Consider Beets

Moist, vegan, delightful

There aren’t many words that can describe the earthy sweet taste that beets have to offer. I am often reminded of rainy summer afternoons as I start to smell their caramelizing sugars emit a candy-like aroma into the air, just as they are ready to come out of the oven. And just like that, beets are ready to be enjoyed with pretty much anything that you can imagine.

While it’s easy to dismiss beets because they are too hard, too messy, or too healthy for some people, most condemn beets to a lifetime of juicing duty where they never have an opportunity to showcase their vibrant flavors.  Well, I give beets an opportunity to be anything they want to be in my kitchen, so long as the end result is delicious. I am up for any adventure.

It took a bit more than a few tantalizing adjectives to convince most to try this chocolate beet breakfast bread. For most, the fat-kid factor was just not there..”too healthy” , they dismissed….. And yet, less than a week after it was baked, the whole damn thing has been eaten. It is gone. Finito!

Baking this bread has taught me a couple things; that chocolate and beets are very good friends, and that perhaps they should just be married and live happily ever after in a far away land where they can be eaten by unsuspecting people who have no clue how delicious they will be but will then be blown away by their deliciousness. OK, enough, I’ll just share the recipe and let anyone interested in giving beets a chance judge for themselves.

CHOCOLATE + BEET BREAKFAST BREAD

  • 15 oz beets (roasted until soft, then pureed) Note: if you’re short on time, you may use canned beets (not pickled) However, roasting them in the oven caramelizes their natural sugars and creates a multidimensional sweetness that is hard to match with canned beets.
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup flavorless oil (canola, grapeseed, light olive oil)
  • 3 eggs
  • Zest from 1 lemon 
  • 1 1/2 cups  all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

PROCEDURE (Preheat oven to 325  degrees fahrenheit)

  1. Drain beets of all juice, puree beets and slowly add juice until a smooth consistency is reached. Similar to applesauce. ( My Ninja blender pureed my beets well but left them with a strange chunky consistency. This tricked my friend into thinking they were chocolate chips. Definite WIN!
  2. Using a stand mixer, mix beet puree, eggs, sugar, oil, and lemon zest on medium.  Mix for 5-10 minutes, this will allow air to incorporate into the eggs and will create a fluffier end result.
  3. In another mixing bowl, while wet ingredients are mixing, mix all dry ingredients.
  4. Incorporate dry ingredients into wet ingredients. Make sure dry ingredients are completely incorporated into wet ingredients. Careful not to over mix
  5. Pour batter into a 9 inch loaf pan that has been greased.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test, in which a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out with moist  crumbly-looking crumbs on it.) The center of the loaf should feel hard and slightly hollow when tapped.
  7. Enjoy with soft goat cheese, a nice spin on the ever so popular goat cheese and beets!! 

WHY YOU NEED TO BE EATING THIS NOW!!!

  1. Because beets are extremely healthy and they promote lots of constipation-free days =) 
  2. Because beets rock! Like applesauce tends to do with baked goods, beets will add a desirable moisture to the bread.

All this citrus!!

It’s funny how after a long 40 hour week of work in a kitchen I just want to come home and relax…….IN A KITCHEN! Ah yes! I enjoy the soothing hum of my KitchainAid as it obidiently carries out my orders to mix, blend, and whisk and the precision of my scale to guide me through my science/art experiment acurately. Why do I love this so much you ask? Because baking is just like an art project that requires science and that can be eaten afterwards. Because it always makes SOMEONE happy, baking is always a win!

The baking bug bit me this weekend as I wondered what to do with the pounds of oranges and lemons that had made their way into the kitchen in only a couple of weeks. My friend Rhea brought over some oranges at one point, then lemons went on sale ( an offer I could not resist). And so this is the story of citrus season in Florida. Oranges are everywhere to be found; they have been since Christopher Columbus brought the first citrus plants to the new world in 1493.  Ponce De Leon transported the citrus seeds into the St. Augustine area years later where they thrived and became a booming industry. They still remain an important part of Florida as they can even be found on license plates!

Determined to make good use of the fragrant “golden apple” I decided to make me a little pound cake to go with my morning coffee.

To make Florida Citrus pound cake start by zesting 2 oranges and mixing the zest with 200 g of sugar.  Rub the zest against the sugar with your hands. It’s really fun, it smells amazing and it will release all the orange oils into the sugar making it much more fragrant.  Set aside for about a half hour so it may infuse. Meanwhile, gather 190 g of fresh eggs, 100 g melted butter, or vegetable oil  (heck, even brown butter if you’re feeling like a rock star), and 90 g freshly squeezed orange juice. I used a self rising cake flour for this recipe, which already has the baking powder in the mix. I used 260 g of self rising cake flour.  Add a pinch of salt!

