Holidays, Recipes

Holiday Treats: Sorta-Healthy Spice Rolls

As I mentioned earlier this week, my one concession to the holiday season was preparing a special breakfast for Christmas morning. Christmas breakfast has always been a thing in my family. When I was very young, we would usually have Christmas brunch with my dad’s family, and as we got older, and our family circumstances changed, Christmas breakfast with my mother became a firm tradition. Our favorite Christmas breakfast was panettone french toast.

But first, every morning, before we could open our gifts, someone would have to make my mother a cup of tea. As it turned out, I was the one who remembered best how she liked it: Earl Grey, steeped for just a minute or two, with a quarter teaspoon of sugar. Then, we could coax our parents downstairs to open gifts (my father was very much a morning person, but my mother needed her cuppa before she was willing to rise so early on a holiday).

These days, I’ve tried to move from food being a preamble or postscript to gift-opening to more of the main event. As my relationship with Dan has evolved, we’ve started spending more time together in the kitchen and eating together as a part of our holiday traditions, rather than spending our time on material gifts. This year, as I mentioned, we didn’t exchange gifts between the two of us at all. But we still had a nice breakfast.

This recipe is based on the Molasses & Cranberry Cinnamon Rolls from Nourished Kitchen. Jenny’s recipe uses unrefined sugars and sprouted whole-grain flour to create a treat that is delicious and yet not as full of sugar and white flour as the average cinnamon roll. Then, I used Alton Brown’s overnight cinnamon roll method to proof the rolls because I like the texture it yields. I’ve tweaked the recipe just a bit to fit what I keep in my kitchen and what I wanted from the recipe (and to allow for Dan’s dislike of cranberries). And I made them with a mix of spices because I didn’t check how much cinnamon I had on hand, but they would also be delicious as just cinnamon rolls.

Christmas Morning Sorta-Healthy Spice Rolls

Dough:

2 cups of einkorn all-purpose flour
3 cups of sprouted spelt flour
1 packet of yeast
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup of dairy-like liquid (the original recipe calls for whole milk, but I used a mix of plain yogurt and cashew milk)
1/4 cup of butter
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs

Filling:

1/4 cup butter, very soft
pinch of salt
1/2 cup sucanat
1 Tbsp. Ceylon cinnamon
2 tsp. cardamom
1 tsp. powdered ginger

Glaze:

1/4 cup honey
2 Tbsp. butter

1. Make the dough: Mix together the flours, yeast, and salt. Warm the milk, butter, and honey until the butter melts and it comes to about body temperature. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl and stream in the warm milk mixture, beating constantly. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until a dough forms.

2. Grease your hands and work surface and knead the dough until it’s smooth and elastic and doesn’t stick to things (about 5-10 minutes). Put in a greased bowl, cover, and set aside to rise for an hour or so.

3. Make the filling: Beat together the butter, salt, sucanat, and spices until they make a smooth paste.

4. Roll the dough out to about 1/3” in thickness, and roughly 12” square. Spread the filling on the dough and roll. Slice into nine rolls and place into a 10” square pan that’s been greased and lined with parchment.

5. Cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight.

6. The next morning, place the pan in a turned-off oven along with a pan of boiling water to proof for one hour. Remove the pan and the water and preheat the oven to 375F. Bake for 30 minutes or until they read at least 190F internally.

7. Make the glaze by melting together the butter and honey and brush over hot rolls. Enjoy!

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Food and Drink, pregnancy, Recipes

Pregnancy Cravings: Date Nut Bread

Last week, I talked about how I’m trying to eat dates every day to help potentially help with childbirth. Well, as soon as I heard that dates were good for pregnancy women, I immediately thought about one of my favorite childhood snacks: date nut bread with cream cheese and strawberries. When I was a kid, my mother used to have tea parties with me for my afternoon snack. It not only instilled in me a deep love of tea, but also helped me learn how to behave at the table in polite society. One of our favorite tea-time treats were little sandwiches of thinly sliced date nut bread, smeared with cream cheese and topped with thin slices of strawberry.

