Hi! I'm taking a little break and it might take me a few days to reply to comments and emails. I'll be back soon! :)

Monday, December 31, 2012

Spinach-Artichoke Dip Pasta Bake and Amey's Spiced Fig & Marmalade Cookies

How can it be the last day of 2012 already?! It seems like it was just yesterday when I made New Year's resolutions that I didn't keep! Now it's already time to pretend that I will stick to some sort of impressive life change just because the calendar says I should, yet again. My New Year's resolutions for 2013 are to eat lots of chocolate and watch lots of TV. There. Those should stick.

Oh, sorry. You didn't come here to hear me babble about my lack of will power? May I entice you to stay by offering you a delicious dinner?

Spinach-Artichoke Dip Pasta Bake! 

I was singing in the shower the other day, and sometime between "The Rain In Spain" and "I Could Have Danced All Night" I had this brilliant idea to make an artichoke dip pasta bake. I patted myself on the soapy back and congratulated myself on my creativity. Then I came out of the shower and Mr. Google told me that artichoke dip pasta bakes have existed since the beginning of time. Harumph!

I used Dreena's Creamy Artichoke Spinach Dip recipe, mostaccioli, and shredded Daiya jack. This isn't my first time making this dip, and it isn't the first time I skip the chips and grab a fork to eat it instead. Evidence here. I won't copy and paste Dreena's recipe here because it's her recipe and you should get it from her blog - it's only a tasty click away! Here's how to make this pasta bake:

Spinach-Artichoke Dip Pasta Bake

You will need:

1/2 cup uncooked mostaccioli
Dreena Burton's Creamy Artichoke Spinach Dip
1/4 to 1/2 cup of shredded vegan cheese (Daiya jack wedge was my choice)

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and spray an 8 by 8 inch baking dish with non-stick spray.
2) Cook the mostaccioli al dente following the directions on the box. Drain, return to the pot and set aside.
3) Make the dip. If you are a multi-tasker you can make the dip while the pasta cooks. Aren't you impressive?
4) Transfer the dip to the mostaccioli pot, throw in the shredded cheese and mix well.
5) Scoop the mix into the prepared baking dish and bake for 35-40 minutes or until slightly toasty on top. If it refuses to get toasty on top, give it a quick broil. Watch it like a hawk or it will go from toasty to charred in no time though! You're done, dahlin'. Eat up!

Note: I wanted artichoke dip with pasta, not pasta with artichoke dip. If you want more pasta than delicious creamy dip, maybe go with 3/4 cup instead of 1/2. You will bring shame to the family, but if that's your choice I won't stop you.

Spinach-Artichoke Dip Pasta Bake

Let's have some dessert now! The marvelousness that is Ms. Amey, keeper of the Vegan Eats & Treats blog, sent me one of her awesome holiday cookbooklets that is aptly named "Yum Town!" The cookbooklet is full of tasty recipes and adorable doodles. If I were ever to use the word "adorbz", this would be the time. The doodles are... doodley versions of Amey, Mr. Vegan Eats & Treats, and their furry companions in all sorts of cute and funny situations. Don't worry, you too can check out lots of Amey's doodles on her blog if you can't go to Yum Town!

Amey's Yum Town
Forget Two Tickets to Paradise, give me a one-way ticket to Yum Town! Thank you, Amey, for the limited-edition Yum Town and my beautiful calendar! 

One of the recipes featured in Amey's Yum Town is Amey's very own recipe for Spiced Fig & Marmalade Cookies. They are made with orange marmalade! I'd never made cookies with orange marmalade before, but I know this won't be the last time. These cookies are very unique and like nothing I've ever tasted before.  A few of the flavors that merge into one delicious cookie are: cocoa, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, almond, orange, and don't forget the pistachios! Fabulous! Knowing myself and my pesky taste buds, I decided to only add chopped figs to half of the cookies. I am not a dried-fruit person, but Mr. Wing-It is, and this way we were both able to fully enjoy Amey's cookies. Don't worry, I wouldn't just wave cookies under your nose and leave you there drooling without a link to the recipe!

Amey's Spiced Fig & Marmalade Cookies

Amey's Spiced Fig & Marmalade Cookies
Figgy bits and pistachios!

