Bread

Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread

Sometimes it can be hard to reconcile my commitment to healthy eating with my ever-persistent sweet tooth. That’s why I love this recipe – it’s low on sugar (but still plenty sweet) and full of fiber thanks to the whole wheat flour and pureed pumpkin. The recipe even cuts out butter by substituting in olive oil, making it a great contender for post- Thanksgiving breakfast or brunch.

Pumpkin Bread

I’ve used both low and high quality oil for this recipe in the past. While I recommend something on the higher end, the Trader Joe’s variety has served me well in a pinch.

To prep the pan for baking, lightly coat all sides with butter. Add a bit of flour and shake the pan lightly, tapping on the sides to make sure that the flour makes its way around. This is the best way to ensure that your bread won’t get stuck in the pan – even if you’re using a non-stick variety, the extra step never hurts.

Much like all other quick bread recipes, this one starts by combining all of the dry ingredients. Sifting isn’t necessary, but prepare to spend a bit longer on this step due to the number of spices included. I’m sure that some of the spices can be swapped out for others (ginger always shouts out to me as missing here), but the end result tastes so delicious that I rarely experiment.

The highlight of this recipe is that the entire thing can be, and should be, done by hand. To combine the wet ingredients, take out your handy whisk, grab a large mixing bowl, and add the ingredients one at a time in the order instructed. The batter will have a strange texture for much of the mixing process, so don’t worry if everything isn’t coming together as nicely as you’d like it to.

Pumpkin Bread Ingredients

To fold in the dry ingredients, use a large spatula and take big, sweeping strokes. Try to stir the batter as little as possible, repeating the folding motion until the white streaks of flour just disappear.  While this method takes some practice, it’s a helpful skill to add to your baking repertoire.

Once the bread is in the oven, leave it undisturbed for around 50 minutes. Then test for doneness, inserting either a knife or toothpick into the center of the bread. If the knife doesn’t come out clean, give it a few more minutes. Pumpkin bread is reliably moist, so it’s a good idea to leave the bread in the oven until you’re sure it’s done.

The best part about this bread is that it can be eaten at almost every time of day – in the morning for breakfast, around mid-afternoon for a snack, or after dinner as a delicious dessert.

Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread Recipe (Adapted from recipegirl.com)

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1 cup pumpkin (from a 15 oz can)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (not extra virgin)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup water

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan and dust lightly with flour.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, salt, and spices.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil and pumpkin puree until combined.  Add the sugar and stir until smooth.  Whisk in the eggs, beating well after each addition. Stir in 1/4 cup water at room temperature.
  4. Fold in the dry ingredients, being careful not to over mix the batter.
  5. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.
  6. Cool on a wire rack before serving.

This bread tastes even better the next day, so do not hesitate to make it in advance!

Dinner · Vegetarian

Caramelized Tofu and Brussels Sprouts

I’ll admit, the first time I read this recipe I was doubtful. In my Own “Flavor Bible” that I’ve developed over the years, I never imagined that Brussels sprouts would pair well with tofu. Roasted with olive oil and bacon? Definitely. Pan fried with Parmesan cheese? Delicious. But stir fried with soy and Asian flavors? That seemed unlikely.

Caramelized Tofu and Brussels Sprouts

Enter the shredded Brussels sprout. These sprouts are sliced thinly and stir fried, replacing the typical halved-and-roasted sprout that makes a seasonal appearance on household menus everywhere. Furthermore, these sprouts retain their crunch throughout the cooking process, behaving like green or red cabbage when put over high heat.

To shred the sprouts by hand, cut the bottom off the sprouts and slice them in half lengthwise. With the cut side down, chop the halves into thin strips. Most sprouts, especially the leafier ones, will shred easily. To cook, stir fry the sprouts in hot oil for 3-5 minutes, until leaves appear charred and tender.

Toss the Brussels sprouts with some garlic, soy sauce, and caramelized tofu for a quick dinner that’s both sweet and salty – a combination that’s bound to satisfy everyone at the table.

Caramelized Tofu with Brussels Sprouts (Adapted from 101 Cookbooks)

Ingredients:

  • 7 ounces firm tofu, cut into cubes
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped
  • 1.5-2 tbsp tablespoons light brown sugar (depending on desired sweetness)
  • 1/2 pound Brussels sprouts, shredded
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 cup brown rice, cooked
  • Neutral oil, like canola oil or safflower oil

Instructions:

  1. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the tofu cubes and stir fry until golden, 2-3 minutes on each side.
  2. Add the garlic and nuts and stir fry for another minute or so. Reduce the heat slightly and gently add in the brown sugar, stirring quickly for 30 seconds to ensure that the sugar doesn’t burn. Remove tofu mixture from the pan to rest.
  3. Add shredded Brussels sprouts to the pan. Salt lightly and cook until slightly softened and charred, about 3 minutes. Stir in the green onions and soy sauce and stir fry for another 30 seconds. Add tofu mixture back to the pan to combine flavors. Let cool slightly and serve over brown rice.

Serves 2.

