In the midst of my crazy meal prep madness getting ready for Mia’s arrival, I had bought a big carton of buttermilk to use in an Ina Garten chicken recipe, as well as a batch of Bran Muffins and still had a good amount leftover. I wanted to add another type of freezer-friendly breakfast food to my Babygeddon stash, and saw this recipe that also uses buttermilk on Smitten Kitchen. They are SO good!
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed, divided
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk or yogurt
2 large apples, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped (I used Granny Smith)
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Grease and flour 18 muffin cups and set aside.
Mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, and set aside. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and add the granulated sugar and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar. Beat until fluffy. Add the egg and mix well; stop once to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.Mix in the buttermilk gently. (If you over-mix, the buttermilk will cause the mixture to curdle.) Stir in the dry ingredients and fold in the apple chunks.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, sprinkling the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar on top. Bake for 10 minutes, turn the heat down to 400°F, and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool the muffins for 5 minutes in the tin, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
For a muffin that uses wheat flour instead of all-purpose, this sure was moist! It had more of a cake-like texture than I was expecting it to have. I went easy on the sugar for the crunchy top (probably only 1 TBSP brown sugar instead of the 1/4 cup the recipe calls for).
As with all of my food prep as of late, being able to freeze what we weren’t going to eat immediately was important. These freeze really well, though I would skip adding the brown sugar on top since the crunchy top texture goes away once you microwave it. YUM!
In the weeks leading up to what I fondly called Babygeddon, I went on a bit of a crazy cooking and baking spree getting meals prepped and into our freezer. I had purchased too large a carton of buttermilk when I made Ina Garten’s Mustard Roasted Chicken, and wanted to use it in some healthy muffins. I turned to Smitten Kitchen and her recipe for Blue Sky Bran Muffins caught my eye. I don’t mind bakery bran muffins, but they’re always LOADED with tons of added sugar – so much so that I actually always find them to be really sticky and gross from all the honey, juice, dried fruit, fresh fruit, and of course sugar in the actual batter too. I was looking for a recipe that wasn’t going to give me cardboard muffins, but also not have so much sugar that I might as well have eaten a donut for breakfast. This seemed like a great compromise, tasting much more like real breakfast than a treat. Here’s the recipe!
1 1/3 cups (315 ml) buttermilk (you can also use sour cream or yogurt thinned with a little milk)
1 large egg
1/3 cup (80 ml) oil (such as vegetable, safflower, sunflower or olive oil)
1/4 cup (50 grams) lightly packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract, a little citrus zest (optional flavorings to add)
3/4 to 1 cup chopped mixed fruit (just about anything but citrus or pineapple will work, they say; I used frozen mixed berries for this batch here)
Heat oven to 425 degrees F and coat a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick spray.
Whisk buttermilk, egg, oil, brown sugar and any vanilla or citrus zest you’d like to use in a small bowl.
Whisk bran, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Stir wet mixture into dry until just combined and still a bit rough.
Spoon two 2 tablespoons of batter into each prepared muffin cup. Add about 2 teaspoons fruit to each (dividing it evenly) and sprinkling the fruit with one of the teaspoons of granulated sugar.
Spoon remaining batter (about 1 tablespoon each) over fruit and sprinkle tops of muffins with remaining teaspoon of granulated sugar.
Bake muffins for a total of 16 to 18 minutes, rotating pan once midway through baking time for even browning, until a toothpick inserted into the center of muffins comes out with just a few crumbs attached. Do not overbake. Let muffins cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing from tin.
Do ahead: Muffins keep for 3 days at room temperature, longer in the freezer.
NOTE: This recipe makes about 12 standard size muffins (use a cupcake tin, not a jumbo muffin tin).
These, like any baked good, are best eaten the day-of, but they also freeze well. The top won’t have that semi-crunchy texture to it, but you can pop one in the microwave for 30 seconds and it is still as moist on the inside as the day it came out! These definitely made my list of go-to muffin recipes, and I’m excited to try it with some other fruit!
I am a creature of habit. I’ve been posting recipes that were inspired by things I’ve eaten at Nook Bistro for years, and I find myself still going there and getting the same thing every time. I love their butternut squash stew, but don’t love that I can’t make a knock-off of it at home year-round with butternut squash really being a fall/winter squash. Then, I had chicken tagine for the first time at a work tasting with a catering company that was vying for new business a few years ago. It had a somewhat similar flavor profile to the butternut squash stew, but the ingredients would allow me to make it year-round I absolutely fell in love with it (and the caterer!), and have tried a number of different chicken tagine recipes trying to mimic what I had and FINALLY found one. I’m so happy to finally be sharing it!
up to 1 t cayenne pepper (skip this altogether if you don’t like it spicy!)
1 C low-sodium chicken stock
2 cans diced tomatoes
2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
6 oz. dried apricots, diced
3 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped for serving (frankly, this is more for aesthetics)
cous cous, for serving
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until softened. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the flour, tomato paste, honey, and spices and cook for another minute.