Stick a fork in me, I'm done! See ya' 2012 - you were a pretty sucky year. Here's hoping that 2013 brings us peace, prosperity, and pastries. Happy New Year, everyone! Or happy regular day if you don't use a Gregorian calendar! :)

Mrs. C

Mrs. C wants to know if you have any New Year's resolutions. Isn't she fabulous?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Mashed Potato Snowmen (Video!)

Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas! Happy Festivus! Happy Bah, Humbug day! Should we celebrate with some Mashed Potato Snowmen? I think these are a bit cuter than my first ever mashed potato snowmen that I made in 2008. Those had black olive smiles and hats though, and these have no smiles or hats, so maybe the older ones were cuter?

Mr. Wing-It said they looked like chubby little birds. I kind of see it! Anyway, these guys have peppercorn eyes, tiny baby carrot noses, steamed green bean scarves, peppercorn buttons, and parsley arms. Do I really need to tell you what that little muffin-shaped meatless meatloaf is? It's The PPK's beet burger recipe baked in muffin tins at 375 degrees F for about 20 minutes. Me? Obsessed with a recipe? Never.

Mashed Potato Snowmen
"Steamed green bean" was too much for me to handle.

Mashed Potato Snowmen
Pea buttons are also cute!

Mashed Potato Snowmen
Black eyed pea buttons!

They can also have pea eyes instead of peppercorn eyes, if you fear an unsuspecting toddler might eat them and consequently develop a lifelong fear of hot, spicy snowmen!

This video shows two ways to make a snowman: one using cookie scoops to pile up the mashed potatoes, and another way using spoons. I used a medium scoop for the bottom and a small one for the top.

I hope you enjoy watching it, and building them, if you decide to make your own Mashed Potato Snowmen. I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season, or a wonderful regular season if you are not much of a holiday person like myself! :)

Mashed Potato Snowmen
Bye, Frosty!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Chocolate-Almond Squares

Feeling a bit poorly today, I spent too much time on the couch ogling frugal crafts on Pinterest. From a cute cupcake wrapper storage container to festive DIY peppermint candles - I want to make it all! You can check out my frugal craft pins here if you're interested in that kind of stuff. I don't hang out on Pinterest enough actually, and I only have a total of 59 pins!

Luckily, I had some Chocolate-Almond Bars on hand to keep me company. There's nothing better than a sweet chocolate treat when we're not feeling too well, is there? Well, a snuggly cat maybe, but I don't live with any cats so chocolate will have to do! These little bars are a variation of my trusty old blondies, and they feature my favorite ingredient in the whole world-almond paste! Chunks of almond paste are scattered all over the top of these chocolate bars, along with gooey chocolate chips and crunchy sliced almonds. They are barely chocolatey to allow the almond flavor to shine without being completely overpowered by the mighty cocoa. May I interest you in one or three?

Chocolate-Almond Squares

Chocolate-Almond Squares

1/2 cup almond butter
1/4 cup almond milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup diced almond paste chunks
a handful of sliced almonds
a few extra chocolate chips to sprinkle on top

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and lightly spray an 8x8 inch metal baking pan with cooking spray.

2. In a small mixing bowl stir together the almond butter, milk, oil, vanilla extract, almond extract, and sugar. Stir until a smooth creamy mix forms.

3. In a medium sized mixing bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Gently stir in the chocolate chips.

4. Pour the liquid mix on top of the flour mix and gently fold until all ingredients are just incorporated. Take care not to over mix or stir too much! The batter should be very thick and stiff but not crumbly, if it's crumbly add an extra tablespoon of milk.

5. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread it with a spatula or the back of a spoon. It should be fairly hard to spread. Press the diced almond paste down  into the batter, as evenly distributed as possible. Scatter a handful of chocolate chips and sliced almonds around and press them down into the batter too.

6. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with just a couple of crumbs. Try not to over bake them to keep them from drying out in the oven. If you want to brown the tops a bit, you can broil it keeping an eye on it for a minute, but don't look away for a second or they will definitely burn! Cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting it into squares.

