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Bran Snack Cake

April 3, 2014

Bran Snack Cake 1 | Espresso and Cream
I know, I know. The whole “bran cake” probably doesn’t have you dashing to the kitchen to make this recipe, does it? Hang with me for a moment and let me explain. I’ve undoubtedly mentioned before how much I love hearty, healthier, one-bowl cake that doesn’t require a lot of fuss. This cake is all that and more.

Growing up I remember buying the most amazing bran muffins at the local grocery store. They were made by the local Dutch bakery (we grew up in a very Dutch town) and were pretty much the best things on the planet. They were huge muffins, not in paper liners, and the bottoms of the muffins were gooey and covered in some sort of caramel glaze that soaked into the muffins and kept them moist. At the time, I thought I was eating something healthy. I mean, they’re bran muffins for crying out loud. Now I realize they were more than likely loaded with sugar and butter and calories only being disguised by the bran as a better-for-you treat.

Bran Snack Cake 2 | Espresso and Cream
So last week when the urge to bake hit me hard I decided to try and recreate those muffins with a healthier twist. This bran cake is made in an 8- or 9-inch square cake pan, though you could certainly use a round cake pan if that’s what you happen to own. Instead of being loaded with sugar and butter and all those bad-for-you ingredients, I made a light glaze to go on the cake and drizzled the cake with a couple tablespoons of honey right after it came out of the oven.

Joe, who is not one for healthy desserts and cakes, was a huge fan of this cake! Although I had to warn him about portion control. One slice of cake a day is really all you should think about eating, if you know what I mean. We’re talking about bran, after all.

Bran Snack Cake 3 | Espresso and Cream

Bran Snack Cake
Recipe type: Breakfast, Brunch, Snack
Serves: 9 to 12
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups 100% bran cereal (such as All Bran)
  • 1¼ cups milk (I used 2% but you can use whatever you prefer)
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup vegetable or canola oil
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 8-inch square (or 8-inch round) cake pan with cooking spray. In small bowl, melt butter. Add brown sugar to butter and stir until well combined. Pour mixture into bottom of pan.
  2. In large bowl, combine all-purpose and whole wheat flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and salt until well combined. In second bowl, combine bran cereal, milk, egg, oil and sugar until well combined. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Pour mixture into prepared baking pan.
  3. Bake 22 to 26 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Run a knife around the edge of the cake. Invert cake immediately onto serving platter. Drizzle with the honey. Cut into squares to serve. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Homemade Vanilla Coconut Butter

February 23, 2014

I go in waves with all things homemade. Deep down inside, I love making everything by scratch. If I had the time, I would make my bread and my peanut butter and my pasta by scratch every week. Tonight I had a little extra time in the kitchen, so I made enchiladas with homemade flour tortillas and homemade enchilada sauce and I felt so accomplished knowing that I could name every ingredient in the food we were eating.

But if I’m being honest with myself, I just don’t have the time or energy to make everything from scratch all the time, no matter how much I might like to do so. My time is worth a lot, and I try to strike a healthy balance. Sometimes I go weeks on end making hummus by scratch or making my own peanut butter. Other times I simply find it worth it to purchase those items from the store.

The only time I regularly make things my scratch is when it’s vastly cheaper. I just can’t resist saving a little money and learning a new kitchen skill. I’m a big fan of coconut butter (not to be confused with coconut oil or coconut milk) which has a creamy, melty texture and great coconut flavor. But buying coconut butter can be pricey, so I set out to make it myself. I’m not sure what took me so long! I just had to share how easy it is to make coconut butter at home.

Because I prefer a little sweetness, I added some sugar to the recipe below, though you certainly don’t need it for the recipe to work. Since I’m not a huge jam or preserves person, I find that this coconut butter is a great substitute. It’s slightly sweet, creamy and tastes great on toast or drizzled on a morning bowl of oatmeal. The coconut butter will get hard at room temperature (especially in the winter when it’s colder in the house) but you can bring it back to spreading consistency by putting it in the microwave for a few seconds before you use it!


