Sweet Kale Muffins

IMG_0197

I’m sure you’ve had/at least heard of one of the prominent health food fads of our day: vegetables in desserts. Obviously the ageless one we can all think of is carrot cake. But now people are making beet brownies, chocolate zucchini cake, spinach who-knows-what. The deal with all these vegetable desserts is that – gasp! – you can’t even taste the vegetables!

Now this is all fine and dandy, but I decided I wanted a sweet treat where I could taste the vegetable. What’s wrong with tasting one of nature’s most perfect things? Enter Sweet Kale Muffins.

Kale has a bad rap. One of my first memories of kale is my dad’s attempt at a “green smoothie” when I was a kid – it was gag worthy, and for years I wouldn’t touch kale with a ten foot pole. But my leanings have changed. I happen to have an almost unhealthy attachment to kale these days. I’ll put it in anything and everything – smoothies (and mine are actually delicious), casserole, pizza crust, and now baked goods.

This Sweet Kale Muffin, as I call it, is the perfect blend of sweet and kale-y. It is low in gluten, high in vitamins, and has no processed sugar. For some reason people don’t have vegetables for breakfast; well, now you can.

*Disclaimer* If you’re the sort of weirdo who does not like the taste of kale, you probably won’t like these muffins.

IMG_0204

Sweet Kale Muffins

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup processed oats
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 cup processed kale
1/4 cup agave
1/3 cup greek yogurt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp milk

METHOD:

1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray a muffin tin with oil (I like to use a mini muffin tin). This recipe will make about 6 large muffins or 20 mini muffins.

2. Place oats, chia, flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and stir until blended. In a separate bowl, mix agave, greek yogurt, vanilla, milk, and coconut oil. Add the egg and whip until well combined.

3. Pour wet mixture into dry mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in processed kale.

4. Fill large muffin tin cups about half full and mini muffin tin cups 3/4 full. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

IMG_0215

10 Ways to Use Fresh Apples

DSCN7819

Sometimes it really sucks living so far away from family (ten hours from Grant’s, twenty from mine), and that can really get me into the dumps. But I need to remember how truly blessed we are –  not only do we live in an absolutely breathtaking part of the country with mountains and wildlife in our backyard, but we also have loving families who remember and support us even though we are far from home. Not to mention, Grant and I are young and healthy, so making a ten-hour drive to spend a day and a half with family is well worth it.

DSCN7824

Last weekend we made the long trek back to Northwest Iowa and were beyond pleased to find a healthy crop of apples on the DeRocher’s apple trees! All of our apples in Wyoming perished due to that freak winter storm a few months ago, which was definitely a bummer, as there is nothing better than fresh apples. The DeRocher’s have got Red Delicious and Golden Delicious on their trees (both notorious for being gross in the grocery store) that are absolutely to die for.

DSCN7790DSCN7805

We had a great time this weekend enjoying the company of our family, but we also had a great time picking apples, and came home with nine whole bags. Which means – drumroll please – apple recipes galore! So here are 10 ideas for using up the hundreds of fresh apples that are possibly waiting to be picked on your own apple tree.

DSCN7798DSCN7811

  1. Make applesauce. I’ve already done this. It is literally the easiest thing to do with apples. All it takes is peeling them, cutting them up, putting them in a dutch oven, pouring a few cups of water (depending on how many apples you use), and simmering on low for a few hours. And this applesauce is literally better than any store bought applesauce I’ve ever eaten.
  2. Make juice. Probably the second easiest choice. I have a juicer, so all it takes is coring and cutting. Be sure to save the pulp for brownies or soup!
  3. Include apples in your pureed soups. Especially squash soup. An apple gives squash soup just the right amount of sweetness without overpowering the flavor that should be highlighted. Try this Acorn Squash Chestnut Soup.
  4. Make cake. Apples are amazing in cake, especially this time of year. Try this Apple Green Tea Cake or this Pumpkin Apple Spice Cake.
  5. Make granola with apple. I plan on trying this delicious-looking granola in the next couple of days.
  6. Make apple butter. Apple butter really isn’t much harder than applesauce, especially when you make it in the crock pot. It does have added sugar, so it’s not as wholesome as applesauce, and it takes a little longer, but hey! that’s life, right? Try this crockpot apple butter recipe from Brown-Eyed Baker.
  7. Put them on your grilled cheese sandwich. Cheese and apples pair wonderfully together. This is definitely a must-try.
  8. Make apple pie. Obviously. This is something you must do if you have an explosion of apples. Try doing something a little out of the ordinary with your apple pie, such as this Cinnamon Roll Dutch Apple Pie or this Apple Gruyere Pie (again, apples and cheese rock).
  9. Add them to your salad. Apples do not belong solely to the dessert realm, people. They make excellent additions to any type of salad.
  10. Freeze them. If you can’t eat another thing with apples but still have a ton to use, fear not. Just slice them, sprinkle them with lemon juice, layer onto a cookie sheet, freeze for a few hours, and them transfer them into a plastic bag. Now you’ll have fresh apples all year!

