Welcome to 2013! I hope you had a blast ringing in the New Year. I know I did!
Now that it’s January, I realize that most of us are now on some fitness or health mission. I really haven’t made any resolutions, other than to never let myself miss out on an experience that I find interesting or challenging. However, I do think that it’s finally time for me to get back into the swing of things health-wise. Today I finally made it to yoga after being sick for the past week; it felt wonderful to just be there. I’m also making an effort to get rid of all of the junk I ate last month — ugh, like enough with the cookies already! Yep, I just said that.
Even if I’m eating healthier, I just can’t find a reason why I would give up eating Mexican food. Why torture myself? We all know how that would end up — me with a plateful of nachos, a giant margarita, and a whole lot of guilt. Who gives up the things they love the most? Not this girl.
The past week my diet has consisted of chicken noodle soup, saltine crackers, hot chocolate, and popcorn. I was stuck in bed battling a terrible cold; and I think I ate about three giant bags of cough drops. At one point I even went to the grocery store in my pajamas because I was too lazy to change. I don’t know it was weird, I felt like if I didn’t have ginger ale my life would end or something. Clearly my fever made me a tiny delusional and a whole lot of dramatic.
Anyway I’m getting a little sidetracked here. All I really want to do is bring you healthy whole grain muffins to start your year off right.
These muffins are made with whole wheat flour, coconut flakes, carrots, raisins, and walnuts. I used applesauce instead a bunch of oil to save calories; this also keeps the muffins moist along with the almond milk.
I find these muffins necessary during those mornings when I find myself waking up 15 minutes before work. Usually I individually wrap mine in plastic wrap and freeze them so that all I have to do is pop them in the microwave in the morning.
Soup is one of my favorite things during the cold winter months. I literally dream about the days where I can sit with a good book, a cup of soup, and a slice of crusty bread to soak up all that warm comfort left on the bottom of my bowl.
And of course in between eating pie for breakfast (there were leftovers!) and shoveling Christmas cookies in my mouth; my soul craves soup. Perhaps because it’s the only thing that isn’t made up of purely sugar and butter. Goodness, my body needs a break from that. And this soup? Well, it leaves me full, warm, and richly satisfied.
The butternut squash is roasted in the oven to bring out it’s natural sweetness. Meanwhile the apples, carrots and onions are sauteed with a bit of cinnamon. Lastly the maple and milk are added. The soup is easily pureed into a fairly thick and creamy delight which ends up being quite delicious paired with croutons, or a warm crusty bread for dipping.
It’s really quite perfect in between those overindulgent family get-togethers, cookies exchanges, and peppermint lattes.
I hope you all had a magical Thanksgiving full of good food and major amounts of pie to put a smile on your face. Sorry I have been so busy lately traveling that blogging has been difficult.
My thanksgiving was lovely and full of laughter. We had roasted turkey, green bean casserole, blueberry brie cheese over Italian crackers, sour cream mashed potato, and an incredible sweet potato casserole with an oatmeal pecan brown sugar streusel. Three days later, I’m still not sick of leftovers.
I wish I would have snapped photos of how beautiful everything turned out, but I was too busy running around the kitchen and enjoying time spent with good people. However, I have to admit that I tried to make some of the dishes healthy because I knew that I had to have dessert; which on Thanksgiving is actually more like my main meal. This year’s included a ridiculous chocolate ganache pie with a toasted marshmallow topping and this stupidly good apple crisp served warm and topped with vanilla bean ice cream.
I was in a food coma for a good 36 hours.
Obviously worth it.
A couple of months ago Joanna of A Cup of Jo asked me if I would create a recipe for her basic food series. Of course, I said yes!
At first I wasn’t sure which recipe I would share, but since I’ve been making the best apple crisp for years, I knew that this was truly sensational It’s also one of my most requested recipes and for some reason, men can’t seem to get enough of it. Have I mentioned that baking for men is totally romantic? You must try it out.
This recipe always makes me fall in love with the simplicity of apple crisp all over again. I love when that happens.
Brown butter, vanilla bean, bourbon, and an incredible oat crisp in this recipe will knock your socks off. There’s also a bit of almonds in the topping, but you can use pecans or omit completely – it’s up to you.
Oh yes I did put bourbon in this crisp, because baking with bourbon is just freaking awesome. Go ahead, try the recipe and you’ll taste the difference. PROMISE.
I truly can’t seem to put into words how fantastic this apple crisp is though. Everyone always asks me for this recipe, and I’m sure they’ll ask you, too! It’s best served warm with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces
For the filling:
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
6 medium-sized Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and very thinly sliced
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. bourbon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease an 8x8 baking pan.
To make the topping: Combine the flour, oats, brown sugar and almonds in a large bowl until well-combined. Add in the pieces of butter and use your hands to squeeze and combine until the mixture becomes crumbly and resembles wet sand. (Alternatively, you can cut in the butter with a pastry cutter, or place all of the topping ingredients in a food processor and pulse until just blended. My favorite method is to use my hands, as I believe you get the best crumbly topping that way.)
Once finished, place topping in the fridge and begin making the apple filling.
To make the filling: Place butter and seeds from the vanilla bean in a medium saucepan, and turn heat on medium. After a couple of minutes the butter will begin to crackle and foam—make sure you whisk consistently during this process! Another minute or two, and you will notice the butter turning a slight brown (caramel) color on the bottom of the saucepan; continue to whisk and remove from heat as soon as the butter begins to give off a nutty aroma. Immediately transfer the butter to a bowl to prevent it from burning. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
While the butter is cooling, place apples, 1/3 cup brown sugar, cinnamon and bourbon in a large bowl and toss to combine. Add the brown butter to this apple mixture and toss again to combine.