Cake · Dessert · Fruit

Plum Torte

Despite being knee deep in October, plums are still bountiful at my local farmers market. This unexpected harvest inspired me to try the recipe below, shared long ago by the NY Times and now a mainstay in many home cook’s kitchens. This plum dessert makes a surprisingly great neighbor to your other fall favorites, pairing nicely with the season’s pumpkin breads and apple pies.

Plum Torte (3 of 4)

After trying this recipe, there’s no wonder why it continues to rage in popularity. The batter is practically effortless –  the entire recipe can be prepared in one bowl, should you decide to sift the ingredients directly into the batter. The preparation process takes less than 10 minutes, and the majority of your time will be spent salivating at the smells coming out from your oven.

While the original recipes calls for a springform pan, I didn’t have one of those in hand. Instead, I pulled out my handy non-stick cake pan, lined it with parchment paper, and gave it a good coating of butter. This method worked seamlessly, and my cake popped out without a crumb. If you don’t have a springform pan either – there’s no reason to write off this recipe!

Plums for the plum torte (1 of 1)

Plum Torte (1 of 4)

For the topping, lay the plums neatly on the top of the torte. They should be side by side, with little space in between. This will prevent the plums from moving around and sinking into the batter unevenly. There’s no need to push the plums in, though – they collapse naturally into the batter once baking.

Plum Torte (4 of 4)

Plum Torte (adapted from the NY Times)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 cup unbleached flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • Pinch of salt
  • 10 plums
  • Cinnamon for dusting
  • 1/2 a lemon

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9 inch cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and butter again (you can skip this step if you have a springform pan).
  2. Cut plums in half and remove pits.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
  4. Using a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth and light in color, about three minutes.
  5. Add the dry ingredients and eggs to the bowl. Beat on low to medium speed until just combined.
  6. Pour batter into the prepared cake pan. Top with plum halves, skin side up. Dust with sugar and cinnamon and squirt with lemon juice.
  7. Bake for 45-50 minutes and let cool completely.

 

Dinner · Vegetarian

Ratatouille Spaghetti

Even though the temperatures this week undoubtedly hint at fall, the vegetables at the farmers market still speak of summer. Nothing makes me happier than the colors and flavors of tomatoes, summer squash, corn, and eggplant, and I’m happy to extend their season way into September.

This brings me to one of my favorite recipes, ratatouille.  This success of this dish is rooted in its components – bring together all your freshest summer vegetables, throw them in a pot, and you’re sure to get a winning result.

What’s more, the cooking directions are entirely informed by sturdiness of the vegetable. Curious where to start? Eggplant is notorious for its long cooking times, so why not saute it in a batch by itself. Ready to move on? Add in your peppers and onions, which typically take about 5-7 minutes to begin breaking down. Follow up with your summer squash and zucchini, since both vegetables have relatively similar textures and will cook at about the same speed. Top the dish off with your tomatoes and continue cooking until the flavors and fresh and sweet – you’ll know it’s ready when you taste it!

A few tips: chop your vegetables so that they are fairly comparable in size. This will help to control cooking times, ensuring that each vegetable is cooked through (but not overcooked!). In addition, don’t forget your seasonings. Salt and pepper go a long way with fresh summer vegetables, and the basil adds a special last touch.

Ratatouille Spaghetti (adapted from Alice Waters’ recipe at Food 52)

Ingredients:

  • 2 Japanese eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 summer squash, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 red pepper, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup corn kernels (from one ear of corn)
  • handful of basil, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • olive oil
  • cooked spaghetti, for serving

Instructions:

  1. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a sturdy skillet. Once hot, add eggplant slices and saute until lightly browned and softened, about 7-10 minutes. Remove eggplant and set it aside.
  2. Heat another tbsp olive oil and add in the onions. Stir for 5 minutes, or until onions are translucent. Add in the garlic, 1/2 the basil, and red chili flakes and stir for 30 more seconds.
  3. Add in the diced red pepper and stir for a few more minutes. Once slightly softened, add in the zucchini and summer squash. After 2 to 3 minutes more, add in the tomatoes. Salt and pepper as needed and cook for 10 minutes over low to medium heat (tomatoes should not come to a boil).
  4. Add corn and eggplant to the skillet and cook for 10 more minutes, or until all vegetables are softened and flavorful. Top with remaining basil and serve over spaghetti or pasta.

Serves 2-3

Breakfast · Fruit

Triple Berry Muffins

As a lover of all things sweet for breakfast, I often wake up with a craving for muffins. However, daunted by the thought of finding a recipe and gathering the ingredients, I tend to settle for something simpler – and right out of the cereal box.

That is, until I found this recipe. There’s a short list of ingredients, so it’s likely that you have them all on hand in your pantry at this very moment. Flour? Yes. Sugar? Yes. Eggs and milk? In the refrigerator and ready for use. In addition, there’s a ton of flexibility built right into the recipe. Granulated sugar can be easily replaced with brown, vegetable oil can be swapped for butter (or another variety of oil), and berries can be removed entirely or accompanied by nuts (pecans and walnuts would be ideal).

