Sunday, May 31, 2015

Cinnamon Coffee Cake

Does coffee cake always have a cinnamon topping? Does that mean the term 'cinnamon coffee cake' is redundant? Then I shall be redundant. There are few things I can distinctly remember the first time I ever ate them, coffee cake being one. It was 2nd grade. I have no idea why we had coffee cake at school but we did. I also thought one could only have it when coffee was around (ie: served with coffee) but I'm glad that was an incorrect assumption.

I made this for my coworkers and clearly I need to keep this recipe handy. Such phrases as "the best baked good you've ever made" were thrown around. Fightin' words. This was the first time I ventured to make coffee cake and it was a lot easier than anticipated. This shall become a staple.

As always, room temperature butter is creamed with the sugar and eggs before adding the dry ingredients. The batter is thicker than cake batter, almost velvety. But don't forget the secret ingredient: yogurt. Originally, this was sour cream but I like using Greek yogurt better. In part because it's healthier but I also think it gives cakes and breads a better texture.

My initial plan was to put this in a bundt pan but ultimately decided on a 9x9. Half the batter goes in before putting a layer of streusal down. This will give the center a nice cinnamon swirl. The rest of the batter is laid on top before being topped with the remaining streusal. The topping is made of melted butter, sugar, cinnamon and some flour. All things delicious.

The cake bakes for about 30-40 minutes or until a skewer in the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool before cutting into pieces but definitely try a piece warm. Heaven!


  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9x9 pan and set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine all the dry ingredients for the streusal. Mix evenly before adding the melted butter.
  3. Use a fork or pastry cutter to mix the streusal until it's crumbly. Set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk together and set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, place the stick of softened butter. Using a hand or stand mixer, cream the butter until smooth.
  6. Add the sugar to the butter and continue to mix until fluffy (which is basically combined and smooth).
  7. Add the eggs one at a time to the butter and sugar mixture until combined. Also add the vanilla here. 
  8. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the yogurt to the butter-sugar-egg mix. 
  9. Pour half of the batter into the 9x9 pan. Top that layer with a layer of streusal. If you want to be fancy, you can use a knife to spread the streusal in a swirly pattern throughout the cake batter.
  10. Pour the remaining batter on top of the streusal layer and top with all remaining streusal (how many times can we say 'streusal'?).
  11. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer placed in the center of the cake comes out clean.
  12. The cake will deflate slightly as it cools. Allow to cool a bit before cutting into pieces and serving.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Chocolate Breakfast Smoothie

Breaking news: breakfast is the most important meal of the day! It's also the most delicious! Okay, neither of these are ground-breaking headlines BUT they're super true. Sweet breakfast is my favorite: waffles, pancakes, french toast, donuts, muffins, scones. Oh look at that, I've made them all (and a lotta pumpkin)!

But realistically, I can't eat these things for breakfast every day for an abundance of reasons. First and foremost, because of time constraints. Secondly, and probably more importantly, I would be a thousand pounds if I ate what I want at all times.

So I've come up with alternatives for breakfast. Generally speaking, I don't believe a liquid diet is sustainable or that a juice is a meal, even if I did juice for dinner this week. However, if I can trick my body into thinking it's having a milkshake for breakfast, we're in business. For my birthday, a friend gave me the Oh She Glows cookbook. Another blog to check out! There are some very tasty recipes in here but naturally I tried the chocolate one first.

Gradually, I've hidden more and more tasty things in these smoothies. Avocados make this extra creamy and like I'm eating actual ice cream. But the spinach gets hidden (save for a few green flecks) beneath a tiny amount of cocoa powder and chocolate protein powder (optional). I even added some berries in recent weeks.

Everything is blended until smooth. If you prefer a more velvety texture, use half an avocado. Otherwise, a frozen banana will suffice.

