Crumbly Carrot and Rhubarb Muffins & Raspberry Chia Jam

Hi WordPress friends! I’ve been blogging over at Squarespace for about a year now and wanted to check in here to share my new blog URL and a link to a couple new seasonal recipes adapted from the My New Roots cookbook.  You can subscribe to Funky Beets by typing in your email on the right hand side bar of the site to get updates on what’s cooking in my kitchen. Check it all out at www.funkybeetsblog.com — thanks so much for your support!

In other news, I’ve been published! My food writing appeared in this Sunday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  Check out the link below to find the online version of my story on how to throw a laid back picnic party complete with light and tasty recipes to impress your friends without turning on the oven!

http://www.jsonline.com/features/parties/pick-fresh-light-dishes-for-perfect-picnic-party-fare-b99498244z1-304605071.htmlraspberry chia jam

Wholesome Homemade Peanut Butter Eggs

Did you ever notice how many of your most beloved childhood foods taste better in your memory that in real life? It’s kind of sad and yet somehow fascinating; now that I eat mostly whole foods and try to steer clear of added artificial crap, those treats I adored as a child taste eerily fake and often leave a lingering plasticky taste in my mouth. Don’t get me wrong, I can get down on a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch or an ice cream sandwich from time to time, but as a general rule the edible foodlike substances of my youth have lost their luster.

Wholesome Homemade Peanut Butter Eggs

Reese’s peanut butter cups fall into this category. I remember those commercials that would feature all the different ways to go about eating your Reese’s. My favorite one was to poke a perfect hole in the middle, eat that first and then nibble away at the grooved, rigid outer ring. Now when I eat a Reese’s, all I taste is a fistfight between salt and sugar with a hint of peanut butter flavor egging them on in the background (no pun intended). So when I saw a recipe for copycat Reese’s peanut butter eggs on Pinterest, I was all about making a revamped version of my old Easter basket fav.

These tasty nuggets of joy are made from just seven wholesome ingredients. The texture is freakishly similar to the store bought ones, but the taste is supremely better. Coated in bittersweet chocolate and scented lightly with vanilla and cinnamon, these actually “taste of what they are” which is mostly straight-up peanut butter. Coconut flour is the binder and thickener for the filling, maple syrup sweetens the deal just a touch. As long as you can form a semi-reasonable egg shape and refrain from licking your fingers every five minutes while coating these, you should be just as successful in making them as I was. Happy Easter. Have a wonderful weekend of renewal, reunion, and refreshment.

Ingredient note: Coconut flour is soft flour produced from dried coconut as a natural byproduct of coconut milk production. As my friend Elizabeth, who introduced me to this versatile, gluten-free flour, has pointed out, “it’s almost all fiber” and for this reason, it absorbs liquid like a sponge and cannot be substituted for AP flour in a 1:1 ratio. It’s best to use coconut flour in recipes that were created with this ingredient in mind, like this one or this one!

Coconut flour is an exceptionally good source of the essential micronutrient manganese. Manganese helps our bodies optimally utilize choline and biotin (found in eggs), vitamin C and thiamin. Manganese also supports a healthy skeletal and nervous system and promotes thyroid health.

Coconut flour can be found in most well-stocked grocery stores (Bob’s Red Mill has a version) as well as in the bulk section at many natural food stores (including the Milwaukee-area’s Outpost Natural Foods).

Wholesome Homemade Peanut Butter Eggs

Wholesome Homemade Peanut Butter Eggs

adapted from My Whole Food Life
makes about 16 “eggs”

Ingredients:

For the filling:

1 cup natural peanut butter (ingredient list: peanuts, salt)
1/4 cup coconut flour
3 Tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp cinnamon

For the chocolate coating:

1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 ½ Tbsp almond milk (or milk of choice)

*alternatively you can combine 1/4 cup melted coconut oil, 1/4 cup cocoa powder and 2-3 Tbsp maple syrup or honey to make your chocolate coating*

Method:

Combine the peanut butter, coconut flour, maple syrup, vanilla and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Mix well using an immersion blender, food processor, or a fork and a very strong arm.  The filling should be similar to the texture of cookie dough. If it’s more runny than that, add a tiny bit more coconut flour.Wholesome Homemade Peanut Butter Eggs

With clean hands, shape the mixture into about 16 eggs (~ 1 Tbsp of filling per egg). Hint: make sure they’re tapered at the top and more rounded and wide at the bottom, this is the key to a convincing egg. 🙂IMG_0233

Place the “eggs” on a lined baking sheet and stick them in the freezer while you heat up the chocolate, at least 5 minutes.

