Saturday, November 30, 2013

Single Applesauce Bran Muffin

Here is another individual muffin recipe that can be whipped up and cooked it the microwave for a quick hot breakfast. I have tried a few of these now, including the Single Blueberry Muffin and the Banana Bread For One, however my favorite is still the Muffin In A Cup. You can click on all of these titles here for the links. This one is moist and flavorful, and can be served with fresh fruit, nuts, or nut butters. 

Single Applesauce Bran Muffin
2 teaspoon ground flaxseed
1 Tablespoon water
4 teaspoons milk or choice
1 Tablespoon applesauce
1 Tablespoon whole wheat flour
1 Tablespoon natural wheat bran
2 teaspoons oats
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons sweetener of choice, if desired
Mix the flax and water together until smooth, then mix in remaining ingredients. Transfer to a greased mug or ramekin and microwave on HIGH (100%) power for about one minute. 

Usually with other individual microwave muffin recipes, I mix everything in my extra-wide mug and just microwave that. This doesn't work as well for this recipe since it is low-fat, so it will stick to the mug a bit unless it is greased. Also, these recipes are not as large or voluminous as my original favorite muffin recipe, so a taller, thinner mug would work better than an extra-wide mug. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Sesame Flax Whole Wheat Bread

This recipe was supposed to make one loaf! I have altered the original recipe quite a bit, but this supposedly "German-style" bread recipe was designed to make one loaf. That would certainly be one monstrous loaf. I was feeling a little brave, so I decided to try making a traditional yeasty and slow rise dough bread again, as opposed to the quick breads and batter breads I have been making recently. I am happy to say it worked out quite nicely and rose very well - maybe one of the best I have ever made. I decided to try a trick my father has discovered wit his pizza dough - put the dough in the refrigerator overnight and it rises wonderfully, then put it in the pan and let it rise for a long time before baking. This second rise needs to be particularly long also because the dough starts out cold. This dough probably could be made without chilling, but it is convenient to begin the dough the night before and it rises so well overnight. Finally, this dough has a well-formed, soft texture and a nice taste. I am not sure what the purpose of the vinegar is, but it certainly doesn't add a sour taste. I formed my dough into logs to put in the pan and got nice, uniformly shaped loaves (even if one may be slightly larger than the other).

Sesame Flax Whole Wheat Bread
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 Tablespoon granulated (white) sugar
2 packages instant rise yeast
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups whole wheat flour, approximately

In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in 3/4 cup warm water. Sprinkle the yeast over top and let stand for ten minutes until bubbly. Stir to dissolve yeast. Add the remaining water, vinegar, flax, sesame, and salt. Gradually stir in the flour, adding as much as you can, you may need more. Knead the bread gently if necessary to incorporate the flour. 
Form dough into a ball, place in a greased bowl and cover with greased plastic wrap. 
Refrigerate overnight or until risen, anywhere from 2-16 hours.
Punch dough down, divide into two and shape into two oval loaves. Place each in a greased or lined 9x5 inch loaf pan. Allow to rise for about two hours, until risen. You may want to place the dough in a semi-warm oven for the last twenty minutes to give it a little lift.
Preheat oven to 400F. Bake the bread for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350F and bake for about 30 minutes more. 
Rise the dough overnight.
Shape into loaves.
Rise again.
And bake. As you can see, I already began slicing into it!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

High Protein Bar Cookies

This is one of the protein bar trials I have completed. I would classify this one as a "healthier" tasting version - all of my trials are healthy and high protein, but these certainly have a healthy appearance and taste. Some people go for that and prefer that, I being one of them. However, if you are trying to "fool" your consumers, this recipe won't do. This is an extremely good bar for active, on the go consumers, as the bars are sturdy, easy to eat, and hold up well. They can be kept on the counter, refrigerated, or frozen. They are chewy and provide a great quick of energy in a small amount. And they are tasty - natural sweetener, applesauce, and dates add flavor, where coconut, seeds, and oats add texture. Feel free to add more dates if you wish!
High Protein Bar Cookies
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup hemp seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg or flax egg replacement for vegans (1 Tablespoon flax mixed with 1 Tablespoon water) I used flax
1/3 cup applesauce
1/4 cup molasses or maple syrup
3 Tablespoons flax oil
2 Tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
handful large dates, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8x8 inch square pan with oil.
In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients.
In a separate small bowl, mix all the wet ingredients
Add to dry ingredients, mix well. Fold in dates. Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake for about 25 minutes. Great warm or chilled. Cut into squares and package individually for convenience, freeze for prolonged storage. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

High Protein Ingredients

Just as some ideas and brainstorming to go along with yesterday's post, here are some high-protein ingredients, especially some that are appropriate for bar recipes.

