Game of Scones: The Loving Lannisters Gluten Free Apricot Almond Scone

OnSome things just should not go together, like siblings and sex. Similarly, the terms gluten free and scones really do not belong in the same sentence. And yet, just as Jaime and Cersei somehow seem to work as the couple you love to hate, it turns out that gluten free scones are darned tasty.

As we come in to Episode 5, let’s review our cast. We have the White Hot Jalapeno Cheddar Jon Snow (AKA, the true hot king) Scone, the Sassy Sansa Lemon Ginger Scone and the Bittersweet Tyrion Whole Wheat Mini Scone. But now, just in time for Mother’s Day we head south to warmer climes and the Mad Queen, Mother of the Year, evil twin Cersei

For these scones I used Pamela’s gluten free baking mix, as recommended by Santa Cruz Susan. Susan is kind of an angel on earth, which is to say, the opposite of Cersei. Susan apologized that using a mix is sort of cheating, which happens to be appropriate for this particular scone, because nobody cheats more than Cersei, and gets away with it.

The Loving Lannister scone features apricots, prunes and almonds, all members of the prunus family. Not coincidentally, prunus siblings have a bitter cyanide compound in the seed that makes them poisonous (kind of like kisses from Spain). Toxic combos that are related to each other? Could there be a more perfect scone to honor the first family of King’s Landing? And sure, you don’t expect to get black-hearted prunes and golden apricots in one bite, but social norms never stopped a Lannister. And who doesn’t like a little plot twist?

Cooking notes: For this scone, I defied the recipe and tried to make them into the traditional round mound, cut into wedges. It required a lot of back alley repair, which nobody needs to see or repeat. Give yourself a pardon and make them as drop scones, as directed. They are unexpectedly delicious!

Oh beHAVE you two!

Gluten Free Apricot Almond Scones

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2-1/3 cups Pamela’s Baking & Pancake Mix
  • 1/3 cup sugar (preferably coconut or demerera sugar), plus 1 Tbsp for sprinkling
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots and dried prunes (in any proportion), roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup almonds, roughly chopped or painfully slivered
  • 4 tbsp butter (as cold as Cersei’s heart, which is to say frozen if possible)
  • 1 egg, beaten (ruthlessly)
  • 2/3 cup milk or cream

DIRECTIONS:

For scone newbies, see Queen Bee’s Kitchen’s short course in sconeology here for some excellent guidance. Feel free to substitute any dried fruit or nuts of choice, even if they are “just friends” and unrelated to each other.

Preheat oven to 375.
Mix the dry ingredients (through almonds) together. Cut in the butter using two knives (or make it easy on yourself and grate it in). Add the milk and beaten egg. Mix together with a fork. Dough will be thick. Drop large, tall dollops of dough (scones will spread when baking) onto lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with remaining coconut sugar. Bake for 15-17 minutes or until they look dangerously irresistible.

 

Game of Scones: Bittersweet Tyrion Chocolate Chip Mini Scone


Let’s talk about Tyrion. He’s been on the sidelines so far this season, but I trust his day is coming.  We love that little guy. He’s quite rugged and harbors his share of bitterness (about the whole ‘least favored bastard’ thing among other issues). He’s also soft and quite sweet on the inside. (Dude, we saw you looking at Sansa in the crypt!)

With all that in mind, it’s time for Tyrion — like White Hot Jon Snow and Sassy Sansa to have his very own scone. For Tyrion we have a mini scone made with whole wheat flour for some grit, and studded with bittersweet chocolate chips. The original recipe from Baker By Nature  calls for semi sweet mini chocolate chips, but there is nothing small about the chips Tyrion bears on his shoulders, so I opted for bigger, more bitter chips.    

Just as Tyrion has become my favorite character, this might be my favorite scone so far. Scones can feel like such a commitment, but mini scones feel much more doable. Plus, whole wheat flour gives them a wholesome heft that eases the guilt factor of eating so much butter in each bite.

