Category Archives: Sweet

Snack / Sweet / Vegetarian

Whole Wheat Applesauce Muffins

September 19, 2017

I made applesauce yesterday, as a sort of “making lemons into lemonade” situation after a tough weekend. Cooking and baking generally boost my spirit, and having the house smell like baked apples and cinnamon as fall is fast approaching, well — that’s a pretty good bonus.

I have been looking for some easy grab-and-go snacks for Prim lately, as we have fallen into the rut of consuming the same snacks day-in and day-out. The girl eats allll day long, so having plenty of snacks on hand is crucial. She’s in a bit of a picky phase, so any time I can sneak in anything mildly healthy I try to take advantage.

These muffins are a great dessert, but given that they’re pretty low in sugar, they’ve mostly been serving as a snack in our house. They come together quickly and make exactly 12 muffins — two things that are somewhat essential right now, given that I only have one muffin tin and very limited time where I can be out of eyesight of Lark now that she’s semi-mobile.

Whole Wheat Applesauce Muffins

makes 12 muffins

  • 1 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used whole)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 tbsp melted butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • big pinch of nutmeg
  • big pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup unpacked raisins
  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Whisk together oats, applesauce, milk, vanilla, egg, melted butter, and sugar.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and raisins.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet, stirring just to combine (don’t overmix).
  5. Spoon into muffin cups or a greased muffin tin, then bake for 10-15 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Modifications

  • You could probably use 1/4 of cup maple syrup or 1/6 cup (about 2 2/3 tbsp) to a scant 1/4 cup of honey in place of the sugar, but you may need to decrease the amount of milk by a couple teaspoons if you take this option. (Though it may be so minimal that it won’t make much difference.)
  • UPDATE ON SUGAR ALTERNATIVES: I have made these with one ripe banana in place of the sugar and with 1/4 cup maple syrup in place of the sugar. Both work well if you modify the recipe use 1/4 tsp salt and a scant 1/2 cup of milk. The banana addition wasn’t my favorite, but my kids gobbled up the muffins (so maybe it’s the best of both worlds — kid-friendly and sugar free, but not tasty enough for me to dive into after they’re in bed. Ha.) The maple syrup in place of the sugar tasted almost identical to me, so if that’s your jam — go for it!
  • Subbing coconut oil for butter shouldn’t be a problem.
  • Feel free to add dried cranberries or nuts in place of the raisins — both should work well.

Fall / Gluten-Free / Personal / Stay Healthy / Sweet / Vegan / Vegetarian

This Was Not the Plan

September 18, 2017

The past few days have been a little trying. I woke up on Friday morning in a bad mood. There wasn’t any real reason for it (well, the perpetual sleep deprivation might have something to do with it), but nevertheless, there it was. Later that morning I managed to lock myself and the girls out of the house after Prim’s dance class; and then naptime, the only time I get to myself during the day, fell apart royally.

Most days during the week I use naptime as my workout hour, so it’s not even like I’m sitting back watching TV and shoving cookies into my face (which is what I would really rather be doing). On Friday though, my 60-80 minute workout turned into a 3-hour ordeal, due to the fact that I was running up the stairs to deal with one or two screaming children every 10-15 minutes. I finally had to pull Lark out of the room and have her sleep in the guest room, which was frustrating since I just transitioned her into sleeping in the girls’ room during naptime. This of course did not deter Prim, who continued to scream and carry on until I finally pulled her out of the room, giving up on her taking a nap altogether. I ended up sticking her in front of Puffin Rock on the iPad so I could finish my workout, but since I really try to limit her screen time (when we’re not traveling) I felt like a complete failure.

On Saturday I got my hair cut for the first time in nine months. I had previously vowed never to have my hair cut in Europe, having been warned by numerous expats (and being a person with eyes who has seen Euro-hair). However, my hair was last cut in mid-December and our next trip back to the US is set for mid-March next year, so that means I would have had to go another six months without a cut. After seeing a friend’s cute cut, I decided to brave it and came to the salon armed with pictures of multiple mid-length hairstyles with long layers. What I got was… not exactly that. In fact, I was so unhappy with it I ended up chopping somewhere between four and six inches off by myself the next day. I now think it looks ok, so whatever. And it’s just hair. I’m actually not really someone who gets hung up on bad haircuts because my hair grows pretty fast, but I have to admit that the whole ordeal was fairly annoying.