GRAINS: oats, quinoa, flax, hemp, chia.
MEAT ALTERNATIVES: seeds, beans, lentils, nuts and nut butters (if possible) or nut-substitute butters (soy butter and seed butters), coconut, tofu.
OTHERS: eggs, Greek yogurt, protein powder, skim milk powder, nutritional yeast, textured vegetable protein. 

Surprisingly, all of these ingredients are possibilities for use in protein bars. Tofu, Greek yogurt, and eggs may be less common, but still great, although eggs and yogurt are not suitable for vegan protein bars. Beans are surprisingly easy and sneaky to use, and certainly add a lot of fiber and protein. I am also going to avoid protein powders, as they can be pricey and I prefer to obtain nutrients from natural food sources, however skim milk powder, TVP, and flax are all great substitutes if you come across a recipe calling for a powder.

Other common ingredients in protein bar recipes include whole grains (wheat, spelt, bran, wheat germ), natural sweeteners (honey, agave, molasses, maple syrup), fruit purées (applesauce, banana, pumpkin), dried fruit (dates, raisins, cherries, apricots), and chocolate options (cocoa, dark chocolate chips, chocolate protein powder). 

Mix and match and create a custom made protein bar!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Protein Bars

Recently I was asked by a school cafeteria to develop an ideal protein bar recipe. The cafeteria is looking to start selling some nut-free protein bars to students. So they would like a recipe that they can make themselves in the cafeteria and package and sell. The only criteria I was given was that the bars had to be nut-free and high in protein. However, taken into consideration the establishment, I am also going to ensure the recipe is quick, easy, relatively low cost, appropriate to eat on the go, and of course, tasty. Coming from a high school, tasty usually does not mean flax lentil prune bars. It often means something more like triple chocolate brownies. 

So I have been doing some trials lately. Doing some research, determining high protein ingredients, creating recipes, making them, testing them, and giving them to others for feedback. I will share the trials and results as I make them, I have completed two already. I'll be sure to share my successes and comments soon!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Quinoa Pepper Pilaf

Quinoa Pepper Pilaf For Two
1 cup water
3/4 cup quinoa (I used a golden and black mix)
1 Tablespoon oil
1 portobello mushroom, thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons chopped onion
1/2 each red, orange, and yellow pepper, diced
Italian seasoning
salt and pepper

In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the quinoa, stir, and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the vegetables and sauté for about 15 minutes, until softened. Season with Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper during cooking. 
Divide the quinoa evenly among two bowls. Put a spoonful of peppers in the bowl and mix. Then pile the mushrooms, onions, and remaining peppers on top. Drizzle with oil, dressing, Parmesan cheese, or extra herbs and spices, as desired.
This is a super quick supper that makes enough for two, and can be on the table in twenty minutes, once all of the prep work is done. Even then, there is not a whole lot of chopping involved, and it can be done in advance. This is also a really healthy vegetarian dish. Quinoa is a high protein whole grain, and the meaty texture of portobello mushrooms is a great meat alternative. For a heartier portion, serve it with a side salad, potatoes, or a dinner roll. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013


My mother made these cookies the other day. Neither of us have really made macaroons before, but we wanted to find a recipe that uses the whole egg, not just the whites so yolks don't go to waste, and not a huge amount of coconut. My mother decided to make macaroons because they are gluten free, and she needed a gluten free cookie. We concluded that these are good, though macaroons just aren't our favorite type of cookie. A great cookie for coconut lovers though. The chocolate chip in the middle adds a little to the presentation. 
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups sweetened shredded coconut
chocolate chips or chunks, optional

Preheat oven to 350F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until well beaten. Whisk in the sugar, salt, and vanilla. Stir in the coconut. Drop dough by tablespoons using a small ice cream scoop on prepared cookie sheets, spaced several inches apart. Place a chocolate chip or chunk in the middle of each, if desired. Bake for 14-18 minutes, until golden.

