)

I call these Hurricane Sandy muffins because I made a big batch in preparation for the storm. Muffins are a great breakfast/snack that don't need to be refrigerated or frozen. I stumbled upon this recipe on Pintrest and put it on my "Recipes I want to Try" list. A major reason I wanted to try this recipe is to use up the jar of Nutella in my pantry that is slowly expanding my waistline. Unfortunately, for my skinny jeans there is still 1/3 of the jar left. Enjoy, this recipe is a keeper.

Pumpkin Nutella Muffins (Recipe from
Makes 12 muffins


1 cup pumpkin puree (canned, not pie filling)
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1/3 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
1-3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/3 cup Nutella

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 12-count standard or 6 count large muffin pan with baking cups.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, sugar, eggs, oil, water, and vanilla until well-combined.

3.In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice.

4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing until smooth. Pour batter into the baking cups, filling about 2/3-3/4 full.

5. Put the Nutella into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 20-30 seconds or until it thins out just enough to swirl.

6. Using a teaspoon, drop a spoonful or two of Nutella onto the top of each muffin and swirl with a knife.

7. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until set. You can eat these at room temperature but they are best served warm. Reheat in microwave for 10- 20 seconds.