  • 1 cup non-dairy milk (I usually use almond milk)
  • 1 handful of spinach
  • 1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder (optional)
  • 1/2 an avocado (or 1/2 a frozen banana)
  • Handful of berries, dried dates or frozen fruit of your choosing for added sweetness 
  • Chia seeds if you feel so inclined 
  1. Blend everything together.
  2. Serve and enjoy! Super simple. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Chia Pudding

Chia is one of those food buzzwords that has me raising just one eyebrow in a quizzical manner. Seems like a fad to me! But I was enticed by a pudding at a cafe recently that looked remarkably like tapioca but was actually chia.

Investigations were made. Pudding was bought. Twice. But on separate occasions. It took me awhile to find chia at the grocery store because it was in the earthy natural food aisle that is seldom frequented by yours truly. This might change. (Side note, does anyone else think the milk bubbles in this picture are smiling? I see a face).

Like quinoa, a little bit of chia goes a long way. So while I initially balked at the $8 a bag price tag, I think it will last awhile and will certainly be better than purchasing at that little cafe. Plus, I can add all kinds of tasty things to this (and try more recipes).

We can add this to that chocolate smoothie I've been testing or make a pudding or put on salad, the options are pretty endless. For the first round, I kept it simple and made the chia (is that the proper verb, 'made' chia?) with almond milk.

Does anyone else just think of chia pets whenever I say chia? No? Just me? Okay (ch-ch-ch-chia!). The chia and milk are whisked together with a little vanilla. You can also add some maple syrup or agave syrup for sweetness but I like it plain. Although this should set in a couple hours, I found that the chia actually sinks to the bottom of the bowl so I had to re-whisk everything to break up the gelatinous mass of chia at the bottom. Once that was done though, I got a nice even pudding consistency.

Voila! Health in a bowl. The package even advertises that it's the superfood of the Aztecs! They were wrong about that whole 2012 thing but may have been onto something with chia.

  • 3 Tablespoons of chia
  • 1 cup of non-dairy milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Agave syrup or maple syrup to taste (optional)

  1. Whisk the ingredients together.
  2. Cover and refrigerate overnight. If you want to eat the pudding the next day, check to see how everything is congealing. 
  3. If the chia has sunk to the bottom and formed a jelly mass at the bottom (very technical term), use a whisk to break it apart and mix more with the milk.
  4. Serve with fruit or jam and enjoy! 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Pickled Okra

I don't like pickles. I pick them off of burgers, I eat around them on the sandwich platter, no thank you! But when I was a kid, I like okra pickles. Mind you, I thought that okra pickle was a type of pickle (before I knew that pickles were cucumbers) and fried okre (yes, spelled differently) was an entirely different vegetable.

Well, now I know that the term 'pickle' applies more to a process than a food and therefore okra pickles were actually pickled okra. And that okra and 'okre' are the same thing, with a different twang. Even with this revelation, I never saw pickled okra at the store, just frozen (which I bought and never ate).

But then (!!!) I saw it in the grocery store as a fresh produce. I was so tempted to just buy a bunch of okra but I was all "but it isn't pickled". For the record, pickling is super easy. So I finally bought some okra and looked up how to pickle things.

Honestly, the most terrifying part of this process was sterilizing the jars. Mason jar: not just for cute storage. Generally speaking, when you add hot water to glass, it breaks. But not mason jars because they were in fact not created for wedding decor but for canning and being boiled. So I carefully sterilized a couple mason jars and associated parts. My fear didn't stop though once the glass didn't break. I was still concerned I hadn't sterilized correctly and that I was going to end up unknowingly eating rotten pickles or getting ebola (not how you get ebola).

Other than preparing the jars, there's a bunch of vinegar involved which is the essence of pickling. I wanted a little spice to my okra so added some red pepper flakes. The recipe I looked up called for some garlic and dill which couldn't hurt.

I wasn't convinced the liquid would seep into the okra if I didn't trim the tops but the stems were already cut off so I just barely trimmed the okra. The spices, herbs and garlic are placed in the bottom and then the okra is stuffed in there. Always add the okra first, before the hot liquid. That way, you don't have to worry about overflowing juices when you stuff in the okra.