Add the chicken stock and tomatoes and cook for several minutes, making sure to get out any lumps of flour. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Combine the tomato/spice mixture with the chickpeas, apricots, chicken thighs, and carrots in a large slower cooker, mixing well.
Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours, or until the meat shreds easily with a fork. Serve over cous cous or rice, topped with fresh cilantro.
Ras el hanout can be purchased online, but I’m not sure where to find it in stores. You can make it from scratch using this recipe, and it’ll yield enough to make this tagine a few times. Make sure to store it in a glass container, because it’ll make your plastic tupperware smell like the mixture forEVER. I use an inexpensive spice jar one from Crate and Barrel (thanks Joyce!!), but a small Pyrex could work too!
This stew is great the day you make it, but Kevin and I both think it tastes better the next day. I’ve probably made this five or six times in the last year and it never lets us down.
It also freezes well, and makes a HUGE amount. Kevin and I use two crockpots to make this one recipe (he has an old school Rival Crock-Pot, and I have a 6-quart Crock-Pot). If you have anything under an 8.5-quart, you may want to finish step 3 and then divide your recipe in half, freezing the half you’re not cooking today.
When you get engaged, one of the most common questions people ask you is “were you surprised?”. I know I ask that question a lot, and I definitely got a lot of that when Kevin and I got engaged last summer (yes – it’s official!). I knew we would get married some day, and we had talked about it a lot. I guess I just didn’t really worry or think about when.
Looking back, I totally missed the signs. I had gotten a massive respiratory infection right before 4th of July weekend, and I sounded like a man. A real butch chain-smoking bearded lumberjack kind of man. Apparently, Kevin had planned to propose that weekend but since I got sick, he decided to bump it a week. He said that he felt bad I didn’t get to take advantage of the 3-day holiday weekend so he wanted to plan a date for us (clue #1). He had talked a number of times about how special Descanso Gardens was to him and his family and had told me about some of the great memories from his childhood with his grandparents and cousins there. I had never been, so when I found out that’s where we were going, I didn’t suspect anything (clue #2). He had a glass of whiskey a little before we left at 2pm (clue #3), but I attributed it to the fact that maybe he needed one after braving the first weekend of the Nordstrom Half-Yearly sale with me that morning. It was also a warm day, but he was full on sweating – and I don’t mean a delicate dew across his nose. We’re talking a thick stripe of sweat all the way down the back of his shirt, poor guy (clue #4). And then there were the awkward silences (clue #s 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10) whenever we would get to a really beautiful, secluded picturesque setting in the garden. I thought it was because he was tired of all of the steep inclines we were scaling or the mild heat. Throughout the afternoon, we both said how it would be nice to do something special at Descanso someday – like a wedding or take pictures or something.
Then, we got to the rose garden. I was noting how gorgeous Descanso was and turned around for a quick moment to take in the surroundings. I remember saying, “what do you think?” and not getting an answer. I heard him say, “Al?”, and when I turned around, he was down on one knee holding up a ring. He had beads of sweat beading down his forehead and this look on his face that I’m pretty sure I make when I think I’m about to get hit in the face or when I look directly at the sun. He asked me to marry him. Instead of saying yes the way most girls would say when the man of their dreams pops the question, I said “Is this for real?”. I have no idea why I said that (What if he said “naw, just kidding”?), but he reassured me it was and I said yes. So here we are. We won’t be getting married at Descanso after all, but we did do our engagement photos there thanks to our phenomenal photographer, Rodney Ty. Here’s a sneak!
The day we had our engagement shoot, I was in a rush to get something to eat before meeting up with Kevin, and the only place nearby that didn’t have a wait was a quick service Greek spot. Being the considerate person I am, I told them not to put hummus or garlic sauce on anything so Kevin wouldn’t have to breathe in my essence for the rest of the day. However, I did not realize how much raw onion would be in my pita until I wolfed down my first bite. I pulled out as many as I could find, but it was too late. Those suckers were STRONG. My breath nearly set his eyebrows on fire in the afternoon, but he was a great sport about it. I love the photo below because his face totally shows him being torn between trying to smile and look happy for the photo while my breath was really making him cry. Sorry, hun!
Anyway, Kevin LOVES orecchiette, so making that for his birthday dinner a couple months ago was a no-brainer. It pairs really nicely with some sort of Italian fennel sausage. I’m not entirely sure why that is. My theory is that it’s because the sausage falls apart into little curds of ground meat when its casing is removed, and the orecchiette almost serves as a little bowls to catch it before it falls to the bottom of the dish the way it would with penne, farfalle, or so many others. But Kevin doesn’t really like fennel. Or sausage. So, figuring out what else would pair well with the orecchiette took some thinking. Okay, maybe not a lot of thinking, because really – who doesn’t love a good hearty Bolognese?
I didn’t make the pasta from scratch, but I did do the Bolognese. Here is a recipe as adapted from Anne Burrell. Note that this recipe is a TIME COMMITMENT. It’ll take you about 5 to 5.5 hours from start to finish – but it’s worth the time and effort!