As emphasized in this scone tutorial, make sure your butter is cold, even frozen if you are going to grate it. Making mini scones is just a matter of dividing the dough and making two mounds instead of one, and then cutting each into eight wedges. I pegged the slacker meter by shaping the scone mounds directly on the baking sheet.  And yes, they turned out just fine. They may not look perfect, but as with Tyrion, the beauty of these scones lies in their imperfections.

He’s little, gritty, and a little bitter, but sweet on the inside.

Bittersweet Tyrion Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Mini Scones

Prep 10 mins
Cook 20 mins
Total 30 mins
Yield 16 scones

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (preferably white whole wheat).
  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, VERY cold and cut into tiny pieces, or grated on a box grater
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

For the egg wash:

  • 1 large egg, beaten1 teaspoon milk or water
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar (or regular sugar if that’s all you’ve got), for sprinkling.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°(F). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a large bowl mix together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and sugar.
  2. Cut the butter into small cubes (or, even better, grate it on a box grater) then quickly work it into the mixture (using your fingers, or just two forks if you grated the butter) until it resembles a coarse meal.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, vanilla, sour cream, and milk, then add to flour and butter mixture. Use a fork to stir everything together until just moistened.
  4. Add in the chocolate chips and gently fold them into dough with a spatula.
  5. Pour the shaggy dough out onto a clean, floured work surface. Divide it into two equal portions  and shape the dough into a 6ish-inch circle. Cut the dough into 8 wedges and carefully transfer to the prepared sheet. (alternatively, dump the whole shebang directly onto the parchment lined sheet and form into two mounds
  6. Lightly brush each scones with the egg wash, then sprinkle the top of each scone with sugar. This is key. White sugar is ok if it is all you’ve got. Turbinado, demerera or coconut sugar gets you bonus points.
  7. Bake for 16-20 minutes, or until the tops are lightly golden brown.

Game of Scones: Sassy Sansa Lemon Ginger Scone

Hands down, Sansa is our favorite ginger in the Seven Kingdoms. Like the scone that is named for her, Sansa looks soft and sweet but is full of substance and spice. Three kinds of ginger—fresh, powdered and candied—give these scones a sassy edge. Fresh lemon—zest in the mix, and juice in the glaze—serves as a reminder that Sansa’s got some rightful, pure acid in her soul, because life is not all sweetness and light! (But it could be if she and White Hot Jon Snow had their way)

This recipe comes from Flour Bakery in Boston, via Martha Stewart, which is kind of perfect. Sansa has a bit of Martha’s exacting savvy in her, not to mention a ruthless streak (I’m looking at you, Ramsay…woof). Plus, à la Martha, Sansa is tough as nails AND knows how to get things done! While careful historians will note that Thrones era natives likely did not have food processors, Martha’s use of it here is, as she would say, “a good thing.” And let’s be real—if Martha were in the Seven Kingdoms she’d have had her minions figure out how to get anything done to perfection, no matter how much effort it took. In this case, the food processor spares us the toil of minions.

I have put the recipe here as it came from Martha, noting the changes I made, only out of desperation. I was working with the Sunday episode deadline, a near empty fridge and whatever hodgepodge was in the pantry after a long absence.

My scones were Sansational—which is to say, not Martha perfect, but pretty in pictures, interesting, substantial and great tasting, which is all that matters. Well, that and seeing what havoc gets unleashed in Episode 3, the halfway point for the final season. Stay tuned for the next scone or (spoiler alert) mini scone…

Special thanks to:
Alice for the creative spark that led to this and so many Game of Scones contestants.
Patty, Jean and Sister A for the supply of Meyer lemons from Northern and Southern Cal, the remains of which made it safely to NH in my luggage and kept my clothes lemony fresh!

