Vanilla Plum Chia Seed Pudding

plum

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about blogging is getting to see what trends other people are into and learn about new foods in the process. Lately it seems like everyone has been really excited about chia seeds, so I had to get some and try them out.

As much as I consider myself a healthy person, I’m always skeptical of new health foods. I always assume that they won’t taste good or I won’t like it and I’ll end up disappointed. So, naturally, I was hesitant to try these chia seeds but boy am I glad I did! This pudding is seriously good, you wouldn’t believe it’s made with such healthy ingredients. I had the intentions of making it for dessert, but I couldn’t resist taking a few too many spoonfuls throughout the day while it chilled. The plums also make it such a beautiful pink color, what’s not to like!?

And of course it’s Fiesta Friday! So I guess I’m that person bringing the healthy food to the party, but I think you’ll enjoy it!

Vanilla Plum Chia Seed Pudding photo(65)
4-5 plums
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups almond milk
1/2 cup chia seeds

1. Cut the plums up into small pieces. Place them in a plan with the water and sugar on low heat. Cook the plums on low heat for about 5 minutes, then bring the heat to medium until it starts to get bubbly. Then turn the heat back down and cook on low heat for 8-10 more minutes, until the plums are mushy and soft. Stir in the vanilla, then turn off the heat and let sit until cooled.

photo(66)

photo(67)

2. Add the milk to a bowl and stir in the chia seeds. When the plums have cooled incorporate them into the milk mixture.

photo(68)

3. Chill the mixture overnight, enjoy!

plum3

Chocolate Whiskey Brownies with Caramel Drizzle

brownie 2

Happy (early) St. Patrick’s day everyone!  And also Happy Fiesta Friday, The Novice Gardener’s blog party!  So much to celebrate today! Whether you’re going out, throwing a party or just staying in these brownies are the perfect way to celebrate.  The brownie is nice and chocolatey, while the addition of the whiskey gives you just a little kick. I decided the flavor of the whiskey in the batter wasn’t quite enough after they baked, so I brushed some more on top of the cooked brownies. You can adjust how much you add if you want more or less whiskey taste.

I also had trouble deciding how to frost these. I usually like a thick layer of butter cream on brownies but I didn’t want to outshine the whiskey so I opted for a caramel drizzle instead. I suggest saving some of the caramel and pour a little extra over each brownie before you eat it – but that’s just my idea!

Chocolate Whiskey Brownies Recipe adapted from Hershey’s Ultimate Chocolate Brownies
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup boiling water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup melted butter
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup whiskey
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
pinch of salt
1 cup chocolate chips

Caramel Drizzle
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract

1. Preheat oven to 350. Combine the cocoa powder and baking soda in a large bowl. Add the boiling water and mix well.

2. Add the butter and sugar to the bowl and mix. Next add the eggs mixing after each one. Then add the flour, whiskey and salt and combine until the mixture is smooth.  Finally, add in the chocolate chips.

3. Pour the batter into a greased 9×13 baking dish and bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  If you want a stronger whiskey flavor, poke the baked brownies all over with a fork and brush some more whiskey on top.

brownie 4

4. Next make the caramel. Combine the heavy cream and butter in a pan on low heat. Then add the brown sugar, salt and vanilla. Whisk until the mixture is smooth. Let it cool. When the brownies have cooled and the caramel has thickened lightly pour the caramel over the brownies, enjoy!

brownie 3

brownie

 

Half Moon Cookies

cookie

Half moon cookies bring back great memories for me. My grandpa used to own a carpet shop in my hometown and the store was later turned into a bakery. Because it was once my grandpa’s, I always felt a big connection to that bakery.

Often on Saturday afternoons, after a day of running errands with my mom, our last stop would be the bakery and as a reward I got to pick out my sweet treat. Even though I have an almost insatiable sweet tooth, there was only one cookie in the bakery that I was interested in. My eyes saw right past the cakes, the chocolate chips and the muffins and were only focused on the chocolate half moon cookies. The moist soft cake and the mounds of chocolate and vanilla frosting made this cookie irresistible to me.

