Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cinnamon Currant Rolls (sans yeast!)

Uh-oh. Two sweets in a row. I like to seem a little more varied and organized (and, um, healthier) than that. And I'm carb-counting, so I feel like posting about two sweets in a row undermines the seriousness with which I've been taking my G.D. diagnosis. (I have been taking it seriously. Truly.)

But here's what the rationalization that brings us today's post looks like:

1. My alternative post is about soup. It's a really good soup, but soups don't result in comments - oh, wait a minute, nothing I've posted about has resulted in comments lately - not curried tempeh, not ribeye, not blueberry bran muffins, not skillet flatbreads, not decadent (albeit vegan) chocolate pudding, not even toddler buckteeth - and I kind of live for comments (otherwise I'm just talking on the internets to myself, and while talking to myself is what I do most of the day, this blog was created as an outlet to escape "most of the day" and connect with the rest of the food-loving world) - and I think cinnamon rolls are comment-worthy.

2. Especially when they don't involve yeast.

3. Cinnamon rolls are my favorite thing in the world. Variety and organization (and health) be damned!

If I weren't going to post about cinnamon rolls or soup, I'd have to rally and make and photograph something lovely while my daughter is napping, when really, I have an enormous fetus resting on my bladder and I'm kind of winded and dehydrated and still fighting a cold, so I'd just rather sit down and post about the things on my to-post-about list, in a different order than I'd planned. That would make me feel productive as well as rested. I'm such a multitasker! Sitting and typing AT THE SAME TIME!

Did I mention that I LOVE CINNAMON ROLLS? I do. They are on the short list of temporarily forbidden foods that my husband will be required to bring to me at the hospital immediately after I've given birth. (Because, um, have you ever eaten hospital food?)

These are wonderful and they come together quite easily, especially if you have a food processor, but it's not totally necessary. (Even though I use mine every day and can attest that it is an excellent investment if you're on the fence about it.)

cinnamon-currant roll

Pretty, eh? And you can't even taste their buttery goodness by looking at the pictures.

So bring on the comments! Please. It would be good for my carbohydrate-deprived self-esteem.

blueberry bran muffins & cinn rolls 020batter for cinn roll doughready to rollbefore and after rolls

Oh, did you need some comment ideas? I can help with that because I talk to myself all day long and am well-versed in the subject of what comments I best like to hear! Here you go:

Those cinnamon rolls look fantastic! Can't wait to try them.

I've been looking for a great yeast-free cinnamon roll recipe because I share your fear of yeast. Thanks for this!

I just made these because I happened to have all the ingredients on hand and they are DE-LISH-OUS. You're the best, Edith!

Do you have any left in your freezer? Can I come over and get some?

I just had an "I love cinnamon rolls" t-shirt made for you. Can you email me your address?

Sorry about the G.D. diagnosis. Have you considered adding whey protein to every meal?

I've never commented before but I LOVE your site. You remind me of [someone v. funny and charming and cute], only [funnier and/or more charming and/or cuter].

Cinnamon-Currant Rolls
Adapted from The Leftoverist
Yield: 12 cinnamon rolls

For filling
3 tablespoons melted butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup crushed graham crackers (or another 1/3 cup brown sugar)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 cup dried currants (raisins or chopped nuts could be substitute)

For dough
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup cottage cheese
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons melted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla

For icing
2/3 cup powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon lemon or orange extract or 1 teaspoon grated lemon or orange zest

Preheat oven to 400 and butter a 10″ springform pan.

In a bowl, using a fork, stir together brown sugar, graham cracker crumbs, currants and spices. Stir in melted butter and set aside.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda, and set aside.

In a food processor, mix cottage cheese, yogurt, sugar, melted butter, and vanilla, pulsing for about 10 seconds until just mixed and cottage cheese is pureed. Add flour mixture to cottage cheese mixture, pulsing in short bursts until dough is just starting to form a ball. (You can do this by hand too. Either blend the first slew of ingredients to make it a smooth wet blend, or just deal with the cottage cheese curds (which won't harm anything but will result in a slightly less-smooth dough) and stir the wet ingredients together and then add the dry blend.)

Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface (this is important - WELL. FLOURED.), kneading a couple times with floured hands until smooth enough to form a large ball. Flatten a bit with your hand and then, using a floured rolling pin and dusting your work surface with a bit more flour, roll dough out into a 12″x15″ rectangle. Sprinkle sugar-crumb-currant-spice mixture over dough. Carefully, slowly, roll the dough up lengthwise, pinching ends. (If you'd like you can roll the log in plastic wrap and chill the dough for up to a couple days. Then, slice it whenever you're ready to bake it.) Using your sharpest knife, cut dough into twelve rounds. (If the dough is not chilled, they will squish a little bit, but don’t worry about it.)