The sassiest ginger in the kingdom

Sassy Sansa Lemon Ginger Scone

From Flour Bakery c/o Martha Stewart

Makes 10

For a full scone Tutorial see this post on the White Hot Jon Snow Scone by Erica Wilson of Queen Bee’s Kitchen

Ingredients

Scones

  • 2 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 3/4 sticks (14 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 to 10 pieces
  • 1/2 cup cold buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup cold heavy cream
  • 1 large egg, well chilled
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

Lemon Glaze

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

1. Scones: Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in center.

2. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, crystallized ginger, ground ginger, and lemon zest. Add butter; beat on low speed until butter is somewhat broken down with some visible pieces remaining, about 30 seconds.

3. In a liquid-measuring cup, whisk together buttermilk, cream, egg, and grated ginger. With mixer on low, add buttermilk mixture and beat until dough just comes together, 20 to 30 seconds (there will still be some flour mixture at bottom of bowl).

4. Remove bowl from mixer. Using your hands, gather and lift dough, turning it over in the bowl, until remaining flour mixture has been incorporated into dough. *This so did not unfold this way for me, but see below and carry on.

5. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently roll out 1 inch thick. Using a 2 1/2-inch round cutter, cut out 10 rounds, rerolling scraps as necessary. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart. **Big Bring It slacker note here: My dough was too moist (perhaps I forgot a cup of flour??). Rather than cut the scones I dumped the whole shebang on a parchment lined cookie sheet and shaped it into two circles, which I cut into scone wedges, gently separating each a bit so they had their own baking space. We all need our own baking space.

6. Bake until light golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack; let cool 10 minutes.

7. Lemon Glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together confectioners’ sugar and enough lemon juice to make a smooth, thick, pourable glaze. Brush glaze over warm scones and serve.

Cook’s Notes

If you’re more Martha than Edie, here are the exact measuring weights. This probably would have saved me some anxiety:

385 grams unbleached all-purpose flour
70 grams granulated sugar
80 grams finely chopped crystallized ginger
200 grams cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 to 10 pieces
120 grams cold buttermilk
120 grams cold heavy cream
140 grams confectioners’ sugar

Unbaked scones can be frozen, tightly wrapped in plastic, up to 1 week. If baking from frozen, add 5 to 10 minutes to the baking time.

Scones are best enjoyed the day they are made, but can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

Glaze can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.

*** More Slacker notes: Out of necessity, I used almond milk and lemon juice instead of buttermilk and cream. As mentioned above, I baked them as one big round, scored into scone wedges. In short, my execution was not excellent, but the scones were fantastic. As Sansa knows, even if you only get the execution right one time, you can be satisfied. 

Game of Scones: White Hot Jon Snow Scone

Game of Scones, Episode 1

To state the obvious, it’s been a long cold winter. We need a little heat. We need a little action. We need a little Game of Thrones…and we’re getting it. To celebrate the final season, which got underway last Sunday, Bring It is premiering its own Game of Scones. For each of these last six episodes Bring It’s bringing you a G.O.T. themed scone. First up, the White Hot Jon Snow scone, because really, we missed you Jon Snow.

To realize this dream, I teamed up with Granite State baker Erica Wilson, of Queen Bee’s Kitchen. Though not a thrones watcher, Erica embraced the spirit of the challenge and honed in on a recipe to honor Jon Snow, the oh-so-hot true king of the Seven Kingdoms. As surely as his butt belongs on the Iron Throne, these scones belong on your Easter table.

Like their namesake, these jalapeño cheddar scones will warm you up on a cold day while bringing in some fresh zing and the promise of brighter days. They feature WHITE cheddar cheese, because that’s the real deal (I’m looking at you, westerners), and diced jalapenos for a fresh, hotness of being that’ll make your heart beat faster

Check out Erica’s post for a more thorough scone tutorial. She talks of cold butter, and good butter, and cutting butter, and all the things that separate sconeology from mere biscuitology. If you’re new to scones you’ll want to check it out.

I highly suggest you bring some White Hot Jon Snow Scones wherever you go this Easter Sunday. Enjoy them while making nice with family and gearing up for the real event of the day—Episode Two. Then hunker in and ponder which character might inspire of our next creation. By the way, Queen Bee’s Kitchen can deliver anywhere in New Hampshire. If you need some hot little hunks of Jon Snow with zero effort contact the queen!