Take a heaping ½ cup of the topping mixture and toss with the apple mixture. Place the apple mixture in prepared pan and sprinkle evenly with topping. It may seem like a lot of topping, but the apples will cook down and the topping will provide an excellent crunchy exterior.
Bake the crisp on a baking sheet (just in case the filling bubbles over!) for 55-60 minutes, or until topping is golden brown and filling is bubbling. Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes on wire rack. Serve warm with vanilla bean ice cream.
Feel free to use different nuts instead of almonds—or leave out nuts completely. If you don’t have bourbon on hand, you can use whiskey, or replace with ½ teaspoon vanilla extract.
There are certain things that we all take for granted. We easily forget how blessed we are to have caring people in our lives, to have good food on our plates, and to have opportunities in our future. Little things like a simple conversation with a friend or an embrace with a loved one may seem to always be there. We go through our day to day motions of buying overpriced cappuccinos and putting gas in our cars without a thought. We hardly ever think about how privileged we truly are.
There are days when we even take ourselves for granted. We forget what we love to do, those passions we all have, and get lost in the big world for a moment or two. Often, we put our dreams aside because we’re afraid to fail. We forget to say I love you to those who matter. And sometimes, we just forget to be ourselves. Our pursuit of happiness gets buried somewhere.
And so before we talk about super amazing things with bacon and maple syrup, I thought I’d write you a little inspirational post about how awesome you truly are. Because I think sometimes we all need a little reminder about the things we should never forget.
Never forget you’re beautiful and unique. You aren’t like anyone else on the planet, so don’t even try to be normal. Always, always be yourself. Embrace your quirks and weirdness. Be who you are and then you will find what you want.
Never forget to believe in yourself and those around you. This is life. We’re all just getting along on our journey; figuring it out and taking those uphill battles one day at a time. In some way, we’re all struggling, so offer compassion to those around you. Be encouraging to both yourself and others. Projecting kindness never feels bad.
Never forget to follow your dreams. Don’t be afraid of failure, because it leads to success. Having a passion is daring, but it makes you inspiring and remarkable. Remember that part of life is pursuing a happiness. Forget what others think or say, go after what’s in your heart. Life is short and moments are always passing.
Never settle. On love or in life. You deserve something amazing because you are amazing.
Besides my grocery shopping obsession, I have a couple other little addictions.
One is the internet. Twitter specifically; I just love it! Also now that I’m finally getting an iPhone, (I can’t even talk about it), I’ll probably be bonkers obsessed with Instagram and every app that I’ll more than likely forget what it’s like to function as a real human being. I mean, it’s already tough enough for me to keep up with all of the new blogs I’ve been discovering online lately. My new favorite is A Beautiful Mess, a blog about everything from beauty and fashion, to crafts and photography. You totally need to check it out!
Another favorite is my friend Stephanie’s blog Frest Tart. Her unbelievably gorgeous food photography, recipes, and fun writing style immediately invites you in. Stephanie also photographs Andrew Zimmern’s recipes for Food & Wine Magazine which makes it even more fun to follow what she’s up to! Visit and tell her hello!
Something else that has been taking up a lot of my time lately? Baking! So you’ve probably noticed. Well, let me just inform you now that the sweet recipes will continue to live on this blog. I just can’t stop. I’ve always loved to bake but this is getting out of control. Seriously, did I need to make pumpkin muffins, cookies, AND apple crisp this weekend? Probably not. But you see, somedays I find that there is nothing that I would rather do then bake my heart out; my stress seems to diminish while mixing batter and browning butter. Why yes, I am a weird human being, thank you.
Mmmmm now I’m thinking about brown butter. But wait… these muffins don’t actually have any butter OR oil in them! Whatttt?!?! I know, I must explain.
I’ll never forget the day I fell in love with baking. I was 7 years old.
My Mom decided that we would make a homemade pumpkin pie for the holidays. We spent hours deseeding and roasting pumpkins. I always enjoyed our time together in the kitchen because she gave me the best tasks.
On that particular day, I was in charge of making the pie crust look beautiful and fancy. Using my small hands, I tried my best to mimic the pie crust I had seen on the Thanksgiving dinner table, which of course resulted in something unsymetrical and pretty funny looking. Nevertheless, Mom was beaming at my accomplished pie crust and I was too! Eating the pie was the best part though; each bite brought me comfort and happiness knowing that I helped create a little slice of magic.
And so my love affair with baking began.
These days I find myself so busy that baking seems like a daunting task. It’s time-consuming, and sometimes a little bit complicated BUT I have to remind myself the results of home-baked goods are always unmatched. Lately I’ve been wanting to get back to real baking, the kind that is more like a project. And what’s more fun and interesting then making bagels from scratch? Seriously!
Now surprisingly, I don’t own bread machine, so I kneaded the dough by hand (talk about a calorie burner!); I felt accomplished and proud. Although, using an electrical mixer (such as a KitchenAid) would also work with this recipe.
Alas! I’m here to convince you to make homemade (handmade?) bagels. I’ll take you step-by-step through the recipe so that you can make these too! It’s a wonderful weekend project and great to do with kids. These bagels also happen to be lower in calories than bakery style, plus they’re chewy and toast perfectly. It’s some serious magic.
And since it’s Fall, we might as well make them pumpkin bagels, right? Then top them with a homemade whipped cinnamon honey butter.
So, here’s how we start: we’re going to proof the yeast (basically activate it)! Begin by placing warm water in a large bowl and adding the yeast along with brown sugar. The yeast essentially feeds off the sugar.
After a couple of minutes add the pumpkin, spices, and 2 cups of bread flour and mix until a sticky dough forms (pictured above).