An Apology… Finally

To-be-continued

It isn’t news to anyone that I’ve been MIA for a while. So where have I been? Galavanting around the world with nothing more than a pocketknife and a scrunchie in my bindle? No. Hiding under a rock waiting for the apocalypse and just now recovering from than fact that nothing happened on 12/21/12? No. Taken hostage by domesticated North American orangutans? Thankfully no, though that one sounds like a pretty good story.

The truth is, I’ve been around. Just a little AWOL. And while I’m not back here to make excuses, I do have a reason. I can’t tell you all of the details yet (though truth be told, if you’re reading this chances are you know me and are already aware of this new development). It’s just that it’s not ready to go totally public yet. It’s got a website, a Facebook, and even a Twitter of its own in the works, and once they’re ready you’ll be the first to know.

And why has this new development kept me away? Well, the truth is that like my mashup recipes, this new project has required a lot of recipe testing. Significantly more than any mashup ever has in fact. For that reason, I’ve had to put Munchie Mashups on the back burner. I simply don’t have the time, the energy, or the ingredient money to pursue both simultaneously. The good news is that the existing mashups have been getting a lot of love in my absence, and for that I am very grateful. Please continue to enjoy them, I promise they may just pleasantly surprise you.

So this isn’t a goodbye, it’s just an “I appreciate your patience and understanding” about my fairly inexcusable absence. I’ll be back… with a very exciting update in tow.

So stay tuned. Many mashups have yet to be munched.

Salted Black Caramel Chocolate Fudge

It’s deserving that this post comes a bit later than I’d have hoped because the recipe itself took me three goes. That’s the first time I’ve tried a mashup recipe that many times! The end result turned out pretty cool, but it was a tough road getting there as you can probably imagine. (Also, to be fair, I had a pretty lazy labor day weekend). But anyway:

Black olives and frosting?! Really?! Yes. Really. The suggestion came to me from my friends Sue and Taylor a few months ago when Sue, in search of something to satisfy her snack attack, was standing in the fridge alternating between fingerfuls of canned frosting and black olives, which also go quite well with fingers. One after the other? Sure. Together? I dunno about that, man. But, the ladies presented me with the challenge and the challenge I took. And hey, these little salty sweet cubes look pretty good don’t they?

So how’d I get from black olives and frosting to that? Let me tell you it wasn’t all that easy. The combination just sounds vile so I put it off for a long time. But then, when I just couldn’t avoid it anymore, I started to think about what each has to offer. I determined that frosting would probably be a mess if I tried to incorporate it into something savory, so I wanted to go sweet. When thinking about black olives, I really couldn’t think of anything but their intense saltiness. I realized, that I could potentially use that saltiness to my advantage in a sweet dish. I love the combination of salty and sweet and so my mind went right to salted caramel.

I knew I would make a caramel using some element of the olives, but I still didn’t know what I’d do with the frosting. I scoured the internet for ideas for how to use pre-made canned frosting and landed on fudge. Chocolate (or other similar) chips and frosting. I could make that work. So I set out to make a salted caramel fudge.

Now, originally what was suggested was vanilla frosting, I’m fairly certain. At least that’s what Sue had been snacking on when the idea was suggested to me. So I wanted to make my fudge as close to caramel flavored as I could, using vanilla frosting and butterscotch chips. But two major problems occurred in the first two batches I made.

1) The caramel in the first batch was goopy and wouldn’t set and when I tried to harden it it turned into a nasty gloppy mess. In the second batch, the caramel was too hard and got really stuck in ones teeth. It was just geniunely a major Goldilocks sitation.

and

2) The Vanilla-Butterscotch fudge was sweet. NASTY sweet. Like makes your teeth feel fuzzy sweet. It also looked fairly horrendous:

3 words: UN. APPEAL. ING. (That’s three, right?) Icky. So I had to fix it, right?

To solve the caramel hardness issue, I recommend one of two things (or, actually both would be fine). 1) Have a candy thermometer. I bought a crappy meat thermometer since the grocery store didn’t have a candy thermometer and my nice candy thermometer is somewhere in San Francisco and I am not in San Francisco, but this did not yield good results. The thermometer didn’t even go up to the necessary 250F and it was just pretty faulty in general. Bad news. 2) The alternative is to do the water test. drop a little piece of the caramel into a bowl of cold water to test to consistency once the caramel cools. I did this and it worked pretty well. My 3rd and final batch of caramel was a little too loose, but only very slightly, so overall this was pretty successful.

Now the sweetness issue. The problem was, both the vanilla frosting and the butterscotch chips were very sweet. I decided that I’d need to change my plan of attack. It had never been explicitly determined that the frosting of choice must be vanilla, so I switched to chocolate so that my fudge could employ the benefits of bittersweet and unsweetened chocolate to cut the sweetness of both the caramel and the frosting. My successful batch of chocolate caramel, as opposed to caramel caramel fudge, looked a lot better too:

The third issue: My friend Nick determined that the 2nd batch of caramel just didn’t taste olivey enough at all. He even deemed it cheating. I’m not cool with that, so I decided I needed to bump up the olive flavor. Originally, I just used the liquid from the olives as the water component of the caramel, but for my third batch, I actually blended the cream with olives, giving the caramel black flecks, almost like vanilla seeds. The flavor was also much more olivey to me. You’ll see. The recipe has quite a bit of olive in it.

Don’t worry though! Regardless of the fact that the stuff is totally olivey to me, most people who tried the fudge had no idea. I hope this post doesn’t burst their bubbles too much, but maybe that’s a good thing. The sweet treat successfully incorporated the sweetness of the frosting and the saltiness of the olives into a dessert that people actually enjoyed eating (shout out to Christina and Amy who even asked for the recipe… still want it?).

I suggest giving it a try. The ingredients aren’t terribly extensive and the results have a complexity that really plays around with the traditional salted caramel that we’ve all grown to love (and also see literally everywhere all the time.)

Caramel recipe adapted from Serious Eats.