Arrange the rolls in the springform pan and bake for about 15-20 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out with just a few moist crumbs.

Let cool for about five minutes, then whisk powdered sugar, milk, vanilla, and citrus extract or zest to make your icing. Drizzle icing over buns, let cool for about five more minutes, then unmold the springform. (The icing will probably spill out when you remove your springform sides. Have a towel handy.) Serve and impress your friends.

Random home-calculated nutrition information:
300 calories / 30 g carbohydrates / 5 g protein

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Spiced and Salted Chocolate Pudding (and vegan too)

I almost want to call this pudding a mousse. Its texture and richness fall somewhere in between those of pudding and mousse. Distinctions are irrelevant, anyway, once you make this pot-o-chocolate-perfection, because its loveliness is really all you'll care about after your first salty-sweet, velvety bite.

Incidentally, it's vegan (at least if your chocolate is dairy-free). The vegan thing - or, more precisely, the fact that this is made with silken tofu, an ingredient that non-vegetarians might not have hanging out in their pantries - might be a deterrent. I understand that. I don't expect, say, my mom to be making this tomorrow night. But. For what it's worth. Seriously. When my mom next comes to visit, sometime around the time that my second baby will be born, in six-ish weeks, I intend to make this for her and I expect that she will be so pleasantly surprised with the flavor, intensity, richness, and texture of this pudding/mousse - not to mention the ease with which this dessert gets thrown together - that upon her return to Aptos, she just might find herself throwing a box of silken tofu and some fancy bittersweet chocolate into her shopping cart one night, with devious plans to make said dessert for her unsuspecting husband.

plated pudding

Hey! This reminds me of a story! Once upon a time my mom, uncharacteristically, made some soy "cheat" balls and tossed them with some spaghetti and pasta sauce. Note: my mom is (a) an amazing cook, and (b) not one to experiment with meatless protein substitutes. I imagine she was on some low-cal/low-fat kick at the time and that's what resulted in meatless meat balls turning up in her freezer. Anyway, I was visiting a few days after she served this meatless meal to my dad and brother. She told me, with a great deal of pride and delight, "Your dad and brother didn't even notice that they weren't real meatballs!" Literally hours later, I was talking with my brother and out of nowhere he said, "Oh my God, Edith, Mom made the grossest meatballs the other day. I think the meat had gone bad or something, or she forgot some important spice, I don't know, I didn't tell her because I didn't want to hurt her feelings and obviously it's rare that she makes something gross so whatever, but dad and I were totally trying not to make eye contact because they were so weird and disgusting!" It was hilarious. My little fly-on-the-wall moment.

chocolate pudding collage

That story depicts the opposite of what will happen when she makes this pudding for her family.

This recipe is just barely adapted from a New York Times recipe by Mark Bittman. My initial changes were merely to adjust quantities to accommodate what I had on hand. (The original recipe called for a pound of silken tofu, while the box I bought had only 12.3 ounces.) But I ended up modifying the spice profile just a tad and topping the individual puddings with Sel Melange, a fancy salt combination that is sold by a local food artisan. I love sweet + salt, and my husband does as much if not more than I do, and this was our Valentine's Day dessert, so, it had to be done. Any delicate, flaky salt would do the job.

pudding close up

Spiced and Salted Chocolate Pudding
Yield: 4-6 servings (if you made six servings, they'd be small, but it is v. rich and you might be eating it after some steak, so small would be perfectly acceptable)

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 (12.3-oz) package firm silken tofu
6 ounces best-you-can-afford bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao or more), melted*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ancho chili powder (or more, if you'd like)

Fleur de sel or something comparable, to garnish

In a small pot over medium heat, combine sugar and water; bring to a boil and cook until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly.

Put all ingredients in a blender and purée until completely smooth, stopping machine to scrape down sides if necessary. Divide among 4 to 6 ramekins and chill for at least 30 minutes. Garnish with fancy flaky salt.

*To melt the chocolate, I just cut it into 1" chunks and microwaved it for 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each interval. Took about 90 seconds.

For five servings, the lowdown per serving is this:
290 calories / 35 grams carbohydrates / 7 grams protein

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Spiced Ribeye with Caper and Chive Balsamic Vinaigrette

Oh you heard me. I've got for you on this fine sunny day spices, capers, chives, balsamic reduction, and STEAK. I said ribeye because that's what I used, because that's what I had in my freezer, because that's what form of steak was included in the part-of-a-cow that we went in on with my sister-in-law and her husband. (They buy either a quarter or half of a grass-fed, free range cow annually from a local farmer in their town, which is about an hour from the Twin Cities. They ask us what we want, give us a list of the cuts they have available and are willing to share, and we end up with a couple hundred dollars worth of really great, really lean meat that we gradually use throughout the winter.)

