Butternut Squash Pea Pizza

A couple weeks ago my husband and I were playing Scattergories with his parents. The letter was “P” and the category was “Pizza topping.” Naturally, my first inclination was  (no, not pepperoni. I am vegetarian. I actually didn’t even think pepperoni until someone else said it) peas. Yes, peas. Only because earlier that week I had made this delicious Butternut Squash Pea Pizza.

Have you ever had peas on pizza? It’s fantastic! They have this little pop of sweetness that just makes your mouth water for another bite. Married with the butternut squash, spinach, green pepper, and havarti cheese, to this day I have not tasted anything so tantalizing. Of course, there was dispute at the table as to whether “peas” counted as a pizza topping. I argued that I got the idea online from someone else’s pizza experimentation, so it had to count.

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I tend to think of pizza as the kitchen sink of all dinners. Whatever’s leftover in the fridge, just throw on there! And since whipping up a crust is easy as 1-2-3, it’s sort of a go-to when I have produce that needs eating.

Moreover, pizza can make for a pretty healthy meal if you make one of these crusts, Whole Wheat, Flax and Honey CrustCauliflower Crust,  or Sweet Potato Pizza Crust, or simply whip up an oat flour based crust like I did for this recipe. Topped with a generous serving of home-stewed pizza sauce and a ton of veggies, there is nothing really about this pizza that could be classified as “junk food.” See, I’m revolutionizing the ways of FatAmerica.

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Butternut Squash Pea Pizza

INGREDIENTS:

1 half butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 green bell pepper
2 large handfuls spinach
Pizza Sauce
Havarti Cheese
Parmesan
Italian Seasoning
Oatmeal Crust (recipe below)

METHOD:

1. We all know how to make pizza. It’s common sense. But do pop the cubed butternut squash in the microwave for three minutes or so until it is slightly soft. Chop the rest of the veggies into adequate sizes.

2. Proceed with the pizza topping. Bake in a 400F oven until cheese is melty.

Oatmeal Pizza Crust

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cup finely processed oatmeal
1/2 tbsp yeast
2/3 cup warm water
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp honey
1 clove minced garlic
Italian seasoning
1 tbsp parmesan

METHOD:

1. Dissolve yeast in warm water, adding honey and oil after about a minute. In separate bowl, combine salt, oatmeal, seasoning, parmesan, and garlic.

2. Add yeast to flour mixture and stir well. Knead for 2 minutes and form into a ball. Let rise in an oiled bowl, covered, for twenty to thirty minutes.

3. After risen, roll the ball flat into a thin circle. If mixture is crumbly, add water and a little flour. Prick crust with a fork, then bake in a 425F oven for 15 minutes. Top with pizza toppings, bake some more, enjoy.

 

 

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!

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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.

Tomato Basil Bread (Whole Wheat)

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I’ll take any opportunity I can get to use herbs from my precious little herb garden I planted earlier this year. The leaves are not very big yet, but evidently (especially with basil) using baby leaves is perfectly fine, even good. Baby basil has a strong flavor, and I’m glad for it! It makes a mean tomato basil bread.

What really inspired me to make this bread was strolling around the Ames Farmer’s Market. While it is not very big, I still enjoying seeing all the different vendors, some of them selling very strange products.

For instance: Until last Saturday, I had never eaten bee pollen (on purpose, that is). When I came up to a honey seller’s booth and saw a jar of bee pollen, I exclaimed, “Wait, you’re supposed to eat that?!”

The old man nodded curtly and a small smile churned on his lips. “It’s good for lots of things,” he said. “Allergies, acne, weight loss…”

The list went on and on. While I didn’t completely believe all that he was saying, I instinctively said yes when he asked if I’d like to try some and then poured it out on my hand. It’s a weird flavor. Like honey except chalky and gross. And so far I’m neither dead nor cured of all my ailments (and I ate quite a bit), so opinion pending on its abilities.

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But anyway. Back to my herbs and this delicious bread I made. It has a very strong tomato-y flavor which is exactly what I wanted. The fresh basil tasted exceptionally delicious in there as well.

I love making bread. Even though it takes a bit of time to knead and let rise and what not, it just makes the perfect addition to a meal. And I feel so much better about eating homemade bread than the stuff from the stores.