Salted Black Caramel Chocolate Fudge
Author: 
Serves: 48
 

Ingredients
Salty Black Caramel
  • 1 can pitted black olives
  • ¾ cup reserved liquid from the black olive can
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 Tbsp unsalted butter, plus a bit extra for the pan
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp coarse sea salt
  • 1½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup
Chocolate Fudge
  • 6 oz bittersweet chocolate
  • 6 oz unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • 1 can frosting (I used chocolate fudge flavor)
  • Coarse sea salt for sprinkling

Instructions
  1. Line the bottom of a baking pan (about 9″ by 13″) with parchment paper. Butter the paper and sides of the pan.
  2. For the caramel, start by blending together the cream and the drained black olives. I used a whole can, but feel free to use less. Strain the cream mixture into a medium saucepan.
  3. In a small saucepan over medium heat, reduce the olive liquid to yield ¼ cup. Place that liquid in a large saucepan.
  4. To the cream mixture, add the butter, vanilla, and salt and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  5. In the large saucepan, add the sugar and the corn syrup to the reduced olive liquid, mixing with your fingers to make sure the sugar is saturated. Take care not to get sugar crystals on the side of the pan. Bring to a boil without stirring. Once the mixture begins to darken around the edges, start to swish the pot around until the caramel takes on a deep amber color and begins to become fragrant.
  6. Take the pan off the heat and carefully add the cream mixture to the caramelized sugar mixture. Return the pan to low heat stirring frequently until a candy thermometer registers 250F, about 10 to 15 minutes. Alternatively, if you have no candy thermometer. Test the caramel’s hardness by dropping a bit into a bowl of cold water. The texture should feel “chewy” once in the cool water, not hard or dissolved. Pour the caramel into the prepared baking pan to cool.
  7. For the fudge, microwave the bittersweet and unsweetened chocolates with the milk in a large microwave safe bowl. Do this in about 30 second intervals, stirring until the mixture becomes smooth. Add in the frosting, stirring well to combine. Pour the fudge over the caramel.
  8. Allow to cool for at least 2 hours and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Cut into 48 pieces and store in the fridge to insure firmness.

Notes
1 piece is 4 Weight Watchers PointsPlus

Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 piece Calories: 138.2 Fat: 8.1 Saturated fat: 4.3 Unsaturated fat: 3.8 Carbohydrates: 17.5 Sugar: 14.9 Fiber: 1.1 Protein: 0.8 Cholesterol: 10 mg

 

When I brought the caramel to work, I actually stored it in the fridge since my caramel didn’t sit too well at room temperature. (Again, candy thermometers are fairly nifty). This isn’t too much of an issue though, I mean, there’s a reason a lot of people prefer candy bars from the freezer, right?

Anyway, there you have it! One of the more disgusting suggested combinations turned into something pretty darn cool. That is… unless you hate olives as much as Ben does.

Lox Bagel Mac and Cheese

Ladies and gentlemen, let me present to you, a moment in Mashup history. Drum roll please!… Okay, yes, MM is only like 8 months old, so basically everything could be considered a first at this stage… but that’s beside the point. This here recipe marks the first mashup that’s been suggested twice by two completely separate people!

What does that mean? Well, it means that Emily (sister of Ariel, the infamous mind behind both rutabagas and bagels and beets and peanuts) wrote in, “Fish & dairy (beyond tuna melt). Everyone says no. Can you make them say yes?” and then a few months later, Claire (my mom) wrote in, “seafood (or fish) and cheese….prove to all those Chopped judges that it can work!” It’s a common concern: are fish and dairy just not meant to be? Many think the combination is just too much of a turn off. And since not one, but two people suggested the combo, I figured I’d better set out to try and make it work.

I started off thinking of common dishes that already incorporate both some time of seafood and some form of dairy, since to be honest the suggestion is pretty open ended. As Emily suggested, there the tuna melt, but I personally can’t even stand to be in the same room as canned tunafish. Then there’s clam chowder (or at least the New England variety) that contains a fairly substantial dash of cream along with an abundance of shell fish. I also remembered that Giggy (my step-grandma) had served crab dip at some function or other, which was sort of similar to artichoke dip, but of course with crab instead of spinach and artichoke. Similarly, Heston Blumenthal has a crab lasagna recipe if I remember correctly.

But then the right answer came to me: bagels with cream cheese and lox (that’s smoked salmon, in case you were confused). Of course! As any good Jewish girl knows, cream cheese and lox are the epitome of seafood and dairy harmony. But, I couldn’t very well write a recipe claiming to have invented the combination. Instead, I decided to set out and revamp it, using even more dairy to prove that fish and dairy can indeed go together even in one of the most dairylicious dishes I know: macaroni and cheese.

I decided that the best way to feature both the dairy and the fish would be to infuse the flavors of a bagel with lox into the mac and cheese. I knew that I’d need to incorporate cream cheese into the cheese sauce, but I also figured it might be good to throw an arsenal of bagel fixings into the mix as well. I decided to add red onion, capers, dill, and chives into the mix to provide a bit of tartness to offset the salty smokiness of the fish (which I believe is also their purpose when paired on a bagel). To get the bagel itself in play, I decided to replace mac and cheese’s usual bread crumb topping with crushed bagel chips. Sounds pretty lox bagely to me! I also decided to go with shell noodles (get it? Seafood). I’m real cheeky.

Of course, I have to address the issue that none of us want to think about when we’re talking about mac and cheese: how badly is this going to counteract my exercise regimen and relatively healthy eating habits? Well, I’m not going to lie to you. Mac and cheese ain’t exactly health food, considering that it inherently incorporates simple carbohydrates (pasta) with saturated fat (butter, milk, and cheese). There isn’t much of a way around that, but there are a few things you can do to lighten it up (unless you want to be truly brave and attempt to swap out some of the cheese for some sort of veggie like squash, which I haven’t had a ton of success with).

Of course, since I wanted to put cream cheese in my cheese sauce I went with neufchatel (which, as I mentioned last post is just cream cheese that contains 1/3-1/2 as much fat and fewer calories than regular cream cheese but tastes pretty much exactly the same). This increased the bagelyness (that’s a word, right?) of the dish and also allowed me to add a lot less cheddar, which kept the fat content down quite a bit. If you want, you could also use a whole wheat pasta and/or flour to up the fiber content of the dish. Most importantly, you’ve just got to watch out for portion control and accouterments. Serve it with a nice bright lightly dressed veggie heavy salad or some sauteed zucchini, broccoli, or leafy greens on the side. But as I’ve said, and I’ll say it again, some things are just worth the indulgence and I believe this is one of them.

Recipe adapted from Martha, which I got from Deb.