Chocolate-Almond Squares

Woody the Hairy Woodpecker
Woody the Hairy Woodpecker wants to remind you that there's still time to enter the Daiya giveaway!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Daiya Grilled Cheese Sandwich and Giveaway!

Who loves cheese? I love my vegan cheeses and I'm not ashamed to admit it. When Daiya contacted me about sending me some of their products to try, I said no. Not because I didn't want them, but because I've already tried them all! I have never met a Daiya cheese I didn't like! My favorite is probably the jack style wedge because it's mild and creamy and soft when melted, but the mozzarella and cheddar shreds are also permanent residents in our fridge.

Today I had a quick grilled cheese sandwich made with: tomato, baby spinach, a bit of Colman's mustard, Daiya jack style cheese, and an onion ring for good measure. The onion ring was pre-cooked and crispy, of course, and I buttered up the bread with a little Earth Balance to get it nice and toasty. I kept the skillet covered while I was grilling the sandwich to help the cheese reach its maximum melting potential, and it did!


Here's how to make a perfectly melted vegan cheese sandwich:

1- Microwave a frozen onion ring only for a few seconds until softened.
2- Preheat a non-stick skillet over medium heat, add about a teaspoon of olive oil and and the onion ring and cook for about a minute on each side. This is just to crisp it up, because nobody likes a soggy onion ring.
3- Grab two slices of bread and your other ingredients while your onion ring is cooking. In my case, it was just baby spinach, tomato, mustard, and sliced Daiya cheese.
4- Check the onion ring! Don't let it burn! Butter up both slices of bread on both sides and start piling up the ingredients on top of a slice. From the bottom-up: mustard, cheese, spinach, tomato, onion ring, more cheese, and then top it with the other slice of bread.
5- Carefully transfer the sandwich onto the hot skillet and cover it with a tight lid. Give it a minute and check to make sure it's not burning.
6- When the bottom looks nice and toasty, use a large spatula to flatten the sandwich down a bit, and then carefully flip it over to cook the other side. Cook it covered until toasty and eat up! Careful  it's hot and gooey!

Grilled Cheese Sandwich

How would you like to win some free vegan cheese? Daiya will send two winners three coupons for free delicious vegan cheeses! Here's how you can enter the giveaway:

- All you have to do to enter this giveaway is leave a comment and then click "I commented" on the Rafflecopter widget. Say whatever you want. If you don't know what to say you can answer this: What will you make with your tasty Daiya vegan cheese if you win the coupons?

- You can follow the Rafflecopter widget's instructions if you would like to earn more entries!

- Two winners will each get three Daiya coupons.

- This giveaway is open to US and Canada readers.

- I will announce the winners next Wednesday 26th.

- Please don't forget to enter your email address if you don't have a blog so I can contact you if you win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you, Daiya for this giveaway and for spreading the vegan cheese love! (See what I did there? Spread? Cheese? Never mind.)

(Andrea called me out when I forgot to include a feathered friend at the bottom of my post last Monday, so here is a picture of Woody the red-bellied woodpecker eating a peanut!)

Woody the red-bellied woodpecker
Woody says: Good luck, I hope you win some free vegan cheese!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Simple Roasted Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts and Apple

This post goes out to a lovely lady called Liz who just found out that she aced her final exams and got straight A's all around! Usually, one would celebrate with cupcakes or something more indulgent, but per Liz's request to feature more Brussels sprouts recipes, here goes a delicious roasted trio! Congratulations, Liz!

Roasted Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts, and Green Apple

Red potatoes with their skins on, balsamic roasted Brussels sprouts, and sweet Golden Delicious apple make a wonderful trio! I asked the Barefoot Contessa to tell me how much balsamic vinegar to use for my Brussels sprouts, and I used a bit less than she suggested because I can be a vinegar wimp. It probably would have been OK to add a bit more because I did not find the sprouts to be too vinegary. The sweetness of the apple mellowed down the natural bitterness of the Brussels sprouts, but that wasn't enough to lure Mr. Wing-It out of his I-Hate-Brussels-Sprouts club. Harrumph! This is so simple and easy it can't even be called a recipe. Plus you can throw other things in there, like diced beets, cauliflower, bell peppers...