We got our date nut bread from the grocery store, where it was sold in dense, dark brown, round loaves in the bakery section. I haven’t seen it in years, though, and I knew I would want to make it from scratch anyway, so I could know how many dates were in each slice. So I went looking for a recipe and tinkered around until I came up with the recipe below. Now, the recipe I based this on calls for coffee and explains that the acidity of the coffee is important for the leavening, so I used decaf coffee. Personally, I feel like I do in fact taste the coffee, though I don’t dislike it. This recipe yields the same firm, dense, dark loaf that I remember as a child. If you let it cool completely, it will easily slice into very thin slices and hold up under the application of cream cheese. Strawberries are massively out of season right now, but I will definitely have to make this again in the summer. I divide this loaf into 8 portions, which can be further divided into two thin slices and each of which has about 1 oz. or 28g of dates in it.

Old-Fashioned Date Nut Bread

(based on this recipe)

Ingredients:

8 oz. pitted dates, finely chopped
1/2 cup of sucanat
1/2 stick of softened unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup of hot brewed coffee
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup of einkorn all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sprouted spelt flour
1 cup chopped walnuts

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and grease a 8.5″x4.5″ loaf pan and line it with parchment.
  2. Combine the first six ingredients and stir until the butter is melted. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes (this will also soften your dates).
  3. Add the egg and the vanilla to the mixture and mix well. Add in the flours and baking powder and stir to combine. Fold in the walnuts.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-60 minutes. Tent with foil after 30 minutes to prevent over-browning. Test for doneness by taking the internal temperature, which should be about 200F. Let cool for at least 10 minutes in the pan, and then remove and cool completely on a rack before slicing. Keeps for about a week at room temperature in an air-tight container, or freeze for longer storage. I get about 8 servings out of this.

Recipe Notes:

Dates are sticky and do not chop in the food processor. I tried for too long, but ultimately had to chop them by hand. This will take longer than it takes for the oven to preheat (longer still if you don’t get pitted dates).

The original recipe calls for 2/3-3/4 cup of brown sugar. I used sucanat, which is an unrefined sugar with a pronounced molasses flavor, and I cut the sugar back to 1/2 cup. I still find the finished bread quite sweet, so I think this should be plenty of sugar for most people, but if you really like sweets, maybe try it with 2/3 cup brown sugar.

I used einkorn and sprouted spelt flours to keep it healthier, but feel free to use all-purpose flour for the whole thing, or mix all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour.

I chopped my walnuts a bit more finely (I used the food processor for this since I’d already gotten it out to fruitlessly chop dates, pun intended) because I don’t like large chunks of walnut in my breads, and it makes it easier to slice a bit more thinly.

pregnancy, Recipes

Pregnancy Cravings: Cranberry-Date Oatmeal

As I mentioned earlier this week, there is some evidence that eating dates just before childbirth can make things go more easily. This comes from studies that followed women who were either encouraged to eat a certain amount of dates in the last four weeks of pregnancy, versus those who were asked not to eat any dates. This post is a good overview of the research, but the upshot is that eating 60-80g of dates per day could be helpful.

I’ve decided to try to eat around 75g of dates per day. But, unlike my husband, I’ve never actually eaten plain dates. I find them a bit sweet, plus they look a little bit like a cockroach and an olive had a baby. So I’m consuming my date in recipes. Of course, a Larabar will give me about 20-25g of dates, but I can only eat so many Larabars before I get utterly sick of them and start to worry about the cost. I did get a few cases of them from Vitacost, though, during their recent promo, to keep on hand for snacks.

But I thought I’d share some recipes I’ve been enjoying that use dates. The first is an easy breakfast that is an absolutely delicious way to enjoy some autumn flavors, especially since fresh cranberries are readily available in the grocery store right now! I haven’t tried it with any other kind of cranberries, but it might also work with frozen.

Cranberry-Date Oatmeal

Ingredients:

1/3 cup fresh cranberries
25g pitted dates, chopped fine
1 cups water
1/2 cup rolled oats
pinch of salt, cardamom, and ginger
1 Tbsp. pumpkin seeds

  1. Combine the water, cranberries, dates, salt, and spices in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for five minutes, until the cranberries start to burst.
  2. Add the oats to the simmering water and stir. Cook, stirring constantly, until the porridge is thickened.
  3. Serve topped with pumpkin seeds.