The Jon Snow Scone— white (cheddar) hot, and mighty fine all around

White Hot Jon Snow Scones

From Peter Oleyer at Calexico Carne Asada in Brooklyn, via NYMag and Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick or 4 ounces) cold butter, diced
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 eggs divided
  • 1/4 pound sharp WHITE Cheddar cheese diced
  • 2 small jalapeños pepper minced

Method

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a small skillet, melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter and sauté the jalapeños in it until soft, about two minutes. Let them cool, then place them in a small bowl with the cheddar cheese and coat them with one tablespoon of the flour. Combine the remaining flour with the baking powder and salt. Cut in the remaining butter with a pastry blender, fork or two knives, until the butter bits are pea sized.

Lightly whip two of the eggs and cream and add to the flour-butter mixture. Using a wooden spoon, fold mixture until it begins to come together. Add the cheddar-jalapeño mixture to the dough and mix until everything is incorporated.

Turn out the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead gently for less than one minute. Pat dough out to a 3/4- to 1-inch thickness and either cut into 8 triangles or the shape of your choice with a biscuit cutter. Make an egg wash by beating the remaining egg with a teaspoon of water. Brush the scones with egg wash and place on a parchment-lined (or well-oiled) baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

To get some goodness from Queen Bee’s Kitchen email queenbeeskitchennh.com

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad

 Well, I blew right by Thanksgiving and then went on tour. Since then, I have not cooked one bit, which, I have to admit, is kind of nice. I wanted to cook, but I’ve been on the road, and as a fairly messy cook it didn’t seem right to invade my hosts’ kitchens and disrupt their standards of neatness and order. If only there was some book like, “The Freeloaders Guide to Low-Impact Cooking.” Anyone want to get on that? Anyone?

Let’s loop back to Thanksgiving for a moment, and specifically to veggie sides, because ‘tis the season that we all need some healthy greens to balance the rest of what’s coming in. This salad is simple but tasty, easy to prep ahead and holds up (and even improves) over time.

I found it in desperation when I got a last-minute Brussels sprouts request. My go–to roasted Brussels sprouts require a hot oven and last minute prep, which was a deal breaker. Also, to keep the Thanksgiving peace, I wanted something less aggressive than the kale Brussels sprouts salad that was my previous go-to. This seemed like the perfect balance of healthy and mainstream, with a touch of sweetness and crunch to make it holiday material.

Shaved sprouts, mandoline style.

The only labor is shaving the Brussels sprouts, but you shoppers know there are ways to buy yourself out of that (I do like the thin slices you get from using a mandoline, but let’s not get picky over the holidays—bagged shortcuts are fine!) The recipe calls for dates, and I suggest the firmer (and cheaper, and easier to find) deglet vs medjool. You could also use dried cranberries or cherries if you prefer, for a more festive look, but the dates are darned good and less bossy in flavor.

OK that’s it! I hope you like this salad and it makes you feel better about eating cookies and chocolate for breakfast.

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad

From Foodiegoeshealthy

Ingredients:

 For the salad

  • 10 ounces of shaved Brussels sprouts (about 4 cups shaved)
  • ½ cup sliced, pitted dates
  • ½ cup chopped, toasted pecans (or sliced almonds)
  • ⅓ cup thickly grated Parmesan cheese (or other hard cheese like Pecorino Romano or Manchego. Can omit for a vegan dish.) Edie note here: I have never tried it with cheese, but I am sure that puts it over the top.