Using a double boiler over simmering water, melt the chocolate chips and milk together until smooth and creamy. Remove chocolate from heat and retrieve the eggs from the freezer.

Roll each egg in the chocolate until covered and place them back on the lined baking sheet. (There is no right way to do this. You can use two forks, a spoon, or your fingers. It’s a bit tedious and you may have to put the eggs back into the freezer halfway through to prevent them from melting in their hot chocolate bath, but you’ll get through it and by George, it will be worth it.)

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Stick the eggs back in the freezer to let the chocolate set for an hour or two, storing them there until ready to share.

Wholesome Homemade Peanut Butter Eggs

Guaranteed to be a hit with bunnies, rabbits and even the occasional hare at your holiday gathering.

Oat-tastic Cookies with Semisweet Chocolate Chips

It’s been a spell since I last posted, folks. School became pretty intense for a while there: I was blessed with the challenge of creating and carrying out a lesson plan to teach 7th and 8th graders about the connections between sugar consumption, obesity, and diabetes. At first blush this seemed like a straightforward task, but the lines between these three “epidemics” of our nation are more blurred that you might think. Perhaps there will be more on that in another post, this one’s about cookies.

Then last week I had my wisdom teeth taken out, an experience from which I gleaned a deep-seated gratitude for the ability to eat solid food. Even just 6 days of milkshakes, mashed potatoes, and pureed soups left me fantasizing about biting into a juicy cheeseburger or a fish taco or anything with more than a singular taste and texture. I haven’t graduated to caramel apples or chips and salsa yet, but I’m glad to report we made perfectly medium-rare grassfed burgers on the grill last night and I was able to satisfy my craving quite successfully.

And here I am now, on a gray Sunday morning taking in the sounds of robins welcoming spring: cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up and a pot of oatmeal amiably bubbling away on the stove (make that burning away on the stove, oops.)

Today’s recipe is for cookies I shared at dietetic student “eat and greet” (we organized as the dietetics club board a couple weeks ago). Sharing an hour of conversation with smart and dynamic women was a welcome respite from the harried school week. But I think maybe it was the promise of these cookies that auspiciously brought us all together. 😉

Oat-tastic Chocolate Chip Cookies

I found the recipe in a cookbook I borrowed from the library: The Kinfolk Table. It calls for vegetable shortening rather than the more commonplace butter. The payoff is a denser, more robust chew that preserves the luscious, fat-coated crumb of classic oatmeal cookies.

The oatmeal to flour ratio in these bad boys is 3:1, perfect for cookies that are both acceptable breakfast fare and nearly-guiltless nighttime snack. I switched out the AP flour for whole wheat pastry, my MO for most all baked goods. The vegetable shortening I use is a non-hydrogenated, organic palm oil made by Spectrum, who quells my fears of being an accomplice to orangutan murder with this pleasant blurb: “we craft our shortening from sustainably harvested organic palm oil sourced from dozens of small family farmers in Colombia.” (Palm oil has a rather complex reputation which you can read about here.) That said, if you’re leery of the ingredient you can certainly use butter, the texture will just be slightly different, as noted by the original recipe’s author.

Kinfolk Table cookbook

The recipe note also recommends combining all ingredients by hand, stating that using an electric mixer will alter the intended texture. (I gather the texture is paramount to the success of these cookies.) I must disclose I still used my Kitchen Aid to cream the butter and sugars, but the rest of the ingredients I mixed in manually.

The dough should be refrigerated for at least one hour before baking to ensure, you guessed it, optimal texture. For a fascinating NYT read on how cookie outcomes improve as dough is allowed longer fridge time, click here. Well, this post has taken me almost two hours to write, so I’m just going to get down to the recipe now, which is what you came here for anyway, right?

Oat-tastic Cookies with Semisweet Chocolate Chips

adapted from Julie Pointer’s recipe in The Kinfolk Table
Makes about 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup organic vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs, beaten
1½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
3 cups whole rolled oats (not quick cooking)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Oat-tastic Chocolate Chip Cookies

Method:

In a large bowl, combine the sugars and shortening and mix until creamy. Add in the vanilla, salt, baking soda, and eggs, and stir until just combined.