Simple Roasted Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts and Apple (2 servings)

For the potatoes:
5 small red potatoes (12oz/350g), washed and cut in half or quartered
1/2 tbsp olive oil
salt and fresh ground black pepper

For the Brussels sprouts:
8-10 Brussels sprouts (5oz/140g), washed, trimmed and cut in half
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp tamari (or a sprinkling of salt for a 100% soy-free dish)
1 tsp balsamic vinegar (use 1/2 tbsp if you like a stronger balsamic flavor)
fresh ground black pepper

For the apple:
1 Golden Delicious apple, peeled and diced*
drizzle of olive oil

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the potatoes in a large mixing bowl and drizzle 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil all over them. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss the potatoes around to coat them well. Place the potatoes in a roasting pan.

2) In the same bowl, combine the Brussels sprouts with their olive oil, tamari, balsamic vinegar, and black pepper. Mix well and transfer the sprouts to the roasting pan with the potatoes. Bake for 20 minutes.

3) Rinse your mixing bowl to get rid of Brussels sprout bits and balsamic vinegar residue. Throw in the apple and drizzle with a bit of olive oil just enough to lightly coat them.

4) Remove the roasting  pan from the oven and use a spatula to flip the potatoes and sprouts and toss them around. Throw in the apple and bake for 10 more minutes or until the potatoes are tender. If your oven is a pesky bottom-heater, you might need to remove the Brussels sprouts early to keep them from burning. Just throw them back in the roasting pan with the other ingredients to reheat them before serving.

*If you prefer a tart apple over a sweet Golden Delicious, definitely go for a Granny Smith instead! I've actually used half and half for a nice tartness vs. sweetness balance.

This was a very simple dish, which is think looked pretty of festive with all the red and green and white, and even golden bits of apple, don't you think? 'Tis the season! :)

I'm submitting this to Ricki's Wellness Weekends of tastiness!

Are you a Brussels sprouts lover or a hater? I'm a lover, but Mr. Wing-It will always be a hater. More for me!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Cheese-Stuffed Lentil Cottage Pie Croquettes - Wing It, Don't Fling It!

Don't you love a good lentil cottage pie? There's something special about soft stewed lentils topped with creamy mashed potatoes. I do think it's my favorite "comfort food" dish. However, thanks to the Wing It, Don't Fling It challenge, these days all leftovers must be recycled into something different here in the Wing-It kitchen! This time, my leftover lentil cottage pie became Cheese-Stuffed Lentil Cottage Pie Croquettes!

Leftover Lentil Cottage Pie Croquette

There wasn't much cottage pie left, but after I added a bit of milk and breadcrumbs it expanded enough to make four large croquettes.

Leftover Lentil Cottage Pie, ready to be croquetted up!

To transform the cottage pie into croquettes, all I did was transfer the pie leftovers into a bowl, added a couple of tablespoons of almond milk and gently mashed it in with a fork. Then I added some extra seasonings (salt, black pepper, bit of onion powder) and a handful of breadcrumbs, just enough to form a dough that wasn't sticky but also not too dry. Then I took about a quarter of the dough and slightly flattened it in my hand, placed a piece of cheese (Daiya Jack Style Wedge) right in the middle of the flattened dough, and wrapped the dough around the cheese until it was completely covered. I did this three more times until all the dough was gone. To bread them, I first dipped the croquettes in tomato sauce, and then rolled them in seasoned breadcrumbs. I pan fried them in a bit of olive oil over medium heat, turning them every few minutes to brown all sides of the croquettes.

Leftover Lentil Cottage Pie Croquettes

They were so tasty, and I loved the gooey cheese that was melted in the center! Next time I make cheese-stuffed croquettes I will use coconut milk cheddar, but I've been out of agar flakes for a couple of weeks and that stuff is expensive. I'm not made of money here!

Leftover Lentil Cottage Pie Croquette

Buddy the Blue Jay

Buddy the Blue Jay wants to know: have you recycled any leftovers lately? Also, I think he would love to have a little sweater or a scarf.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Chocolate Tarts with Strawberry Santa Hats!