I don’t see half moon cookies in many bakeries anymore. Lately I’ve been thinking of these cookies and really craving one. I tried one recipe a few weeks ago and they came out terribly. I tried to make my own recipe, but couldn’t get the consistency right. So, after an extensive Google search for a well reviewed half moon recipe, I found this one from Saveur. The only thing I changed to the cookie batter was using almond milk instead of dairy milk. Instead of the frosting they show, I used a good old buttercream. Sinking my teeth into these frosting covered circles of goodness were well worth the three tries it took to get them right!

To make it even better, it’s Fiesta Friday! Check out Angie’s Blog and join the party!

Half Moon Cookies
Cake:
3 3/4 cups flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
2 1/4 cup sugar
16 tbsp. butter cut into pieces
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups almond milk

Frosting
3 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoon milk
1/2 cup cocoa powder

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter, sugar and cocoa powder. In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

2. One at a time, add the eggs to your sugar and butter, beating and scraping the sides of the bowl after each one. Then add the vanilla extract.

cookie7

3. Add half of the flour to the sugar and butter and mix to combine. Next add half the milk. Then and the remaining flour followed by the rest of the milk and mix until it has all combined.

20140306-212144.jpg

4. Spoon out tablespoon sized amounts of the batter and place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. These cookies tend to spread quite a bit so leave a good amount of room between them. Wet your finger with a little water and gently press down each ball of batter to flatten it a little, this will help you get a flatter cookie instead of one with a huge bump in the middle. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

cookie6

cookie5

5. While the cookies are baking make your frostings. Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla extract. If you’re frosting is too thick add the milk 1 tablespoon at a time. Remove half of the frosting and place it in another bowl. Then add the cocoa powder and combine thoroughly.

cookie4

6. Cool the cookies after taking them out of the oven. Once they’ve cooled turn them upside down and frost the flat side. Frost the vanilla halves first, then the chocolate. Enjoy!

cookie3

Mom’s Lemon Cake

photo(52)

I’m excited to be joining another Fiesta Friday!  If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, Fiesta Friday is The Novice’s Gardener’s weekly blog party and you should definitely join! Check out the info the guidelines here.

Well, every party needs a cake right!? So that’s what I’m bringing this week! This is my mom’s lemon cake recipe that I altered just a tiny bit. She usually puts a delicious lemon glaze on it, but I’ve been good about going to the gym and eating fairly healthy this week so I decided to just dust it with some powdered sugar instead (I know it’s not really healthier but it helps me feel less guilty). She also usually doubles the ingredients shown below and bakes it as a bundt cake but again, I’m trying to make it a little bit lighter. This cake looks deceivingly simple and plain, but it is incredibly moist while still being light, fluffy and feels super soft in your mouth. This cake also fills your kitchen with the smell of fresh lemons and if you close your eyes and take a deep breath you can almost pretend it’s finally Spring.

Mom’s Lemon Cake
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degree and grease a round cake pan or spring-form pan.

2. Cream the butter, sugar and shortening in a large bowl. Next add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each one. Then add your lemon juice and lemon peel.

photo(48)

3. In another bowl combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Add half of the dry ingredients to the bowl with the wet ingredients and combine. Then add half your milk and combine again. Finally add the remainder of the dry ingredients and the remainder of the milk and mix well.
photo(50)

4. Pour the batter into your prepared pan and cook at 350 for 30-35 minutes, until you can insert a toothpick in the middle of the cake and it comes out clean.

photo(51)

5. When the cake has cooled sift the powdered sugar over the top, enjoy!

photo(53)

Eclairs

photo (3)
Sundays during football season have pretty much become my official “spend the day in the kitchen trying something new” days. I only have the patience for one football a week, tops, so instead I amuse myself by cooking and baking while everyone else is busy paying attention to the games. A few weeks ago I was browsing through possibilities of things to make that Sunday and asked my husband how he felt about eclairs. Given that he doesn’t really care for sweets (something I’ve never understood) I wasn’t expecting more than an unenthusiastic “eh” as his answer. However, “ECLAIRS ARE MY FAVORITE DESSERT” he immediately shouted back! I have no idea how I didn’t know this already, but that was all the justification I need to spend the day making them.

