Thursday, February 21, 2013

Healthy No-Bake Cookie Bites

Okay, okay... these definitely won't win any awards for looks.
But they are SO, SO YUMMY!

Prep time: Easy
Source: Adapted from GimmeSomeOven.com

I pinned this recipe on Pinterest a long time ago and decided that it would be a perfect little post-baby snack to add to my freezer collection. I made some modifications based on what I had on hand, and what I thought would taste good. You might even call these my version of "lactation cookies," since oats, flax seed, and coconut oil are all supposed to help a new mom's milk come in... but in all honesty, I just think they taste good! ;) These work really well both as a snack (since they're a decent source of both protein and fiber) and a pretty guilt-free treat. They remind me a lot of no-bake cookies, although less gooey and with a more complex flavor. The variations on this recipe are endless, so don't hesitate to make substitutions of your own! If my baby ends up (HEAVEN FORBID) being sensitive to chocolate, I think I'll end up making these again and skipping the cocoa powder. As much as I adore them the way they are, I suspect they'd be pretty good as peanut-butter-bites too!

1 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup crisp rice cereal
1/2 cup ground flaxseed or whole-wheat flour (I used 1/4 cup each)
1 T cocoa powder
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 T coconut oil
1/4 cup honey

Combine oats, cereal, flaxseed/flour, and cocoa in a medium mixing bowl. In a smaller bowl, melt coconut oil in the microwave and then stir in peanut butter and honey. Add this to the dry mixture and mix with a spoon until everything is integrated and just moist enough to hold together fairly well (this takes some patience). Refrigerate for about half an hour to firm up the mix, and then use your hands to press into small balls. Store, covered, in the fridge.

(To freeze mine, I laid all of my cookie bites out on a cookie sheet and flash-froze them, then transferred them to a plastic freezer bag. When I'm ready to eat them, I'll probably either pull a few at a time out and let them thaw for half an hour or an hour, or else I'll take the whole bag out and store them in the fridge instead.) Post update: Actually, it turns out these are fantastic straight out of the freezer. And, um, I'm just sayin'... they may not make it to be postpartum snacks, after all! Maybe we can consider this batch "end-of-pregnancy sanity savers"???

Friday, February 15, 2013

Pupusas


Prep time: Medium
Source: Inspired by my friend Sacha, who introduced me to them, but the recipe is really my own

For as many recipes as I have on this blog, there is one whole category of meals which we make frequently that is conspicuously missing! My dad served his LDS mission in Mexico, and fell in love with authentic Mexican food while he was there. Because of that, I grew up with him frequently making dishes (like fresh tostados—still one of my absolute favorite meals!) from masa harina, or Mexican corn flour. When I got older, he taught me how to make a good masa dough to be used in recipes like corn tortillas, tostados, and gorditas. However, my dad's method—and now mine—of cooking with masa is very much "a little bit of this, then just enough of that to get the right consistency," so since none of my recipes use actual proportions, I've never typed them up! However, I'm determined to get my favorite masa recipes on this blog.

Because pupusas are El Salvedorean and not Mexican, I'd never heard of them until my friend Sacha asked me to teach her how to work with masa so that she could make some pupusas for her husband. Soon after that, I started making them as well, and Mahon and I were hooked! We now make these frequently, and I've never met anyone who doesn't love them. Since they're an all-in-one kind of dish, they also make exceptionally good picnic or traveling food! In El Salvador, they're often topped with contido, which is a type of cabbage salad, but we always end up taking the lazy man's route and topping them with sour cream (my preference) and salsa (Mahon's).

Like tamales, you can fill these pupusas with just about anything you like—meat, beans, cheese, or a combination of all three! I usually use whatever we happen to have on hand, and will often make them meatless. The recipe I'm including here is one of our favorites.

A note on the yield with this recipe: As I said above, I really don't usually measure any of this! These are all rough guesstimations, so feel free to play around with any of the proportions if they don't feel right to you. I am guessing this recipe, followed closely, would yield 12-16 pupusas, which is normally about how many I try to make (enough for the two of us to have for dinner and lunch the next day—so it essentially serves four).