Homemade Vanilla Coconut Butter
This recipe is an adaptation of a recipe by Ashley from Edible Perspective, which I found on Food52. You can find her recipe here. It's incredibly versatile and I can see myself making lots of variations of this basic recipe. The sugar isn't necessary in this recipe, but I like the sweetness it adds and the way it brings out the coconut and vanilla flavors.
  • 2 cups unsweetened coconut
  • 1 teaspoon high-quality vanilla
  • 2 teaspoon sugar
  1. Place all the ingredients together in the bowl of a large food processor. Blend 3 to 5 minutes or until smooth and creamy. Coconut butter will get hard in cooler temperatures. To soften, microwave 20 to 30 seconds or until desired consistency for spreading on toast.




Chana Saag with Kale

February 11, 2014


One of my favorite traditions at work is our monthly cookbook club. It’s so fun to select a book, pick a recipe and get together with a bunch of other people who love to cook and discuss what we liked and didn’t like about said book. Sometimes it’s an incredibly successful cookbook club, sometimes it’s only okay.  But that’s the point, right? It’s so rare that I get a chance to make more than one or two recipes out of any given cookbook, so getting to taste 10 to 15 recipes at once really gives a feel for what the book is about and the quality of the recipes.

Our most recent selection was Isa Does It by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. The book is entirely vegan but the part that really knocked my socks off was the fact that I feel I could serve these recipes at a dinner party to vegans and non vegans alike. The recipes were warm and comforting and incredibly filling. Although there is a fair amount of chopping and slicing and dicing involved in all the recipes, they were all fairly easy to prepare and didn’t require many specialty ingredients. Bonus: I don’t think “vegan cheese” or “vegan meat” was used once!

I left cookbook club this month feeling like I had eaten Thanksgiving dinner, though I didn’t feel weighed down or gross (albeit a little too full) like I sometimes do over the holidays. The food was nourishing, light and hearty all at once, and I fell in love with Isa’s casual and funny way of writing a cookbook.

The Chana Saag with Kale that I made for cookbook club was universally one of the favorite dishes that was prepared, and I couldn’t wait to make it again in my own kitchen to share with you. I tweaked the recipe slightly, mainly by adding more kale and slightly different spices to suit my tastes, but the recipe is incredibly forgiving and easy to adapt based on what you have on hand. However, I would strongly suggest not leaving out the lime juice, because the hit of tangy citrus really brings this dish together.

Chana Saag with Kale
This recipe is adapted from a recipe of the same name from Isa Does It by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I fell in love with Isa's version, which calls for kale instead of the more traditional spinach. Kale is heartier and holds up better, which is important for leftovers. Since this makes a lot, there are bound to be leftovers! I like this dish heavy on the kale, but feel free to use less if you aren't a huge fan of kale.
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt (plus more to taste at the end)
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon garam masala
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, more or less depending on desired heat
  • 1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes
  • 2 cans (14.5 oz each) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) light coconut milk
  • 8 cups chopped kale
  • Juice from 1 lime
  1. In large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and cook 3 to 5 minutes until lightly browned and softened. In small bowl, combine curry powder, garlic powder, cumin, salt, black pepper, garam masala, turmeric and cayenne. Add spice mixture to onions and cook 1 minute more to toast the spices.
  2. Add in the juice from the tomatoes to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom and sides of the pot. Crush the tomatoes with your hands as you add them to the pot. Add the chickpeas to the pot along with the tomatoes. Cover and simmer 10 to 15 minutes, stirring once.
  3. Add in the coconut milk and heat through.
  4. Add the kale and cook 5 minutes more or until kale is cooked and softened slightly.





Peanut Butter Chia Breakfast Pudding

February 10, 2014


Let’s talk about breakfast. It is, after all, the most important meal of the day, but you already know that, don’t you? I’m always amazed at how many people don’t eat breakfast. Maybe that’s because I go to bed each night thinking about what I’m going to eat each morning for breakfast.

Breakfast gets your ready for the day and prepares you for whatever challenges you may face. Take, for example, when I put too much shredded beef down the disposal all at once on Saturday and it led to a major clog in our basement drain when all the beef tried to go down the pipe at once. Yeah, can you imagine how happy my husband was about that? I imagine he’ll be even less pleased when we get the plumber’s bill today. Thankfully. I had a large, healthy breakfast to keep the hangry (hangry = hungry + angry) at bay while dealing with said plumbing issues.