Last Strawberry Santa Hats post - I promise! Are you sick of them yet? This is going to be the last one, mainly because strawberries are finally getting a little too unpalatable. I only managed to rescue six nice looking strawberries out of a whole pound, but that's OK, because the rest of them became a delicious batch of strawberry and chocolate chip ice cream. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the final Santa Hats!

Strawberry Santa Hats on Chocolate Tarts

These Strawberry Santa Hats are sitting pretty on top of tiny little ganache-filled chocolate tartlets. The crust is a shortbread-like crust, which should be fairly thick for sturdiness. You wouldn't want your mother in law to bite into a thin, flimsy tart and end up with a big chocolate and strawberry mess all over her fancy party dress, would you? You'd never hear the end of it!

I used two-inch mini tartlet tins like these, but you could probably make them in a regular sized muffin tin too. You would only get maybe eight or nine out of one batch instead of twelve. I just love how tiny these are, and they only cost me around sixty cents each at Bed Bath & Beyond!

Chocolate Tarts with Strawberry Santa Hats (Makes 12 Mini Tarts)
  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance or other vegan butter
  • 1/2 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp water
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2/3 cup (4 oz/110g) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk (full fat)
  • 12 strawberries
  • 1 can coconut milk, full fat, refrigerated overnight
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • sweetener of choice, to taste
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and spray 12 individual mini tartlet tins with cooking spray.
  2. Using an electric mixer, cream the Earth Balance and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the water and almond extract and keep mixing for a little longer.
  3. Sift in the cocoa powder and flour and mix with a large spoon until well combined. If the dough is too dry, add a tiny bit of water. If it's too soggy add a little more flour. Smooth it a bit by kneading it with your hands (messy!) right inside the bowl. It should be a smooth dough.
  4. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and press each piece into a mini tartlet pan, all around the sides and the bottom. You want a fairly thick crust so the finished tartlets won't collapse if someone wants to eat them with their hands.
  5. Use a fork to poke the bottom and sides of the dough too keep it from bubbling up, and bake for 14 minutes.
  6. Let them cool down before you attempt to remove them from the tins. Now would be a good time to start your ganache!
  7. Bring the coconut milk to a boil, remove from heat and dump the chocolate chips in there. Complicated, I know! Stir vigorously until completely smooth. You can add a bit more hot coconut milk if your chocolate doesn't look soft enough.
  8. Carefully remove the crusts from the tins and fill them with the chocolate ganache. Refrigerate for a couple of hours.
  9. Wash, stem and dry the strawberries. They should be extremely dry or the red juice will run all over the whipped cream. If you want to fill them with something tasty like chocolate-hazelnut spread (as shown here) or coconut whipped cream, this would be the time to do that.
  10. Remove the can of coconut milk from the fridge and scoop out the coconut cream into a mixing bowl, leaving behind the coconut water. 
  11. Using a powerful hand mixer, whip the coconut cream until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and sweetener and keep beating for a couple of minutes. My sweetener of choice is maple syrup, and two or three tablespoons is all I need. Keep the cream in the fridge until you are ready to use it. Check out this post for a handy video that shows how to make coconut whipped cream from scratch.
  12. When the tarts are completely chilled, scoop the coconut whipped cream into a pastry bag fitted with a star decorating tip.
  13. Starting from the center, use your pastry bag to cover the tops of the tarts with coconut cream in a circular, spiraling motion.
  14. Place a strawberry on top of each cream-covered tart, and pipe a little pom-pom on the tip of each strawberry. See more detailed instructions here, and also check out this post to see four different ways to decorate your Santa Hats, depending on how soft or firm your cream is. That's it! You're done!

Step by Step Strawberry Santa Hats on Chocolate Tarts

As customary, here is a little peek inside:

Strawberry Santa Hats on Chocolate Tarts

Strawberry Santa Hats on Chocolate Tarts
My strawberries were flled with coconut whipped cream.

That's it! The Strawberry Santa Hats have made their final appearance on Wing It. Will you be making any Strawberry Santa Hats this season? Good luck finding pretty berries that don't taste like solid water! :)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Chocolate Sausage - Wing It, Don't Fling It!