 For the dressing

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1-1/2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • Several grinds of freshly cracked black pepper

Method:

  1. To shave the Brussels sprouts: Remove any outer leaves that are coarse or damaged. Cut out the stem and core. Slice the sprouts in the food processor with the slicing blade. Pull the shreds apart into ribbons. Alternatively, slice the Brussels sprouts with a mandoline, or buy pre-sliced.
  2. To make the dressing: The honey needs to be thin and runny, so briefly microwave if necessary. Put all dressing ingredients in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake well to combine. Set aside.
  3. Prep the other ingredients: slice dates; chop & toast pecans; grate cheese using large holes on a box grater.
  4. Store all components in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. When ready to serve, shake the dressing in a jar until well-combined. Then toss all the salad components together with the dressing and serve.


Roasted Squash, Kale and Cranberry Salad

To borrow a sentiment from Teen Angst, “what the world needs now is another kale salad like I need a hole in my head” And yet, here you have it. This came out of the Cooking Light archives—an actual print version that was hanging around my cluttered pantry of angst. It was the answer to my prayers when my garden of tomatoes died back enough to reveal a whole lot of kabocha (buttercup) and delicata squash. I’ve made this with both types of squash and it was fantastic. I suspect it’d be grand with butternut as well.

To make this meal-worthy salad you’re basically massaging up a bed of kale with a touch of olive oil. Now don’t be coy—we’re no strangers to massaging kale. Roasted squash goes on top of that, followed by thinly sliced red onion for sass and plumped up dried cranberries for a little sweet and same fall color.

It took all my will NOT add nuts to this bed of goodness, but I resisted and did not miss them a bit. Neither did my nut-weary family.

  • Bonus: This can be made ahead and hang out until dinner is served.
  • Double Bonus: It travels like a champ and is easily assembled on site.
  • Triple bonus: The leftovers are excellent, because we all know dressed kale can survive the apocalypse.

I hate to sounds bossy, but please make this now, so if you like it as much as I do you can sign up to bring it to Thanksgiving. I know…we’re not even at Halloween. But what can I say? Squash turns my crank. And now, on to pomegranates. Oh…yeah…baby! Happy Fall

Roasted Squash, Kale and Cranberry Salad

From Cooking Light

Ingredients

  • 1/2 large unpeeled green or orange kabocha squash (about 5 lb.), cut into 12 (1/2-in.-thick) wedges (or delicata squash, seeded and cut in 1/2″ rounds)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely ground coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 6 tablespoons dried cranberries (or dried cherries to be tart and fancy)
  • 6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly vertically sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 (7 1/2-oz.) bunch lacinato kale, stemmed and cut into 3/4-in.-wide strips (curly kale works fine too)

Method:

Preheat oven to 375°F

Combine squash, 1 tablespoon olive oil, coriander seeds, pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl, tossing gently with hands to coat. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Cover with foil. Bake at 375°F for 10 minutes. Remove foil; bake 15 more minutes or until pumpkin is tender and browned, turning once.

While pumpkin roasts, combine cranberries, vinegar, brown sugar, mustard seeds, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Bring to a simmer; remove from heat. Steep 15 minutes or until almost all of the liquid is absorbed.

Place onion in a bowl of ice-cold water; let stand 10 minutes. Drain

Toss lemon juice, kale, remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt in a large bowl, massaging kale with hands to soften. Transfer kale to a large serving platter; top with pumpkin and onion. Sprinkle with cranberries.

Bringing it:  Roast the squash, prep onions and cranberries and massage the kale in the privacy of your own home. Bring them all separately and assemble on a platter when you get to your destination. It can hang out until you’re ready to eat.

Tomato Overload

Guess what didn’t take Labor Day off? The tomatoes in your garden. It’s hard to keep up with the crop, though I’m trying my darndest, and probably headed for whatever toxic event occurs from too many tomatoes. I swear those suckers ripen by the hour. It’s all good though, except that there’s this one doctor out there on the interwebs who gets really bad on tomatoes. I just have to ignore his advice for the next couple of weeks. Same with the corn haters. Now is NOT the time.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, let’s just revisit some of our all-time tomato season favorites. Purists of course will go no further than the white bread and mayo tomato sandwich. Solid. But it uses exactly one tomato. Not helpful. When you’re looking for mass consumption of the bounty, I suggest a batch or two of sweet and spicy tomato jam. For the easiest dinner on the planet, totally appropriate for hands off entertaining, go for Best of Summer Simmer Chicken. If your job is to bring a side, embrace the heat with Summer Perfection Watermelon Tomato Feta Salad, or just go straight for Most Popular with THE Panzanella.