If preferred, the macaroons can be dipped in melted chocolate once cool to make chocolate-dipped macaroons. You can coat the bottom, the top, or the entire macaroon. Use your favorite type of chocolate, and refrigerate until set.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

More Nerdy Cupcakes

Along with the nerd cupcakes I made the other day, I had to decorate a few special ones for particular reasons. So instead of the swirl design with nerd candies and chocolate glasses, I made three of a different design. I just tinted some of the marshmallow frosting light blue and piped it.
The middle cupcake is pretty self-explanatory. I mean, MATH RULES, doesn't it? (For those of you who don't believe me, I'll send up my twelve page paper outlining a great deal of the mathematics involved in cooking and baking.)

The two outer cupcakes are physics cupcakes. 
Physics = applied mathematics ∴ PHYSICS ALSO RULES. 
Anyway, the cupcake on the right is meant to mimic the Doppler effect, which is basically the change in frequency of a wave as the observer and the source are in motion relative to each other. Simple examples of this include sirens and train whistles, which are examples of sound waves. The cupcake is a pretty simplified version of the model for this effect, but it works. Maybe some of you thought it was a target or a spiderweb, which I suppose would also be an accurate depiction.
The cupcake on the left is just an example of a sound wave or frequency wave, probably a beat frequency or such. It also mimics the pattern we see on heart beat charts and recording programs. So these two cupcakes focus on the topic of sound and waves and frequencies. Neither of them are elaborate, since I just used the same materials I was using to make the nerd cupcakes, as they were the star of the show. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Marshmallow Frosting

I decided to try this marshmallow frosting as something different from the typical buttercream frosting I use, and also because I thought it might be quicker and easier. It didn't really save much time and effort, and I wasn't really impressed with it. Personally I could eat buttercream by the spoonful, and I'm not a huge marshmallow fan, but there isn't anything wrong with how the frosting tastes. The consistency isn't great though. It is certainly sticky just like marshmallows, and is either too thin and drippy, or too thick. The frosting must be worked with quickly, as it hardens fast. Therefore, the thinned out frosting is great for a shiny appearance for cookies and such, and the thicker version is stiff so stands up great to piping. However, I definitely would not recommend using this frosting to spread and try to frost an entire cake. I also think a cake frosted entirely with this frosting would be a bit sickly sweet as well.

Marshmallow Frosting
2 cups miniature marshmallows
1/4 cup butter or hard margarine, cut into pieces
6 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a large bowl melt the marshmallows and butter on HIGH (100%) power for about 20 seconds. Stir until smooth. Heat for longer if necessary. Gradually beat in the sugar. Beat in the water and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Add a little extra sugar or water as necessary for desired consistency. This will make a fairly thick frosting, great for piping. For a smooth, spreadable frosting add a little extra water.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Nerd Cupcakes

Here are some cupcakes I made for two friends of mine who share the same birthday. They are both nerds, and wouldn't be insulted if I said that, and they both wear similarly-styled, large, black-rimmed glasses. Therefore, these cupcakes are decorated with orange and blue Nerds candies, and glasses. To make the glasses, I first printed off the outlines of many of these glasses on a piece of paper. I placed a piece of waxed paper over this. Then I simply melted some semi-sweet chocolate chips, put them in a plastic bag, and piped the outlines of the glasses through the waxed paper. This could be done free-hand as well, as it isn't a very difficult shape to do. Some turned out better than others, but the form is really a sideways eight, an infinity sign, or two circles. I put these in the refrigerator briefly to harden, then peeled them off the paper. 