Combine the flour, oats, and chocolate chips. Incorporate these into the wet ingredients in three or four additions, stirring until mixture is more or less uniform. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour until the dough is chilled and firm.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place a rack in the center of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Using a spoon, or in my case a melon-baller, scoop the dough into approximately 2 tablespoon spheres and place them on the prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Press the dough down gently with your fingertips.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the cookie edges just begin to brown, rotating the sheets halfway through if your oven bakes unevenly.

Transfer the baking sheets to a rack and cool for 5 minutes then transfer the cookies directly to the rack and cool completely, about 30 minutes (eat at least three before they cool).

Serve or store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Oat-tastic Chocolate Chip Cookie // funkybeetss

Sublime Lemony Goat Cheese Cheesecake

goat on the roof of Al Johnson's

Here’s a photo of a goat on the roof of Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant in Door County, WI.  I took this photo the weekend my husband and I got engaged (swoon). Here’s a link to the Goat Cam where you can check out what those crazy goats are up to.  If you look now (January 29, 2014), you’ll see a goatless root covered with snow, but check back in May and you’ll see bright green grass and maybe some fine-lookin’ goat specimens! Henyway…

Why am I yucking it up about goats? Because I made this obnoxiously good goat cheese cheesecake yesterday. Yes that’s a mouthful, which is what you’ll want to have many of once you try this recipe.

goat cheese cheesecake

I had never made a cheesecake before. I thought it would be complicated and easy to fail at, but in reality it wasn’t too tough. Having a stand mixer made it simpler, as the recipe asks you to whip eggs whites to form soft peaks. And herein my friends lies the secret to the cloud-like texture of this cheesecake: whipped egg whites. Traditionally, cheesecake is dense, right? This one is a whole other animal.  It’s almost like cheesecake and angel food cake shacked up and popped out a lovechild. This lovechild happens to be flecked with sunny lemon zest, which plays well with the tanginess of goat cheese, the true star of this dessert.

Fresh goat cheese, which is usually sold in a log-shaped package, is soft and similar in consistency to cream cheese, but less dense. Aside from the unique flavor it lends, goat cheese is also a nice choice because it’s easier for some people to digest than cheeses made with cow milk. Goat milk only contains very small amounts of alpha-S1, an allergenic casein protein in cow milk. Goat milk also has less lactose than cow milk, potentially making it a better option for those with lactose-intolerance. (If you are allergic to cow milk, speak with your practitioner before trying the goat version.)

It’s been cold here, cold enough to call off school and close local businesses.  But the sun’s been pouring through the windows, the snow’s been sparkling and I can see a tiny speck of light that is spring at the end of this frigid tunnel.  All is well; there’s seven eighths of a lemon-flecked crustless goat cheese cheesecake in my fridge.

goat cheese cheesecake 2

This recipe comes from Bon Appetit, which I modified slightly by using whole wheat pastry flour rather than all purpose

Ingredients:

Unsalted butter (for pan)

3/4 cup sugar plus more for pan, plus 1 tsp for egg whites

12 ounces fresh soft goat cheese, room temperature

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 large eggs, separated into whites and yolks

3 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour

mixed berries for topping (optional)

Special Equipment: 9-inch-diameter springform pan

Method:

1) Preheat oven to 350°. Butter springform pan and dust lightly with sugar.

2) Using an electric (stand or hand) mixer, beat at medium speed: goat cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla, and 3/4 cup sugar until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes (take a taste!)

3) Add egg yolks in three additions, beating at medium speed to blend, scraping down the bowl as needed.  Turn off mixer and stir in flour by hand until just blended.  Set mixture aside.

4) Using clean, dry beaters (or whisk attachment), whip egg whites and 1 tsp sugar in a separate bowl until soft peaks form.

5) Fold half of the egg whites into goat cheese and yolk mixture just until blended; fold in remaining egg whites just until blended.  The “batter” should be foamy and light; pour it into the springform pan and tap lightly to level.

6) Bake cheesecake 30-35 minutes until the top is set but still jiggles a bit in the center 30. (I let mine go a bit too long; pull it out as soon as edges are slightly browned.)  Transfer cheesecake to cooling rack; let cool completely in pan before removing outer springform ring.

Serve cold or at room temperature, topped with berries if you so desire.

Nutrition information, courtesy of Bon Appetit:

8 servings, 1 serving contains: Calories: 240 Fat: 13g Saturated Fat 7g Cholesterol 180mg Carbohydrates 22 g Dietary Fiber 1g Total Sugars 17g Protein 13g Sodium 210 mg

goat cheese cheesecake 3 IMG_0108

Homemade Almond Milk and Almond Meal Thumbprint Cookies – plus Quinoa for Breakfast!