Makes one serving

Note: Can also be made in the microwave by combining everything except the pumpkin seeds in a microwave-safe dish, microwaving until cooked, and topping with pumpkin seeds.

Recipes

Pregnancy Cravings: Tea and Cake

This weekend I had my in-laws and my mother over for tea after a lunch to make up for the fact that they couldn’t come to my baby shower. I wanted to do something a little special, and I’ve been craving an autumn-spiced cake, so I thought I’d make a cake. No sooner had I had this thought, than I received an email from the Nourished Kitchen with this beautiful recipe for a maple-sweetened harvest cake with a maple frosting. Unfortunately, I don’t have an electric mixer, so making a Swiss meringue buttercream was out of the question. I discussed it a bit with Jenny on social media and decided that the best course would be to make a whipped maple cream cheese frosting.

Because my mother-in-law and my mother are both careful about caffeine intake, and my mother-in-law loves the spices from masala chai, I thought I’d make a home-blended spice tea to go with the cake. The afternoon was lovely and everyone enjoyed the cake. In fact, as soon as my in-laws left, my mother-in-law text me asking for the recipes for both the tea and the cake. While I gave her a general idea of how I made both, I thought I’d post the official recipes, with my substitutions and alterations for the Nourished Kitchen recipe, for posterity.

Harvest Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

(based on this recipe from the Nourished Kitchen)

For the cake:

1-1/4 cup of einkorn all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp. ground Ceylon cinnamon

2 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg

1/2 tsp. allspice

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

2 eggs

2 Tbsp. melted butter or ghee

3/4 cup maple sugar (or 1/2 cup maple sugar and 1/4 cup brown sugar, if you run out of maple sugar like I did)

6 oz. container of plain yogurt

4 oz. grated butternut squash

2 oz. grated apple

2 oz. grated pear

For the frosting:

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

4 oz. unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup of dark maple syrup

Instructions:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8″ square pan and line it with parchment.
  2. Whisk together the flour, spices, baking soda and powder, and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and maple sugar until light and fluffy, then stream in the melted butter slowly, whisking constantly to emulsify.
  4. Add the flour mixture in thirds and the yogurt in halves, alternating and stirring after each addition. Fold in the grated fruit and veggie.
  5. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 35 minutes, or until a cake test comes out clean.
  6. Cool completely, and then frost.
  7. To prepare the frosting, beat together the butter and cream cheese until fluffy, then add the maple syrup a little at a time, beating until combined and fluffy. If you aren’t using it right away, store in a covered container in the fridge, and let stand at room temperature for half an hour and beat again until fluffy before using.

Masala Spice Tea:

2 Ceylon cinnamon sticks

6-8 cardamom pods, crushed

8-12 allspice berries, crushed

1.5″ piece of fresh ginger, sliced

3-4 pieces of fresh orange peel

Instructions:

  1. Crush the cardamom and allspice, just until cracked and the pods inside the cardamom are exposed. Break up the cinnamon.
  2. Add spices and peel to a saucepan and add 4 cups of water.
  3. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then cover and steep for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Strain into a teapot and serve with honey.
Food and Drink, Recipes

Pregnancy Cravings: Make-Ahead Easy Bean Soup

So in my “eat like a hobbit” post, I mentioned that lately I’ve been eating a lot of soup for lunch. I find that soup is easy to make, keeps for a good amount of time, is easily transported, and is a satisfying meal, especially when served with some fresh bread or cornbread. I’ve been relying on soups for my lunches for years now, and I thought I’d share the really easy version I’ve been making lately.

Since I have no problem eating meat and eggs, I don’t feel the need to eat meat every time I have a meal, but I realize I need to push more plant foods, especially beans, which are rich in the potassium, iron, and folate that I’m certainly in need of lately. I recently discovered that chickpeas have a phenomenal amount of folate. So, while this originally started as a copy-cat recipe of a bean-and-chorizo soup I had in Barcelona, I decided to change it to have more beans and no actual meat (though I do use bone broth for more protein).

