Thursday, April 14, 2011

Baked Kale Chips

I have been attached to the computer for months, but knee deep in fiction, not food.  (Whoda thunk?)  Several of my recent creations have fallen flat with the tasting crew here, so I haven't had much to report.  Then last night, the kidlet and I struck gold in an unlikely place.  Kale.

I did nothing fancy with this recipe.  Three simple ingredients went in the oven, and 8 minutes later out came something magically different, surprisingly smaller, and disturbingly yummy.  There are only two tricks to this ridiculously delicious health food: 
1. Keep the pieces similar in size.
2. Watch them CAREFULLY.  There's a fine line between crispy and burnt.  (Like, a 30 second difference. Really.)

So here it is, in it's simple glory: Baked Kale Chips, via

1 bunch kale
1/2 teaspoon salt
non-stick spray

  1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a non-insulated cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. With a knife or kitchen shears carefully remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite size pieces. Wash and thoroughly dry kale with a salad spinner (or dish towel). Spritz kale with oil and sprinkle with salt.
  3. Bake until the edges brown but are not burnt, 7-12 minutes. 
  4. Devour.  Drive to grocery store, buy more kale, and repeat. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Carrot Cake Cheater Muffins

As usual, I had something I wanted to use before it went bad.  Luckily, Safeway had just run a sale on cake mixes, and I happened to be bored last night.

I have to admit that I've never really paid much attention to boxed carrot cake mix before.  Apparently those cute little orange bits in the mix are not actually carrots.  They are "carrot-flavored pieces."  Ew.  Seriously - that will teach me to read a box of cake mix.

But I had some carrots and zucchini I wanted to use up, so I ignored it and pressed on.  Supplies were as follows:


  • 1 (18.5 ounce) package carrot cake mix
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup crushed pineapple, measured right out of the can, juice and all.
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup shredded/grated carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (pecans okay too)
Here comes the fun part: dump everything in the bowl except the nuts.  Mix until just combined.  Stir in nuts.  Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake at 350 degrees F for 22-27 minutes for mini muffins, or 28-32 minutes for regular-sized.

This recipe makes 2 dozen moist, nutty little toddler-proof mini muffins  I took a gamble, leaving out the oil, but these are unbelievably moist.  There is a legendary Diet Coke Cake that I'd like to try with this too.  No egg, just the mix, a can of diet lemon-lime soda, the pineapple and the veggies.  I'm sadly out of carrot cake mix for the moment, but will have to try it some time.

One thing to note: I put extras in quart-sized freezer bags, and defrosted a few this morning for the kidlet.  Perfection.  So make up a full batch and eat them all week.  You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake Muffins

I have spent the last week failing one after another so-called "healthy" muffin recipe.  You can substitute the sugar, or the flour, or the fat, but you can't change it all.  I am still experimenting, as a yummy hearty muffin is my favorite way to start my day, and means I can do the work once and have breakfast for two weeks in the freezer ready to go.

Needing a reprieve the from my hunt for the Mystic Healthy Muffin, I decided to try something a little more indulgent today.  Something sweet and rich and easy.  Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake Muffins.


  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour  (I buy this from the bulk bins at my grocer - you can use whole wheat or all AP flour)
  • 2 generous teaspoons poppy seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine  (I used Earth Balance soy-free)
  • 1 egg  (I use medium eggs to save fat/calories)
  • 1 6 oz carton non-fat lemon yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

In small mixing bowl, stir together flour, poppy seeds, salt and baking soda. In large mixing bowl, cream sugar and butter. Beat in the egg. Add yogurt and extracts, stir to combine. Stir in flour mixture until dry ingredients are moistened. 

Spoon batter into well-greased muffin tins (about 2/3 full). Bake at 375 degrees F for 15-20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean. Cool muffins on wire rack 5 minutes before removing from pan.  

The finished product.  Sweet with crunchy bits of poppy seed and a lemony note that is divine.  These are like eating cake for breakfast.  And really, who doesn't love that?  If you prefer Orange Poppy Seed Muffins, use a plain or orange yogurt and 2 tablespoons of grated orange peel.

I often will add a tablespoon of ground flax (flax meal) for a nutritional boost, but it's not necessary. This is a 'small' recipe, but is easy to double or triple.  Makes 6 regular or 24 mini muffins.  Child approved, cheap and easy. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Italian Ricotta Cookies with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

I couldn't let that luscious, creamy peanut butter cream cheese frosting go to waste. I am many many things, but wasteful is not one of them. But what to put it on?

I sought out my trusty side kick, the ever-impressive, often-imitated, but never duplicated, Originally I was hoping to use up some milk on it's last days, so I searched by ingredients: flour, sugar, milk. When I came across this one, I had to click on it and read more.