Start by setting the oven to 350 degrees F. Then mix the sugar + zest + eggs. You can do this by hand or using the mixer, either way, make sure that these ingredients mix until creamy, then slowly pour in  the fat. Mix some more until the fat emulsifies with the rest of the egg and sugar mixture. By now, you will have a separate bowl with all your dry ingredients.  Fold in dry ingredients into wet ingredients and mix just until you create a creamy batter. Be gentle when you mix and careful not to OVER-MIX. stop as soon as everything is incorporated. add orange juice.  pour batter into a 9 inch loaf pan and bake for 40 minutes or until its golden on the outside and the toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Be careful not to open the oven too frequently to check on your cake otherwise the center will collapse. It happens to me all the time =(

A delicate drizzle of dark chocolate goes amazing with this. Happy baking!!

Check out this article on citrus and hopefully get more ideas to use up your citrus.

 

 

Huevos con chorizo

Nothing says comfort food to me like a big Sunday breakfast of eggs with the mexican sausage ” chorizo”. This was a staple in my home back in El Paso, Texas when I was a little girl. Sunday was the day when my aunts and uncles crossed the border from Juarez, Mexico to take care of their shopping needs for the week and so they stopped at my parent’s home for the ritualistic Mexican Brunch.

One thing is certain about most Mexican food, it is SPICY, so this was no exception in my home. While my aunts and uncles heated the freshly made bread that was brought over from the little Mexican panaderias ( bakeries), my mom prepared a killer scrambled eggs with chorizo dish. And she was serious about the heat! In Mexican cooking tradition it is said that when you make something really hot and spicy, the cook was really pissed off. So the spicier the food, the angrier the cook was when it was prepared. It’s actually kind of scary if you think about it!!!

So my mom must have been a really pissed off cook but her food was so delicious that deep inside you could taste all the love that Mexican moms put into their food.

This Sunday morning  I was missing my family and our Sunday breakfasts together. And while I do not eat the chorizo sausage that I find down here in Florida, I knew that there had to be a way to bring those smoky flavors to my morning egg scramble!  A little chilli powder and some TVP (textured vegetable protein) satisfied the craving.

To make  super easy, guilt free vegetarian chorizo I simply boiled some water, added a 1/2 cup of tvp crumbles ( see picture below) and allowed that to simmer for 5 minutes. I drained the tvp into a cheesecloth lined strainer.  Once drained completely, I placed cooked tvp into a metal bowl and added various chilli powders. Since I really wanted smoky flavors I used chipotle powder, then some cayenne, cumin, ground fennel, salt, and just a tiny bit of Jamaican curry powder. I mixed well and in a non stick pan ( the one used for my eggs) I sautéed mushrooms, onions, jalapenos, and finally added some of the seasoned tvp and cooked until the tvp began to form a crust. This gave it a nice crunchy bite. Then I added my eggs and a little salt.

Wow, try those eggs with a piece Puerto Rican pan sobao ( sweet white bread), and your day will be complete!  Of course, I do miss the traditional Fresh chorizo that is made in my family’s northern Chihuahua ranch just as the pig gets slaughtered, and the vegetarian version does not compare, but I like to reserve that for those very special occasions when I get to visit them.  For now, the smoky flavors and spicy notes from the chilli will have to do. Happy Sunday!

eggs with veg chorizo

veg chorizo seared to create a crunchy crust

TVP used for veg chorizo

Peachy Scones: gluten free & sugar free

It’s peach season!!! Need I say anymore??? Just imagine all of the delicious things you can make with those sweet, juicy, plump, fuzzy peaches! I found a basket of fresh Georgia peaches at a little farmer’s market here in Winter Park, Fl the other day and I have been eating them like candy all day.  And just as I thought I had eaten peaches in every humanly way possible, I remember scones. I found my inspiration for these scones one tragic morning after discovering I had no milk for my much needed morning coffee. The hubby and I decided to go get our coffee at the closest coffee shop down the street. I usually don’t eat pastries when Im out and about because I like to watch my health and you never know what kinds of fats and sugars are hiding under those scrumptious delicacies, so I just stay away. However, this morning  the hubby ordered a scone. I picked at it (and actually guiltily ate about half of it), and as I sat there feeling guilty, I thought to myself, how can I create a delicious scone at home that I can eat without feeling guilty.  So, after coming back home I got to work. Now, I do not suffer from celiac disease, but being in the business of making people happy through food, I have to understand that everyday, more and more people are suffering from this disease and I must learn to cater to them as well. I also like the fact that  gluten free foods have low GI and more fiber, that makes anyone’s diet healthier. I used stevia on the raw ( zero calorie sweetener) to  help reduce the sugar content. So, following the tips I’ve learned in class, I decided to get to work.

