Carrot Raspberry Breakfast Muffins

Healthy Carrot Muffins
Mornings and I are frenemies, at best, and it’s been a difficult transition shifting my schedule from going to sleep at 5 a.m. to waking up around that same time. It’s necessitated a nightly cocktail of melatonin and warm milk and a carefully devised morning ritual. My ritual isn’t for empowerment, productivity, or getting my blood pumping; it’s mainly about gentle pampering and self-care that tells my soul, “See, pre-dawn mornings aren’t so bad.” Softly, softly, the morning and I meet.

I sleep in a freezing-cold bedroom with windows open wide to the night air – perfect for a sound sleep, not ideal for throwing the covers off each morning. The chilly temperature makes me covet a deeper snuggle under the duvet, not put my feet on chilly wood floors, so I make sure the heater in the rest of the house kicks on about 15 minutes before my alarm. Knowing there’s warm coziness on the other side of the bedroom door helps get me moving (not to mention two cats impatiently crying behind the locked door).

Once I’m padding around the kitchen, I feed the beasts, brew a cappuccino (Nespresso, I love you. You have no idea the crap I used to drink each morning), warm a homemade baked good-o-the-week, and snuggle onto the couch. For half an hour, I simultaneously read the news and play fetch with kitty Mochi and the often elusive “Mr. Mousy,” an eviscerated blob of plastic and fur that, at one time, resembled a mouse. During this contented couch time, the sun slowly peeps in the window and I willingly greet another day.

I don’t wait until the very last moment to spring from bed to shower. I don’t scroll through work emails and stress about my day. I don’t red-line the latest contract while absentmindedly gulping down a cup of brown liquid that barely resembles coffee. Instead, I pause…and enjoy.

My morning pause would be incomplete without a home-baked treat to accompany my cappuccino. These past two weeks (and probably next week as well), it’s been muffins. I’ve cracked the perfect morning muffin code – not too big, not too sweet, packed with good stuff, with a tender crumb and loaded with flavor. I thought I couldn’t outdo last week’s banana-cherry muffins, but I’ve done just that with this carrot-raspberry version.


Carrot Raspberry Breakfast Muffins

The perfect morning muffin – not too big, not too sweet, packed with good stuff, with a tender crumb and loaded with flavor.

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup almond flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • ⅓ cup low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg plus 1 yolk
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts, plus more for topping
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 1 large carrot, shredded

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 12 muffin cups with liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, almond flour, baking soda, and salt. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, yogurt, vinegar, vanilla, egg, and yolk. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and whisk until just blended. Fold in walnuts, raspberries and carrot.
  2. Spoon batter into muffin cups. Top with a sprinkle of chopped walnuts. Bake 25-30 minutes until muffins are brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool slightly and enjoy.

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Lime Tart with Almond Crust

Gluten Free Lime Tart
I’m, by definition, a planner, but when it comes to this blog, I feel utterly clueless and disorganized. Let’s take last week, for example, which was a banner week for any food blogger, containing TWO perfect opportunities for very relevant posts. Tuesday, March 14, was Pi day, one of the baker’s high holy days when, had I been properly prepared, I might have been crimping, latticing, and baking with my brethren. Instead, I posted a recipe for chicken stew (not even a pot pie!). Then, St. Paddy’s day made an appearance, the ideal opportunity to post a recipe for traditional corned beef (learning too late it requires salt peter and a week to prepare), or if I was to pick lower-hanging fruit, anything mint, green or containing Irish Cream. Nope – missed that occasion as well.

The sad thing is that I have an ersatz posting calendar – I’m obviously underutilizing its potential. Now Easter is a mere two weeks away and I haven’t posted anything resembling a bunny or baby chick, haven’t focused on uses for surplus hard boiled eggs or incorporated Peeps into any of my desserts. Today’s recipe is a lime tart with almond crust. I guess it’s kinda Spring-like – fresh and pale chartruse, I suppose I can claim it’s a timely Easter Sunday dessert though I’m not sure what limes have to do with Easter. In truth, I wasn’t inspired by Spring or Easter, but something decidedly more practical – an overflowing bowl of homegrown limes languishing on my kitchen counter.


Gluten-Free Lime Tart with Almond Crust

  • Servings: one 9-inch tart
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An almond crust gives this Springtime tart the added benefit of being gluten-free.

Ingredients

    Crust
  • 2 ½ cups almond meal
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • Filling
  • 28 oz. sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ cup full-fat Greek yogurt
  • ¾ cup lime juice
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons grated lime zest

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together almond meal, sugar, ginger and salt. Add melted butter and stir until fully combined. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch tart pan and, using your fingers, pat crust firmly and evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan.
  2. Place the crust in the oven and par-bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. If the crust puffs up too much, you can carefully and gently pat it back into the pan with your fingers. Careful, though, it will be hot.
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine condensed milk, Greek yogurt, lime juice, and lime zest. Stir until combined and pour into crust. Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, until tiny pinhole bubbles burst on the surface of pie. Do not brown. Chill pie thoroughly before serving. Garnish with whipped cream, shaved white chocolate or grated lime zest. Happy Easter!

Biscochitos

Bizcochitos Cookies
The “café” was nothing more than a cheap addition to a ‘70’s ranch house on a dirt cul-de-sac. I was in search of much needed caffeine and it was the best I was going to get in little Chimayo, a town without gas station, bank or grocery store.