This was the entree I served for our homemade Valentine's Day dinner. We started with two ribeye steaks that weighed - with no bones, mind you - 1 pound 13 ounces. That is a huge amount of meat, but it cooked down to a bit less. We each ended up having a generous 6-ounce serving on Monday night, and then the leftovers were used the following night in a steak sandwich (for MC) and steak salad (for me, restricted carbs and all) - each using a 3-ounce portion of meat, sliced thin and trimmed of all fat. There was a 3-ounce chunk leftover. (I am kind of obsessed with my kitchen scale lately. Can you tell?) So anyway, what does that give us? 12 + 6 + 3 = 21 ounces, divided by 16 ounces per pound = 1 pound 5 ounces after cooking and trimming of fat. Why am I telling you all this? Because maybe, like me, you are a steak rookie. Maybe you've never used a real outdoor grill in your life. Maybe when you search for "ribeye" recipes online and encounter ingredient lists calling for 'four 3/4-inch ribeye steaks', you have to call your mom for instructions on how to reconcile the need for a certain thickness of steak with the fact that you have two massive steaks in your freezer that weigh nearly 2 pounds and are over an inch thick, and why, oh why, don't all recipes use weights rather than inches? Maybe I'm going into seemingly unnecessary detail about my steaks so that you will feel confident using whatever kind of steak you can get your hands on. Maybe my point is that the rub and the vinaigrette that I'm about to describe for you are so freaking delicious that it doesn't matter what kind or size of steak you use. (Although I think the kind that comes from cows who had a great, free range life and just maybe one bad, final day is the best kind.)

spiced ribeye collage
ribeye close up

Appropriate adjectives/phrases to define this meal, in all capital letters, which is highly appropriate in this instance:


It pairs nicely with an avocado-bibb salad, some humble poor man's scalloped potatoes*, and a nice cabernet.

Valentine's Day Dinner

Based on the comments for this recipe on Epicurious, the rub alone serves as a perfect steak complement. And the original rub is way less sexy and spicy than the new and improved one I came up with. Point being: you might not even need to make the vinaigrette if you're just looking for some nicely accented steak. But, um, the vinaigrette is REALLY FREAKING AWESOME.

Spiced Ribeye with Caper and Chive Balsamic Vinaigrette
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Yield: 4 servings, with plenty of sauce leftover

For balsamic vinaigrette
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup minced red onion
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2-4 tablespoons rinsed capers (depending on how much you like capers)
2 tablespoons chopped chives or green onions
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper

For steaks
1.5-2 lbs good quality steak (2-4 big ones)
1 teaspoon butter
3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
3 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon pure chili powder (e.g. ground chipotle or ancho - not a chili powder blend)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Simmer balsamic vinegar in small pan over medium heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 6 minutes. Add red onion, 1/4 cup oil, crushed red pepper, and thyme; return to simmer. Remove from heat; whisk in chives or green onions, capers, salt and pepper.

Rub both sides of steaks with butter and then garlic. Mix paprika, chili powder, peppers, and salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle generously on both sides of steaks. Let stand at room temperature for about an hour.

Prepare barbecue (or cheap grill pan) - you'll want medium to medium-high heat. Brush grill rack with oil to coat or spray grill pan. Grill steaks until cooked to desired doneness, about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. (For my giant steaks, I cooked them for about 6 minutes per side and accomplished medium or medium-well rather than medium-rare. I'm not a steak pro yet.) Transfer steaks to plates. Spoon vinaigrette over.

* Poor Man's Scalloped Potatoes: Layer 2 pounds of potatoes, sliced 1/8" thick (Use that scary mandolin of yours! This is what it's for!) in a shallow baking dish. Top with a can of cream of mushroom soup. Bake in 350 degree oven for 60-90 minutes (until potatoes are cooked through), then broil for another 10 minutes (until top is browned).

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Blueberry Bran Muffins (and a long explanation for my absence!)

It's been so long. I almost lost you, didn't I? Fortunately you're pretty much all my best friends so your dedication withstands the test of time, flourishes even in my absence.