4 cups masa (you can find this is the Latin aisle of any grocery store)
1/2 t salt (I like using kosher salt—it's a little more of a zing!)
2-3 cups warm water
1 chicken breast, boiled and shredded
1 cup pinto or black beans
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1 t salt
A dash of chili powder
1/4 t cumin

Preheat a griddle or ungreased skillet to about 375 degrees. In medium mixing bowl, combine masa and salt. Add warm water and mix with a wooden spoon or your finger (my preference) until the masa dough is roughly the consistency of wet sand. In separate bowl, mix together shredded chicken, beans, cheese, and spices.

There are a few different ways to assemble your pupusas. I actually made a video demonstrating these different ways a few months ago, but for some reason I can't get it to do anything, so I'll have to hope I can describe each method adequately!

The first way is to separate your masa into balls a little smaller than golf balls and roll them out (or smash them with a tortilla press) into small tortillas. Take two of your tortillas and layer them on top of each other, with a generous scoop of filling in between. Pinch the edges of the tortillas together to seal in the filling and cook for a few minutes on each side until done. 

The second way is to take a ball of masa about half the size of your fist and gently flatten it out with your hand until it fills your palm. Cup your hand a little to create a little bowl shape, and then press a spoonful of filling into the crater and gently work the edges of the masa dough up around the filling until the edges meet and you end up with a ball of masa dough with filling encased inside. Gently roll this ball out or smash with a tortilla press (you will be able to see filling through the sides—that's just fine), and then cook on both sides til done.

The third (and most authentic) way, which is actually our favorite way of doing it because it produces by far the best texture (and is kind of fun, too!) is to follow the first few steps of method #2 until you  have your ball of masa with filling encased inside. Then, instead of rolling it out like you would a tortilla, gently "slap" the ball back and forth between your palms, rotating it around as you go to keep it circular. This can take a little practice, but it's really pretty fun once you get the hang of it! (And don't worry—ugly pupusas still taste fantastic!) After a few slaps back and forth, your pupusa should be a disk about 1/4" thick. Press this gently onto your pan or griddle and cook on both sides til done. (This method will take a little longer to cook than others, since it produces thicker pupusas—I let it cook on the first side until the edges of the pupusa start to look dry, and then flip it and cook 3-5 minutes on the second side as well.)

Serve hot with sour cream and salsa or contido.

Berry Chocolate Coffee Cake


Prep time: Medium
Source: Mostly from my own head; the cake base is adapted from a few other recipes

Yesterday morning I decided that we needed a Valentine's-appropriate dessert to follow our dinner of heart-shaped pupusas. Because I've really been in the mood for a rich, delicious coffee cake this week, that's what came into my mind! What could be more perfect for Valentine's than a coffee cake laced with just-barely-sweetened berries and studded with dark chocolate? After tasting our creation last night, Mahon and I decided: Pretty much nothing! This is definitely a recipe we'll be keeping and making again.

For Berry Ribbon:
1 cup frozen mixed berries
1/2 T honey

For Cake:
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups flour
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
3/4 t salt
1 cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

For Streusel Topping:
1/4 cup butter (cold and sliced, or room temperature)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 t cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour an 8" or 9" pan (I used a round springform pan). In small saucepan on stove, heat berries and honey together and simmer for a few minutes, or until they have made a syrup. If desired, roughly blend berry syrup using an immersion blender or regular blender (our mix had large whole strawberries, so this kept the chunks to a manageable size!). Set syrup aside.

To prepare the streusel topping, combine all ingredients in small bowl and cut together with a fork or pastry blender until crumbly. Set aside.

In small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer with beater attachment, cream butter and sugar together until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add the flour mixture alternately with the yogurt/sour cream and blend batter until smooth. Fold in chocolate chips.