This weekend we also had two nights where the girls were up for two hours in the middle of the night. Being up from 3-5am on two occasions in the same week is not my idea of fun. (This is also why I am in pajamas and no makeup in the photos above. No sleep = no effort to look presentable.)

Oh yeah, and my phone fell out of my pocket while I was riding my bike and the screen got smashed. (Like, suuuper smashed.)

So this morning I decided to reset. KC is working late tonight and will be in Dublin the rest of the week, so I am on my own with these two little ladies. This morning I made applesauce from the apples that were about to turn AND I laid down the law at naptime and managed to get two hours to myself as a result. Right now I’ve got applesauce muffins in the oven and the apartment smells amazingly fall-like as a result.

This week is going to be better. Let’s go, Monday. We got this.

Quick No-Sugar Applesauce

makes 3-4 cups

  • apples, peeled and diced (I used 5 Jonagold that were about to turn)
  • 2 thin slices of lemon or juice from half a lemon
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • small pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  1. Combine everything in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover, lower heat and let simmer for 20 minutes. If you like a thicker applesauce, remove cover and simmer up to another 10 minutes.
  2. Remove the lemon slices, then mash with a potato masher, fork, or run a hand blender through everything until the desired consistency is reached.
  3. Store in the fridge.

Breakfast / Brunch / Sweet

Bakery-Worthy Blueberry Muffins

November 18, 2016

img_0436I have been on a total blueberry kick lately. A friend brought some blueberries over a couple weeks ago when her daughter came over to play with Prim and I haven’t been able to get enough since. Never mind that it’s not exactly blueberry season and they certainly aren’t the cheapest item in the produce department right now — this pregnant belly doesn’t care. Just give me all the blueberries.

The recipe below is a slight adaption of the America’s Test Kitchen recipe for blueberry muffins, and I will tell you right now — it’s the only blueberry muffin recipe you’ll ever need. These muffins are straight-up bakery status. They are soft and moist on the inside and crispy and full on top — everything you could want out of a blueberry muffin.

If you need an impressive contribution to a breakfast or brunch spread, or simply something delicious to have with your afternoon coffee — these muffins are it. And I really wish these photographs did these muffins justice, but they don’t — they look amazing in person and taste even better.img_0434

Blueberry Muffins

makes 12 muffins

For the muffins:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup blueberries, rinsed and picked over
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt

For the quick jam:

  • 1 cup blueberries, rinsed and picked over
  • 1 tsp sugar

For the topping:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • grated zest of one lemon (about 1 1/2 tsp)
  1. Stir together lemon zest and sugar for topping and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 425°.
  3. Make a quick blueberry jam by combining 1 cup of blueberries with 1 tsp sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir and smash the berries along the side of the pan until they have reduced by about half and become syrupy — about 4-5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  4. Whisk together eggs and sugar until pale yellow and fluffy. Whisk in oil and melted butter, followed by milk, yogurt and vanilla extract, then fold in blueberries with a spatula. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt, then add dry ingredients to wet, stirring just to combine. (Do not over mix — batter should be slightly lumpy.)
  5. Spoon batter into 12 greased muffin cups, filling to the top. Add 1 tsp of the quick blueberry jam to the top of each muffin and use a skewer or knife to swirl it into the muffin. Sprinkle the top of each muffin with lemon sugar until well-covered.
  6. Bake 15-17 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Notes:

  • You will probably only need about half the of the sugar topping for these, so feel free to scale that down. Add more sugar to the top of the muffins that you think you should, though — it makes for a great crispy top!
  • These are really best the day that you make them, so I would suggest making them the day you plan on consuming them, to the extent possible. They will keep overnight wrapped in plastic or in an airtight container.

Drinks / Sweet

How to Make a Starbucks-Quality Mocha at Home

November 15, 2016

I know I’ve posted on here before about making mochas on your stovetop, but since I feel like I’ve really perfected the recipe I thought I’d post about it again. Those of you who know me may know that I have a long history with coffee. I was hired at Starbucks at the age of 16 and ended up working there for 6 years — through college. It was a great job and my love of coffee was solidified during those years. I still frequent the ‘bucks, but more often I can be found making coffee at home and experimenting with recreating my favorite recipes from my barista days.