Lox Bagel Mac and Cheese
Author: 
Serves: 8
 

Ingredients
  • 2¾ cup milk
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, plus a bit more for the pan
  • ¼ cup flour (regular or whole wheat all purpose)
  • 1 tsp salt, plus more for water
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
  • ¼ tsp dry mustard powder
  • ¼ tsp smoked paprika or cayenne (or both)
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 8 oz neufchatel cheese (reduced fat cream cheese)
  • 1½ cups cheddar or gruyere cheese (I used a blend), grated
  • ½ lb shell pasta
  • 3 Tbsp capers, drained
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
  • 10 oz smoked salmon (lox), chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 1-2 cups bagel chips, crushed into small pieces, or bagel, diced and sauteed with a bit of oil or butter

Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375F and butter your casserole dish (for reference, mine is 14″ by 8.5″, so a 13″ by 9″ would be great). Set aside.
  2. Warm the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. In a high-sided skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. When it begins to bubble, add the flour and whisk for about a minute.
  3. While continuing to whisk, slowly pour in the hot milk a little at a time. Continue cooking, still whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick, which should take just a few minutes.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the salt, pepper, and spices. Add the neufchatel and ¾ cup of the shredded cheese. Stir until everything is melted and well combined. Set the cheese sauce aside.
  5. Cover a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Add the shells and cook, only about 2-3 minutes or until the outside is cooked but the middle is still crunchy. Transfer the pasta to a colander and rinse under cold water.
  6. Stir the pasta, capers, onion, and half of the dill and chives into the cheese sauce. Pour half of the pasta into the casserole and top with half of the lox, followed by the rest of the pasta and then the rest of the lox. Sprinkle on the remaining shredded cheese followed by the bagel chips (or prepared bagel pieces).
  7. Bake until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Transfer the baking dish to a wire rack and allow to cool for about 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with the remaining dill and chives and enjoy!

Notes
11 Weight Watchers PointsPlus

Nutrition Information
Calories: 388.5 Fat: 16.4 Saturated fat: 9.2 Unsaturated fat: 7.2 Carbohydrates: 37.5 Sugar: 5 Fiber: 2.4 Protein: 23.2 Cholesterol: 52.5 mg

 

I served this to Ben for brunch on Saturday morning (well, it’s lox and bagels… right?) and we both found it awesome, but super filling. We used it as fuel to look at overpriced antiques in Santa Monica, and it kept us full for a long time. Good thing I basically exclusively ate grapes for the rest of the day (hey, when I’ve got a healthy craving, I go for it!). Our friend Nick came over that evening and tried some leftovers and deemed it a success. Not too shabby!

What do you think? Think you could ever give fish and dairy a try? In this case, I highly recommend it.

P.S. Look at that! I posted 2 weeks in a row! I’m amazing! (I recognize that it’s not that incredible, but it’s been a struggle, so I’m going to be proud!)

Brown Sugar Cornbread Sandwich Cookies with Jalapeño Cream Cheese Frosting

I’ll admit, this weekly posting goal of mine may have been a little lofty. With a new job and a new apartment to furnish on weekends, finding time to settle on a recipe, make it, photograph it, and write about it has been a little more challenging than I’d hoped. Not trying to make excuses, but I’ve got to prioritize! (Wait, that’s an excuse, isn’t it?) Anyway, I’m still going to try to post with a bit more frequency, but if I can get two recipes out per month, I’ll be a pretty happy camper.

This mashup comes to you courtesy of Ben, who suggested jalapeños and brown sugar and few weeks ago. I thought it sounded pretty easy. Instantly I thought of barbecue. Jalapeño cornbread is a thing. I’m sure plenty of barbecue sauces incorporate each of those ingredients, right? So in order to challenge myself, I decided to try a dessert.

Initially, I thought of try to make a sweet jalapeño popper, and the my brain ran away with that idea and thought about stuffing said popper inside a hush puppy (a deep-fried little cornbread ball, for those not in the know, poor unfortunate souls). But, because I’m trying to keep things relatively figure friendly, and because deep-frying can be a hassle and a mess, I decided to go another way. Instead, I went with the cornbread idea, but decided to give it a little spin. Inspired by cream cheese filled jalapeño poppers, I decided to create a cream cheese frosting using the bright flavor and slight kick of the jalapeños to pair with a molasses-y sweet cornbread cookie. The idea had been hatched.

These little puppies are sort of like whoopie pies, part cookie part quick bread. To keep them fairly reasonable for  the health conscious, I employed my tried and true strategy: portion control. I decided to make the cookies very little, such that they almost look like french macarons. I knew, however that I could take it a little further. Cream cheese frosting is pretty decadent, and I wanted to figure out how to make it at least a little less so. Then I remembered neufchatel! That lesser known spreadable dairy product, that likely inspired Philadelphia to create their own 1/3rd less fat cream cheese. By using that, I knew I could feel a little less guilty about spreading on a nice thick layer.

But what about the featured ingredients? How would I get those to shine their brightest? I decided that in order to get a pronounced brown sugar flavor, I’d roll my little cookies in the stuff itself, sort of like the cinnamon sugar on a snickerdoodle. That way, the brown sugar couldn’t hide behind all that cornbready goodness. For the jalapeño aspect, I decided that by roasting the meat of the pepper, and by toasting the seeds, I would get a more pronounced flavor, and the caramelization would go well with the sweetness and depth of the brown sugar. From there, it was just a matter of making the little suckers.

But wait! I had to use corn flour for my cornbread cookies! Oh no! Why is that a problem you ask? Well, last summer I attempted a peach raspberry pie with cornbread crust, and what resulted was something completely inedible. Something about the corn flour had turned my pie into hazardous biowaste, and had left me a little shellshocked about using corn flour again. I don’t know how, and I don’t know why, but somehow my little cookies came out beautifully without that (for lack of a better word) nastyass flavor, leaving only corny sweetness behind. I was beyond relieved.

Cookie recipe adapted from Cooking Classy.

Brown Sugar Cornbread Sandwich Cookies with Jalapeño Cream Cheese Frosting
Serves: 40
 

Ingredients
For the cookies
  • 1¼ cup flour (I used half all-purpose, half whole wheat)
  • 1¼ cup corn flour (not cornmeal)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar, plus extra for rolling
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ¼ cup plain yogurt (I used fat free Greek)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
For the frosting
  • 1-2 jalapeño peppers (depending on size)
  • 6 oz neufchatel cheese (reduced fat cream cheese, you could use full fat)
  • 4 cups powdered sugar (plus a little extra if needed)
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 pinch salt

Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add the egg, yolk, yogurt, vanilla, and lemon juice and mix to combine. Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients until well mixed.
  4. Spoon some brown sugar into a bowl or glass with a flat bottom. Using a teaspoon, form the dough into little balls and roll each in the brown sugar before placing on the baking sheet, about an inch apart, since the cookies don’t expand much.
  5. Flatten each dough ball with the bottom of the bowl or glass that holds the brown sugar until each of your balls has become a little patty, about ¼ inch thick. Bake the cookies for about 8 minutes, or until slightly browned around the edges.
  6. Allow the cookies to cool for about 2 minutes on the baking sheets before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling thoroughly before frosting.
  7. For the frosting, preheat your oven to 400F. Slice the meat off the jalapeños and place it on your baking sheet, reserving the seeds. Roast the jalapeños for about 15 minutes or until browned a bit, then allow to cool and dice them. In a small, dry frying pan, toast the seeds over medium heat until they begin to brown.
  8. In a medium bowl, mix the neufchatel until well softened. Add the jalapeño meat and seeds. Using a blender or immersion blender, puree the jalapeño mixture until the bits of jalapeno are very small and well-incorporated.
  9. With the jalapeño mixture back in the bowl, add the lemon juice and a pinch of salt, whisking to combine. Add in the powdered sugar and whisk until the mixture is thick, sweet and spreadable. You may need a little extra powdered sugar to reach the right consistency.
  10. Once the cookies have cooled, assemble the sandwiches by spreading about a tablespoon of frosting on the flat side of one half, then topping with another cookie, flat side down.

