Whole Wheat Apple Cider Donut Muffins

In New England, warm apple cider donuts are a tradition. A delicious, delicious tradition. With a cake-like, fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth texture, rolled directly in cinnamon sugar right after they come out of the fryer, they are simply one of the best things you could ever eat. I had my first of the season last weekend after apple picking (the farm we visited makes their own fresh donuts- amazing!) and I decided I needed to figure out how to make something like this on my own.

whole wheat apple cider doughnut muffins

Side note- I also need to figure out how to use up about 20 deliciously crisp and juicy apples. Any ideas? Leave them in the comments below!

I adapted Yankee Magazine’s recipe to make a whole wheat (yet still amazingly fluffy!) apple cider donut muffin. These muffins have the same cake-like texture as the donuts, and are brushed with melted butter right out of the oven and rolled in cinnamon sugar. How can you resist? Answer: you can’t.

whole wheat apple cider doughnut muffins 2

The secret to making these super flavorful and fluffy: reducing the apple cider with spices on the stovetop to create a concentrated, flavor-packed liquid to add to the batter. The whole wheat flour is added gradually, alternating with the addition of the reduced cider, in order to combine with wet and dry ingredients as minimally as possible until just combined. (The secret to making non-dense whole wheat baked goods is to handle the batter as little as possible- the less stirring you do, the less dense the final product will be. If you do this correctly, you can barely tell the difference between whole wheat and white flour, making it easier to enjoy these treats with a little less guilt.)

whole wheat apple cider doughnut muffins 3

These are best served warm. After taking out of the oven, allow to cool in the muffin tin for a few minutes, then brush with butter and roll in cinnamon and sugar. Eat immediately, or if eating later, just pop in the microwave for 15-20 seconds. This is the perfect fall treat to have with your morning coffee, and it will make your house smell amazing while you are cooking them.

whole wheat apple cider doughnut muffins 4

Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Apple Cider Donut Muffins

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 12 muffins

Whole Wheat Apple Cider Donut Muffins

These melt-in-your-mouth, fluffy, cake-like muffins are brushed with melted butter and rolled in cinnamon and sugar right after they come out of the oven. A special trick makes these muffins super fluffy, yet they are still whole wheat!

Ingredients

  • For the Muffins:
  • 2 cups sweet apple cider
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (or approximately 10 whole cloves)
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup natural cane sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour

  • For the topping:
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/4 cup natural cane sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin and preheat the oven to 375.
  2. Place the apple cider, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg in a medium saucepan. Boil the mixture for approximately 15 minutes, or until liquid is reduced by half.
  3. Meanwhile, cream together the butter and sugar with a standing or hand mixer until light and fluffy, approximately 4 minutes.
  4. Add eggs one at a time; continue to mix well for one more minute.
  5. Add vanilla, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; mix well with the mixer.
  6. At this point, if you used whole cloves in the cider instead of ground, remove from cider and discard.
  7. Add one third (3/4 cup) of the whole wheat pastry flour to the wet ingredients. Stir gently with a wooden spoon or spatula until just incorporated. Add 1/2 of the cider liquid. Add the second third of the whole wheat flour, and stir gently again until just incorporated. Add the remaining liquid. Finish adding the remainder of the flour gently until just incorporated. It is OK if the mixture is somewhat lumpy.
  8. Divide batter evenly into the prepared muffin tin cups; bake for 15-17 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
  9. On a plate, mix together cinnamon and sugar for topping.
  10. When muffins are done cooking, remove each individually and brush the top and sides with melted butter.
  11. Roll each muffin in the cinnamon sugar mixture and set aside.
  12. Eat immediately, or after cooled, microwave for 15-20 seconds to enjoy these muffins warm.

Notes

To make these more like traditional donut holes, use a mini muffin tin!

http://www.bowlofdelicious.com/2014/10/19/whole-wheat-apple-cider-donut-muffins/

Quick and Easy Spaghetti and Meatballs

After an exceptionally awesome, relaxing, and fun-filled Columbus day weekend (we had a visit from my sister- and brother-in-law, all the way from Texas!), it was so, so hard to go back to the work routine. The thing that got me out the door and through the first day back? Focusing on the fact that we were having spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. One of my favorites! 