This recipe works just as well for homemade hot chocolate if you omit the coffee. I’ve never been much of a fan of those powdered packets that you add hot water to, so be warned — this recipe is not that. (And I can definitely recommend topping off your mug with a big dollop of whipped cream — it makes life worth living.)

This recipe is perfect for one person, but it’s just as easy to double, triple or quadruple it — whatever your fancy. I will admit that an instant espresso machine (like the Nespresso) makes things a bit easier here, but you can certainly make do with a stovetop espresso pot or any other type of coffee contraption that you have on hand. If you’re using a standard coffee pot or french press, just make sure to double the coffee strength to make a more concentrated, espresso-like batch of coffee. (I recommend using 4 tbsp coffee per 6 oz of water to do this.)

img_0350

Homemade Mocha

serves one

  • 25 grams / 1 ounce / 2.5 tbsp dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • tiniest pinch of salt
  • 1.5 cups milk
  • 1/8 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1.5 ounces (one shot) or more espresso or double-strength coffee
  1. Place chocolate, sugar, salt, and milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk regularly until chocolate is dissolved and milk is heated through to desired temperature.
  2. Take milk mixture off the heat and add vanilla extract.
  3. Add desired amount of coffee/espresso and stir to combine in a large mug.

Notes:

  • I prefer to use semi-sweet chocolate in this, which has at least 35% cocoa content. The chocolate I get here in the Netherlands has a minimum of 45%, which seems to work perfectly. The higher the cocoa content, the more bitter/less sweet the mocha will be. I’ve used chocolate with up to 90% cocoa content in this recipe, and while I prefer the higher cocoa content for general chocolate snacking, I think the mid-range (35 – 60%) works best.
  • You can use any types of milk you prefer in this, but I generally use whole milk as I think it gives the best result.

Fall / Sweet

Perfect Pumpkin Bread

October 26, 2016

img_0009If you’re looking for the perfect fall recipe, look no further. Once I spotted this recipe on Smitten Kitchen’s site, I knew I had to make it. Nevermind that canned pumpkin basically doesn’t exist here in Amsterdam, which meant I had to make my own from scratch. And maybe after finally finding a pumpkin and roasting it, draining it, and pureeing it, I discovered that the pumpkin I bought didn’t make quite enough puree for the recipe. Of course. So KC kindly went back to the store and bought another pumpkin, which I then roasted, drained and pureed, yet again.

img_0013The good news is that this mishap means I have enough puree to make two loaves now, which is great since the first loaf is shaping up to be gone by the end of the day…  img_0017Loaf pans are also weirdly tough to track down here. (Well, bakeware in general seems not as readily available as it is in the US, but maybe I also just don’t know where to shop yet.) I finally found a pan at a large department store over the weekend, though it is a bit of a different shape than the loaf pans we have in the US — much longer and skinnier. img_0019Honestly, I can’t recommend this recipe enough. I mean, Smitten Kitchen recipes tend to be Ina-level successful, so I figured Deb wouldn’t steer me wrong here. But really, if you like pumpkin bread — this is the jam. It comes together quickly and makes the whole house smell like fall while it’s baking. What more could you want? img_0029You can find the recipe for the Pumpkin Bread here, and the recipe for homemade pumpkin puree below:

Homemade Pumpkin Puree

  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Cut pumpkin in half and remove the stem. (Put your back into it — it’s tough!) Scoop out the seeds, then place pumpkin cut-side down on a baking sheet wrapped in foil.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes to an hour, until the skin and flesh are easily poked with a fork. (Cooking time will vary based on size and type of pumpkin.)
  4. Let cool, then scoop flesh into a fine mesh strainer and let sit over a bowl to drain some of the liquid.
  5. Once drained, blend the flesh in a food processor or in a bowl with a hand blender.
  6. Store in an airtight container in the fridge up to one week, or in the freezer up to three months.

*If you have a large/tough pumpkin, you can speed up the roasting process by cutting it into pieces prior to roasting. This does make scooping the cooked flesh out a little more tedious, so consider peeling the pumpkin first if you’re going to go this route.