The cupcakes are a confetti mix, which my friend baked. The frosting is a new recipe I tried. I stepped away from my classic buttercream and tried a marshmallow frosting. This recipe I will share tomorrow. I piped it on the cupcakes using my large open star tip, which is really easy and makes one simple, pretty swirl. Then I sprinkled the candies over top, which tended to roll everywhere, except stick to the frosting! I stuck a pair of glasses in each. I really like how the fancy cupcake wrappers match the colors of the candies. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


I have been wanting to make, or at least try, falafels for quite some time now. I think the word is just so fun to say! For those of you who aren't sure, falafel kind of rhymes with waffle, and is not pronounced fall-a-fell. Falafels are essentially a Mediterranean-style veggie burger made with chickpeas and enriched with Eastern flavors, and served in a pita bread with vegetables. This version is not deep-fried like some traditional versions, rather this is an incredibly quick and healthy version. It only makes two servings, but quantities can easily be increased. It makes a nice light meal or a nourishing snack. The recipe could also be used as a simple veggie burger recipe.
olive oil
1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 Tablespoons chopped onion
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 garlic cloves, minced or finely chopped
1/2 Tablespoon whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon coriander
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
salt and pepper to taste

whole wheat pita breads
desired garnishes - fresh vegetables, cheese, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice

Heat a little oil medium skillet over medium heat.
In a medium bowl, mash together all falafel ingredients. The quickest and easiest way to do this is to put all the ingredient in, get your hands in there, and mash. It's also fun.
Form mixture into four small patties. Brown in the skillet, a few minutes per side, until golden and cooked. 

To assemble: Spread two pita breads with tzatziki. Sprinkle with chopped baby spinach. Place the falafel patties on top. Garnish with cherry tomato halves. Or, use you favorite garnishes and flavorings. 
I think my version with tzatziki and spinach and tomato is colorful and extremely tasty. Then again, I've never tried anything else. Tzatziki is a Greek sauce made with yougurt, cucumber, parsely, and lemon. It really adds some nice flavor and is a great source of calcium. The pita could be followed over and eaten like a sandwich, or just as is. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Paleo Pancake

The Paleo diet, also known as the caveman diet, is a diet consisting primarily of fish, meat, eggs, fruits, vegetables, roots, and nuts. It excludes grains, legumes, potatoes, dairy, and refined foods. I by no means follow this diet, I just found this recipe which intrigued me and sounded tasty. Actually, I modified the original recipe so now it is not a true Paleo recipe. If you would like to make a true Paleo pancake, simply substitute coconut flour for the whole wheat flour and omit the flax. 

Paleo Pancake
1 small overripe banana, mashed
1 large egg
2 Tablespoons almond butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tablespoon ground flaxseed
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat a little oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. 
In a small bowl, beat the banana, egg, butter, and vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients, mix well. Pour batter into prepared pan. Cook for a few minutes per side, until golden. Serve immediately with desired toppings. 
This makes one individual, thick and fluffy pancake. As you can see, I cooked mine in a small frying pan so it would take on a uniform round shape, and it turned out close to the size of a dinner plate. This pancake is fluffy and satisfying, especially when you top it wisely. It contains the nutrition of an entire banana, some almond butter for protein, and whole grains. 
My toppings were Greek yogurt, blueberries, and almonds, with a glass of milk - a very high protein breakfast. Other great options are nut butters, seed butters, jams or jellies, maple syrup, molasses, apple sauce or butter, other fresh, frozen, or dried fruits, chopped nuts, and seeds. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sweet and Sour Sauced Chicken Breasts

This is a chicken dish my mother made for supper the other night, to change it up from the typical bread-crumb coated chicken. There are many different sweet and sour sauce recipes out there, and this was a new one for our family. I liked it, it was more on the sweet and not so much on the tangy side. The sauce seemed to be thick to begin with, however when poured over the chicken and baked, the sauce thinned out significantly, and became more like a chicken basting liquid to cook in. This made the chicken incredibly moist and flavorful, the downside was there was no thick sauce on the chicken or extra to pour over pasta or rice. Therefore my recommendation for next time would be to cook the chicken first, then drain it, as it is likely the fat or water from the chicken is what diluted the sauce. Then, when the chicken is nearly completed baking, pour the sauce over and bake to heat it. Or, cook the chicken in half the amount of sauce so it is moist and injects into the chicken, but save some sauce to heat and serve with the chicken on the side. 

Sweet and Sour Sauced Chicken Breasts
1 cup water
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 Tablespoons ketchup
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 Tablespoons water
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together the water, sugar, vinegar, ketchup, and soy sauce. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water until smooth. Whisk into remaining ingredients. Bring it to a boil, boiling and stirring until thickened. This can now be poured over chicken as desired, or served as is. It would be great for other meats to, or as a simple sweet and sour sauce for pasta, rice, or dipping. 