“Excuse me,” I asked, “can you tell me what those are?” pointing to a plate of thin, simple, cinnamon sugar dusted cookies in the otherwise barren pastry case.

“Biscochitos,” he said with a look of incredulity at my ignorance, “they’re our state cookie.”

I purchased two of the unfamiliar cookies to go with my cappuccino.

New Mexico and I had already become fast friends during my first trip to Santa Fe to experience the Christmas Eve luminarias. My fondness grew this trip during my drive from Albuquerque to Taos to Chimayo – surrounded by stretches of Georgia O’Keeffe painted deserts under infinite azure, cloud-crowded skies.

As I sipped my cappuccino and munched on the crunchy, anise-cinnamon-flavored biscuits, I found another excuse to fall in love. Any state, I mused, that had an official state cookie (the first) deserved my adoration.


Biscochitos (Bizcochitos)

  • Servings: 88 cookies about 1 ½” in size
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Lard isn’t something most of us keep in our kitchen. For the best flavor, it’s worth purchasing lard, but feel free to substitute shortening in a pinch.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon table salt (not Kosher)
  • 1 Tablespoon anise seed, crushed
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1 cup lard (you can substitute vegetable shortening in a pinch)
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tablespoon brandy
  • Topping
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk in the anise and orange zest.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat together sugar, lard and butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and brandy and beat until combined. Gradually beat in the flour, a little at a time, just until combined. Dough should be similar in consistency to pie crust dough. Form into a brick, cover and refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon for topping.
  4. In between 2 sheets of waxed paper, roll out dough to ¼ inch thickness. Cut out cookies (I used a small 1½” circle cutter). Place cookies on baking sheet and bake until just barely golden and set, about 10 to 12 minutes. Let cookies cool for 1 minute, and then carefully toss them into the cinnamon sugar. Place on cooling rack until completely cooled. These cookies make great coffee dunkers – but are also tasty nibbled plain.

 

Chicken stew with mushroom & onions

French Chicken Stew
A grey and drizzly day like today calls for a classic, satisfying and hearty stew like this French-inspired chicken version. The best part – plenty of leftovers for lunch this week.


Chicken stew with mushroom & onions

A classic combination of chicken, mushrooms and onions in a hearty sauce.

Ingredients

  • 6 strips bacon, chopped
  • 1 lb. baby portabella mushrooms, quartered
  • 12 oz. frozen baby onions, thawed
  • 3 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 Tablespoons tarragon, minced

Directions

  1. In a large pot of Dutch oven, sauté bacon until crisp. Remove bacon from pot. Add mushrooms and onions and sauté until golden and beginning to brown. While cooking, add a pinch of salt to help mushrooms release their liquid. Once browned, remove from pot.
  2. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and add to the pot. Brown chicken on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Cook chicken in batches if needed – do not overcrowd pot. Set chicken aside. Add red wine vinegar and butter to pot. Once butter has melted, sprinkle with flour. Cook about a minute until flour begins to brown. Add chicken stock and cook until bubbling, scraping up flavorful browned bits from bottom of the pot.
  3. Return chicken and any accumulated juices to pot, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove lid, add bacon, mushrooms and onions and cook uncovered for 15 minutes more.
  4. If needed, remove chicken, increase heat and cook sauce until reduced and thickened. Return chicken to pot and season with salt and pepper. Serve stew over egg noodles or rice, sprinkled with tarragon.

Cardamom Rose Latte

Cardamom Rose latte garnished with rose petals
In general, I’m not a fancy, foo foo, flavored latte kind of person. Mornings, I prefer a single cappuccino (no messing around with “caff” or “fat” or “pumps” or “Vente”) or, after dinner, a perfectly pulled single espresso with just a bit of raw sugar. When feeling especially indulgent, I may splurge on a true macchiato with an orange twist (Not to be confused with Starbuck’s bastardization, look it up).

These were my go-to hot beverages until, a few months ago, I discovered (gasp!) cardamom rose lattes at my local coffee house. Cardamom? And Rose? Decidedly foo foo, I was nonetheless hooked. If Chai was female, it would taste like this. I adore citrusy-spicy cardamom and use it often in my baking – an unexpected alternative to cinnamon and I’ve always been a fan of those delicate, rose-scented syrupy Indian sweets. Combine these two flavors with creamy steamed milk and a bit of espresso and you have an exotic spicy, floral sweet treat that can only be described as well-being in a mug.

Since returning to work, I’ve taken to making my own cardamom rose latte so I can begin each morning with this comforting, soothing brew. It makes my morning a bit brighter.

To learn more about the benefits of rose, check this out.


Cardamom Rose Latte

  • Servings: about 12 – 24 lattes, depending on size
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Inspired by a latte at my favorite local coffee house.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cardamom
  • 2 Tablespoons rose water

Directions

  1. To make syrup: In a small saucepan, heat sugar and water together until sugar is completely melted and mixture looks clear. Remove from heat, stir in cardamom, cover, and let steep for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Strain through cheesecloth and add rose water.
  2. To make latte: Make latte according to your machines directions. Stir in one tablespoons of syrup (or to taste) for each 8 oz. of milk. Breathe deeply and enjoy.