Notes
1 sandwich cookie is 3 Weight Watchers PointsPlus

Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 Calories: 122.4 Fat: 2.5 Saturated fat: 1.4 Unsaturated fat: 1.1 Carbohydrates: 23.5 Sugar: 16.7 Fiber: 0.9 Protein: 1.1 Cholesterol: 9.2 mg

As you can imagine, my cute little cookies have yielded mixed reviews. Some are shocked at how much they like them, while others want to enjoy them but simply can’t get passed the lurking weirdness of a cookie with jalapeños in it. That’s fine by me. I get a little joy out of the fact that, as one of my coworkers put it, “people are afraid of the cookies” (I put the many extras I’d yielded in the kitchen at work this morning and people apparently have been looking at them quizzically and then deciding to take a half). I can only hope that some of those skeptics have gone back for a second half.

All in all, I’m pleasantly pleased at this dessert-for-those-who-don’t-like-dessert. When I served them to Ben’s brother (Joey), sister-in-law (Kaitlin) and cousin (Billy) last night, the guys really dug the surprisingly effective combo (Kato decided that they should be considered man-treats, which seems like a fairly apt classification). For as dainty as they look, the flavor is anything but. These seem like they’d be a great treat to follow up a plate of barbecue. Maybe I’ll have to come up with a dessert chili recipe to serve alongside (just kidding, that sounds gross, even for me.)

Strawberry-Balsamic Tomato Sauce

This whole goal-setting thing has been a bit of a bust so far. I am very determined to get myself on a weekly posting schedule. I am, I swear. What’s the excuse this time, Carrie? What’s been so important that you’ve taken over two weeks between posts? Well loyal reader (there probably is one, right?), I will say this: I have no good excuse, because there should not be a reason why creating, executing, photographing, and posting a recipe should take two weeks. My mediocre excuse is this: I’m moving, and moving is tiring and buying groceries feels futile and it’s a fairly consuming endeavor!

The truth of the matter is… I made this recipe two weeks ago. What?! You must be thinking to yourself. I’m afraid it’s true. I made a beautiful bubbly pot of sauce, but was so consumed with visiting home and getting my new place ready and painting and planning that I never had time to make a batch of pasta so that I could photograph the darn thing. Much to my dismay, the portion of sauce that I’d reserved for photographing went bad during that time, and I wasn’t about to photograph and post pictures of rotten sauce.

On the bright side, this afforded me the opportunity to tweak the recipe. Back in January, Boone had suggested strawberries and tomatoes, but I wanted to wait for the summer when such produce would be both a) at its peak, and b) on sale at the grocery store. Both of these things have lately been the case. In that past, I had made a salsa with strawberries and tomatoes, but I felt that I couldn’t just replicate that idea and call it a new mashup. Instead, I decided to take inspiration from a favorite salad of mine (spinach topped with sliced strawberries, balsamic vinegar and sliced  raw red onion) to create a naturally sweet and tangy tomato sauce.

Now, the sauce you see above is a beautiful rich, deep red, but this was not the case for the first batch. Instead, it was a muddy rusty orange-red, which disappointed me a lot. As sad as I was to have sacrificed a portion of the first batch of sauce, I was glad to have the opportunity to make some changes. In the previous batch, I had roasted the strawberries, which brought out lovely sweetness but also caused the berries to leech their redness and turn sort of white. I decided to forego that step in favor of a truer berry color. I also simmered my first batch in vegetable broth, which I believe contributed to the diluted, orangey color. I decided to swap it out for tomato puree which would not only enhance the redness of the sauce, but would also simplify the flavors in play: tomato, strawberry, balsamic, red onion. That’s about it. Anything else would just be filler.

Strawberry Balsamic Tomato Sauce
Author: 
Serves: 12
 

Ingredients
  • 7 medium tomatoes, sliced in half length wise
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 1 6oz can tomato paste
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 lbs strawberries, stemmed and sliced in half
  • 1 28oz can tomato puree
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 450F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the tomato halves on it, cut side up. Roast the tomatoes until slightly blacked around the edges, about 30 minutes.
  2. In a medium to large saucepan, over medium low heat, add the olive oil and the onion. Cook until the onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the tomato paste and the balsamic vinegar, stirring to combine. Add the strawberries and simmer about 15 minutes, or until the strawberries have let off a fair amount of juice.
  4. Add the roasted tomatoes and the tomato puree and simmer, over low heat, for about 20 more minutes so that everything can soften.
  5. In a blender, food processor, or with an immersion blender, puree the sauce until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper to bring out the flavors of that tomato and strawberry.
  6. Serve over pasta or any other way you choose! Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Notes
A generous serving (1-2 cups!) is only 2 Weight Watchers PointsPlus

Nutrition Information
Calories: 74.2 Fat: 1.5 Saturated fat: 0.2 Unsaturated fat: 1.3 Carbohydrates: 12.9 Sugar: 6.9 Fiber: 3.6 Protein: 2.2 Cholesterol: 0

 

I served the sauce over whole grain spaghetti enriched with flax seed. I know what you’re thinking… but I’d heard good things about flax pasta, so I decided to give it a go. I know that most whole wheat pastas can have a gritty texture and a distinctly healthy (and not in a good way) flavor, but this was not that at all. This pasta had semolina smoothness and the flavors of the grains were essentially undetectable under a generous coating of sauce, just like regular white-flour pasta. Just with a lot more fiber and nutrients. And you know how I like fiber… and nutrients.