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This particular loaf uses whole wheat and oatmeal, and there is a ton of flavor packed in. This bread will make excellent croutons, too. If it makes it that long, that is.

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Whole Wheat Tomato Basil Bread

INGREDIENTS:

1 tbsp yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup fresh basil (or 2 tbsp dried basil)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup parmesan
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp salt
1 egg
4 cloves chopped garlic
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup finely processed oatmeal

METHOD:

1. Place yeast in warm water and let rest until foamy. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, and oatmeal. When yeast is ready, add  basil, tomato sauce, parmesan, olive oil, egg, garlic, and honey and stir well. Add flour mixture to the wet slowly. Mixture will be dry. Knead on a floured surface for five minutes, until elasticy. Form into a ball.

2. Spray a bowl with oil and place the dough ball inside, turning once to coat both sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise for about one hour or until doubled in size.

3. When dough has risen, punch it and then knead for 3 to 4 minutes. Place onto a sprayed cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 30 to 40 minutes more. Preheat oven to 375F.

4. When bread has risen, cut an x shape lightly on top of the bread ball and place in the oven. Bake for about 45 minutes.

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Banana, Almond, and Date Yeast Bread

IMG_3385IMG_3369You’re going to have to forgive me in this post because you are about to get barraged with a billion pictures of bread dough. I don’t know why, but I have this fascination with rising dough…

Regardless of that, the bread. This bread. Banana Almond Date Yeast Bread. Yes, I know it’s a long name, but all of those components are SO IMPORTANT! And they make this bread the most delicious bread in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD. I didn’t even add in the other vital aspects of the bread, such as the fact that it is whole wheat and cinnamony and incredible.

IMG_3386What exactly would a bread such as this taste like, you ask?

Okay, imagine this. You come home to the smell of freshly baked yeast bread (sandwich bread or italian bread or sourdough bread, for those of you who don’t know the difference between quick bread and yeast bread), you break off a piece, take a bite, and all your culinary dreams come true. It’s a science. Now imagine fresh banana bread, sweet, rich, moist, and oh-so-happy on your tongue. Now, put those two imaginings TOGETHER and you’ve got this delightful hybrid bread, the best of both worlds.

IMG_3378It’s not too sweet and the banana flavor is subtle. However, that wonderful thing about homemade banana bread still resonates in this healthier alternative. The “fresh baked bread” superiority still applies. The dates give it an extra pop of decadence and the almonds provide a slight crunch.

If you are frightened away by the braiding, fear not. It’s not necessary. But it was oh-so-fun. And watch this magnificent progression

IMG_3344IMG_3345IMG_3347Skinny,

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IMG_3372BAM! Golden brown. Mmmm, that was fun. Again!

IMG_3348IMG_3371IMG_3373Yes. Simply delightful.IMG_3384

Banana Almond Date Yeast Bread

INGREDIENTS:

1/3 cup warm water
1 large egg
1 tbsp agave nectar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large banana, mashed
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup flax
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tbsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
2 1/2 tsp yeast
1/4 cup chopped and pitted dates
1/4 cup chopped roasted almonds

for glaze:
1/2 tbsp milk
1/2 tbsp agave
cinnamon

METHOD:

1. Place all ingredients except last two in bread machine according to manufacturers specifications. Set for the dough cycle. When the dough cycle stops kneading temporarily for add-ins, add the dates and almonds.

2. When dough cycle is complete and bread has risen to at least twice its size, take out of machine and form into a ball on a lightly floured surface. Let rest for ten minutes.

3. Form into three balls, and shape them into long cylinders, about 6 inches. Braid together and tuck ends under. Cover with saran wrap and let rise on parchment lined baking sheet for 45 additional minutes. Mix together glaze, and when the bread has risen sufficiently, spread the glaze thinly over top (do not soak).

4. Bake at 375F for 30-35 minutes. If top begins to get too brown, cover with aluminum foil.

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Avocado Chocolate Cake

There are a lot of men in my life who love chocolate. My dad, my brother, my fiancé… It’s ironic that it’s the men who are obsessed. Breaking stereotype.

All of that to say, I really do enjoy having an excuse to make decadent chocolate desserts as healthy as I possibly can while still impressing my chocolate-obsessed family. As long as it’s rich and tastes like chocolate, they don’t care if I sneak in heart healthy vegetables like avocado. IMG_3125

WHO NEEDS BUTTER WHEN WE HAVE AVOCADO?