Adapted from Company's Coming "Main Courses". 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Quick Seedy Bread

Quick Seedy Bread
2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup ground flaxseed
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup oil

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
In a large bowl, stir together the first eight dry ingredients. Make a well in the center and add the milk, egg, and oil. Stir well and spread in prepared pan. Bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

This is a hearty, healthy loaf with lots of texture. The seeds could easily be varied - poppy seeds or pumpkin seeds would be nice, or even ground nuts such as almonds could be substituted. I guess it is more of a loaf than a sandwich bread, so it is delicious spread with butter, honey, jam, or peanut butter. But it could be used as a sandwich base as well, especially if the sugar content is reduced. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Overnight Apple Spice Oatmeal

Overnight Apple Spice Oatmeal
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 Tablespoon ground flaxseed
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3 Tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup milk of choice
Mix all together in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight. In the morning it will be thickened - enjoy as is or heat it up. Garnish with fresh or dried fruit and/or nuts. 

This is another easy, quick, and wholesome individual breakfast. It is just like the {Overnight Almond Oatmeal}, simply another flavor variation. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Spaghetti Squash Supreme

Here is a spaghetti squash dish that is more reminiscent of spaghetti than squash. The vegetables add some texture and the sauce adds flavor. Vary it as you wish, this makes a quick and simple side dish.

Spaghetti Squash Supreme
1 medium spaghetti squash
sliced mushrooms
chopped onions
tomato sauce

Cook the spaghetti squash until tender. This can be done in the oven or even on the barbecue, but i did it in the microwave. Just be careful not to overcook it like I did. It should be tender but not mushy, as you want strands and not mashed squash. 
Meanwhile, heat a little oil in a pot. Sauté the onions and mushrooms until tender and browned. Stir in the sauce and spices and simmer. 
Pull the squash into strands and add to the sauce mixture. This may be served immediately, covered and simmered to cook longer or keep warm, or covered and placed in the oven for a while. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Marshmallow Reese Blondies

Marshmallow Reese Blondies
1/2 cup butter or hard margarine, softened
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup candy-coated chocolates (or peanut butter flavored)
2 cups miniature marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line a 9x13 inch rectangular pan. 
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and peanut butter. Cream in the sugar. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Sir in the baking powder and salt, and 1/2 cup of the flour. Stir in another 1/2 cup flour, then the last of the flour until well blended. Stir in the chips and candies. 
Press half of the batter evenly in prepared pan. Sprinkle evenly with marshmallows. Carefully drop the remaining batter over top and try to spread as evenly as possible. It's fine if there are a few gaps. Bake for about 25 minutes until golden. 
These are some pretty sweet, pretty flavorful delicious cookie-like squares. The peanut butter flavor is not strong, but could be stronger if peanut butter candies are used. The marshmallow filling could be omitted as well, for some yummy peanut butter candy cookie bars. Milk chocolate chips would probably work well too. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cranberry Apple Cinnamon Squares

These squares have some nice fall flavors: cranberries, apples, and cinnamon. They are incredibly moist, with a fluffy, cake-like texture. The recipe is adapted from one I found in a recipe book of squares. They are the perfect balance of not too sweet and not too tart.
Cranberry Apple Cinnamon Squares
1/4 cup butter or hard margarine
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup plain yogurt (I used fat-free Greek)
1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup shredded cranberries, fresh or frozen
1 medium apple, peeled and chopped
2 Tablespoons granulated (white) sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line an 8x8 inch square pan.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars together. Beat in the egg and vanilla, then the yogurt. Stir in the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Gently stir in the cranberries and apple. Spread in prepared pan. 
Combine the remaining sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle evenly over batter. Bake for about 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Super Simple Bran Muffins

Super Simple Bran Muffins
1 cup natural wheat bran
1/4 cup each ground flaxseed and wheat germ (I used these to add some more texture and flavor, but 1/2 cup additional bran may be used)
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce, or a little more
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
These do not require any oil with the applesauce, but if you use unsweetened applesauce or prefer a sweeter muffin, add some maple syrup, honey, molasses, or sugar. A pinch of salt and a dash of vanilla will also add some flavor, depending on you intended use of the muffins. 
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line twelve muffin cups.
In a large bowl, mix together the bran, flax, and wheat germ with the milk. Let stand for about ten minutes. Stir in the applesauce, then all of the dry ingredients. Divide batter among prepared cups and bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Add raisins or other dried fruit and/or chopped nuts for variety. 