This version uses a combination of black beans and chickpeas, since that’s what I had in my cabinet, but you can use any beans you like. I like it a lot with navy beans or black-eyed peas. If you’re not vegetarian, I highly recommend using the bone broth, as it adds a good amount of protein. I like Kettle & Fire brand, since it comes in shelf-stable boxes, but I’ve also used Bonafide Provisions frozen broth. Bonafide comes in 3-cup pouches, so you can stretch the soup a little bit if you use the bigger amount of broth.

I store this soup in 16-oz. mason jars in the fridge if I’m going to eat it within a couple days, or else in the freezer. Do make sure you leave headspace in the jar if you’re planning on freezing them. They defrost pretty readily overnight in the fridge, although I have forgotten to defrost one in the past, and just dipped the jar in hot water until I could release the frozen block of soup into a bowl. I simply reheat in the microwave until it’s bubbling. Typically, I can make a batch of soup on Sunday or Monday, and bring them to work to store in the office fridge or freezer for the rest of the week, which is nice. Anyway, on to the recipe.

Quick and Easy Bean Soup

Ingredients:

1-2 Tbsp. ghee or oil
1 small onion or leek, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
salt and pepper
1-2 Tbsp. good Hungarian paprika
1-2 tsp. garlic powder/granules
1 can of Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes with Roasted Garlic
2 cans of beans, drained
2-3 cups of bone broth (I used one container of Kettle & Fire chicken broth)

  1. Heat a medium pot over medium heat. Add the ghee/oil, and then saute the onion, carrot, and celery in the fat until they’re starting to soften. Add some salt and pepper to taste. Add the paprika and garlic, and stir to combine with the veggies and oil.
  2. Add the tomatoes, drained beans, and broth. Cover and bring to a boil, and then simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  3. Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed, then package or serve. Makes about 4 servings.
Second Trimester

My Pregnant Travels

So as I’ve mentioned before, at the end of July, my husband and I decided to take a trip to Barcelona. It was sort of a babymoon, except that it was really for a conference that he was attending, so it was less of a tourist trip for him than for me. But since I’m kind of an introvert, having the days to tour around and see whatever I wanted without worrying that we weren’t leaving time for the things he wanted to see was a real treat. Of course, we planned the trip around the time I first found out I was pregnant, so there was a little bit of faith involved that I would feel up to traveling internationally, so I thought I’d talk a little bit about how we prepared and what my travel experience was like.

First of all, I made sure to purchase travel insurance. But I didn’t just purchase travel insurance. You see, most travel insurance policies don’t cover any issues related to an existing pregnancy, so if I’d bought my insurance policy before becoming pregnant, I’d be fine, but since I was already pregnant, they wouldn’t recognize a lot of issues (including doctor-mandated bed rest) as a reason to cancel. So I made sure to buy the absolute top-of-the-line policy, which allowed me to recoup 75% of my expenses if we cancelled for any reason. It was better than no protection at all, and it was only a couple hundred dollars extra. Compared to the couple thousand dollars I was spending on a plane ticket, I figured it was worth it.

Luckily, I didn’t have to use my travel insurance because everything went according to plan, in terms of my pregnancy! By the time I got to 18 weeks, I was consistently feeling not-nauseous and was confident I would be able to survive not only the 8-hour-each-way flights, but also a week away from home. Other preparations I made for the trip were having my doctor print out all my pregnancy-related medical records to date, buying some compression stockings, and researching tap water safety in Barcelona (it’s safe, but some people find it icky because it has a high mineral content). Before I knew it, we were heading to the airport!

We were lucky that all our flights were on time and we had gotten direct flights both ways. On the way out, I didn’t bother seeing if I could board early, but on the way home I did, and that was even nicer to be able to board, get settled, and even use the bathroom once before everyone piled onto the plane. The flights weren’t terrible, although on the way out, it was a little rough at first and I did take a Dramamine. But a few movies and a short nap later, we were in Barcelona! I managed to have to pee before getting in the customs line, and another flight came in while I was in the bathroom, so we ended up at the end of a very long line, but the employees were really good about shuffling me further ahead in the line so I didn’t have to wait as long. The customs agent even yelled at my husband (because he speaks Spanish) that he should have said something sooner.