The reasons for the long gap in posts are as follows:

Reason 1
I was on vacation. And then I took a vacation from my vacation. And then I took another vacation from my vacation. I actually did some cooking on said vacation(s), but the cooking mostly involved repeat performances of things I've already posted about here. Maybe you are wondering which of my posts are particularly worthy of repeat performances? Well, these are the ones that were at least worthy of the Californians with whom I spent most of January: Damn Good Chili (hey, guess what, dried beans take a SUPER LONG TIME to cook at high altitudes); Corn Chowder (this last time with a mix of fish rather than just salmon - pretty tasty); Spicy Black Bean Burgers (only I used cranberry beans instead - warning: they are a bit drier than black beans!); and Gingery Lemon Squash Soup (my mom doesn't love ginger, so to temper the gingeriness I swapped in a 14-oz can of coconut milk for an equal portion of the water/broth - super good!). (Oh! Also I am again making The Best Egg Casserole Ever for my in-laws tomorrow morning and am quite excited about that. Yum!)

Reason 2
My relationship with food recently has been in flux. Late last year I had a renewed conviction that I should go vegetarian, maybe even vegan. (This happens every few years. Let's just leave it at that.) Then, in mid-January, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. So my interest in a sustenance based on whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables was compromised somewhat, as my medically-prescribed diet prioritized protein consumption over carbohydrates - no matter how whole or natural those carbohydrates are. I've been testing my blood sugars regularly for over three weeks now and have learned a great deal about how my body processes carbohydrates. I've also eaten more protein in the last month than ever before - mostly meat and dairy though, because that's easiest, but I'm working on changing that a bit now that I'm back in my own kitchen and shopping at my usual stores. Slowly but surely I've stopped resenting all my awesome new cookbooks; I'm figuring out that I still can eat most of the foods I like (even an occasional sweet) and grow a healthy baby, but a preoccupation with portion control and timing is going to have to be part of my life for at least the next couple of months. And there are still kinks, still extreme, fear-charged responses when my blood sugar levels fluctuate more than I'd like (like after I ate a BLT with a pile of fries on an empty, hungry stomach), still frustrations and reservations as I tackle the kitchen. So for a little while, what I cook and eat, and thus what I have to share here, might end up being kind of random. Even more random than usual, that is. And my posting might be scarcer, but I'll do my best.

Reason 3
Since we've been back home, until this weekend anyway, it's been too cold to leave the house. So we didn't manage a proper grocery store trip until this morning. In the meantime, there were a lot of whey protein shakes and quesadillas using tortillas and cheese from my freezer. This issue has been remedied.


And now to the real reason you're here: Blueberry Bran Muffins!



Loved by toddlers the world over!

Sadie eating muffin

Or by my toddler, anyway. Who is so freaking cute, right?

By the way, I used another alternative sweetener in making these, sorghum cane juice, which is similar in flavor and consistency to light molasses. It's not especially sweet as far as sweeteners go, but it did the job well in these muffins, and made them super moist to boot. These are dense muffins, hence no fluffy muffin top, but I like muffins that way, especially bran muffins.

blueberry bran muffins

The recipe is inspired by the blueberry bran muffins I used to devour by the six-pack-full from Trader Joe's, and as a starting point I used a Smitten Kitchen recipe based on an Epicurious recipe.

blueberry bran muffin halves

The homemade ones are MUCH better than the TJ's ones.

I made these in the evening. While they were cooling in the pan, I took a bath that was about thirty minutes in duration. Afterwards, thinking it was time to try one, I asked my husband if he'd like one as well. "I already had two," he responded. Later, I gave three of them to my lovely neighbor, still warm, and when I saw her the next morning she had eaten them all. These folks aren't over-eaters. The muffins just go down easy. Be warned.

Blueberry Bran Muffins
Inspired by Trader Joe's; adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Yield: 12 muffins

1/2 cup oil
1/3 cup sorghum cane juice (or honey or maple syrup or agave nectar or brown rice syrup)*
1 egg
1 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup unprocessed wheat or oat bran
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (or more wouldn't hurt)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and butter a 12-inch standard muffin tin. Whisk together the oil, sorghum cane juice, egg, plain yogurt, and vanilla until as thoroughly combined as possible. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, bran, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Mix dry ingredients into wet until just combined. Gently stir in blueberries until they are evenly distributed. Scoop batter evenly into twelve muffin cups. Bake for 16 minutes, rotating muffin tin 180 degrees about half-way through baking time. Allow to cool for about ten minutes in pan and then remove to finish cooling, eat, or store.

Note: I removed three after about ten minutes and had an easy time doing so. I removed the rest about an hour later and it got trickier. They'd grown more decidedly attached to their muffin tin home by then.

Nutrition info per muffin, for those of you who may care: 196 calories / 23 g carbohydrates / 3 g protein. I figure, if I'm counting this stuff, I might as well share it, eh? (Sorry, weight watchers - I don't calculate fat and fiber at this point!)

*If you like a sweeter muffin, EITHER use honey, agave nectar or maple syrup rather than sorghum or brown rice syrup, OR use sorghum or brown rice syrup AND add 2-4 tablespoons of regular or brown sugar.