The title is pretty self explanatory. I really like bran muffins, and I love to have them with my breakfast slathered with peanut butter, so I treat them more like a biscuit than a portable snack. Therefore, judge ingredient substitutions and additions accordingly. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Homemade Twix Bars

My mother and I both eyed the recipe for these bars found in a magazine. My mother is the one who actually made them. They are supposed to be reminiscent of the popular chocolate bar. Of course it is not an exact replica, but I think the base could definitely be improved as this base is more of a shortbread base rather than a cookie base. Other than that, these squares are certainly sweet and gooey, with plenty of caramel and a nice chocolate topping. But I think there is definitely room for improvement. 
Homemade Twix Bars
1/3 cup butter, softened
3 Tablespoons granulated (white) sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1/3 cup butter
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon butter
1/3 cup ( 2 ounces) bittersweet or dark chocolate chips, or chopped chocolate

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line an 8x8 inch square pan.
CRUST: In a medium bowl, beat the butter and sugar. Mix in the flour. Press evenly in prepared pan. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden.
FILLING: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, milk, syrup, and molasses. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Simmer for 5 to 7 minutes until mixture is slightly thickened and pale golden brown. Stir in vanilla and salt. Immediately pour over crust. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
TOPPING: Melt the butter and chocolate in the microwave until smooth. Spread carefully over the caramel mixture. Refrigerate 30 minutes until set, then cut into squares. 

NOTES & OBSERVATIONS: My mother didn't find there was enough crust, so she ended up whipping up a little more to fill the pan. We think the crust should be baked for a shorter time as well, as it was quite hard. The caramel filling is very good, but didn't seem to firm up as much as it should have, despite being chilled for longer. It also seemed like there was a lot more caramel than crust or chocolate. The chocolate topping didn't come together very smoothly - not sure if it was how or how long it was melted that influenced it. However, my mother was unable to pour the melted chocolate over top, but rather had to spread it, which disturbed some of the caramel.
BOTTOM LINE: They taste delicious, but presentation and serving (they're a bit messy) does not earn top marks!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Blueberry Almond Oatmeal

Blueberry Almond Oatmeal
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
3/4 cup water or milk
1/4 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
1-2 Tablespoons almond butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 Tablespoons almonds

Mix all ingredients except for the almonds in a medium microwave-safe bowl. For an oatmeal with more texture and crunch, use crunchy almond butter and/or stir in a spoonful of chopped almonds. Microwave on medium (50%) power for 2 minutes. Stir, and microwave for an additional 11/2 - 2 minutes on medium power, until thickened and set. Garnish with whole almonds, and additional cinnamon or almond butter if desired. 
This is an oatmeal recipe I created myself on the fly one morning, when I was looking for something a little different. Almonds and blueberries seem to be a good combination, and a hint of cinnamon ties them together. This quick, simple, and piping hot bowl of breakfast contains hearty whole grains, fruit, protein, and calcium if you choose to use milk. It is a complete and tasty breakfast, and far from a bowl of bland oatmeal. 

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Egg Soufflé

This was named as a recipe for scrambled eggs in the microwave. However, I think it is much better described as an egg soufflé. It is really easy to make and really tasty too. it rises nicely, and has a nice, light and fluffy texture - just like any soufflé. It can be served as a part of breakfast, lunch, or supper, or a hearty snack. Serve it with bread, biscuit, crackers, fruit, or whatever you would like! It can also be dressed up as you would like - with herbs, spices, cheese, chopped vegetables, or diced meat. I discovered that it makes a really good vegetarian replacement for a burger when served on a bun. If you just need one, and don't want to make up a batch of veggie burgers, this is the perfect size and shape.

Egg Soufflé
1 large egg
1 Tablespoon milk
butter or oil
salt and pepper
herbs, spices, cheese, vegetables, meats, etc.

Beat all together in a tall, but not wide, mug. Microwave on HIGH (100%) power for 90 seconds. It may need an additional 20-30 seconds after that to reach desired firmness. Gently run a knife around the egg to loosen it and serve as desired. 