DSCN7818

Candy for Christmas Part 2: Lavender Truffles, Almond Truffles, and Almond Roca

As noted in my previous post ( My Adventures in Nougat Making…) I have been on approximately a week long quest to make candy for Thanksgiving/Christmas. I’ll tell you this much – I have consumed more sugar in this past week than I care to admit. It’s just impossible to make truffles and nougat and chocolate covered pretzels without ingesting some of it. Impossible, I tell you!

DSCN2610

I made plain truffles last year for Christmas, so I decided to get a little crazy with them this year, as you can tell. But not only are they decorated and fancy, they also are interestingly flavored – lavender and almond.

DSCN2613

As for the Almond Roca, this was the first time I’d ever made anything resembling toffee, which is basically what Almond Roca is. Actually, it is defined on Wikipedia as chocolate covered hard toffee with almonds, so there ya go. This process also involves a candy thermometer, so if you don’t have one of those and this confection sounds delicious, you better march yourself over to walmart and get one.

DSCN2612

Marbled Almond Roca (from Taste of Home Cookies & Candies)

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp boiling water
2 tbsp light corn syrup
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

METHOD:

1. Sprinkle almonds on a greased 9 x 13″ baking pan. Bake at 300F for 15 or until toasted and golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.

2. In a large saucepan over low heat, cook butter and sugar for 5 minutes. Add water and corn syrup. Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook, stirring occasionally, until your candy thermometer reaches 300 degrees (hard crack stage). Quickly pour over the almonds in prepared baking pan.

3. Sprinkle chocolate chips and white chocolate chips on top and let stand for a couple minutes, or until they are soft enough to spread. Commence to swirl.

4. Cool completely then break in pieces.

*********************************

Lavender Truffles

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp dried lavender buds
1 cup dark or white chocolate chips (or both!) for chocolate coating

METHOD:

1. Start melting chocolate chips on a double broiler. Meanwhile, place heavy whipping cream and lavender buds in a pan and bring to a simmer on medium low heat. Once chocolate is melted, pour heavy whipping cream through a strainer (so no lavender gets in the chocolate) and stir until smooth.

2. Place in fridge or freezer until hardened. Use a teaspoon to measure out balls – you may have to round them a little with your hands (this is where it gets messy). Place back in fridge or freezer until chocolate coating is ready.

3. Melt chocolate for chocolate coating in double broiler. Dip the ganache balls into the chocolate so they are completely coated. Roll in sprinkles, nuts, or coco powder for some fun.

*************************

Almond Truffles

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 cup chocolate (white or dark) for chocolate coating.

METHOD:

1. Follow the same method as in the Lavender Truffles except replace lavender buds for almond extract while simmering the heavy whipping cream. No straining is necessary.

My Adventures in Nougat Making, and Candy for Christmas

So a couple weeks ago I found this recipe for Crispy Candy Bars and I thought to myself, My husband would absolutely love this! I decided to make the interesting confection that appears to be a combination of Milky Ways and Little Debbie Star Crunches, both of which Grant deeply enjoys. Unfortunately, the whole affair was a complete disaster.

I had never made nougat before, but this recipe seemed simple enough. Heat the sugar and butter, add the peanut butter and marshmallow cream – ends up in a fantastically fluffy inner layer, right? No. I followed the directions exactly and ended up with a sticky, gooey, sloppy, runny mess. It was not pretty. (Grant still enjoyed the dessert, though, so not all my efforts were futile.)

From that moment, I made it my goal to master the art of nougat making. I did some research, bought a candy-making recipe book and a candy thermometer, and headed for the kitchen.

DSCN2603

It was still a sticky, gooey mess, but it actually turned out this time! Real nougat (not the “quick” kind from the recipe I found) is essentially just a mixture of cooked sugar and corn syrup and whipped egg whites. While it is a simple mixture, the tricky part is getting the sugar up to the right temperature so the nougat will have that traditional chewiness we all know and love. If the sugar is not cooked long enough, you will end up with a runny mess like I did the first time.