1 large onion or 2 small, cut into 1″ dice
2 large carrots, cut into 1/2″ inch dice
3 ribs celery, cut into 1″ dice
5 cloves garlic
Extra-virgin olive oil, for the pan
3 pounds ground chuck, brisket, or round… or a combination
2 C tomato paste
3 C hearty red wine (Don’t go super cheap on the wine – use one that you would drink!)
3 bay leaves
1 bunch fresh thyme, tied in a bundle
1 pound orrecchiette
1/2 C grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
In a food processor, puree onion, carrots, celery, and garlic into a coarse paste. In a large pan over medium heat, coat pan with oil. Add the pureed veggies and season generously with salt. Bring the pan to a medium-high heat and cook until all the water has evaporated and they become nice and brown, stirring frequently, about 15 to 20 minutes. Be patient, this is where the big flavors develop. The bottom of your pan should look like this when you move the veggies aside:
Add the ground beef and season again generously with salt. BROWN THE BEEF! Brown food makes for a more flavorful dish. Don’t rush this step. Cook another 15 to 20 minutes.
Add the tomato paste and cook until brown about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the red wine. Cook until the wine has reduced by half, another 4 to 5 minutes.
Add water to the pan until the water is about 1 inch above the meat. Toss in the bay leaves and the bundle of thyme and stir to combine everything. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally. As the water evaporates you will gradually need to add more, about 2 to 3 cups at a time. Don’t be shy about adding water during the cooking process, you can always cook it down. This is a game of reduce and add more water. This is where big rich flavors develop. If you try to add all the water in the beginning you will have boiled meat sauce rather than a rich, thick meaty sauce. Stir and TASTE frequently. Season with salt, if needed (you probably will). Simmer for 3 1/2 to 4 hours, stirring occasionally.
During the last 30 minutes of cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat to cook the orecchiette. Pasta water should ALWAYS be well salted. Salty as the ocean! TASTE IT! If your pasta water is under seasoned it doesn’t matter how good your sauce is, your complete dish will always taste under seasoned. When the water is at a rolling boil add the pasta and cook for 1 minute less than it calls for on the package. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
While the pasta is cooking remove 1/2 of the bolognese from the pot and reserve.
Drain the pasta and add to the pot with the remaining bolognese. Stir or toss the pasta to coat with the sauce. Add some of the reserved sauce, if needed, to make it about an even ratio between pasta and sauce. Add the reserved pasta cooking water and cook the pasta and sauce together over a medium heat until the water has reduced. Turn off the heat and give a big sprinkle of Parmigiano. Toss or stir vigorously. Divide the pasta and sauce into serving bowls or 1 big pasta bowl. Top with remaining grated Parmigiano. Serve immediately.
This bolognese was so delicious and didn’t require heavy cream or butter, like a lot of other recipes do. The sauce can totally be frozen in a freezer-friendly ziploc baggie if you have a ton of leftovers – just pre-portion everything out. When we made our leftovers, we thawed a portion of the sauce in the fridge overnight, and then added a lot of minced veggies (mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower) when we heated it up again on the stovetop. It made a little sauce go a long way and added some extra nutrition and bulk to the meal. Delish every time!
The fall brings a bounty of wonderful things every year – crisp air, Halloween, awesome seasonal produce, and an extra hour of sleep à la daylight savings. Aside from butternut squash, pumpkin is another one of those pleasures the fall season presents. [Disclaimer: a slew of treats highlighting delicious pumpkin is looming, so stay tuned for updates!] First and foremost, I thought I’d throw in something I made featuring pumpkin that isn’t a dessert!
I found this great recipe for Turkey and Pumpkin Chili on the Whole Foods recipe website a couple of years ago. Any excuse to sneak healthy and delicious things (i.e., quinoa, veggies, pumpkin, etc.) into my food is always welcome, but I was really impressed with the nuttiness that the pumpkin adds to an otherwise pretty standard chili.
Side story – I diced a jalapeño to throw in some guacamole over the summer. I’m not sure what kind of radioactive jalapeño I brought home from the market that day, but that little green pepper set my skin ablaze. The burning sensation started in my fingertips, spread into my cuticles, up my fingers, and all over my hands. Any part of me that I touched felt like it caught fire. I washed my hands a dozen times and even took a shower to try to make it stop. It even spread into my nostrils and eyes after I washed my face, and stayed there. My boyfriend at the time did a quick Google search for “jalapeño hands” and found out my dilemma wasn’t as uncommon as we had thought. The intense burning lasted about 4-5 hours (all from just one jalapeño) til it finally subsided on its own, but it was unbelievably uncomfortable.
Anyway, the point of that little digression is that when I cut up the jalapeño for this chili, you can be damned sure I wore gloves. I recommend wearing gloves to anyone who might make this yummy chili too!
Here is the recipe:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pound ground white or dark meat turkey
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
Heat oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, jalapeños and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add turkey and cook until browned.
Add tomatoes, pumpkin, 1 cup water, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium low and add beans. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes more.