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Autumn Chopped Salad

November 11, 2010
Photo Courtesy of Richard Swearinger, BHG Food Editor Extraordinaire

If you’re stopping by from Pinterest, welcome! I’m happy you took the time to visit Espresso and Cream and hope you’ll stay a while. For more information about me and this site, swing by the About Me page at the top. -Madison

I love my job. Honestly, if I didn’t there would be something seriously wrong with me. To be surrounded by delicious food and stimulating people day after day is a blessing in the utmost sense of the word.

Last night was no exception.

Once a year, the food editors at my parent company get together for a round of meetings and good eats. And for the second time in a row, we have made it a tradition to go potluck-style instead of dining out. Since we have a huge test kitchen, it works out well and is much more interesting than ordering off a restaurant menu.

When food editors gather, it seems a shame not to tap into the talent and creativity, no?

The recipe I made for our potluck is the ultimate in easy and delicious. It’s actually a version of a salad that was passed down to me from my mom-queen of salad and all things healthy and delectable. In fact, it’s one of the only vegetables my uncles and cousins actually seem to enjoy at family gatherings. Not just enjoy. Wolf down and ask for more, to be exact.

I’m already looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner for the sole purpose of eating a salad similar to this. But of course, like all things my mom does, it will taste better when she makes it than when I do.

Autumn Chopped Salad
(Printable Recipe)

*6 to 8 cups chopped romaine lettuce
*2 medium pears, chopped
*1 cup dried cranberries
*1 cup chopped pecans
*8 slices thick-cut bacon, crisp-cooked and crumbled
*4 to 6 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
*Poppy seed Salad Dressing (I like T. Marzetti)
*Balsamic Vinaigrette (I like Newman’s Own Light Balsamic Vinaigrette)

*On a large platter, combine the lettuce, pears, cranberries, pecans, bacon and feta cheese. Drizzle generously with poppy seed dressing, followed by some of the balsamic vinaigrette. (I would estimate that I used about a cup of dressing: 70 percent poppy seed dressing and 30 percent balsamic vinaigrette) If you prefer your salad to have more dressing, feel free to experiment with the combination.

Happy Cooking!


Pear-Almond Butter Muffins with Spiced Greek Yogurt ‘Frosting’

October 1, 2010

I’m not entirely sure why, but lately change has seemed to be on the agenda. There’s a new mirror in my living room, new breakfasts at my table and last night I cut four inches off my hair on a whim. Like a breath of fresh air, this change feels good. Speaking of breakfast, I’ve been having so much fun rediscovering how exciting, varied and delicious the first meal of the day can be.

This week my breakfast of choice has moved on from last week’s banana bread to this week’s pear muffins. In part because they are healthy and contain whole grains, fruit and protein. Who am I kidding? I think what really drew me in was the feeling I get when eating them — like I’m eating dessert for breakfast. They seriously look like cupcakes, don’t they?

Incorporating pears into a bread typically reserved for bananas or zucchini was a natural choice, since pears are my absolute favorite fruit. That, and the fact that I had two pears sitting on my counter top when the urge to bake hit last night. Necessity truly is the mother of all invention, folks. And because my passion for nut butters is still burning strong, I incorporated a little almond butter into the batter. Pears, almond butter, cinnamon and allspice? I’m pretty sure no further explanation is necessary.

Pear Muffins with Spiced Greek Yogurt ‘Frosting’
(Printable Recipe)

Hold off on ‘frosting’ these muffins with the Greek yogurt topper until just before eating, since the Greek yogurt needs to be refrigerated. If you’re looking for a little extra something, topping these muffins with an extra dollop of almond butter is always a good idea.