DSCN2606

I used the simple recipe for my nougat and added salted almonds, white chocolate chips, and dried cranberries. This candy is ultra sweet but is a great idea for Christmas gifts. Along with the nougat, I made Lavender Chocolate Truffles, Almond Chocolate Truffles, Almond Roca, and Chocolate Covered Pretzels to be shared with my extended family for our Thanksgiving/Christmas celebrations being celebrated in the upcoming week.

DSCN2622

Everyone loves candy, so it makes for the perfect gift! Not to mention I got the Christmas themed tins from Goodwill for super cheap.

Simple Nougat Recipe (from Making Sweets at Home by Claire Ptak)

INGREDIENTS:

Oil for greasing
2 scant cups caster sugar
1 tbsp corn syrup
1/2 scant cup water
1/2 cup honey
2 egg whites

METHOD:

1. Grease 9 x 9 cake pan liberally. Whip egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Leave to rest.

2. Combine sugar, corn syrup, and water in a pan. Cook until the mixture reaches 280 F. Warm the honey in a separate pan until just boiling and add it to the sugar syrup. Bring the mixture up to 290 F.  This process will take around 20 to 30 minutes, so be patient!

3. Turn the electric mixer on and drizzle sugar mixture into the whipped egg whites in a steady stream. Keep mixing until the nougat thickens (around 2 to 3 minutes). Pour mixture into greased pan and press down. It will be sticky, so I recommend greasing your fingers as well. Cover and leave to set for a couple of hours in the fridge.

4. For add-ins (like my salted almonds, white chocolate chips, and dried cranberries), either fold in before adding to the pan or add half the mixture, smooth down, add layer of add-ins, and pour the rest of nougat on top. I folded in the almonds and added the rest to the middle layer.

Orange Spiced Gingersnaps

I’ll always associate gingersnaps with Christmas, so much so that I have a feeling I’d find it wrong to make a batch of these Orange Spiced Gingersnaps any other time of the year. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I grew up decorating gingerbread houses every Christmas break, and therefore that hot, ginger-molasses-y aroma is weld solidly to glittering lights and nativity scenes and a massive Christmas tree taking up a fourth of our piano room.

DSCN2341

The two months preceding Christmas are my favorite time of the year, despite the frigid air up here in tundra land. I think I’ve built it up in my brain so much that it’s more the memories intoxicating me than the holiday itself. It’s been years since my family decorated our house with Christmas lights, and as I’m living in an apartment this year we won’t be able to participate in that small gesture of holiday spirit. But every single year I get so excited to drive at night, simply because there are houses adorned with little lights. I remember how we used to put a timer on ours so they’d come on at the same time every evening, right as the sun hit the horizon, and I always had this longing to be there the moment they turned on. I don’t know if I ever got there in time.

I was always there for the tree decorating, though – if not to help, to watch. Mom was always painfully organized when it came to ornaments – Andrew, Mickey, and I each had our own ornament box (which grew to multiples over the years), because every year we received at least one ornament that would become ours as soon as we moved away and married (which I have, but my box remains in Texas. Of course, I don’t have room for it in this teeny apartment). By the time my brother, sister, and I were in college, the tree was so full of the craziest assortment of ornaments that its limbs hung lower than normal. At least now it will be a third lighter.

The main reason I love Christmas is not because of the lights or the cookies or the decorations, though – it is the general air (to risk sounding cliche) of cheer. The joy that comes from celebrating something that isn’t merely commercial is contagious – there’s a meaning behind this holiday, one that is greater than anything we know. A savior was born, and we can live with the peace of having eternal celebrations in paradise. Even people who deny Him cannot deny the jubilation that permeates every corner of our country during this holiday season. There is a reason we are rejoicing.

Now on to this Christmassy recipe. God bless you all and to all a good night! (Or morning, whatever, you get my drift.)

DSCN2336

Orange Spiced Gingersnaps

INGREDIENTS:

2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tbsp Greek yogurt
2 tbsp orange zest
2 tbsp orange juice
1 egg
Sugar with orange zest for rolling

METHOD:

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Combine flours, baking soda, baking powder, spices, and salt together in a bowl. Stir and set aside.

2. In a separate bowl, combine sugar, molasses, orange juice, and olive oil. Mix on medium for 5 minutes. Add egg and mix on low for 2 minutes more. Add wet mixture to dry mixture and stir until well combined. Fold in orange zest.

3. Add a couple pinches of orange zest to the sugar for rolling. Form dough into 1 inch balls and roll in zested sugar until completely covered. Flatten dough balls a little and place them on cookie sheet. Bake for 13 minutes or until tops crack.