As for the sauce itself, my unofficial taste testers thought that the strawberry was a little hard to identify, but gave the sauce a nice natural sweetness and a distinctly fruity profile. Next time, I would consider roasting a portion of the strawberries, or potentially adding a few more, but I don’t need my pasta sauce to taste like a sundae topping. If a surprise ingredient can add interest to an otherwise standard dish, even if it’s fairly unidentifiable, that’s enough for me! All in all, I definitely need to get my act together about posting in a more timely fashion, but the opportunity to make a recipe twice was a nice change!

Up next: Jalapeño and Brown Sugar!

(Photos by Nick von Keller, equipment provided by Diana Wright)

Cocoa Nib, Candied Celery Root and Dried Cherry Granola

Shall we begin with a life update? Well, since you asked! It’s been a while, again, I know, but I have a really good excuse I promise. It’s because I am now officially a workin’ girl! No, not that kind… but I have secured an awesome assistant position at a great production company ! Ever so grateful and unnecessarily exhausted (it’s been light, it’s entirely unjustified), this had lead to yet another lag in the posting regime. Excuses, excuses, but serious. I am now putting my foot down. I am going to get on a more regular posting schedule. Or bust!

Luckily, this week’s (yes, I’ll be getting into a weekly routine) post is very shelf-stable and, in my opinion, gets better with a little time. I swear it’s true. For months now, I’ve been trying to come up with a mashup for celery root and cocoa nibs. Merri suggested it a while back, so we tried simply roasting the celery root with cocoa nibs on it. It was delicious! Since celery root gets sweeter in the oven, the natural sugars played nicely with the bitterness of the unsweetened cocoa flavor. It turned out great, and I considered posting it, but ultimately I decided that simply throwing two ingredients together isn’t much of a recipe. I’ll show you a picture, why not?

The inspiration

Though I new the combination was successful, I struggled to come up with a recipe that could prove it (though, try just the roasted combo, it’s awesome). On my way down to LA, Merri handed me a huge bag of cocoa nibs and said, “Do something with these.” Of course, I had to abide. Then, the other day I was flipping through one of my favorite dessert cook books, Christie Matheson’s Salty Sweets. If you know me, you know I’m obsessed with things that achieve that perfect enhancing balance of salty and sweet, so it makes sense that I would draw a lot of inspiration from that book.

Anyway, in the book I found a recipe for dried cherry and cocoa nib granola that looked fantastic. I love dried cherries (if you’ve never had them, picture the juicer and all around more delicious big sister of the dried cranberry) and the recipe also included maple syrup, one of my other super-favorite things. I thought about it for a moment and then wondered if I could candy celery root the way that many candy fresh ginger root. Turns out: you most certainly can. Playing off a candied ginger recipe from Alton Brown, I created my own spin on Christie’s granola with a very unexpected twist.

5.0 from 1 reviews

Cocoa Nib, Candied Celery Root, and Dried Cherry Granola
Serves: about 20
 

Ingredients
Candied Celery Root
  • 1 medium celery root, peeled and sliced about ⅛-1/4 inch thick
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
Granola
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup agave syrup
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup cocoa nibs
  • candied celery root (as prepared above), coarsely chopped

Instructions
  1. For the candied celery root, prepare a baking dish with parchment paper or foil very lightly coated with cooking spray. Place the sliced celery root and the water in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Cook until the root is tender, about 20 minutes. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving ¼ cup of the cooking liquid.
  2. If you have a food scale, go ahead and weigh the celery root. You’ll want to try and add equal parts celery root and sugar, so if you have the means, weigh out an equal about of sugar. If not, about 1 cup of sugar should be fine. Add the celery root, sugar, and reserved cooking liquid back into the saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook stirring frequently until the syrup that forms begins to look dry and evaporated, and beings to recrystallize, about 20 minutes.
  3. Transfer the celery root to the baking sheet to dry, spreading it out into individual pieces. Once completely cool, store in an airtight container until ready to use in the granola. I also broke off and discarded any big celery root-less pieces of sugar while making the transfer. Since it should keep for up to two weeks, you can definitely do this in advance.
  4. Now for the granola, preheat your oven to 325F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or very lightly greased foil (can you tell I keep forgetting to buy parchment paper?).
  5. Combine the maple syrup, agave, butter and vanilla in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring often for about 5 minutes.
  6. Mix the oats and salt in a large bowl and pour the syrup mixture over the oats, stirring to coat thoroughly. Spread this out on the baking sheet.
  7. Bake for about 15 minutes, tossing every few minutes. Add the cherries, cocoa nibs, and chopped candied celery root and bake for another 15-20 minutes, until everything is lightly browned and fragrant. Let the granola cool and then transfer to an airtight container. I’ve found that the granola actually gets better after a few days, so don’t hesitate to keep it in your cupboard for a couple of weeks! Enjoy with milk, over yogurt, by the handful, or any other way you choose!

Notes
Roughly ½cup is 5 Weight Watchers PointsPlus

Nutrition Information
Serving size: ½ cup Calories: 195.1 Fat: 3.4 Saturated fat: 1.8 Unsaturated fat: 1.6 Carbohydrates: 50.9 Sugar: 25 Fiber: 5.2 Protein: 3.2 Cholesterol: 4.7mg

 

In my opinion, it worked quite nicely. The saltiness ties all of the flavors (the bitterness of the cocoa, the sweetness of the mapley granola and the cherries and the… ineffable quality that the celery root brings in) together pretty awesomely. I’ve found myself snacking on the stuff pretty regularly since then.

One quick and helpful reminder about granola: it’s not exactly a health food. Years of hippy associations and whole grain diets have mislead many a waistline watcher. The good news is that it’s very high in fiber, fairly low in sugar (compared with many commercial brands), low in fat (you could even make it lower by subbing the few tablespoons of butter for a lower-fat oil) and packs some great antioxidants from all of that unsweetened cocoa.

A little with milk (dairy, soy, rice, almond, whatever) or yogurt, this granola goodness makes a great and filling (from all that fiber, remember?) breakfast or snack! So enjoy (but do so wisely, friends). Fine… that reminder is more for my sake than yours… it’s just too darn tempting.

SPOILER ALERT! The next two mashups announced! On deck we’ve got strawberry and tomato, and in the hole are jalapeños and brown sugar! Check in soon to see what my weird little head stirs up with those unusual combos.

Key Lime Avocado Ice Cream with Graham Cracker Almond Brittle

Before moving to Los Angeles, I went through my parents’ kitchens. Each of them gave me some very valuable things for my new place (which I’ll be moving into next month). Lots of silverware and plates, my dad gave me a toaster oven. All very crucial things! But when going through my mom’s kitchen, I remembered that she had a bread maker and an ice cream maker. My mom is a great cook, but sticks to excellent fast dinners over intricate complex projects. Accordingly, I asked if she would mind if I took them off her hands. She did not, and so now I have a bread maker and an ice cream maker!