Since we haven’t been able to use the sink in our kitchen, cooking has been reduced to zero this weekend. We’ve been eating down leftovers from our fridge and freezer and using paper plates, bowls and silverware. This chia pudding has also been on rotation since it doesn’t require a pot/pan to prepare and is incredibly filling. It makes you feel like you can take on the world and fix all the plumbing issues. Okay, maybe that’s an overstatement, but you get the idea.


If you’re new to the chia pudding game, don’t be afraid of their less than stellar appearance. The chia seeds plump up as they sit in liquid like milk, water or yogurt, taking on a gel-like consistency similar to tapioca. Chia seeds are packed with fiber, omega-3s and calcium, among other things. Plus, when you’re eating them you just feel super healthy. That’s got to count for something, right?

Since a lot of people (including me) are interested in nutrition when it comes to breakfast recipes, I did a rough calculation of the nutrition information in this recipe, not including the bananas or dark chocolate chips and assuming you’re using stevia instead of brown sugar.

Peanut Butter Chia Breakfast Pudding
Recipe type: Breakfast
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
Creamy chia pudding made with almond milk and peanut butter is the perfect breakfast when topped with sliced bananas and dark chocolate chips for a bit of decadence.
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon creamy natural peanut butter
  • 1 packet stevia or 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • Toppings such as sliced bananas or dark chocolate chips
  1. In small bowl, stir together the almond milk, chia seeds, peanut butter, stevia, vanilla and cinnamon until well combined. Continue to stir for 1 minute longer.
  2. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes (or overnight) until the chia seeds are plumped and mixture is thick. Top with banana slices and dark chocolate chips before serving.

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Apple Pie Almond Meal Pancakes

January 19, 2014

Is there anything better than weekend breakfasts? Joe and I make a point to eat breakfast together almost every morning. We’re even the crazy people who wake up an extra hour earlier than we need to because we want time to drink coffee, eat breakfast, talk and watch a little morning news. Weekend breakfasts, however, are an entirely different thing. We have time to wake up a little later and still soak up a few hours together, drinking cups and cups of coffee and lounging around in our pajamas, playing with the pups.

During the weekdays we stick to our routine of oatmeal or oat bran for ease, taste and convenience. But on the weekends, we get a little more creative. Eggs, bacon and homemade biscuits are a favorite, homemade pancakes, yogurt bowls with chia seeds and berries and plenty of drippy almond butter.

Although I love pancakes first thing in the morning, particularly of the whole grain variety, I don’t love the fact that they leave me hungry only a couple hours later. Almond meal pancakes, I’ve found, keep me full much longer probably due to the fact that they contain protein.

For a while now, I’ve been making a quick “apple pie” mixture by mixing apple slices, a little brown sugar and butter, cinnamon and flour and microwaving the mixture for a couple minutes until soft and delicious. It’s amazing how much it tastes like apple pie and satisfying dessert cravings without totally blowing the rest of your day. I don’t know why it took me so long to figure out that combining this apple mixture with almond meal pancakes would create a breakfast nirvana, but I’m glad I finally did!

If you’re looking for a slightly more involved but totally delicious breakfast that’s worth every bit of effort, make time for these Apple Pie Almond Meal Pancakes. I usually steer clear of overly sweet breakfasts, so I don’t care for maple syrup on my pancakes, but I think most people wouldn’t mind a warm drizzle of maple syrup for moisture and sweetness.

Apple Pie Almond Meal Pancakes
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk
1 tablespoon brown sugar (you could swap out the brown sugar for a little maple syrup or stevia)
3/4 cup almond meal (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand)
Apple Compote
1 large apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Very small pat of butter, melted (maybe 1/4 tablespoon or a little less)
1 packet stevia or 2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour

In medium mixing bowl, combine egg, cinnamon, vanilla, baking soda, almond milk and brown sugar or other sweetener of choice. Whisk until well combined. Mix in the almond meal until combined.

In a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat, melt a small amount of butter or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Spoon batter by the 1/4 cupful into pan. Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until edges are set. Flip, cook 1 to 2 minutes more or until pancakes are cooked through in the center.

In small microwavable bowl, combine apple, cinnamon, melted butter, brown sugar and flour. Stir until evenly combined. Microwave 2 to 2 1/2 minutes, stirring once halfway through, until apples are softened and cooked with just a bit of crunch remaining.

Layer apples and pancakes in a stack. Serve with a little maple syrup, if desired. Serves 2

Happy Cooking!

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