DSCN2335

Pumpkin Spice Brownies

I think it’s finally time to post this magical recipe for everyone. I’ve been meaning to for quite some time, but somehow the hours just slip away from me and everything I mean to do turns into a distant dream and a far flung longing for those days of quiet boredom that used to litter my era of school-going.

I’ve done some pretty fantastic things recently, though, including but not limited to petting a baby deer and dropping my phone in a cup of steaming coffee (okay, so that last one wasn’t so fantastic). I’ve also been baking a lot (pumpkiny things especially), so be looking forward to that! These Pumpkin Spice Brownies are perfect for the fall season – for obvious reasons. I love brownies because they are so easy to make. These particular brownies combine that special feature with all the delicious spiciness of autumn cooking.

So I don’t think I need to say anything profound or long-winded about this recipe. It is two good things put together, after all. Pumpkin spice, the best flavor of fall; chocolate, the best flavor of the rest of the seasons…yep, that pretty much covers it. I will say that it struck me afterward how good those new Pumpkin Spice M&Ms would be in these brownies. They would have blended in superbly…Next time. Next time.

DSCN1927

Pumpkin Spice Brownies

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup finely processed oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp molasses
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 egg

METHOD:

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Combine oats, flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, and spices. On a double boiler or in the microwave, melt 1/3 cup chocolate chips. When completely melted, add brown sugar, pumpkin puree, molasses, and olive oil. Mix well and then add egg.

2. Combine wet ingredients and dry ingredients, mixing until everything is well incorporated. Add remaining chocolate chips.

3. Bake at 350F for approximately 40 minutes or until a fork comes out clean.

Spiced Walnut Date CROCKPOT Granola

I talked about fall smells in my last post. Wonderful spiciness, delicious air, when life turns into a giant candle. One of my great vehicles for smells this seasons is my crockpot. I never had a crockpot before getting married (only old married women cook in crockpots, right?) and it is truly my favorite appliance.  Not only does it concoct delicious foods, but the aroma that fills my apartment because of it is drool worthy.

This Spiced Walnut Date Granola was a slice of autumn as it cooked. It was all cinnamony and gingery and nutmegy and better than any wallflower you could plug in. Cooking it in the crockpot eliminated the almost certain danger of burning it in the oven. Sure, it takes longer in the crockpot than the oven (about 3 to 3 and a half hours rather than an hour or so), but that means the smell lasted longer too.

Just for the heck of it, here is a list of wonderful fall smells:

  • Pumpkin
  • Apple
  • Cinnamon
  • Fire smoke
  • Pine
  • Nutmeg
  • Vanilla
  • Sage
  • Ginger
  • Molasses
  • Hay

Mmmmm, the aroma of fall. And it’s even better when it is delivered to you through a crockpot! Crockpot cooking makes life happier, in many ways. Ease, smells, deliciousness – if you don’t have one, get one!

DSCN1837

 

SPICED WALNUT DATE GRANOLA

Ingredients:

3 cups old fashioned oatmeal
3 tbsp flax
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup chopped dates
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1 to 1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup pure maple
2 tbsp apple butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
1 tbsp egg white
Banana, cottage cheese, and pure maple for garnishment

Method:

1. Mix all dry ingredients in bowl of crockpot.

2. In separate bowl, mix wet ingredients, adding egg white last. Whip for 30 seconds, then pour over dry ingredients. Stir until well incorporated.

3. Turn crockpot on high (2 to 4 hour setting). Leave lid cracked so moisture can escape (you don’t want soggy granola!). Stir occasionally.

 

DSCN1842

Pumpkin Apple Spice Cake and An Homage to Autumn

In celebration of fall I offer up to you my first truly fallish recipe, Pumpkin Apple Spice Cake. In my opinion, fall does not really start until I have either made a pumpkin (an artsy one, mind you; I am not God, after all, or Harry Potter, though I wish I could make pumpkins appear out of thin air) or have cooked with pumpkin, and I have now cooked with pumpkin, so fall is here!

DSCN1762

Pumpkins are only one of the many things I appreciate about fall, though. First off, I love the smell of the season. It’s spicy, kind of, like the falling leaves are peppering the world for a feast. I love stepping outside and breathing in a lungfull of crisp, cold air that tastes of life moving on. I also enjoy wearing sweaters and socks all the time, and biking in leggings and windbreakers, and feeling how cold my cheeks are when I get home from a long run. I particularly enjoy listening to the crows bleak song, a chorus to the wind’s melody. All these smells and tastes and feels mean it’s time to listen to Enya and let the world wrap itself around me in a blanket of serenity.