I have yet to use the bread maker (maybe for an imminent recipe?), but I couldn’t wait to try out the ice cream maker. I decided to look for a mash up suggestion to try it out. There it was, right on the list. A suggestion from Boone from back in January: avocados and almonds. Perfect! I instantly got an idea: a deconstructed key lime pie inspired sundae! It’s also the perfect thing to honor my first recipe back in California for good! Avocados and California go hand in hand, really.

In San Francisco, I used to go to Café Gratitude on 9th and Irving with Dad and Merri. They had this awesome raw vegan key lime pie (which, for those that don’t know, is one of my favorite desserts) using avocado in the filling and a variety of different nuts in the crust. I decided to work off of that idea (but… not vegan) for my recipe. I had, of course, to figure out a way to turn it into an ice cream.

Ben’s housemate, Nick, has an excellent recipe book from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams (which you can find here) that has some awesome recipes. I decided to use Jeni’s base recipe, plus some suggestions and ideas I found in other recipes, to improvise my own. Eventually, the recipe came out great. However, if I learned anything from this experience with an ice cream maker, it is this: make 100% sure that your frozen canister is completely frozen. It took me more than one attempt (read: 3) at churning to finally get the base to freeze. The freezer was a little bit on the fritz, and I hadn’t made sure that there was no liquid noise when the I shook the canister. This is a mistake. Always make sure that there is not one bit on unfrozen liquid in that canister before you start churning! Alright, enough of that public service announcement, back to the recipe.

I went with an ice cream because I wanted the texture to be nice and creamy like key lime pie. The sacrifice, of course, is that this is not a low fat or low calorie recipe. The good news is that it is so rich and flavorful that you don’t need very much to feel satisfied. The other good news is that avocados have a lot of important vitamins, nutrients, and heart healthy fats (okay… fine, who am I kidding?). In any case, I do want to be clear that this is an indulgence, not a healthy alternative. That being said… it’s a creamy, tangy, refreshing, delicious indulgence, and that’s the kind that’s most worth while.

Key Lime Avocado Ice Cream with Graham Cracker Almond Brittle
Author: 
 

Ingredients
For the lime syrup
  • 5-6 limes or 10-12 key limes (or a combination)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
For the ice cream base
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1½ oz (3 Tbsp) cream cheese, softened
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • 3 medium avocados, pitted, peeled, and pureed until smooth
For the graham cracker almond brittle
  • 12 graham cracker squares (6 full sheets)
  • 1½ cups sliced almonds
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ brown sugar
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • vegetable oil for coating the baking sheet

Instructions
  1. Make the lime syrup: Using a knife or vegetable peeler, remove enough zest from the limes to yield about 1½ Tbsp, being careful to avoid the white pith. Then, squeeze the limes until you have ½ cup of juice. Combine the lime juice and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar appears dissolved into the liquid. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  2. Using a food processor or a spice grinder, pulse the lime zest until it is very finely minced.
  3. Prep for the base: Mix about 2 Tbsp of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to form a slurry, trying to make it as lump-free as possible. In a medium bowl, whisk the cream cheese, salt and avocado puree. Fill a large bowl with ice and cold water.
  4. Cook the ice cream base: In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining milk, cream, sugar, corn syrup, and lime zest. Bring this mixture to a rolling boil over medium-high heat and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, and slowly stir in the cornstarch slurry.
  5. Return the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring until the mixture is slightly thickened, about a minute. Remove from the heat
  6. Chill the base: Carefully whisk the hot milk mixture into the avocado mixture until smooth. Whisk in the lime syrup as well. Pour the base into a large zip-top freezer bag, then submerge the bag into the ice water bath. Let the base cool for about 30 minutes.
  7. Freeze the ice cream: Pour the ice cream base into the (thoroughly) frozen canister of your ice cream maker. Freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions until thick and creamy. When done churning, pack the ice cream into a storage container. Press a sheet of parchment paper directly against the surface of the ice cream to prevent freezer burn. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.
  8. For the graham cracker almond brittle: Preheat your oven to 375F. Pulse the graham crackers in a food processor until you have fine crumbs. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet, covered in foil, and bake for about 10 minutes until fragrant and browned. Remove the foil and almonds from the baking sheet to cool. Lay another large sheet of foil over the baking sheet and generously spread with vegetable oil.
  9. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugars, corn syrup, water and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar completely. Insert a candy thermometer into the pan and add the butter. Bring the mixture back to a boil, then cook until the mixture reaches 300F. Remove from the heat and immediately add the graham cracker crumbs, then the almonds, and then the baking soda, stirring thoroughly but working quickly. Pour the mixture out onto the baking sheet, spreading it to about a ¼ inch thickness. Allow to cool completely. Once cooled, break the brittle into 1½-2 inch squareish shapes.
  10. To serve, chop a square of brittle and sprinkle it over a scoop of ice cream. Enjoy!

Notes
1 average scoop is 10 Weight Watchers PointsPlus, about a tablespoon of crumbed brittle is 3 Weight Watches Points Plus

Nutrition Information
Calories: 362.2 Fat: 23.1 Saturated fat: 9.4 Unsaturated fat: 13.7 Carbohydrates: 39 Sugar: 18.6 Fiber: 4 Protein: 4.2 Cholesterol: 42.8 mg

 

I’m under the distinct impression that everyone was very pleasantly surprised by the outcome! The avocados gave the ice cream a nice buttery texture and flavor, while the sugar and lime made it very indicative of key lime pie filling. The salty crunch of the almond brittle was reminiscent of a graham cracker crust and provided a nice counterpoint to the ice cream. I’m a big fan, but I had to put about 3/4ths of the serving that I photographed back in the freezer for later because it was just too rich to have a lot of! (In my opinion, that’s a good thing, it’ll last longer and wreak less havoc on my healthy eating).

On another note, I took these pictures on my phone, and I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised with how they came out. They’re not quite as good as my professional quality ones from recipes past, but for now I think it’ll do. I just have to make sure I’m always getting that natural light!

Anyway, thanks for the suggestion, Boone! I’ll have to make you a batch when you come visit!

Pineapple Sourdough Bread Pudding

Sometimes, you just can’t get it right the first time. That’s part of being an experimental cook, right? This little muffin of a bread pudding came after a mega recipe fail. It also, is my last mashup recipe that I made in college! (The worst part about that is I’ll either have to settle for having worse photos, find a new photographer, or buy myself a fancy fancy camera, all of which are not as lovely as having Jana and Jake around me all the time!)