Fold half of the cake batter into your prepared pan. Pour berry syrup evenly over batter. Add remaining batter on top of syrup; using a rubber spatula, swirl the batter and syrup together to create a berry ribbon. Top with streusel topping and bake 45-55 minutes, or until edges are beginning to brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool at least a few minutes before eating—the cake is much easier to cut when it's completely cooled, but if you're like us, you won't be able to wait that long!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Apple-Peanut Butter Snack/Breakfast Bars (Gluten- and Sugar-Free)


Prep time: Easy
Source: HappyHealthyMama.com, via Pinterest

After hearing lots of people talk about intense postpartum hunger, I'm trying to get some healthy, filling snacks in my freezer for after the baby comes, so that I have something quick and easy to grab when hunger strikes (especially in those early days of breastfeeding, when I imagine my hands will be pretty tied!). Yesterday I was scouring through old Pinterest pins looking for recipes that might work, and I hit on this one. I wasn't really sure how the apple, peanut butter, and honey would go together, since they're all strong flavors, but after making them this afternoon I couldn't stop myself from eating two straight out of the pan! I'll definitely be keeping this recipe around. Best of all, between the oats and the peanut butter, these little bars are very satisfying! (A note—although they look a little like granola bars in the pictures, don't be fooled; they're much more like a soft, moist breakfast bar.)

I 1 1/2-sized the original recipe so that it would fit in a 9x13" pan.

3 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups grated apple (I used all of a medium-sized apple and it was perfect)
1/4 cup + 2 T peanut butter
3/4 cup honey
2 eggs
3/4 t cinnamon
3/4 t vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 baking dish and set aside. In large bowl, mix together grated apple and oats until thoroughly blended (make sure that the apple isn't clinging together in clumps, which it likes to do!). Add all other ingredients and mix thoroughly (mix will be very wet). Press into pan and use the back of your mixing spoon to smooth. Bake for 20 minutes (until the edges start to brown), and allow to cool thoroughly before cutting into bars.

To freeze these, I placed them on a plastic-lined cookie sheet after I'd cut them, put more plastic wrap on top, and flash-froze them for about 3-4 hours. Then I pulled them off and put them into a freezer ziploc bag. To eat them later, I plan to allow them to thaw at room temperature or pop them in the microwave for a minute to reheat.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Raw Peanut Butter Fudge (Gluten- and Sugar-Free!)

Prep time: Very easy
Source: From this pin, adapted from this recipe

A few years ago, I started wondering how one made chocolate. I figured that if I could figure out how to make my own chocolate without much sugar, I'd be saving money AND eating healthy, right? I read online that you can "make" chocolate by mixing cocoa powder with sweetener and an oil. (I put "make" in parantheses because really, making chocolate is an intense process that involves straight cocoa beans and all sorts of complicated steps like "conching.") I tried it and let's just say, it was a fairly nasty failure.

This year, however, I've seen lots of recipes for raw fudge popping up around the internet. They are all pretty similar—cocoa powder, plus coconut oil, plus a sweetener, plus another ingredient to add flavor and richness. I tried one last summer with raspberries in it that was delicious, but the combination of cocoa powder and raspberries gave me some of the worst canker sores I've ever had! Since then, I hadn't attempted another raw fudge/"homemade chocolate" recipe. A few weeks ago, however, I pinned this "Primal Fudge" recipe that used peanut butter, and yesterday, while in the mood for a sweet-but-not-terribly-unhealthy treat, I made it. Let's just say... it's really, really hard to stop myself from eating the whole pan! The fudge is rich, creamy, and incredibly decadent. If you like your chocolate a little sweeter, consider increasing the honey and decreasing the cocoa a bit. And now that you know the basic recipe for raw fudge, the sky is the limit! Try swapping the peanut butter out for other things, like fruit.

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla

In a medium-sized bowl (I used a large soup bowl), melt the coconut oil. Using a whisk for smoothness, mix in the peanut butter, honey, and vanilla until all the lumps are gone. Add cocoa powder and whisk thoroughly until mixture is thick and smooth. Pour the mixture either into muffin cups (as the original recipe suggests), or into a small lined pan (I used a large loaf pan lined with plastic wrap). Chill in fridge for about an hour before cutting. Store in fridge, as the fudge is very soft and will get pretty melty at room temperature. Enjoy—and try not to eat the whole pan!