November. Oh November.
I am the first person to agree with L.M. Montgomery: October entices me with the promises of sweater weather and changing leaves, of apples and pumpkins and all the activities heralding my favorite season. I love the Fall. November, however, always seems to show the first signs of the long gray winter, peeking out between the colorful foliage. Drizzling rain, a biting cold wind, and bare branches begin to remind us that we are in for the long haul of winter. I do love the idea of winter, too. I like snow and I especially like the thought of piles of blankets, bright fireplaces and stoves, and the sense of not having to go anywhere. Unfortunately, most of winter I do have to go somewhere, and wherever that somewhere might be is definitely going to be through the cold and ice. Even so, I am trying to treat November fairly. Most of the time, it is just as glorious as October. Plus, it contains Thanksgiving. Definitely a good month.
In the meantime, I am halfway through my first class of grad school. I just signed up for two classes for next semester (as full of a course load as I will ever take alongside my full-time job). I am really happy to be back in the classroom environment! It’s also been wonderful to be learning things that I can actively compare to my company, so I have a real-life example for all the theory and concepts. I have been working to get my hustle back–I have settled into a very routine life that allowed for more apathy than I liked. Fortunately, all of these assignments have been the kick that I needed to find a better balance. Isn’t it funny that the more we have to do, (usually) the better we are at actually getting it all done? This was the last piece to push myself back into a state of productivity, though I still have to chant a few girlpower! mantras before I can tackle vacuuming… Another result of my class is that I discovered that I read faster and with much more focus while on the treadmill, instead of lying on my couch! Studying and exercising? Possibly my greatest multi-tasking achievement.
Unfortunately, I’ve been knocked off track a little, by catching an awful cold last week. After a few miserable days, most of my symptoms have cleared up, though I still have a fair amount of chest congestion. Given my history of allergies and asthma, this is exactly where I expected the cold to settle. But I am definitely tired of coughing and wheezing. It also saps just enough of my energy, that I haven’t been able to get up and move in the mornings. I was looking for to daylight savings time to bring back some early morning light for my workout ventures, but my cold has mostly kept me couchbound. My reading for school has suffered as well (perhaps the only downfall of that multi-tasking achievement). Dealing with the cold symptoms over the weekend made the thought of early morning breakfast-making seem a gargantuan task. And the idea of warm muffins, already-made when I woke up during the week, was all too appealing. So I pulled overripe bananas from my freezer and set to work on this ultra-comforting recipe.
Banana chocolate chip muffins were one of our staples in my childhood. This simple recipe used up overripe bananas, a common occurrence in our house. And the hearty addition of whole wheat flour balanced the fruit’s natural sweetness and bumped these muffins ahead in the race of healthy recipes. And they tasted amazing! I’m certain those were all pluses for my mother. She made these muffins pretty often, and most of our friends ate a few over the course of our school years. In fact, one of our childhood friends had a notorious hatred for bananas. We always carefully avoided telling Z what was in these muffins and he ate them happily. His mother got this recipe from my mother and continue to make the muffins for him until he finally saw her making the batter when he was a teenager. Now he won’t eat them!
This is one of those recipes that so clearly recalls my childhood, I knew I needed to make it gluten-free. Thankfully, it was a pretty simple accomplishment! The banana keeps the muffins soft and lightly sweet and eliminates the need for any xanthan gum or guar gum as binders. In order to emulate the heartiness from the whole wheat flour, I’ve used brown rice and sorghum flour, along with a touch of buckwheat flour to darken the batter as I remember the whole wheat flour doing in the original recipe.
Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Serves: 12-15 | Prep time: 20 minutes | Cook time: 20 minutes
- 3/4 c. sugar
- 1/2 c. butter, room temperature
- 1 egg
- 1 c. mashed, ripe bananas (about 2)
- 3 Tbsp milk
- 2/3 c. + 2 Tbsp. brown rice flour*
- 3 Tbsp. buckwheat flour*
- 1/3 c. sweet white sorghum flour*
- 1/3 c. +2 Tbsp. tapioca starch*
- 3 Tbsp. sweet rice flour*
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 c. chocolate chips
- optional: 1 c. chopped walnuts
*Or, you can use 2 cups (280 g) of a gluten-free All-Purpose/”Cup for Cup” substitute
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with paper liners and llightly oil the liners liners. Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Once uniformly mixed, add the egg and mix until the egg is just incorporated. In a separate bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients (flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt). In a small bowl, combine mashed bananas with milk. With the mixer on low, add the dry mixture to the egg-butter-sugar mix. Mix on low until combined. Add in the banana-milk mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts, if using. Scoop into greased liners, at least three quarters full. The batter will rise a moderate amount during baking. Bake for 20-25 minutes until tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Allow muffins to cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and cool completely.
Well, I had hoped to get jumpstart on my newest project, My Grandmother’s Recipe Box, and bring you the first of the recipes. However, the day after I lasted posted, my oven did not heat up. I tried a few times of turning it off and on, but I did not want to fiddle too much since we have a gas oven and our gas lines (while the stovetop control is wonderful) pretty much have me existing in a mild state of terror. I grew up with electric coils, and while I know modern gas lines are very safe and secure, I still worry almost constantly. So, I waited for the boys to come home and shoved my rapidly-rising, unbaked bread dough into the fridge. They came home and fiddled some more with no luck, but were pretty sure that the oven wasn’t turning on at all (no sound or smell of gas), so I stopped hyperventilating about a gas leak. And, even more lucky, our stovetop was still working. But, that did mean we had to submit a request with our rental company and it took a week for the repair to come. Needless to say, there was no baking down this week, and it seems like all of my grandmothers’ recipes require some time in the oven. Instead, the crockpot came out twice, and I did a lot of sautéing (and lugged the over-risen bread dough to my mother’s to bake). Thankfully, all is working perfectly, just in time to make one of my more ambitious projects: the latest Snickers-bar-inspired dessert for M’s birthday tomorrow. That will, in some form, make it onto the blog quite soon, I am already suspicious that the recipe I tried did not turn out as I planned. I am hoping that the addition of caramel-peanut filling and salted caramel frosting will help to perk up a sub-par cake.
In the meantime, I am taking a quick break, as I wait for my butter to come to room temperature, to round up my recipes that might find a place on your Thanksgiving table. I am traveling up to visit family, so, aside from serving as a gluten-free consultant and helping wherever I can, I will be taking the easier role of ‘guest’ for this holiday. Several others seem to be starting their recipe round-ups as well, so , if you are beginning to plan out your feast, take a few minutes to look through some of my favorite recipes.
Butternut Squash Gnocchi have the familiar flavors of the holidays, but are a more unusual way to add that squash flavor.
This Quinoa and Wild Rice Stuffing is chock full of apples, squash, sausage and herbs, and a nice change from traditional bread stuffings.
My Knockoff Pepperidge Farms Cornbread Stuffing is quite close to the real deal, and the combination of white bread and cornbread makes for a truly flavorful dish.
How about some French Bread? Perfect as a base to cube for traditional stuffing, or to slice as is for the table.
Popovers are always first in line on our table at any occasion.
I am all about my pies at Thanksgiving. My family rotates between some combination of Pumpkin, Apple, and Strawberry-Rhubarb. Use the Best Gluten-Free Pie Crust for a fool-proof pie.
Chocolate-Coffee Pots De Creme are surprisingly simple, but make for an elegant end to the evening.
These Pumpkin Scones makes the perfect breakfast on a busy Thanksgiving morning. Make ahead and freeze, then thaw for a delicious start to a hectic day!