The jars of pickled okra were set to pickle for two weeks. Then I tested one jar which opened with a satisfying 'pop' of the seal. Sterilization success! The pickled okra was quite tasty, with just the right amount of kick. But I left the other jar for a few more days to see what that pickling would do.


This is officially on the homemade gift giving list, I wonder if okra can be found in winter....

  • 1 lb. of fresh okra, stems trimmed
  • 1 clove of garlic per jar
  • 3-4 sprigs of fresh dill per jar
  • Sprinkle of red pepper flakes, amount depends on your spice preference 
  • 1 cup of white vinegar
  • 1 cup of water
  • Pinch of salt
  1. Wash your jars and lids in warm, soapy water. Sterilize your canning jars by placing in a pot and covering with water. Bring the water to a boil. Make sure that you also have the lids in there too! Carefully remove with tongs and set aside.
  2. In a medium sauce pan (could be the same one you used for the jars), bring the vinegar, salt and water to a boil.
  3. While that's boiling, place the garlic, dill and red pepper flakes in the mason jars. Evenly distribute these ingredients.
  4. After trimming the stems of the okra, place them in the jars, alternating the direction to fit more in.
  5. Pour the hot vinegar mixture into the jars, over the okra, until the jar is almost full. You don't want to fill to the brim.
  6. Tighten the jar lids in place and store in a dark place for 2-3 weeks. When you open the jars, you want to hear a little 'pop' from the seal breaking.
  7. Refrigerate once you open the jars. 
There's definitely a lot of different spices you can add to your okra. A bunch of recipes call for mustard seeds instead of red pepper flakes so have fun and experiment! 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Mint Juleps

Every year, after the Kentucky Derby, I think how fun it would be to host a Derby party next year. Then I forget when the Derby is, don't plan and end up thinking the same thought with the promise of next year! Honestly, I know very little about the Kentucky Derby beyond the basics: horses, hats, fried chicken, Derby pie, and mint juleps.

I even prepared a recipe for Derby pie bars (which I believe is actually just pecan-chocolate pie). So let's just say I'm testing each individual piece so one day I can throw the best Derby party in the land, complete with giant hat. And matching shoes.

So cheers! Here's to super easy mint juleps. When I was a kid, we had a mint bed--meaning a garden bed that was completely overrun with mint because that is a seriously invasive plant. Think Devil's Snare but with a lovely aroma (if you don't get the reference, we can't be friends).

Simple syrup is called that for a reason, equal parts sugar and water are boiled together and then infused with whatever flavor you desire, in this case--mint! The julep itself is a combination of bourbon (mmmm), simple syrup and ice. I'm not sure why it has to be crushed ice, I'm sure there's a history lesson in there. But it's crushed. It's cold. It has a special glass. I do not have special glasses for juleps so Moscow Mule mugs will have to do.

 I hope you have a sunny porch, hopefully with a swing and a big hat, where you can enjoy spring and sip your favorite icy beverage.

Mint Simple Syrup
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of water
  • Mint leaves
  1. In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil until the sugar is all dissolved.
  2. Turn off the heat and add the mint, at least a dozen leaves but more if you want a stronger flavor. 
  3. Allow the mixture to cool with the mint. Strain into a jar and discard the mint. 
  4. Store the syrup in the fridge a day ahead of time.
Mint Julep
  • Mint simple syrup
  • Bourbon
  • Crushed ice
  • Chilled glasses
  1. In a cold glass, add enough crushed ice to almost fill the mug. Add several mint leaves and crush together to release some minty flavor.
  2. Add 1 ounce of simple syrup and 2 ounces of bourbon. If you prefer a sweeter taste, add more syrup. Don't worry too much about the amounts, focus more on the ratio.
  3. As the ice melts, you'll get more liquid in the drink but you can add water if you prefer.
  4. Sip and enjoy!