I love the fresh feeling that a new year swirls into life.  Even though I don’t have a laundry list of resolutions this go round, I’m laced with the desire to take small steps of self improvement.  One that’s been on my mind is increasing my self-sufficiency, becoming less reliant on convenience and ready-made products and more apt to make things myself or improvise with something I’ve already got.  It’s so easy for me to go to the store any time and buy most ANY thing I want or need, but what if I first comb through a few forgotten basement alternatives or YouTube how to fix the thing I already have, or gosh, even just hit up Goodwill before heading to Target?  I figure this could be good for my soul and my pocketbook.

Another small change I’d like to work on is generating less food waste.  This summer I read Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal which embraces economical cooking: not wasting the parts of food we tend to throw away.  I tried some of her tricks but then got a little lazy (and also tired of all the broccoli stems and cauliflower cores building up in my fridge), but I’m willing to try again with some New-Year-zaza energy!

The recipes that follow are manifestations of these two small changes: homemade almond milk to prove I can do it myself (without carageenan and potassium sorbate to boot!) and almond meal thumbprint cookies to showcase how delicious and worth keeping the “byproduct” of almond milk can be.  Then, in celebration of all our New Year clean-eating intentions, there’s a recipe for tummy-friendly quinoa breakfast porridge simmered with chocolate almond milk and topped with pecans and cinnamon.  Happy New Year.

freshly soaked almonds

Homemade Almond Milk

Ingredients: 

2 cups almonds

6 cups filtered water

pinch of salt

optional add-ins: cinnamon, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, maple syrup

almond nuggets of joy

Method:

1. In a large bowl, cover almonds with 2 inches of water.  Let soak for 8-12 hours.

2. Drain and rinse almonds.

3. In a blender, combine 2 cups almonds and 6 cups filtered water. Blend on high speed for 3 minutes, or until almonds are completely pulverized and liquid is milky in color and consistency.  Add salt and any flavorings and blend on low until incorporated.

4. To strain almond milk, set a strainer over a large bowl or pitcher. Line strainer with cheesecloth.  Slowly pour the milk from the blender into the lined strainer, watching to make sure it doesn’t overflow.

5. Allow milk to drain for a minute or so.  Now, the fun part: gather cheesecloth ends to form a pouch, making sure the almond meal is totally enclosed in the cloth.  Next, with clean hands squeeze the pouch in all different spots, wringing out every last drop of milk.

6. Transfer your almond milk to an airtight container and store in the fridge.  Shake well before use.  It should last about a week!

*To utilize the leftover almond meal, heat your oven to 200°F.  Pour almond meal out of the cheesecloth onto a baking sheet with raised sides and spread it into an even layer.  Dry almond meal in the oven for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10.  Almond meal is done when fluffy and mostly dry but not crispy or sand-like.*

almond meal

Almond Meal Thumbprint Cookies 

makes about 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup natural cane sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

½ tsp almond extract

¼ tsp sea salt

almond meal from 3 cups almonds (~2 cups meal)

jam or preserves of choice (I used raspberry jam, because raspberry and almonds are the KimYe of baking, duh.)

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F and cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, combine softened butter and sugar.  Whisk until light and fluffy.  Stir in the egg, vanilla, almond extract, and salt.  Add the almond meal and stir to combine, making sure there are no dry spots.

3. Gently roll dough into tablespoon-sized balls and place on your cookie sheet at least two inches apart. Make a “thumbprint” in the middle of each cookie.

4. Bake cookies for 9-10 minutes or until they’re just beginning to crack and brown slightly.

5. While cookies are still cooling, fill the thumbprints with about ½ – 1 teaspoon of jam.  Cool completely before serving.  I also made some without jam and they are almost as delicious.

almond meal cookies IMG_0746

Quinoa Breakfast Porridge

Ingredients:

½ cup quinoa, rinsed

¾ cup almond milk

¼ cup water

¼ tsp cardamom

½ tsp cinnamon

pinch of salt

toppings of choice (see below)

Method:

1. In a small saucepan, combine quinoa, milk, water, spices and salt.

2. Bring mixture to a boil for a few seconds, then reduce heat to a low simmer and cover, cooking for 15 minutes.

3. Turn off heat and allow quinoa to sit covered for another 15 minutes.  After sitting, remove pan lid and fluff quinoa with a fork.