Anyway, my main man Boone suggested pineapple and rice way back when I first started Munchie Mashups, so I figured I’d give it a try. Pineapple fried rice is already sort of a thing, isn’t it? I decided that it’d be too easy to go the simple sweet-and-sour-sauce route, and I tried for a dessert. I thought of trying to make a risotto with pineapple juice instead of the traditional stock. My bad for trying to use fiber-rich brown rice instead of traditional arborio, but it was a mess. The rice stayed hard forever and what resulted was a soupy brown mess that looked like peanut sauce (and to be honest, I wish it had been since peanut sauce is delicious, and this was not). The best parts of the dish were the dried pineapple garnish and the candied macadamia nuts that I’d made to go on top! Anyway, I decided that I’d need to try again.

First Attempt: Ick.

2nd Attempt: Yum!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was trying to think of how to do something creative with pineapple and rice, and then Ben suggested that I choose another ingredient (sorry, Boone! SPOILER ALERT: My next recipe is one of your suggestions and it’s awesome) Pineapple and rice isn’t quite a mashup, since it’s already a proven delight. Ben proposed I try pineapple and sourdough. Pineapple is so tropical and sourdough is so, well, San Francisco… foggy, not tropical. I decided to give it a shot.

Of course, I thought of a bread pudding, but I wanted to try and make my bread pudding interesting. I had to think of something that would tie the sweet acidity of the pineapple together with the dry tang of the sourdough. Then, I had it! Buttermilk! Okay, okay… yes, I’m obsessed with buttermilk because it’s incredible, but trust me. It really works well here. The buttermilk also has a vibrant tang that pairs well with the different types of sourness in the two mashed up ingredients. The creaminess works well for the custard and the flavors marry quite excellently.

Another great thing about this dish is that it’s easy. I like to push myself and come up with things that take a million steps (hello, I made bagels from scratch), but I like this because it’s something that you can throw together quickly. I also love the small size, which decreases the baking time, and creates cute little individual portions. If you wanted, you could make this vegan by creating a custard with almond, rice, or soy milk and egg replacer, but if you do, I’d suggest adding a bit of lemon juice to get that nice tang of the buttermilk.

Pineapple Sourdough Pudding
Serves: 6
 

Ingredients
  • 1/12 cup pineapple, diced
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp regular butter
  • 3 cups sourdough bread, cubed small
  • ⅔ cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • optional: powdered sugar and fresh pineapple for garnish

Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375F
  2. In a medium frying pan, over medium heat, melt the butter. Add 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar and the pineapple. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, caramelized, and fragrant.
  3. Toss the bread cubes with the pineapple. Fill six muffin cups, sprayed with cooking spray, with this mixture.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk, vanilla, egg, and remaining brown sugar, whisking well to combine.
  5. Pour the buttermilk mixture over the bread cubes and pineapple, being sure to coat all of the bread.
  6. Bake bread puddings for 15-20 minutes, or until they appear set and not soggy.
  7. Serve warm and garnish with powdered sugar and fresh pineapple!

Notes
4 Weight Watchers PointsPlus

Nutrition Information
Calories: 200.2 Fat: 4.1 Saturated fat: 1.8 Unsaturated fat: 1.9 Carbohydrates: 41.2 Sugar: 23.9 Fiber: 1.4 Protein: 4.9 Cholesterol: 37.1mg

 

I served these during a clothing swap that Ariel and I hosted, and they were definitely well received. Jake and I took a break to have a little bread pudding photo shoot, hence why the little thing looks so damn sexy in the sunlight. In any case, I’ll miss having my local taste testers at school, but I’m excited to have new ones in Los Angeles, which is where I’ve relocated. But, one more time, I must give a big thank you to Jake and Jana for their amazing photography skills! If anyone in LA wants to be my new photographer, let me know!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes

With this post, I finally declare the 2nd attempt at my return to a regular posting schedule! Obviously, I’ve been ridiculously infrequent, but that is about to change. Things have been insane, mostly due to the fact that I just graduated from college and moved across the country! That’s pretty exciting. I’m home in San Francisco for a few days, then heading to Los Angeles where I’ll be for the foreseeable future. I can’t wait!

So, here is a celebratory recipe. In fact, it’s the last recipe that I brought to an improv rehearsal in college! It was the rehearsal in which we created the last set list for my last show with Desperate Measures. On the one hand, I’m so sad to no longer be playing with the group, but on the other I’m very excited for what’s coming next!  That’s very bittersweet, but the cupcakes… they’re beet-ersweet! (I’m sorry, that was terrible, but I couldn’t help myself)

When I got a ton of beets from the Fruit and Veggie Co-op (a group to which I was formerly subscribed, which provides a fairly random selection of fruits and vegetables each week), my friend and frequent mashup suggester, Ariel, suggested a mashup to get rid of some of them: beets and peanuts. Interesting… I think beets are pretty good, especially golden ones, but I can really only take them in small doses. That’s really too bad because beets are quite high in fiber and antioxidants. So, I decided to play around with a way to incorporate them into a dessert.

A few months ago, during another beet bounty, I attempted a chocolate beet bundt cake, but that didn’t seem like enough of a stretch. I’d seen tons of recipes for something similar, so I knew I couldn’t go in that direction. Of course, next to peanut and chocolate, the first thing that came to mind was peanut butter and jelly. I decided that I’d attempt a cake that had a nice berry flavor, and a beautiful berry color from the beets. That didn’t seem too strange, right? After all, isn’t that how red velvet originated?

I tried to keep these cupcakes a little reasonable calorie wise, but I knew that in order to really impress, these needed to be a real indulgence. Nothing is worse than a cake with veggies in it that doesn’t taste good. I used whole wheat flour, cut back on the sugar a little, and tried to utilize the sweetness of the beets and the berries as much as I could. The one thing that couldn’t be avoided was the decadence of the frosting. Peanut butter buttercream? Not the healthiest thing, but the saltiness of the frosting was absolutely perfect with the tart sweetness of the cupcakes. If you want, you could just spread a thin layer of peanut butter on the cupcakes instead, but once in a while, going a little overboard isn’t so bad. Right? I think so.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes
Author: 
Serves: 18
 

Ingredients
Beet Berry Cupcakes
  • 1 cup beets, roasted, peeled, and cubed
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 cup unsweetened frozen blackberries
  • 3 Tbsp raspberry jam
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Peanut Butter Frosting
  • ¾ cup chunky peanut butter
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Optional: berries for garnish

Instructions
  1. Prepare muffin tins with paper liners and preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Place puree the beets and the milk using a food processor, a blender, or an immersion blender. Place this mixture in a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan, place the blackberries and thaw. Add in the raspberry jam and cook until you have a slightly thickened liquid. Strain the berry mixture into the beet mixture.
  4. In another medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, cream together the sugars and the butter until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla.
  6. To the sugar mixture, add one third of the flour mixture, followed by one third of the beet mixture. Stir after each addition and continue until the batter is well combined and a nice magenta hue.
  7. Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners and back for about 20 minutes, or until a tooth pick comes out of the center clean.
  8. While the cupcakes cook, make the frosting by combining the peanut butter and butter and whisking until fluffy and smoothy. Whisky in the powdered sugar and the salt, adding a little more sugar is the frosting is not stiff enough.
  9. Once the cupcakes are cool, pipe or spread the frosting onto the cupcakes and garnish with a berry, if desired. Enjoy!