Ingredients:

4 medium peaches ( peeled, cored, and diced into small raising size pieces)

pinch of cinnamon

400 g of gluten free flour mix ( I really like Bob’s Mill)

2 tsp baking soda

pinch of salt

1/2 cup of Stevia sweetener ( For this recipe I used Stevia On The Raw, but you may use regular sugar if calories are not of your concern)

100 g of Earth Balance vegan butter substitute or butter (again depending on your health concerns you may chose to use earth balance or regular butter, but this recipe is not entirely vegan) Ensure the fat is ice cold and cut into small 1/2 inch cubes.

1/2 c milk or any other kind of non dairy milk product

1/2 c greek yogurt (plain)

1 egg

1/4 c brown sugar

1 T vanilla extract

 

Procedure

(Heat oven to 350 degrees)

1. First combine the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt and stevia, cinnamon) in a bowl and mix well. add in peach bits.

2. slowly add in the earth balance, a couple of cubes at a time. Using a fork, your hands, or a pastry cutter, mix into the dry ingredients until the mixture looks like wet sand. Make sure you still allow some chunks of fat to be visible in the mixture.

3. Refrigerate for about 10  minutes so that the dough remains cold.

4.  In a separate bowl mix the egg, yogurt, milk, and a splash of vanilla. Remove mixture from refrigeration.

5.  slowly fold in the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix only until you form a wet and sticky dough. DO NOT overmix or the scones will be very tough.

6.  Pour dough into a nonstick 10 inch springform pan. Top the dough with the brown sugar, simply sprinkle it over and pop it into the oven. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the top is a nice golden color. Make sure its cooked all the way through by inserting a knife through the mid section of the bread, if it comes out clean remove from the oven and let it cool down before cutting into pieces.

Like I mentioned before, this is not a vegan recipe, however, I try using a bit of vegan ingredients wherever I can so that I can reduce the amount of calories and fat that I am adding to the final product. This can definitely be made vegan by substituting the egg with 1 T of ground flax seed mixed into 3 T of warm water. Instead of using yogurt, you can use silken tofu (soft). As long as the same ratios of flour to liquid are kept, all you need to do it plug in the vegan ingredient and walla, uou will have a delicious scone to enjoy with your morning coffee without feeling the “dessert-for-breakfast” guilt!!!!!

 

Enjoy

 

Sweet potato, cranberry oatmeal

I absolutely love this time of the year when the leaves change to a flaming red color and the time to pull out the coats from the depths of the closet arrives. But, since I live in Florida, none of those two things really happen for me, so I have to look for holiday inspiration elsewhere.  Of course that’s food! What better way to remember the warmth of the holidays than by nourishing our bodies with the amazing foods that nature has provided for us during these months, which aside from being nutritious and delicious, they are also extremely flexible in the kitchen!

Since it is only me and the hubby in the house (aside from 3 cats who have absolutely no interest in my culinary endeavours) it does get very difficult to plan and organize meals. Although I would love to have a full pantry/ and fridge at all times, the reality is that we have to buy few ingredients at a time because we can only eat so much. This week the major players were sweet potatoes, cranberries, and walnuts. These had supporting roles in our mini Thanksgiving dinner, and yet, I had an abundance of leftovers. So i decided I would rearrange them and make a sweet potato/cranberry/walnut oatmeal breakfast!

It is a very simple and vibrant way to start your morning. I like making the cranberry sauce because I hate buying canned cranberries that have been processed with high fructose corn syrup. I’m sure my waistline will thank me for that! I add a bit of cranberry sauce once my oats cook.

I use 1/4 cup of dry oats and 1/3 c of diced sweet potatoes. Brown sugar is perfect with oats, as well as nutmeg, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt and some chopped walnuts.

Throw the diced potatoes into a sauce pot and fill with about 1 cup of water. Mix the spices and sugar and throw into the pot. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. When the potatoes are soft, throw in the oats and let them simmer until the oats absorb most of the water. I like my oatmeal very thick, so I usually leave it on the stove top for a long time and pour in the smallest amount of milk before serving. Once I serve in a bowl I mix in my cranberry sauce and walnuts and Walla!! A delicious and vibrant breakfast!!

I like to take advantage of the natural ingredients around me  because I feel truly connected to nature this way. The nourishment that the oats provide not only fill us with endorphins from the serotonin released by the brain when carbs are eaten, but they also help control cholesterol levels. That’s not a bad deal, specially after the 2,250 calorie Thanksgiving dinner that the average American consumed just a couple of weeks ago.( According to good.is the avg American consumes 2,250 calories during this dinner)

The cranberries are loaded with antioxidants that help improve immune function and they also help fight inflamation, urinary tract infections, and cardiovascular disease to mention just a few. While the walnuts are extremely rich in omega-3 fatty acids and crunchiness!

If you’re wrapping up the holiday shopping these last few weeks before Christmas,  this will keep you energized and going all day long!!