This is a question I often ask myself when making chocolate desserts. I mean, I ask myself that question all the time, regardless of what type of dessert I am making. I hate butter. And there are so many suitable alternatives. But an added bonus to using avocado in chocolate desserts is that the chocolate not only disguises the color of the avocado, but any remnant of taste there could possibly be. Secret avocado. Yummyyyyyy.

IMG_3126 IMG_3124The avocado along with Greek yogurt makes this cake uber moist. Nothing is lost for flavor or experience without the butter, believe me.

CLICK HERE for the nutritional benefits of the lovely little avocado, then tell me you’re upset I replaced the butter in my cake.

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Avocado Chocolate Cake

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
6 tbsp coco powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup mashed avocado
1/3 cup melted chocolate
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 tbsp white vinegar
vanilla
1 3/4  cup milk
1/2 cup greek yogurt
1 egg

For the frosting:

1/3 cup chocolate chips melted
1/4 cup mashed avocado
3/4 cup greek yogurt
1/4 cup nutella
1/3 cup powdered sugar

METHOD:

1. Preheat oven to 325F. Combine flours, cocoa powder, baking soda and powder, and salt. Measure out chocolate chips and melt by double boiling. Add in mashed avocado. When chips are completely melted, take off heat and put in separate bowl. Add sugar, vanilla, vinegar, milk, Greek yogurt, and egg. Blend with mixer until well blended. Should be very runny.

2. Add wet mixture to dry mixture and mix until well combined. Put mixture into a greased and floured cake pan (I used a bundt pan, but you could use two circle pans or a large sheet cake pan or whatever your heart desires).

3. Bake at 325F for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

4. While your cake is baking, prepare the frosting. Melt chocolate chips by double boiling and add mashed avocado. In a separate bowl, mix greek yogurt and nutella. When chocolate is melted, add to yogurt mixture and blend until well-mixed. Add powdered sugar and blend again. Let thicken in fridge until cake is cooled and ready to frost.

Rosemary Whole Grain Soft Pretzels

IMG_3059For some reason I always thought soft pretzels were a really hard thing to master. Granted, they are a little more complicated than popping some ingredients into a bread maker, but ultimately they’re pretty easy.

First, dissolve some yeast in warm water and a little bit of honey. If you’ve never dissolved yeast before, it’s good when it starts to look like this:

IMG_3048It means your yeast is alive and cookin’. I love the smell of yeast – call me weird, but it’s kind of intoxicating, like a fresh bread childhood memory.

IMG_3050Add your flour/salt and knead knead knead. It’s ready to rise as soon as the dough becomes like elastic. Let it rise until it’s double its size (40-60 minutes).

IMG_3054Beat your dough flat and roll it into 16 separate logs. Then form your pretzel shape.

IMG_3055After this, let the pretzels continue to rise for 20 minutes. Once risen, dip each pretzel into boiling salt water for one minute. Let the water drip off thoroughly, place on greased baking sheet, wash with egg mixture, and pop into the oven. Delish!

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Rosemary Whole Grain Soft Pretzel

INGREDIENTS:

1 tbsp yeast

1 1/2 cup warm water

1 tbsp honey

1 tsp salt

3 1/2 cups old fashioned whole wheat flour

1/4 cup wheat germ

1/4 cup ground flax seed

1 tbsp rosemary

1/4 sunflower seeds

For egg wash:

1 medium egg and 1 tablespoon water

METHOD:

1. Dissolve yeast in water with honey. When the yeast is bubbly, stir in salt and 2 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Add wheat germ, flax, remaining flour, sunflower seeds, and rosemary to make a soft dough. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Let rise until it is double in size, 40-60 minutes. 

2. Punch the dough down and divide it into 16 equal parts. Roll each piece into a long rope and form pretzel shape. Transfer the pretzels to a greased baking sheet and let rise for 20 more minutes.

3. Boil a pot of water with 1 tablespoon salt. After the pretzel shapes have risen, dip them into the boiling water with a slotted spoon and boil for 1 minute. Drain well and return to baking sheet. Glaze with egg mixture and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake at 400 degrees F for about  20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on racks.