Although this might look like a fairly complicated recipe, each part isn’t too difficult, it can just take a bit of time to make each component and put them together. Even so, they’re totally worth it and you’ll be glad you spent the time to make them!

Eclairs
Pate a choux (the dough):
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
6 Tablespoons of butter, cubed
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 cup flour
4 egg yolks

Filling:
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks, beaten
3 cups milk
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Chocolate Ganache:
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. First make the Pate a choux. Combine the water, milk, butter and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once it starts to boil, turn off the heat and dump in the entire cup of flour all at once. Using a wooden spoon stir in the flour until it forms a ball of dough. Remove the dough and place it in the bowl of a stand mixer (if you have one) or a a mixing bowl. Let the dough cool off. Once it has cooled add the egg yolks on at a time, mixing after each one you add. This should get you a pretty runny dough. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper, then put the dough mixture in a pastry bag and pipe the dough into 3-4 inch logs. Bake the dough for about 30 minutes, until it begins to brown.

photo (4)

photo (5)

Next, make the filling. Whisk the sugar, cornstarch and salt together in a saucepan. In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and milk. On medium heat, slowly add the egg and milk mixture to the saucepan. Whisk the mixture constantly until it reaches a bowl and begins to thicken. Let it boil for just one minute then remove from heat, add butter and vanilla and mix to combine until the butter melts. Pour the filling into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to avoid it from forming a “skin.” Let it cool on the counter for at least 30 minutes, then refrigerate until cold.

photo (6)

photo (7)

After your filling has cooled, begin to put everything together. Cut each log of dough lengthwise but don’t cut through the entire log, just about 3/4 of the way through. Use a small spoon to fill the opening in the log with the filling.

photo (8)

photo (9)

photo (10)

Finally, make your ganache. Heat the heavy cream over low-medium heat. Slowly add the chocolate in thirds, stirring constantly. Once all the chocolate has been added continue to stir until it’s melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter.
photo (11)

Complete your eclairs by dipping each one in the ganache. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving, enjoy!

photo (12)

Plum Ice Cream

icream1 icecream2 icecream3

I’m not usually a fan of having a bunch of kitchen gadgets around, but even when we lived in a tiny studio apartment the ice cream maker attachment to my stand mixer proved to be a kitchen necessity.  My husband always talked about this creamy lemon ice cream he used to eat in Turkey and how he could never find anything like it in America.  After we got an ice cream maker lemon was the first variety we tried and we were actually able to come up with an acceptable version of the one he remembered.  After experimenting with more flavors and getting used to the extra creaminess that homemade ice cream has, it’s very very difficult to go back to store bought ice cream.  If you like ice cream, I highly suggest trying to make your own, it’s definitely worth it.  This week we got some great little plums in our farm basket and I couldn’t wait to try making ice cream with them.

Plum Ice Cream
1 pint plums
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cup 1% or 2% milk
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract

1. Wash the plums, cut them in half and take out the pit. Then cut each half into small slices.
icecream5

2. Add the plums, water and 1/2 cup sugar to a bowl on low heat and let them cook down until the plums get mushy and the liquid gets syrupy (usually about 20-30 minutes).

3. Let the plum mixture cool.

4. Add the cream, milk, vanilla and the rest of the sugar to a bowl and whisk slightly to combine.

iceream65. Add the cooled plum mixture to the milk mixture and stir to combine.

6. Add the entire mixture to an ice cream maker and follow the ice cream maker’s instructions.

I’ve found that the ice cream is very soft when it comes out of the ice cream maker but it’ll harden up after about 12 hours in the freezer. Enjoy!

icecream7