Friday, November 08, 2013

German Cuisine Summary

So I only featured two dishes from the cuisine of Germany, although there are of course many more. Here is just a little article about some of the cuisine, staple foods, diets, and other aspects relating to Germany and cuisine. 
The German diet tends to be based heavily on meats, starches, and sweets, along with the presence of some vegetables, fruits, and dairy products. Some staple foods, however stereotypical they may sound, include sauerkraut, sausages, potato dishes, noodles, rice, many different types of breads, dumplings, cakes, beers, cabbage dishes, and some pastries. Some specific names include Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cake), Kuchen (cake, such as apple kuchen), volkenbrot (whole meal bread), lebkuchen (ginger cookies), bratwurst (type of sausage), spaetzle (egg pasta), kartoffelkloesse (potato dumplings). 

Since the diet does rely heavily on meat and carbohydrates, as well as sweets, health problems that can become prevalent in the area include heart problems, high cholesterols  diabetes, and some forms of cancer, though these problems are becoming widely prevalent in many other regions as well. A little additional information I came across in my research includes table settings. Though no specific unique table settings were described, it is interesting to not that cloth napkins are much more commonly used. 

To conclude, here is a picture of the table setting and the two dishes I created to reflect my researching, cooking, and baking. It is fun and reflective to research and try foods from different parts of the world. 

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Chocolate Buttercream Prinzregenten Frosting

I wish I could give you an exact recipe for this frosting, because when I made it for this torte, it turned out amazing. Very rich, very chocolaty, and the perfect frosting for this torte if I do say so myself. I am not even sure is even I could duplicate this frosting, as I simply eyeballed amounts. However, I will try to give some guidelines to follow. It is nothing fancy or special, just simply delicious.

soft margarine
unsweetened cocoa powder
icing sugar
2% milk

Put a little margarine in a small bowl, and mix in some cocoa. I used quite a bit of cocoa, because I really like chocolate. Use about a tablespoon or two of margarine, and as much cocoa as you can while still being able to stir the mixture. Stir in some icing sugar alternately with some milk, until you reach your desired amount or desired "shade" of icing. For example, for a darker chocolate flavor like I did, use a greater proportion of cocoa and less icing sugar. Stir in a splash of vanilla.
To assemble the torte: One cake layer, spread gently with a layer of frosting, repeat for all four layers. Pipe borders or rosettes around and on top of the cake if you wish. Heat a little additional frosting in the microwave briefly to warm it and thin it, then drizzle it over the cake. 

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Prinzregenten Torte

This is the dessert to go along with yesterday's dish. Technically yesterday's dish was only a side dish, but if you eat enough of it, and have a serving (even small) of this rich cake, it will make a satisfying meal. 
This cake, which translates to "Prince Regent Cake" is traditionally composed of eight sponge cake layers sandwiched together with chocolate buttercream, and sometimes topped with chocolate ganache. Since this is a huge torte, decorations are usually kept fairly simple, such as a few chocolate curls or whipped cream swirls. To cut this recipe down to a smaller amount, I made only a four layer torte, and I also made the layers smaller, so it is only a four inch cake. This makes four nice-sized servings, but could be split into even more servings as the cake is quite rich. It is a plain, but easy cake, but the chocolate buttercream is what really makes it! I just think this cake is so cute, so quick, and so divine!
Miniature Sponge Cakes
1/4 cup + 1/2 Tablespoon butter or margarine
1/4 cup + 1/2 Tablespoon granulated (white) sugar
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
scant 1/2 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350F. Trace four 4-inch circles onto parchment paper, place on a cookie sheet.
In a medium bowl, beat the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Stir in remaining ingredients. Spoon onto parchment paper, carefully spreading out to the shape of the circles. Bake for ten minutes or so until cake is set. Cool cake layers and assemble (this process will be outlined in tomorrow's post). 

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

German Potato Pancakes

This is the first of a few posts regarding a little exploration on world cuisine. The cuisine featured here is German. I have made two German dishes, the first one is given in this post. I will also share a little information about German cuisine in general, staple foods, dietary habits, customs, health status, and locally grown foods.