4. Serve this quinoa porridge warm with more homemade almond milk poured over the top (chocolate almond milk preferred!).  Other yummy toppings include: chopped nuts, banana slices, maple syrup, and more cinnamon.

quinoa for breakfast

Sweet Potato Pie with Creamy Vanilla Swirl, People!

Just as there are dog people and cat people, there are most definitely pie people and cake people.  I’d say most dog people are pie people, and many cat people are cake people, but let’s not get into it, okay?  I am both a dog and pie person, but I think even cat-loving cake people will enjoy this pie.

I whipped this baby up for a family get-together during the Christmas season.  It went over swimmingly, with only an enigmatic trapezoid-shaped slice left at the end.  For the love of my GF aunt, it’s wheat-free and the crust is made of (GF) gingersnaps!  Daintily swirled with vanilla scented cream cheese and permeated with soul-warming spices, this pie offers melt in your mouth comfort but doesn’t weigh you down like that slice of triple chocolate cheesecake you wish you hadn’t had.  Beckoning you with loads of vitamin A and antioxidant-laden spices, this is the kind of pie you may have to have a second slice of.

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I came across the recipe in Eating Well magazine, this year’s holiday issue to be exact, which I promptly plastered with post-it notes because ALL the recipes looked amazing.  Aside from this pie, I also made an awesome quinoa & beet salad they featured in a section on ancient grains (pictured below).  The process is simpler if you have a food processor or blender. If not, I’d reluctantly suggest buying canned sweet potato, or better yet, go to Goodwill and hunt down a secondhand blending appliance!  I ❤ my immersion blender.

I adapted this recipe from Eating Well.  I changed a few things, first switching out traditional store-bought gingersnaps for gluten free ones (Mi-Del brand are awesome; try not to eat them all before you make the pie).  I also substituted European-style yogurt for the called-for vanilla Greek variety, (it’s what I had in the fridge and was an easy way cut out some of the added sugar) and then added a teaspoon of vanilla extract. I made the crust with coconut oil instead of canola and bumped up the spices a couple notches.  The sweet potatoes should be roasted in the oven, but can surely be microwaved in a pinch.

Go on, have your pie, and eat it too!

Sweet Potato Pie with Creamy Vanilla Swirl

Prep: 40 minutes              Cooking & cooling time: 4 ½ hours

Serves: however many slices you cut it into : )

Ingredients:

2 medium-large sweet potatoes

6 ounces crispy, gluten free (Mi-del brand) gingersnap cookies (26-28 small cookies)

2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

3/4 cup plain (European-style or Greek) yogurt , divided

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 large egg yolk

1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon allspice

1/4  cup (2 ounces) reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel)

3 tablespoons powdered sugar

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Method:

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Wrap sweet potatoes in foil and place on a baking sheet. Roast until very tender (test with fork), about an hour. Carefully unwrap and set aside to cool.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°.

Process gingersnaps in a food processor until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl, add coconut oil and stir until well combined.

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Using your fingers, spread and pat the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie pan.

Bake until just barely beginning to darken and your kitchen smells like a gingerbread man’s butthole, about 10 minutes.

Wipe out the food processor workbowl of any lingering gingersnap crumbs.

Peel the sweet potatoes and transfer to the food processor. Puree until smooth, then measure out 1 ½ cups of sweet potato (if you have extra puree, reserve it for another use or eat it, NOW). Return the 1 ½ cups puree to the food processor and add brown sugar, 1/2 cup of the yogurt, eggs, egg yolk, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice; pulse just until combined.

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Pour the sweet potato filling into the (possibly still warm) crust and spread to distribute evenly.

Clean and dry the workbowl.  Add the remaining 1/4 cup yogurt, vanilla extract, Neufchâtel cream cheese, powdered sugar and ginger.  Puree until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed.

Now, the fun part(!!!)  Plop tablespoonfuls of the cream cheese mixture onto the sweet potato filling, spacing them evenly. Draw the tip of a wooden skewer or a butter knife through the cream cheese mixture and sweet potato filling repeatedly to create a whimsical swirled design.

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Bake the pie until firm to the touch and starting to puff around the edges, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack, at least 2 hours.  Cracks may occur, don’t cry; you’re about to experience heaven… in pie form.  Now go adopt a Weimaraner and call it a day.

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And here, the lovely ruby-hued quinoa & beet salad:

quinoa beet salad