It looked good, sure. Plenty of pictures of sugar-cookie-like creatures, smothered in icing. But ricotta cheese? Seriously? Well, hell. I had half of a tub of fat-free ricotta that was about to go bad, too, so why not?

I halfed the original recipe, which left me to scrounge up the following:

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 stick margarine, softened
  • 8 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons milk
Directions were as follows:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bow, with the mixer a low speed, beat the sugar and butter until combined. Increase speed to high and beat until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Reduce speed to medium and beat in the ricotta, vanilla and eggs.
  3. Reduce speed to low. Add flour, baking powder and salt; beat until dough forms.
  4. Drop dough by level tablespoons, about 2 inches apart; onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 15 minutes or until cookies are very lightly golden (cookies will be soft). With spatula, remove cookies to wire rack to cool.
The dough was very wet and sticky. I scooped out heaping tablespoons with a real spoon, and got 24 cookies, baked for 19 minutes each batch.

As for my leftover frosting, I mixed in another cup of powdered sugar to stiffen it, and schmeared it on the cooled cookies, which I let sit for 2 hours. This gave the peanut butter cream cheese icing enough time to harden before packing them up and putting them in the fridge.

The cookies turned out very soft. They practically melt in your mouth, like a good shortbread would. The icing was light and subtle, making for a not-too-sweet treat perfect with tea.

The flavor was mild, which was the design, but I found it rather bland. It's definitely an "icing" cookie. If I make these again I will add lemon or almond extract to the dough (vanilla would work also) and use a simple icing (think glazed donuts). But these were a hit with my daughter's friends at lunch, and they helped me use up things I might otherwise have thrown away. Essentially, two dozen cookies for the price of the electricity to heat the oven. Not bad at all.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Chocolate Fudge Cake with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting and Peanut Butter Chocolate Ganache

What better way to start off a blog than with a big fat gnarly chocolate cake with an intimidating name? For my daughter's birthday this year, she chose chocolate peanut butter. And man was it a doozy.

For this cake, I ended up taking inspiration from several recipes - frosting and ganache here, and a chocolate cake Frankenstein recipe pieced together from several different sites.

I didn't want to make a cake from scratch. I was making two kinds of frosting from scratch. I only have two hands. That's enough love for one cake. So I doctored up a cake mix as follows:
  • 1 box chocolate cake mix (I used Chocolate Fudge flavor, "with pudding in the mix")
  • 1 1/3 cup espresso or very strong brewed coffee
  • 1 cup sour cream (I used light sour cream)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 small box sugar-free fat-free chocolate pudding mix
That's it! Mix and bake according to the cake mix directions. If you don't overbake it, it will be insanely moist and unbelievably rich. The espresso intensifies the chocolate flavor. You don't really know it's there, but you can taste the difference between a chocolate cake that has it and one that doesn't. I baked this cake the night before and chilled it in the coldest part of my fridge so it would frost easily the next morning.

The peanut butter cream cheese frosting came next:
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3/4 stick unsalted butter or margarine, at room temperature
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)

This made perfect sense to me. I love me some PB and cream cheese on a bagel. If this sounds wrong to you, do me one favor: TRUST. You will not be sorry. I followed the original website's directions, although I altered the ingredient amounts:

1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

No problems there. I placed the first layer upside down on the platter, spreading the PB CC frosting on top. I cut off the rounded top of the second layer, and placed it upside down on the first, so the cake would lay flat. Because chocolate crumbs are ugly in pretty cakes, I made a crumb coat and chilled the cake for a half hour before frosting it completely.

Then I chilled the cake again while I made the ganache. The ganache, I confess, intimidated the hell out of me. I'd never made it before, but I have seen scorched chocolate, and the birthday girl was breathing down my neck, and the pressure to perform was high. Again I followed the original recipe's site, and it made the perfect amount of ganache:

  • 8 ounces seimsweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half (I actually never use half-and-half. I used fat-free evaporated milk.)

1. In the top of a double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.

I was screwed from the get-go. First of all, there is nothing but solid pieces for the first 10 is minutes, so whisking is out. Stirring works. Second of all, this is a very slow process. Tedious. It took so long for the chocolate to get smooth I thought I'd somehow bypassed the finish line and headed straight for Scorch Land. I seriously started to panic. But finally we arrived with almost-perfect smoothness and shine, and I poured that over the chilled cake and let the excess drool over the edges like a halloween blob. Suddenly I had a beautiful cake.

It took a long time and this is not one of the healthiest things I've ever made, but it was cheap and elegant and delicious. And now I know how to make ganache! Now... what to do with all the excess peanut butter cream cheese frosting?