If those don’t use up your tomato backlog, here is an easy way to give your tomatoes (and the taste of summer) a little more staying power.

If nothing else you should go to Smitten Kitchen just to look at the picture of the pre-roasting tomato rainbow. Impressive. Mine do not look like that. BUT I assure you they taste darned good, and they are perfect to throw on a pizza, spoon on bruschetta, toss into a salad, smoosh on bread, mix in pasta, etc. You get the picture.

Slow roasted tomatoes, just hanging with the fresh crowd.

Slow Roasted Tomatoes

From Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

  • Cherry, grape or small Roma tomatoes
  • Whole gloves of garlic, unpeeled
  • Olive oil
  • Herbs such as thyme or rosemary (optional)

Method

Preheat oven to 225°F. Halve each cherry or grape tomato crosswise, or Roma tomato lengthwise and arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet along with the cloves of garlic. Drizzle with olive oil, just enough to make the tomatoes glisten. Sprinkle herbs on, if you are using them, and salt and pepper, though go easily on these because the finished product will be so flavorful you’ll need very little to help it along.

Bake the tomatoes in the oven for about 3 hours. You want the tomatoes to be shriveled and dry, but with a little juice left inside–this could take more or less time depending on the size of your tomatoes. When they are done, you can remove the cloves of garlic and save them for another use. They’re a delish side bennie.

Use the tomatoes right away or let them cool, cover them with some extra olive oil and keep them in the fridge for the best summer condiment, ever.

Feel Good Zucchini Bread (and muffins)

It’s that time of year—time to figure out what to do with the zucchinis that have grown into something with the heft (and taste) of a Duraflame log. Enter zucchini bread, a brilliant use of the bounty. The only downside of zucchini bread and their muffin progeny, is that most of them also seem like a ploy to get rid of all the oil and white sugar in your house. Eat a piece of your standard zuke bread and your fingers look like you’ve just wrangled a basket of French fries. And the sugar that’s involved…oy!  

Quick breads and muffins exist on a taste/texture profile continuum from dirt to donuts.  Ever since hearing about the 800 calorie Costo muffin I’ve gravitated towards the dirt end of the spectrum. In fact I have a stalker-like attraction to the Earth Muffin at our local bakery, Lou’s. Upon studying the insanely lengthy and small fonted ingredient list I learned they are full of ground nuts, chopped nuts, seeds, dried fruit, maple syrup, grains, meals and every Vegan trick in the book. Even when Lou’s tries to pawn their day old Earth Muffins off as fresh (as if we dirt lovers can’t detect nuance), something about all that texture, heft and granular mystery still satisfies my need for weirdness. These muffins do feel like treats, but not irresponsibly so.

Feel Good Zucchini Muffins, with a whole lot of goodness

Perhaps you’re not up for the true grit experience in the morning, but you probably don’t fully enjoy walking away from breakfast knowing you’ve already used up your daily dessert quota. That’s where this recipe strikes the perfect balance, erring on the nutritious side of the muffin spectrum, but with enough sweetness and light to start your day with a smile. The recipe features white whole wheat flour, not a ton of sugar, a LOT of zucchini, and olive oil to make every heart beat a little faster. It’s a muffin/bread you can eat in the morning and feel good knowing that today, there’s still room for ice cream!

Feel Good Zucchini Bread

Poached with utmost respect from Food52, where there is also an excellent discussion on this topic.
Makes: 1 loaf or about 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup olive oil (143 grams), plus more for the pan
  • 1 1/3 cups white whole-wheat flour (170 grams), plus more for the pa
  • 2 1/3 cups grated zucchini (from about 11 ounces zucchini)*
  • 1/3 cup sugar (67 grams)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar (71 grams)
  • 2 large eggs (Vegans, grab your flax meal or aquafaba)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup walnuts (75 grams)
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins (53 grams)
  • 1/3 cup oats (33 grams), plus more for topping

*If you’re scant on the zukes, or just feel like a little more color, you can add in some grated carrot.