Are you shocked by how often I screw up in the kitchen? Oops, I did it again! This time with a batch of brownies that were incredibly oily - probably because I most likely zoned out and added the oil twice. It sounds like something I would do. They tasted good and chocolatey, but the texture and the oiliness weren't even tolerable. Anyway, I needed to recycle them into something better for the Wing It, Don't Fling It challenge, but I didn't want to turn them into truffles yet again. Been there, blogged that three times already. Let's turn the inedible brownies into a chocolate sausage instead!

I've also heard people call this a "chocolate salami", but I like chocolate sausage better. Here's how I turned a horrid batch of brownies into a tasty chocolate sausage...

Inedible Brownies
The oily brownies in all their oily glory. 

First I cut them into small pieces and ground them in the food processor until they were very crumbly. Then heated (microwaved) two tablespoons of almond butter and four tablespoons of coconut milk in a little bowl, whisked them together and added the mixture to the crumbled brownies. I processed that until smooth (it was like a very thick cream) and transferred the mixture to a mixing bowl. Now I had to decide what sort of chunky bits I wanted to throw in there. The winners were finely chopped cashews, coarsely ground white chocolate chips, and little bits of almond paste. After I mixed the chunky bits into the thick batter, I added enough coconut flour to form a soft dough..

Making Chocolate Sausage

...which I then shaped into two little logs, sprinkled more coconut flour all over, and wrapped them in parchment paper. After a couple of hours in the fridge, my chocolate sausages were ready to be sliced!

Chocolate Sausage

That's better! The fine coconut flour absorbed the extra oil and gave the chocolate sausage a smooth texture, kind of like cookie dough. It was fun to find chunky bits of nuts, white chocolate, and almond paste in there, and it was a bit freaky how much it looked like a sausage! This was a fun experiment and I can't wait to actually make a chocolate sausage from scratch, not from a fudged up batch of brownies. I did make mine a bit too firm, and I had to wait about 15 minutes to slice it after I took it out of the fridge because it kept crumbling into little pieces. Next time I'll have to remember to make the dough quite soft.


Mr. Chickadee asks: have you recycled any leftovers into something fabulous lately?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Don't Fling the Beet! (Beet Burgers)

The word "beet" always reminds me of the word "beat", which always reminds me of Gloria Estefan, and then a short little dance party always ensues - every time I'm cooking with beets. You're lucky you can't see me "dancing" right now! Feel the beat, don't fling the beet! What to do with a sad little forgotten leftover beet that lurks in the back of the fridge for days? (after the dance party is over, of course)

Sad Beet
Sad beet is sad. Also kind of creepy.

PPK Beet Burger
One Trick Pony recreates the same photo taken in October.

PPK Beet Burger! I know, I know. I have blogged about these so many times, but they are so tasty they deserve all the attention! Besides, this time I took so many shortcuts that they came together in four or minutes (plus cooking time) which makes them worthy of another mention. Right? Right! There was some cooked brown rice in the fridge, along with the little precooked beet, and what was left of a can of lentils that I had used to make an individual cottage pie a few days ago. All I had to do was mix it all together, add the seasonings and cook'em! I was a bit worried that the cooked beet was going to make the patty a bit too soft, but it was still perfect. One small cooked beet was enough to make one burger.

If you're wondering about the cheese, it's a Galaxy Nutritional Foods Rice Vegan slice. The bun is Megan's Newfoundland White Bread, a recipe that never lets me down (blogged here). The pickles are there for show because I do not like pickles. They taste good, but the crunchiness just feels weird in a burger. Maybe I'm the one who's weird?


Today I will leave you with one of our backyard residents, though it's not a duck this time. Say hello to Mr. Bluebird McFloofy! Happy weekend!

Fluffy Bluebird

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Banana Muffins with Almond Paste Bits and Chocolate Chips

Last week I shared a recipe for "Apple Trinity" Apple-Cinnamon Muffins, and now it's time for some tasty banana muffins. I actually prefer these without chocolate chips (I just heard a collective *GASP* coming from a few of you), but I threw a handful in there so the muffins didn't look too boring in the pictures. The star of this recipe isn't the chocolate or even the banana, but the sweet and delicious almond paste bits. If you don't have any almond paste, don't even bother making these muffins because it would be like making chocolate chip cookies without chocolate chips. Sure, it's still a cookie, but it's missing the main attraction!