How couldn’t one be inspired by fall? It’s like life is finally a poem again, after waiting through months of drought and suffocating flowers. Summer is fun, but there’s just something magical about this time of year. 😉

PUMPKIN APPLE SPICE CAKE

Ingredients:

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup finely processed oats
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup pure maple
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup applesauce (like this homemade honey lemon kind)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 can pumpkin (or 1 1/2 cup pureed fresh pumpkin)
1 finely diced golden delicious apple
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
Chopped walnuts (optional)

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray bundt pan with baking oil. Dice apple and place in the bottom of a large bowl. Add flours, baking soda, salt, and spices.

2. In separate bowl, mix sugar, maple, greek yogurt, and applesauce. Add eggs and whip well. Stir wet mixture into dry mixture, and then fold in pumpkin puree.

3. Bake at 350 for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. After the cake cools, top with Maple Glaze, made with 2 cups powdered sugar, 2 tbsp pure maple, and a touch of salt (add milk until desired consistency is reached).

4. Enjoy a slice of pure autumn euphoria.

I’m Back With Apples and Stuff

I know that in the blogging world being gone for a month is basically blog death. Well, I have resurrected myself and my dear Consider the Peel, and I hope it’s not been too long for those loyal few out there.

What can I say – life is hectic. There’s my part time job at Target, my part-part time job as a transcriptionist, my blog (sadly being dejected of late), my soon to open Etsy store (yes, this is happening!) Peels & Posies, and my endless wifely duties. The apartment is small, but there is always something needing done, and as far as creative things goes, sometimes I’m just so tired after work that all I want to do is stick my head in a hole and hibernate until spring (but then, of course, I’d miss all this beautiful fall weather). Sometimes (read, all the time) when I am grueling the hours away at Target, scanning fifty jars of baby food or struggling to lift cat litter off the belt, I think to myself,  “Is this banality worth the $8 an hour?”

More often than not the answer is Heck No. However, I do struggle with perspective sometimes. The bottom line is that life will always be too busy – I need to stop waiting for a moment and make a moment. I need to make those few minutes of free time between tasks worth my while, because I know that reaching my own potential will not only increase my personal satisfaction but it will do others a lot of good too.

So here’s a little apology for being too trapped in my bubble of inactivity. Hopefully I’ll get back in the swing of things with the help of a daily planner and a renewed spring of inspiration. It’s FALL after all…squeeeee! The absolutely positively most magical time of the year, which means yours truly will be bringing you pumpkins galore, wreaths and fallings leaves, pies, squash, ghosts, and ohhh so much more.

The first thing to report on is the massive amount of apples we currently have sitting in trash bags on our apartment floor. My husband’s parents have three apple trees and have kindly given us more apples than I’ve ever seen in one place at one time. I am not complaining. The other day we had an apple themed lunch: Homemade Honey Lemon Applesauce, Open-Faced Apple Havarti Ham Sandwich Melt, and Celery Apple Salad.

DSCN1662

These three simple elements made for a delicious (not to mention unique) lunch. Of course, Grant laughed at me when I told him we were having an apple themed lunch. “Is that what we’re doing now?” he said. “Themed lunches?” Why, yes, Grant. Themed lunches are the greatest kind of lunches.

HONEY LEMON APPLESAUCE

Ingredients:

about 5 pounds of apples (I used a variety, mainly Braeburn and golden delicious)
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup water, plus more if needed

Method:

1. Peel and chop apples. Place all ingredients in a large pot and heat on medium high. Let boil and add water if mixture gets too thick. When apples are soft enough, mash for desired consistency.

The honey and lemon flavors in this applesauce are very subtle, but definitely there. For more pronounced flavors, simply add more of the desired ingredients.

OPEN-FACED APPLE HAVARTI HAM SANDWICH

Ingredients:

sliced harvarti cheese
ham lunchmeat
sliced apples
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp miracle whip
Oregano and parsley
bread

Method:

Mix dijon, miracle whip, oregano, and parsley together, then spread on the bread. Place meat, then apples, then cheese on the bread. Broil on high for four minutes.

APPLE CELERY SALAD

Ingredients:

1 Golden Delicious apple
1 stalk of celery
1 tbsp vinegar
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper
fresh parsley

Method:

Slice apples and celery thinly. In a separate bowl, mix vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Pour over apples and celery, then top with fresh parsley.