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a 8 1/2- by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan (muffin pans if using) )with some oil. Add some flour and tap around to distribute evenly. Gather the zucchini in a kitchen linen or paper towel and squeeze over the sink to get rid of any excess moisture. This step is KEY!
  2. Combine the sugars, eggs, and oil in a large bowl. Whisk until smooth. Add the zucchini to the bowl and use a rubber spatula to combine. Add the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir to combine. Add the flour, walnuts, raisins, and oats. Stir to combine.
  3. Pour the batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle oats on top. Bake for about 1 hour until a thin knife inserted in the center comes out clean. If making muffins, start checking them at 15 minutes and take them out when they are set and slightly browned.
  4. Let cool in the pan for 15 or so minutes before turning onto a wire rack. Cool completely before slicing and serving.

The zucchini army at rest

No Guilt Nutella: Chocolate for Breakfast Goes Legit

You say Nutella, I say…ain’t happening for breakfast in this house.

I grew up in a pre Nutella-For-Breakfast world. We had plenty of heinously unhealthy food, like pop tarts and cocoa puffs. But putting frosting on toast and calling it breakfast wasn’t a thing. Even if it happened (looking at you, chocolate Easter bunnies), it wasn’t sanctioned, let alone encouraged.

My kids grew up in a post NFB world, thanks to brilliant marketing from the Italians, who needed a real game-changer to dress up their melba toast and give their people a reason to get up for breakfast. Still, I did not serve Nutella to my kids. That may help explain why they so easily, dare I say eagerly, transitioned to sleepovers, camp and really any opportunity to leave home. There’s no need to get into my reasoning unless you really want a buzz-kill. I think we can all agree that commercial Nutella is not a solid foundation for the most important meal of the day.

But WHAT IF Nutella was made with no added sweeteners, fat or scary ingredients? What if it was made with the holy trinity of healthy treat ingredients—dates, nuts and cocoa—and nothing much else? Now that would be something I could get behind. And don’tcha know, I have. It’s not just for breakfast of course—it’s for any time you damn well please.

No Guilt Nutella soars past the teenage boy test, the teenage girl test, the man test and the “gimme that spoon I just need a chocolate fix ” test. If you are a Nutella connoisseur you will not be fooled by this, but the concept of a chocolate spread you can eat by the spoonful without a shred of guilt or secrecy may win you over nonetheless. Vegans, Paleos and Gluten-free peeps? Yeah, this is your jive too.

As with last week’s treats, your food processor earns its keep making these. It’s pretty foolproof though, as long as you make an honest attempt to skin the hazelnuts* and then process those babies until they really turn to butter. Be patient. It will happen.

No Guilt Nutella

Ingredients

  • 1 cup hazelnuts (or a mix of hazelnuts and almonds)
  • 1 packed cup medjool dates, pitted (or more, see notes)
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp flavorless oil
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup almond milk

Method:

  1. Roast hazelnuts at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Transfer onto a kitchen towel and roll with your hands to remove skins. (no need to remove skins on almonds, if using)
  2. Puree hazelnuts in a food processor for 8 to 10 minutes until a butter forms. Take the time to do it right! You’ll know when you’ve crossed from ground nuts to butter.
  3. Remove hazelnut butter, and scrape out food processor as best you can. Add dates and water. Puree until smooth and creamy.
  4. Add hazelnuts to date paste and pulse a few times.
  5. Add cocoa, vanilla, oil, and salt and blend. 
  6. With food processor running, slowly pour in almond milk. Scrape down the sides and pulse a few times to blend into creamy goodness.
  7.  