It has been over a month since I last posted, in spite of my best intentions. My summer camp, as mentioned, ate up a considerable portion of each day. With our move, M and I are further away from this job, so that meant that we were up by 5:30am every morning to walk Punc, pack lunches, and get ready to leave the house by 6:30. We usually didn’t get home until 5:00 or 5:30pm, and by then, quite truthfully, it took all of my remaining energy to put together some semblance of dinner, then shower, and sleep. On the very first day of camp, I came home and simply couldn’t move for four hours. I adore my job, especially the summers, but it takes constant energy. After twelve hours of acting, blocking, stretching, singing, dancing, planning, memorizing, and leading; it was an achievement to keep my eyes open until 10:00pm.
We have one week left, but I can confidently say that this summer was the best one yet. We had truly outstanding staff and equally outstanding students. I have spoken about teaching before, touching briefly on how inspiring my students are to me, and how teenage culture is played out before me only a few years after I left it, myself. I always feel as though I learn as much from my students as they (hopefully) do from me, and this year, as always, I had several particularly inspiring students. I will not go into details–the privacy of my students is the most important thing–but I can say that, a physically exhausting as camp has been, I know after a few days of proper sleep, all of this inspiration will have me refreshed and ready to dive into our fall classes.
I did manage to have a few adventures in the kitchen, mostly inspired by our farmer’s market finds. I hope to share those adventures soon–just one more week of camp (and my birthday) to get through before the schedule returns to normal!
With all of my early mornings, filled with harried lunch-packing (though I tried my best to pack the night before, so much of our sliced veggies and fruits or sandwiches, etc would have suffered from sitting overnight, leaving me with some prep every morning) and even quicker breakfasts, it was important for me to find something quick, portable, and protein-packed. Our camp has a nut-free policy, but I rely so much on the handy protein of nut products that I often found myself searching to pack them into my breakfasts, and then thoroughly washing my hands upon arrival. These scones, with their tantalizing mix of whole-grain flours and almond meal, were the perfect fit for my breakfast bill. The scones are exceedingly flexible in terms of add-ins–I made another batch of white-chocolate blueberry scones, as well as cherry pecan, using the same recipe. Those eluded photographs, but I do have my first batch of blueberry lemon spice scones to show off. These scones freeze beautifully. I was able to grab a few, microwave for ten seconds for a quick thaw, and then carry them to eat in the car on the way into work. These scones are easily vegan.
Almond Flour Scones
Serves: 8 | Prep time: 15 min |Cook time: 10-15 minutes
- 1 1/4 c. almond meal
- 3/4 c. oat flour, teff flour, or additional almond meal (and any mixture therein of the three)
- 2 Tbsp. corn starch (or potato starch)
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 3 Tbsp. boiling water
- 1 Tbsp. flax seed (ground)
- 2 Tbsp. milk of choice
- 2 Tbsp. honey or agave (granulated sugar may be used, but you must add an additional Tbsp of milk)
- dash salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (or citrus juice, for citrus scones)
- up to 1 Tbsp spices or zest of choice, optional
- up to 1 c. of add-ins (dried fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, fresh fruit, etc), optional*
*If only one type of add-in, I usually ended up using only 1/2-3/4 c. If using two types, I used up to 1/2 c. of each.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
Combine boiling water and ground flax seed in a small bowl, stir together well and allow to rest, thicken, and gel for several minutes. Combine almond meal, flours, cornstarch, baking soda, salt, and any spices (if using) in a large bowl, stir until thoroughly mixed. Combine milk, vanilla/juice, and honey and any zest (if using) in small bowl. Add liquids, plus the gelled flax mixture, to the dry mix and stir until fully incorporated. Stir in choices of add-ins*.
*For the scones pictured, I stir 1 tsp of cinnamon into the dry mixture, 2 tsp. of lemon zest and 1 tsp of lemon juice into the milk and honey mixture, and 3/4 c. of dried blueberries into the dough.