And with only 30 minutes from start to finish, it is an easy, low-key meal to make (but one that feels fancy and special) after a long work day.

quick and easy spaghetti and meatballs

In this version, the meatballs are cooked right in the marinara sauce on the stovetop. Spaghetti and meatballs can be made in a number of ways- by baking the meatballs, then adding to the sauce, or by browning the meatballs to get a crispy crust going and finishing cooking in the sauce. In terms of taste, you really can never go wrong with spaghetti and meatballs. So, I like to cut corners with time and use only one pot to simmer the meatballs right in the sauce. The juices from the meat seep into the sauce and the meatballs absorb some of the tomato-ey goodness from the marinara. It’s truly a miracle to witness and to taste.

spaghetti and meatballs 1

Even with mixing and forming the meatballs, this meal should only take 30 minutes to make. To make this extra quick and easy, you can make the meatballs in advance and keep in an airtight container in the fridge. Then, when you are ready, place the meatballs in a deep skillet or pot with the tomato sauce and simmer on medium-low heat for 20 minutes. The smaller the meatballs are, the shorter they will take to cook; I formed mine into balls approximately 1-inch in diameter.

spaghetti and meatballs 2

I always recommend making marinara sauce from scratch in bulk, and storing it in the freezer for quick and easy meals like this one. This isn’t always possible, and I didn’t have any for this meal. So, I used Rao’s Homemade Marinara Sauce. It’s a little pricey compared to the other pre-made sauces, but if you want to take it up a notch on the “fancy” scale and aren’t using your own marinara, I strongly recommend Rao’s. My favorite is the arrabbiata version- it’s spicy from the addition of chili peppers. YUM!

And, lucky me, I have leftover meatballs with which to make meatball sandwiches for another dinner this week! To make meatball sandwiches, just heat up leftovers in the microwave and put on a soft sub roll or a burger bun. 

Enjoy!

Quick and Easy Spaghetti and Meatballs

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Quick and Easy Spaghetti and Meatballs

In this quick and easy version, meatballs are cooked by simmering in marinara sauce on the stovetop. With authentic Italian flavors, this is a simple yet elegant, no-fuss meal!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
  • small dash of worcestershire sauce (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 cups marinara sauce (or 1, 24-oz jar)
  • 18 oz. whole wheat spaghetti
  • Fresh chopped parsley and extra parmesan for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. Pour marinara sauce into a deep skillet or pot.
  2. Combine first seven ingredients in a medium bowl with hands. Form into balls no bigger than 1-inch in diameter and add the meatballs to the marinara sauce.
  3. Heat marinara sauce and meatballs over medium heat for 20 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked (adjust to medium-low heat for a strong stovetop burner)
  4. Meanwhile, cook spaghetti according to directions.
  5. Serve meatballs and sauce over cooked spaghetti and top with parsley and parmesan.
http://www.bowlofdelicious.com/2014/10/15/quick-and-easy-spaghetti-and-meatballs/

How to use, season, and care for a cast iron skillet (a.k.a., the best piece of cookware on the planet!)

Here is a rare, non-recipe post! I wanted to take some time to explain one of my greatest kitchen loves, and hopefully convince you to jump on the bandwagon with me :-)

how to season and clean a cast iron skillet

I love, love, LOVE my cast iron cookware. I have four skillets: a 12-inch, a 10-inch, and two tiny 5-inch skillets. I knew Zach was “the one” when he got me my first for Christmas after we had just begun dating. And I have to say: he, too, has benefited greatly from this timeless gift. :-)

If you are thinking about getting one, or hear good things about it but are scared to make the jump to cast iron, I hope this post will convince you that cast iron cookware is AWESOME and that it’s easier than you think to take care of it. 

So, why are they so great?

I want every home cook out there to share in the same joy that I get when I use mine (cooking nerd alert). Do you have one? If not, here are the reasons why I love mine.