*5 Tbsp. butter, softened
*1/3 cup almond butter or natural peanut butter
*1/3 cup Greek yogurt (I used 2% Fage)
*2 large eggs
*3/4 cup brown sugar
*1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour

*1/4 cup ground flax seed
*3/4 tsp. baking soda
*1/2 tsp. salt
*1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
*1/4 tsp. allspice
*2 medium crisp pears, grated (on a box grater)

Greek Yogurt ‘Frosting’
*3/4 cup Greek yogurt (2% Fage)
*2 tsp. Stevia, Splenda or granulated sugar
*1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

*Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners. Lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
*With an electric mixer, beat butter, almond butter and Greek yogurt with an electric mixer until creamy. Add in eggs, one at a time, and beat until just combined, followed by the brown sugar.
*In a medium bowl, combine the flour, flax seed, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and allspice. Add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and beat until just combined.
*Stir in the grated pears by hand until evenly combined. Spoon batter into the prepared muffin cups. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
*Remove from oven and cool completely. Meanwhile, stir together the Greek yogurt, Stevia and ground cinnamon. Spoon the mixture atop cooled muffins. 

Happy Baking!


Peanut Butter, Pear, and Honey Stacker

November 5, 2009

Quite often, I sit down at the end of a busy day and think about what I fixed for myself, only to feel dismayed thinking about food I find to be rather uninspiring. I’m not a chips, fast food, and junk food type of girl, but on busy days I sometimes rely rather heavily on coffee, yogurt, and Lara bars, finished off with a big plate of veggies at the end of the day to balance everything out.

A couple weeks back I was putting together this little sandwich and one of the girls in my sorority asked me, “Why don’t you ever eat normal food?” I was rather confused by her question. “What in the world are you talking about? The foods I eat are normal!” I wanted to say, but instead I simply shrugged and settled for a, “Looks normal to me.”

This sandwich really isn’t much of a recipe, but it sure does hit the spot for lunch or a light dinner. I’ve never been much of a peanut butter and banana sandwich girl, but switch the bananas out of pears and add a drizzle of honey and I’m there. Depending on how firm your pears are, it may help to saute them in a tiny bit of butter with a touch of cinnamon just to soften them up, about 3 to 4 minutes. Layer the pears on a couple slices of bread coated with peanut butter and top it off with a drizzle of honey. Pure perfection.

Happy cooking!


Whole Wheat Pear and Plum Crostada

September 6, 2009

More often than not, when fall finally rolls around I am more than ready. The relief of crisp, cool air is much needed after three months of heat and humidity. But not this year. An unusually mild, and dare I say cool, summer has left me in a bit of a difficult spot. I am a devoted lover of all things fall, yet without a blistering hot summer, I find myself stuck between clinging to summer and welcoming in my favorite season.

Is it really time to embrace harvest pies and cobblers, or would it be better to just continue eating ice cream and sorbet for a few more weeks? This weekend, I think I found a balance. Not quite a pie, this simple, free-form crostada is where carefree summer and hearty, warming autumn converge.

There’s something beautiful about making a crostada. No need for fancy fluting, pie plates, or even a recipe. A simple sprinkling of sugar, spice, and whatever fruit suits you is all it takes. For my version, I wanted to make it extra-healthful. The crust is made with 100% whole wheat flour and the filling uses just a touch of raw sugar. Plums from my aunt’s tree and crisp pears were my fruits of choice, but apples, figs, and dates would all be delicious.

2 cups whole wheat or all-purpose flour
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup cold water
1/4 tsp. salt

In a food processor, pulse the above ingredients together just until soft ball forms. Remove from processor; knead 2-3 times and shape into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

3 medium crisp pears, cored and thinly sliced
6 small plums, pitted and sliced
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup raw sugar OR 1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup whole wheat flour

In a large bowl, mix the above ingredients together until well combined. With a rolling pin on lightly floured surface, roll pastry into a 12-inch circle. Spoon filling into center of pastry, leaving a 2-inch border around the edge. Fold the edges of the pastry around the filling, and press together any overlapping edges. Don’t stress! It does NOT have to look perfect.

Bake at 350 until crust is lightly golden and filling is slightly bubbly, about 25 minutes. Remove and slide onto a cooling rack lined with parchment paper. Cool completely.
I hope you enjoy this dessert, as much for the simplicity as for the taste. To me, it’s what baking should be. Un-fussy and beautifully imperfect. And if you make a mistake, you have every right to claim it was intentional.