The week in Barcelona was excellent. I walked a lot. It’s quite hilly in places, but I made sure to bring lots of water and take breaks when I needed them. My one tip is to buy sunscreen when you get there because you will need a lot of it and it doesn’t fit in a carry-on bag. It was nice to only have carry-on-sized luggage while we were going to our hotel on the first day. I also found that the people in Barcelona were incredibly helpful and understanding of not speaking Spanish or Catalan. I had tried to pick up some of both languages, but my pregnant brain just feels mushy while trying to learn languages right now, so I picked up most of my Spanish (and a tiny bit of Catalan) on the fly while touring around by myself during the day. By mid-week, I could easily order food and converse with the hotel receptionist!

Oh, and of course the best part about Barcelona was the food! Other than not drinking alcohol (I had the occasional sip of my husband’s) and not eating raw meat/egg/cheese, pregnancy didn’t really affect what I ate. I ate more vegetables and seafood that I had in the previous four months! The tomatoes, in particular, were amazing everywhere I had them. We even had a lunch at a restaurant owned by a famous chef, where we had our meal hand-selected with the waiter to make sure I could eat everything, and it was amazing. He even checked with the chef that the house-made feta cheese was made with pasteurized milk (which it was!).

I would love to go back to Barcelona. I feel like I saw a tiny fraction of what the city had to offer, despite being busy most of the day, and I’d also love to go back when I can drink wine and eat jamon! But I am so glad I decided to go with Dan to see the city instead of worrying that I wouldn’t enjoy it. I felt great — I think I felt better after a week in Barcelona than I did before we left! And it was an experience I will always remember.

Recipes

Pregnancy Cravings: Delicious Sorta-Healthy Belgian Waffles

Last week, I posted about my craving for waffles. Now, I anticipated this craving and stocked my freezer with some toaster waffles. And then I promptly forgot I had them when in the midst of a craving. I woke up one morning, decided I needed to make Belgian waffles. I told my husband I wanted waffles for breakfast and wandered downstairs while he was showering. When he came down, he saw that I’d taken up pretty much every available surface in the kitchen with my culinary endeavor. He stopped, momentarily struck speechless by how quickly I’d spread out, and then said “You had toaster waffles. Why did you make so many dishes?” I shrugged and said I wanted “real” waffles, but really, I’d completely forgotten about the waffles in the freezer.

The good news is that now I have “real” waffles in the freezer because I made an entire batch of Belgian waffles so that I could eat one for breakfast (and maybe one an hour or so later when I was hungry again because pregnancy). So for the next couple of cravings, I can probably just heat up a waffle I made previously instead of making more dishes again. Assuming I remember I have them.

Now, if I was going to make waffles from scratch, I decided I wanted them to be sorta-healthy. So I pulled out my trusty Alton Brown waffle recipe, which uses a half-and-half mixture of whole wheat and white flours to increase the nutrition level a bit. Then, I used sprouted wheat flour as the wheat flour and high-extraction einkorn flour for the white flour because supposedly their healthier. Also, I have them in the pantry because I used them in a muffin recipe recently and actually they’re probably the freshest flours I own right now. Anyway, what resulted were delicious, light and crispy waffles. Here’s how I made them:

Sorta-Healthy Belgian Waffles

Ingredients:

1 cup sprouted spelt flour
1 cup einkorn all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 6-oz. container plain, whole-milk yogurt, mixed with enough almond milk to make 2 cups total (see note)
3 eggs
1/2 stick of butter, melted

  1. Mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  2. In another container, mix the yogurt, almond milk, eggs, and butter.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix together.
  4. Heat your waffle iron and spoon the batter into the iron, cooking according to the manufacturer’s directions.
  5. Keep waffles warm in a 200F oven while you cook them all, or cool them on a wire rack and freeze leftovers.
  6. Serve with butter and syrup, or fruit and whipped cream, or whatever your heart desires.

Makes about 4-5 Belgian-sized waffles.

Note: I used New Barn Original Almond Milk, which is higher in fat than other brands of almond milk, and is lightly sweetened with maple syrup. If you use unsweetened almond milk, you may want to add a teaspoon or so of maple syrup to your batter.