Dump the dough onto the lined baking sheet and shaped into 1 large or 2 small round circle(s). Cut each circle into eight triangles, but do not separate the triangles. Bake for 9-12 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from oven, recut at the lines, but, again, do not separate scones. Allow to cool. Store in a tightly sealed container on the counter for up to one week, or in the freezer for up to one month.
If you would like glaze the scones, wait until completely cool, then mix 1/2 c. powdered sugar (with up to 1 tsp. spices) with 1 tsp. vanilla extract and 2 Tbsp. water or citrus juice. Drizzle over cooled scones and allow to harden.
My life is on the verge of that particular “busy” that only comes with summer camps. I have mentioned that I am on the administrative and teaching staff for a small arts company. So all of the processing, planning, and scheduling of 600+ students and a 40+ teaching team over a 7-week span falls to me and my four other cohorts. This is my first time being so involved with the prep and pre-planning needed for camp, so it has certainly been a huge learning curve to overcome in order to work effectively. I am quite excited for camp to start, but we just have to wade through all of the paperwork to actually get to camp. Alongside the endless loads of laundry and meal planning that I am attempting, since I know I will hardly have time for such things after the camp starts.
Not too long ago, I faced one of my fears in order to whip up a delicious, beautiful breakfast.
Do you remember my shortlist of dishes and cooking practices in the kitchen that intimidate me? If not, here’s the list again:
- Deep frying
- Homemade stock
- Making sushi
ButcheringBreaking Down* Risotto
*I’ve amended butchering to Breaking Down, because I did mean the practice of taking apart a chicken or other larger piece of meat…not the actual killing of the animal…
If you did remember, you know that I have already tried my hand at making my own kale chips and risotto from scratch, successfully. So naturally, buoyed by my cooking-success-streak, I’d try something new: soufflés. In all actuality, I came across a photo on Pinterest that was too irresistible. And that is exactly how I found myself doctoring up gluten-free yogurt soufflés for breakfast on a Sunday morning. Just as promised, these soufflés are beautiful, delicate bites of cheesecake-reminiscent heaven. I filled my ramekins to the rim, so that the souffles were still substantial, even after they had fallen. The promised cheesecake texture is spot-on. The yogurt adds a touch of tang, but, if you are looking for a smoother flavor, vanilla-flavored greek yogurt would be a great option as well. This is actually a very simple dish with a lot of “wow” factor–perfect for when you are hosting breakfast and brunch (or dished up after dinner as dessert!)
I topped these with some macerated raspberries and slivered almonds. Next time, I plan on upping the lemon flavor even more.
Adapted from Baking Bites
Serves: 4 | Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 15 minutes
- 1 c. greek yogurt, plain
- 3 eggs, room temperature and divided yolks and whites
- 2 Tbsp. white rice flour
- 1 Tbsp. tapioca starch (or potato starch)
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
- 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
- 1/4 c. sugar (granulated)
- additional butter & sugar for ramekins
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease inside of ramekins (bottom and sides, all the way up to the rim) with butter. Ad a spoonful of sugar to the ramekin, turning and tapping until the sugar has coated the buttered surface. In a medium bowl, whisk egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Slowly add in sugar, beating mixture at medium-high, until the mixture doubles in size, all sugar has been incorporated, and the mixture forms soft peaks. (Soft peaks are when the mixture lifts, than gently folds in a little point when you pull the whisk straight up out of the mixture.) In large bowl, stir together yogurt and egg whites until thoroughly combined. Mix in flour, salt, lemon zest, and vanilla extract. Gently stir in about 1/4 of the egg white mixture. Carefully and gently fold in the remainder of the egg white mixture until fully incorporated. Divide into ramekins. Lightly tap ramekins on counter to release any air bubbles. Place filled ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, until the tops begin to brown. Do not open the oven during baking time. Serve immediately.
The soufflés, as mentioned, should rise beautifully. Even if they begin to fall, if you filled the ramekins to the rim, it will still make a lovely dish.