Sunday, January 25, 2015

Flavor of the week || 01

I thought it be fun to add a weekly link list style post back into the line-up around here. It seemed a little too ambitious since I'm still adjusting to life with two little ones and easing back into freelance work - then I realized I could use my weekly meal planning as blog fodder. Basically - I'm brilliant*. 

And while I was thinking of it, two different friends mentioned that they struggle with meal planning. It is hard! You can make a perfectly detailed plan for each day of the week and it will completely unravel by Wednesday because you forgot to turn on the slow cooker or your 3 year old suddenly detests chicken.  So here's how I like to do it: I pick 3 recipes each week and shop for those, but then I also make sure to shop for 2 or 3 'back pocket' dishes (these are things I can throw together quickly without a recipe - think breakfast for dinner or quesadillas). This strategy gives me the flexibility that suits my family (my husband and I are both free-lance workers making each work day different). I typically grocery shop on Tuesdays and we pretty much always have pizza on Friday nights.

So here's what's cooking in our house this week:
- this bread recipe from King Arthur Flour on my quest for perfect sandwich bread
- need to make a batch of my Broccoli Stalk Pesto to make Pesto Chicken Wraps for school lunch
- using up some leftover Cherrios, Kix, and Rice Crispies to make a riff on this recipe.
- making a batch of Alton Brown's Miso Soup for work-from-home lunches for myself

for dinners:
- Crispy Chicken with Garlicky Collards - I'm using up some crackers instead of using cereal and Ella and I will make some cornbread too (from a mix, no shame.)
- Baked Teriyaki Meatballs Orange Sesame Broccoli (because even though Ella loves it, I'm kinda tired of roasted broccoli) with baked brown rice
-  Chickpea Burgers with Crispy Carrot Fries - I haven't made these in forever.

backpocket recipes: Chicken & Black bean Burritos - which 90% of the time we make without the chicken. Faux Fried Rice (oh, how I need to update that photo.)

Phew! What are you cooking this weekend? And what do you consider a 'back pocket' dish?

*(ok, I'm totally not - my friend Janssen at everyday reading gave me the idea).

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Blueberry Streusel Muffins

Binge, bender, jag - I get on these kicks, these I-can't-stop-obsessing-on-this-thing kicks. For instance, we ate this salad once a week, every week this summer and often times I also ate the leftovers for lunch. Its not just recipes either - I'm currently binging on books. I can go a few months without reading more than a magazine and then I get on a book bend and - poof - I'm gone. I've read three books this week and I'm trying to decide what to read next. Suggestions welcome.

I've also got a bit of a bread bend going. If you follow me on Instagram you know I'm currently on a quest for my ideal sandwich bread recipe. Last week I made a batch of soft pretzels just because it was a grey drizzly day. And muffins, I've come down with a case of the muffins.

In culinary school, there was kind of this running joke amongst us baking-and-pastry folks that muffins are kinda like the medicore back-up singers of the pastry world. I mean, they're no cupcake! Muffins are fine and lovely, but when you choose a muffin for breakfast what you're really saying is - 'I wish I was having a cupcake'. And let's be honest, muffins aren't really that much healthier than cupcakes. Sure, they usually have some fruit thrown in, but they're still full of sugar and fat.

I had forgotten how lovely a really good a muffin could be! I made a version of these muffins for Ella's preschool birthday treat with chopped strawberries and mini chocolate chips, which we all adored. I didn't want to sugar-load a bunch of 3 year olds with full sized cupcakes, but a muffin is sweet enough to feel like a treat, without too much sugar, plus like I said before, there's fruit in there! I've made another batch with diced pears. Today I needed to use up some blueberries that had been in the freezer a little too long. You can basically use any fruit you want here.

And easy, muffins can be thrown together in less time than it takes Ella to watch an episode of 'My Little Pony' - which is important because those 21 minutes of peace are more precious than gold.  My secrets to a really delicious muffin are yogurt instead of buttermilk in the batter and streusel on top. Streusel makes everything better*.

Some tips for muffin baking:
Do not over mix - Whisk together your dry ingredients, stir together your wet ingredients, and bring them together gently or you'll end up with a tough muffin.