German Potato Pancakes
3 medium russet potatoes, shredded
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 large egg, beaten
1 Tablespoon all-purpose (plain) flour
1 Tablespoon oil
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
salt and pepper
Heat a little oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients together. Drop by spoonfuls into the prepared pan. Cook for a few minutes per side until golden. These can be made as thick or as thin as you wish, cooking time will vary accordingly. It can also be made into one large pancake. 

This is a simple and tasty dish. It is basic and plain, but could certainly be jazzed up in many different ways. It can also be served with your choice of dip - ketchup, horseradish, sour cream, hot sauce, or mustard. It is a great side dish that goes with a variety of main courses.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Banana Bread For One

Banana Bread For One
2 1/2 Tablespoons whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
sugar to taste, optional
1/2 Tablespoon ground flaxseed
1 Tablespoon water
1/2 small ripe banana, mashed
scant 1 Tablespoon oil, optional
1 Tablespoon milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Stir together the flour, baking powder, soda, salt, and sugar. Stir together the flax and water and add in. Mix the banana, oil, milk, and vanilla and stir into dry ingredients  Microwave on HIGH (100%) power for 60-90 seconds. 
This is another one of those quick, individual breakfasts I have tired. It may seem like a long ingredient list just to make one serving, but it is quick to mix up and some ingredients may be left out. I always include the flax-water mixture, as I think this makes the texture fluffier and the muffin rises better, but it isn't necessary. This really does taste like a banana muffin. The addition of chocolate chips, chopped nuts, or raisins would be nice. I like to spread mine with peanut butter, but nutella would work too. 

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Individual Chocolate Cakes

Individual Chocolate Cake
3 Tablespoons all-purpose (plain) flour
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 Tablespoons granulated (white) sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons packed brown sugar
pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg
2 Tablespoons oil
2 Tablespoons milk

Grease one or two small pans or mugs.
In a small bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa, sugars, baking powder, and salt. Mix in the egg, oil, and milk, beat well. Spread batter in prepared pan(s) or mug(s). 

OVEN: If using metal baking pans, bake in the oven at 350F for 10-20 minutes, depending on pan size.
MICROWAVE: If using mugs, microwave on HIGH (100%) power for about three minutes. 
I made this recipe yesterday. It actually made two small cakes, which were still a pretty good size. I wanted to bake them in my cute little pans, so I used the oven and not the microwave. This recipe is a great way to make chocolate cake when you only want a small batch, or one cupcake, or just a small piece of cake. I made a teddy bear and a heart. To decorate them, I just used some candy coated chocolates and some nutella to make them stick, instead of mixing up some icing. I used two miniature chocolate chips for the teddy bear's eyes. 

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Honey Yogurt Quick Bread

This must be one of the quickest bread recipes, with no kneading or rising times. It also has a very nice soft texture, yet is sturdy enough for sandwiches. It is a bit sweeter with more flavor.

Honey Yogurt Quick Bread
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup each oat bran, natural wheat bran, wheat germ, ground flaxseed
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain yogurt
3/4 cup milk
1 large egg
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup honey

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease or line a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
In a large bowl, mix together the oats, flour, grains, soda, and salt. Mix in the remaining ingredients. Spread in prepared pan. Bake for about 40 minutes.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Halloween Haystacks

I know, I am a day late. I actually made these cookies yesterday, but I had to share my jack-o-lantern yesterday. So here is today's post. Haystack cookies are popular, no-bake cookies. They are often cookies beginner bakers start with, since they are so quick and easy. From start to eating, they only require about 20 minutes. This batch makes about 30 cookies, depending on size, but could easily be doubled or halved. 

Shapes don't work put the greatest with this dough, since it isn't one that's rolled out and cut, but I attempted anyway. From top to bottom, these are supposed to be a spider, an owl, and a bat. It's the thought and creativity that count!
Halloween Haystacks
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup milk
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
scant 2 cups granulated (white) sugar
3 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

Line a baking sheet with foil. 
In a medium saucepan, bring the butter, milk, cocoa, and sugar to a boil. Remove from heat and quickly stir in oats and coconut. Drop spoonfuls quickly onto prepared baking sheet. Chill until firm, they don't take long. Speed up the process by putting them in the freezer. 
For Halloween cookies: Drop the mixture on the sheet and spread into your favorite Halloween shapes!