Notes

*To completely remove hazelnut skins (for the smoothest possible spread), boil nuts in a pot of water with few tablespoons of baking soda for 4 minutes. Immediately strain and place nuts in ice water for a minute or so, until the skins peel off easily. You still need to roast the nuts to loosen up all the oils and bring out the flavor. Google will not corroborate this, but I find this process takes a little mojo out of the nuts. I prefer the less perfect/more flavorful roasting and rolling technique. You will stain the dishtowel, but such are the sacrifices we make. See here for a THOROUGH demo.

If your dates are hard, or you are using Deglet dates, soak them in warm water for an hour or two before pureeing.

…and furthermore, depending on the sweetness of your dates and the strength of your cocoa, you may need to add more dates at the end to find your sweet spot. 

I swear the notes are done.

Store leftovers in the fridge, and put your guilt in the rear view mirror!

Breakfast in America, reimagined.

The real thing, at the breakfast table, on the dreaded melba toast, in its homeland.

Cocoa Nutty Balls

This is the first of two posts featuring the holy trinity of healthy treat ingredients: dates, nuts and cocoa. Why so holy? If you can get your Vegan, Paleo and Gluten-free friends at the same table, eating the same thing and loving it, there’s some divine intervention going on.

I’m posting them separately so they each get full credit, and you can find them more easily when needed. Both recipes are quick, easy and 100 percent free of added sweeteners, dairy, or grains. This first one is slightly more labor intensive because, well, balls require some care. (sorry, couldn’t resist). Neither recipe requires one bit of cooking, but they both will give your food processor an honest workout.

First up, are these cocoa nutty balls. (If you do the highly recommended pro move and roll them in toasted coconut when you’re done you can call them coconutty balls. See how that works? ) These are well known and loved in the paleo world and for good reason. They get sweetness and smoothness from dates, heft and texture from walnuts and chocolatey goodness from cocoa. The pinch of salt gives them some sass and the optional coating lets you add your own customized cha-cha.

But wait there’s more! These can hang out in the freezer until you need them. They transport well for hiking, picnics, lunchboxes, road trips or any eating on the fly. I offered these to a bunch of burly ski racers between their runs and they inhaled them. Either the lodge had run out of cheeseburgers or they actually liked them. I hope you’ll like them too!

Cocoa Nutty Balls

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups walnuts (or a mix of walnuts and almonds or skinned hazelnuts*)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup pitted dates (Medjool if you can. Deglet if you must)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • (Optional for pro version) Toasted unsweetened coconut—or whatever added crunch you like—for coating.

Method

Add walnuts and salt to a blender or food processor. Mix until the walnuts are finely ground.

Add the dates, vanilla, and cocoa powder to the blender. Mix well until everything is combined. With the blender still running, add a couple drops of water at a time to make the mixture stick together. (If it really won’t stick together in a ball, add another date or two)

Slacker version: Using a spatula, transfer the mixture to a small (8″x 8″) pan and smoosh it flat, sprinkle optional topping/coating evenly on top and press it into the surface. (A layer of parchment paper makes this easy.) Let cool in the fridge and cut into whatever sized bites or bars you want. 

Semi Pro Version: Transfer the mixture into a bowl. Using your hands, form small round balls (I aim for walnut sized), rolling in your palms. They’ll come together and feel a little greasy, making them perfect for the…

Pro Version: Toast raw coconut flakes or shreds in a 350ish degree oven a few minutes (until just golden) and let them cool. If flakes, whirl them in the food processor until finely ground, but not yet buttery. Add a pinch of salt is that’s your jive (it’s mine).** Remove the blade from the bowl and drop in three or four balls at a time, rolling them around to coat.

You can store bars or balls in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week or the freezer for a looooong time.

*Skinning hazelnuts will be fully discussed in the next post. If you just can’t wait for this fascinating discussion (I know, you’re only human) check out this treatise on the topic.

**store leftover toasted coconut in a jar to sprinkle on yogurt, oatmeal, fruit, etc.

Just us fruits and nuts here, keeping our cool