For those of you that see this recipe as a base for future experimentation, there’s plenty of room to play around with spices. Cinnamon, allspice, and cardamom come quickly to mind, but other spices would work just as well. Add lemon zest, lime juice, or other citrus flavors if you like muffins with an extra tangy bite.

When it comes to mixing together the ingredients, that’s where this recipe really begins to shine. Most importantly, you’ll only need two bowls from start to finish. If you’re like me and loved baking but hate dishes, that’s a huge win. And, if you opt for oil instead of butter, there’s no need to break out the mixer – a large mixing spoon will do. Give the batter a few stirs, divide it between the 12 muffin cups, and all the sudden you’re done.

Berry Muffin Breakfast

Once in the oven, these muffins come out warm and toasty in under 20 minutes. Combined with prep time, that means the entire recipe comes together easily in under 35 minutes. Now, baking breakfast doesn’t have to last into the early afternoon.

Triple Berry Muffins Recipe (adapted from The Joy of Cooking)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (1/2 cup if you want a very moist muffin)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups mixed berries (I used raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries)
  • Lemon zest

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and lightly butter two muffin trays (6 muffins each).
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar and vegetable oil. Stir in the eggs and vanilla.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Gently stir in the berries and divide muffins into the prepared muffin cups.
  5. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

 

 

Dessert · Fruit

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

One of the things I love most about summer is the sudden appearance of fruit desserts. I’ve seen them pop up just about everywhere, from the fanciest of restaurants to my friend’s laid back weeknight BBQ. The varieties are endless, beginning with berries in June and transferring over to peaches and other stone fruits as the season progresses. Even the toppings differ, ranging from streusels to sweet puffy biscuits.

My personal favorite fruit dessert is the crumble, a simple dish of baked fruit with oats in the topping. The oats compliment the already delicious combination of flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon, adding a touch of crunch to each bite. If you’re curious about the distinctions between summer fruit desserts, like what makes a crumble different from a crisp,  check out this article via the Huffington Post.

Rhubarb Crumble Food Blog (1 of 1)

There are a few options for the filling. Purists will stick with one fruit, but I always prefer two (and a touch of zest, if you have it!). This particular crumble features strawberries and rhubarb, balancing tart and sweet flavors. Both fruits are on the watery side, however, so add corn starch to the mix if you prefer a thicker filling.

Rhubarb Crumble Food Blog (1 of 1)-2

From start to finish, crumbles should take no longer than an hour to prepare. And don’t forget – while you’re waiting for the fruit to bake, run out and buy a pint of vanilla ice cream. You’ll thank me later.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Recipe (adapted from William-Sonoma Essentials of Baking)

Filling:

  • 6 stalks of rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 2.5 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered (if large)
  • scant 1/2 cup sugar (I used a bit less)
  • juice and zest of half a lemon

Topping:

  • 1 cup of flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a square Pyrex dish (about 8 x 8)
  2. In a large bowl, mix together fruits, white sugar, and lemon juice. Stir to combine and pour into the prepared dish.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, white sugar, brown sugar, and oats. Slowly add the melted butter and stir until small clumps begin to form.
  4. Spoon crumbs onto the fruit mixture and spread evenly. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the top crumbs are golden brown. Let cool and serve.
Breakfast

Simple French Toast

Long weekends beg for decadent breakfasts. French toast, with its custard-like texture and sweet, crispy crust, is the perfect answer.

Like many of my favorite sweet breakfast treats, french toast comes together quickly and requires ingredients frequently found in the fridge. Eggs? Check. Milk? Check. Bread? Check. If I’m really trying to impress, I’ll throw a loaf of challah into the mix.

Sweetly Seasoned - French Toast

To make a truly great piece of french toast – one that rivals your favorite brunch establishments – There are a few tricks. First, use thick slices of day-old bread. Your bread should be soft enough to soak up the egg mixture, but not so soft that it will fall apart. Secondly, make sure that you have the right proportion of milk to eggs. If you’re looking for a rich, melt-in-your-mouth piece of french toast, use whole milk or heavy cream.  If you’re looking for something slightly healthier, stick with a low-fat milk like 1%. Lastly, let the bread soak in the custard mixture on both sides before cooking. This is the key to creating a creamy center – arguably the best part of the dish.

For those of you savory folks that are skeptical of sweet breakfast, give this one a try.

French Toast Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk (I used 1%)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg
  • 4 medium slices of bread (preferably challah), cut into 1″ thick slices
  • unsalted butter for frying

Instructions:

  1. Beat eggs in a large bowl. Add milk, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon and whisk until combined.
  2. Dip slices of bread one at a time into the bowl.  Let sit for 30 seconds on one side and then flip. Let sit for 30 more seconds and then remove bread from egg mixture, letting excess egg drip off. Repeat with remaining slices of bread.
  3. Heat skillet over medium high heat.  Add butter and swirl around pan to coat. Add slices of bread to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. Flip bread and let cook on other side for 2-3 minutes longer.
  4. Remove bread from pan and top with strawberries and maple syrup.  Serve warm and enjoy!