 Use an ice cream scoop or fisher to make each muffin exactly the same size. Bake your muffins in a rising oven (I actually learned this from biscuit baking)

Preheat the oven to 375 degree fahrenheit but crank it up to 400 when you put the muffins in.

Cool the muffins in the pan for a few minutes before moving to a cooling rack.

*actual fact

Blueberry Streusel Muffins
yield: 12 muffins

streusel topping:
½ cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup light brown sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

blueberry muffins:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup greek yogurt (or buttermilk, which I never seem to have on hand)
1 large egg
½ cup canola or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen,

Heat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit. Line a 12 cup cupcake, er, muffin pan with paper cups.

Make the streusel: Stir together the 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Work the butter into the flour an sugar until it resembles coarse crumbs and holds together when pressed. Refrigerate while you prepare the muffin batter.

Whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, egg, oil and vanilla. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until combined. Batter will be thick. Fold in the blueberries.

Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups - about a 1/2 cup of batter per cup. Sprinkle streusel over the top.

Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees fahrenheit. Bake for about 20 minutes until the topping turns golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Let cool for about five minutes, then remove muffins from trepan and cool on a wire rack.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies for Lactation

Brace yourselves friends, I'm going to talk about breast feeding again. Just over three years ago I shared my choice to stop breastfeeding Ella when she was just 7 weeks. At the time, it felt like such a hard heavy decision and disappointment, but now that she's basically a grown up (as in she turned three last week) it seems so silly to have cried over breast milk. 

I was exclaiming to a friend recently how different the second baby experience has been than the first, to which the friend replied "Of course, its different. You're a whole other person than you were 3 years ago!" Duh. Being a mom to Ella prepared me to be a mom for Emmett. My breastfeeding experience with Emmett has also been tremendously easier. 

One thing I learned between Ella and Emmett is that there is a whole list of foods that are actually reported to increase a mother's milk supply naturally. Galactagogues are foods that naturally promote breast milk production. While little scientific data exists, anecdotal evidence suggests that consuming food such as fennel, chickpeas, or papaya will help breast feeding mothers. Oats and other whole grains and beer are also reported to have the same affect. 

There's a small niche of food companies working to full fill the needs of nursing mother's and I actually stumbled upon the idea of lactation cookies through Amazon (which has saved me too many times during these "new mom of two" times). I tried a few pre-made cookies as well as some mixes for "milk maker" cookies cookies. Whether they actually worked or there was just a placebo affect - I decided to create my own cookies.

These 'lactation' cookies are a hack of my favorite oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. Oats are regularly prescribed to nursing mamas for milk supply. Flaxseed meal and brewer's yeast are added for the same reason and both were easily found at my local Whole Foods Market (you can also order both on Amazon). I've decreased the chocolate (which can some times upset tiny tummies) and messed with the sugar ratio a bit. 

I wasn't even planning to share this recipe, but this is seriously the best oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe I have ever had. The edges are crisp but the rest of the cookie is pleasantly chewy, there's just the right amount of cinnamon and chocolate. And here's the thing - you can't taste the flaxseed or brewer's yeast - so unless you tell them no one would ever know that this cookie helps with lactation. 

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies for Lactation 
Makes 3 dozen cookies

These cookies are designed to help breast feeding mamas increase their milk supply. They will not introduce lactation in Dads, kiddos or neighbors - so feel free to share. If you just want to enjoy these as the best oatmeal chocolate chip cookies - omit the brewer's yeast but leave the flaxseed meal and be sure to refrigerate the dough as directed below.

1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup brewer's yeast
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Combine the water and flax seed meal in a small bowl and set aside. Beat together the butter and sugars in until lightened and fluffy. Add the water-flax mixture, eggs, and vanilla extract and beat until well combined. Add the flour, brewer's yeast, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon and stir to combine.  Finally add the oats and chocolate chips and stir to incorporate.

Scoop the dough into 2 tablespoon sized rounds and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake 12 cookies at a time on parchment lined sheet pans for 8 to12 minutes. The edges should be golden brown and the middles should look slightly damp still - cool for 2 minutes on the pan. Then remove to a cooling rack.