Notes
1 cupcake is 5 Weight Watchers PointsPlus 1 generous serving of frosting is 5 Weight Watches PointsPlus as well, so be careful with the amount you use!

Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 cupcake with frosting Calories: 354.9 Fat: 21.6 Saturated fat: 10.4 Unsaturated fat: 9.7 Carbohydrates: 37.8 Sugar: 27.1 Fiber: 3.0 Protein: 5.7 Cholesterol: 62.3 mg

 

At rehearsal, we spent an hour and a half (75% of the rehearsal) coming up with the perfect set list for Jake, Casey and my last show with the group. It was a good thing that we had these to keep us fueled and focused! The cake was light but rich and fruity, which was a great balance for the intensity of that salty peanuty frosting. Maybe it wasn’t the biggest stretch, but the effectiveness of the execution was a very pleasant surprise! I recommend these for any PB&J lover, trust me, they’ll have no idea they have veggies in them too!

(Photos by Jake Schaeffer, equipment provided by Jana Heaton)

Baked Falafel with Kiwi Tzatziki

Hello! It has been way too long, hasn’t it! These past few weeks have been fairly… tumultuous, which resulted in me having to stick Munchie Mashups on the back burner for a little bit. It’s a very long story, but fret not! All is well, and this week we’ll have two mashups in fairly quick succession. In other good news, I graduate two weeks from tomorrow! That’s fairly fantastic, no?

Now on to the recipe? This one was a suggestion from the super fantastic and amazing Ariel, who has been a lifesaver over these past couple of weeks (hint: I’ve been spending a lot of wonderful quality time with her and the bean bag chairs in her living room). Originally, she suggested chick peas and banana, but since I already did bacon and banana and am not quite ready to start repeating ingredients, I asked her to think of another fruit. That’s when she landed on chick peas and kiwi. Interesting! I started thinking of all the things you can do with each. Kiwis are a little bit tricky, mostly since I haven’t done much with them that doesn’t involve serving them raw. Sweet Rose Creamery in Santa Monica makes an amazing kiwi sorbet, but I don’t have an ice cream maker (plus chick pea ice cream is something I think I’ll save for a slightly more ambitious day).

Accordingly,  I went the other way. What could I make with chickpeas? Hummus is an option, I guess. That’s when I landed on falafel. The idea to do a tzatziki (cucumber yogurt salad/dip) using kiwi instead of cucumber  just popped into my head. Excellent.

Of course, being the health conscious kid that I am, I decided to go with a baked falafel. I adapted a recipe from Pink Parsley to fit my needs. One major change I made was to use spinach instead of parsley. This was done mostly out of laziness, to be honest. I had buying a huge bunch of parsley when I only need a few table spoons. I had baby spinach in my fridge, so I used that! I think it worked pretty well. I also made the patties crispier by broiling them for a couple minutes on each side to make them very crispy. Those were all set.

Now for the tzatziki. Below, I posted a recipe that I thought would work well. In actuality, my lovely sous chef and photographer for the dish, Jake, and I struggled to figure out how to get the right consistency for the dip. It also came out really bitter, which I think came from deciding to get creative with some of the ingredients. My advice: don’t do that. I think that the recipe below will be excellent, just make sure to strain that yogurt so that it doesn’t get too liquidy. I think you’ll be good to go from there. More importantly, the kiwi worked amazingly with the falafel. The tzatziki was a pain, but the mashup was a major success.

Baked Falafel with Kiwi Tzatziki
Author: 
Serves: 6
 

Ingredients
  • Baked Spinach Falafel
  • 1 (15oz) can chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
  • 1 medium red onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
  • ½ cup fresh spinach
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • up to 8 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • Cooking spray, for baking
Kiwi Tzatziki
  • 1½ cups plain Greek Yogurt
  • 5 medium kiwis, diced
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp agave nectar or honey
  • juice of one lemons
  • salt to taste

Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper and a coating of cooking spray (I used an olive oil based one).
  2. Transfer the drained and rinsed chick peas to a large bowl. If you have a food processor, use that, but since I don’t, I used an immersion blender and that worked well. Add the onion, spinach, salt, garlic, spices, and lemon. Blend until everything becomes a smooth paste.
  3. Once blended, add the baking powder, and mix. Add the flour, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is dry enough that it can be formed into a ball. You may need a little extra.
  4. Using about 2 tablespoons at a time, form the paste into balls, then flatten into little patties.
  5. Bake 20 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the outsides are browned and crispy. If you like, turn on your broil and finish by baking for another couple of minutes on each side to get them crispier.
  6. For the tzatziki, drain the yogurt using a cheese cloth or paper towels over a strainer. This will insure that the tzatziki isn’t runny. This can be done by placing the yogurt to strain in the fridge for a few hours, but if you don’t have a lot of time, try squeezing the yogurt to get rid of excess moisture.
  7. To the strained yogurt, add the rest of the ingredients and stir well to combine. Season to taste and enjoy over the falafel with pita!

Notes
1 serving of falafel (about 3 patties) = 4 Weight Watchers PointsPlus About ¼ cup of kiwi tzatziki is 2 Weight Watchers PointsPlus

Nutrition Information
Calories: 232.3 Fat: 6.3 Saturated fat: 0.8 Unsaturated fat: 4.8 Carbohydrates: 36.3 Sugar: 4.7 Fiber: 6.3 Protein: 10.4 Cholesterol: 0

 

I served the recipe to a bunch of (who else) my improv group, and they loved it. We ate them with mini whole wheat pitas and some lettuce to provide a little crunch (especially since the kiwi is less crunchy than the traditional cucumber). Though, admittedly, this was a few weeks ago, I can still certainly remember that the flavors paired excellently. As Ariel put it, “I can’t really imagine eating falafel without kiwi anymore.” Too true.

(Photos by Jake Schaeffer with special thanks to Jana Heaton)