Banana Muffins with Almond Paste Bits and Chocolate Chips

Banana Muffins with Almond Paste Bits and Chocolate Chips (makes nine muffins)

1 large very ripe banana, mashed (or two small ones, about 7oz/200g/heaping 1/2 cup mashed)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract, optional
1/4 to 1/3 cup almond milk
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/3 tsp salt
3oz/85g almond paste, cut into small pieces (about 1/2 inch each)
1/4 cup chocolate chips, optional
turbinado or brown sugar for sprinkling, optional

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a muffin pan with nine paper liners and spray each one with cooking spray.

2. In a small sized mixing bowl, whisk together the mashed banana, oil, vanilla extract, almond extract, milk, and sugar. Depending on the brand of flour that I use, sometimes I need 1/4 cup of milk, and sometimes I need 1/3. You might want to start with 1/4 and add more later if needed.

3. In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Scatter the almond paste bits around the flour mix, throw in the chocolate chips and and mix well.

4. Pour the liquid ingredients on top of the dry ingredients and gently fold until all ingredients are just incorporated. Spoon the fairly thick batter into the prepared muffin pan, filling each three-quarter full. The batter should be quite thick, but if you find that it is crumbly and it's not coming together, add a tablespoon or two of milk until it's workable.

5. Sprinkle a little bit of sugar all over the muffin tops if you want. If you want to decorate the tops with a few extra chocolate chips, this would be the time to do it.

6. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Remember that there are gooey almond paste bits in there that might trick you into thinking the muffins aren't done yet! Poke the muffins in a couple of different places if the toothpick doesn't come out clean after 22 minutes, just in case.


* You can use the crunchy nutty topping from the Apple-Cinnamon Muffins recipe instead of sprinkling sugar on top. You can leave out the cinnamon if you don't like cinnamon in your banana bread.

Banana Muffins with Almond Paste Bits and Chocolate Chips

These are so good with a cup of coffee or Roastaroma! I make my own almond paste with turbinado sugar using Celine's recipe (blogged here). Should we look inside so we can appreciate the gooey goodness?

I am submitting this recipe to Ricki's Wellness Weekends. Be sure to check out Ricki's blog, Diet, Dessert and Dogs, for lots of wholesome Wellness Weekends entries!

Cute Curly
Random duck photo: Curly loves grooming his floofy feathers.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Brussels Sprouts Stuffed Portobello Mushroom With Mashed Potato Topping

What do you call them: portobello or portabella mushrooms? There appears to be a "Team Portobello" and a "Team Portabella" who often engage in mushroomy debates. I think I might start calling them "porties" from now on, just to be neutral and non-confrontational.

Anyway, I love big portobello caps because they are a perfect vessel to recycle leftovers. Wash, bake, stuff, re-bake, and done! I had some leftover chopped and sautéed Brussels sprouts, along with some leftover mashed potatoes that needed to be used up. There was only enough for one person, which was fine because Mr. Wing-It would rather eat his own foot before he even looks at a Brussels sprout. More for me!

Wing It, Don't Fling It Stuffed Mushroom

Here's how to make a recycled-leftovers stuffed mushroom:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Gently wash and dry your mushroom. Remove the stem.
Brush a little olive oil all over the mushroom.
Bake it for 10 minutes.
Stuff it with your leftover veggies and top it with your leftover mashed potatoes.
If you want, brush a bit of olive oil on top of the mashed potatoes and sprinkle a little paprika on top.
Bake for 10 more minutes or until hot. Serve!

Wing It, Don't Fling It Stuffed Mushroom
Brushing a bit of olive oil on top before baking it gives it a nice golden color.

These were the best leftovers I have ever had! Maybe next time I will stuff them with seasoned black beans and top them with mashed sweet potatoes. Or stuff them with a spicy spinach concoction and top them with mashed butternut squash! Oh, the possibilities! Let's dig in...

Wing It, Don't Fling It Stuffed Mushroom

PS: Have you guys seen the video of Bo inspecting the Christmas decorations around the White House? His WTF (What the Frankincense) face at 1:04 when he's looking at the Faux-Bo is too cute and funny for words!