  • They are cheap! Compared to other high-quality stainless steel, non-stick, or copper cookware, cast iron is a fraction of the price (and, in my opinion, much better at cooking food).
  • They are naturally non-stick! After seasoning it and using it for a few times, you can fry an egg, cook tofu, or saute other delicate items with ease in a cast iron skillet. Traditional non-stick pans are coated in Teflon, which is more delicate and if not used properly, can cause harmful chemicals to seep into the air and into your food.
  • Because of their heavy weight, they retain heat well to cook food very evenly and keep it warm even after cooking. They are great to serve food directly out of in the middle of the table since it will stay nice and toasty warm for a good while. (Just be careful to not touch the skillet directly!)
  • They can be used on the stovetop or in the oven. This is great for things like browning meat and then finishing cooking in the oven, for making cornbread or casseroles, or, in tiny skillets, for making individual portions of food you can eat directly out of, like baked gnocchi.
  • They increase the iron content of your food! The longer the food is in contact with the skillet, the higher the iron content will be.
  • They will last a lifetime. Talk about a smart investment!
  • They are pretty! They add a traditional, rustic flair to any kitchen. I like the look of mine so much (and also am aware that they are very heavy) that I usually keep mine on my stovetop even when I’m not using it.

Seasoning cast iron: What is it, and how do you do it?

Seasoning refers to the oil build-up on a cast iron skillet that makes it naturally non-stick. A well-seasoned skillet will have been used multiple times and will have had multiple occasions for oil to build up. Some cast iron skillets will come “pre-seasoned” and some will not. Regardless of which kind you buy, I would recommend taking these initial steps at home to make sure you are building a great base seasoning layer right from the beginning.

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Wash the skillet: Before you season the skillet for the first time, this is the ONLY time you are allowed to wash it with warm, soapy water (if you want to give it a cleaning after getting it home from the store or your grandmother’s attic). Use a sturdy sponge or stiff brush to clean it- really get in there, especially if it’s a used skillet.
  3. Apply oil to the skillet: Apply a thin layer of oil to the inside and outside of the skillet (you can put a couple of tablespoons inside the skillet, then use a paper towel to spread it evenly around the entire thing). This initial seasoning layer will help seal in the cast iron and prevent rust, which is why you apply it to both the inside and the outside. Traditionally, most people use vegetable oil or shortening, but you can use any oil of your choice. If you want to go really old-school here, you can even use bacon grease!
  4. Bake the skillet for one hour: Place in the center of the preheated oven on the top rack, upside down. Place a pan or a sheet of foil on the bottom rack to catch any drips.
  5. Allow to cool in oven: Turn off heat and allow the skillet to cool in the oven. This will allow the oil layer to penetrate further and save you from potentially burning yourself!
  6. Cook fatty things for the first few times you use it: Your skillet will now be ready to use! Still, a good seasoning layer depends on multiple uses of the skillet. It will get better and better with each layer of oil you apply. I recommend using the skillet for the first few times cooking things like bacon, burgers, or other fatty things that won’t stick easily (don’t do fried eggs the first time you use it!) to continue building the seasoning layer.

A well-seasoned skillet’s patina will be shiny, smooth, and non-stick. If your food is sticking or the skillet looks dull, rusty, or bumpy, it may be time to do this process over. However, I haven’t had to re-season mine since I got it about three years ago, since I follow good cleaning procedures and use it so frequently.

Cleaning/caring for cast iron: it’s easier than you think. 

 To an unseasoned cast iron cookware user (GET IT?!), the care of cast iron can seem a little daunting. Fear not, my friends. Once you get used to the new routine (I’ll admit, it does take some getting used to since caring for it is different than other cookware), you won’t think twice about it. Here is how to make sure you are taking care of your skillet properly.

  • How to clean without using soap: Do not wash with soap!!! The natural non-stick surface of a cast iron skillet is created by oils from the food you cook. Using soap dissolves these oils. Instead, use warm water and a clean towel to wipe down the skillet. Very often, you will be able to do this right from the stovetop (just wipe the inside clean with a warm damp towel) instead of hauling it all the way to your sink!
  • How to clean stuck-on messes: Even though cast iron is non-stick if properly cared for, food can sometimes stick to it, especially when it is newer and the non-stick coating hasn’t been fully developed. If this happens, add some kosher salt to the skillet and, using a damp warm towel, scrub the skillet by rubbing the salt into the stuck-on parts. The abrasive nature of the salt should dislodge the mess. Alternatively, you can heat the skillet on the stove and add water to it. Heat the water (don’t boil) for a little bit and use a metal spatula to scrape up the stuck-on parts. (This is similar to deglazing when you make a pan sauce.)
  • Drying and oiling the skillet: After cleaning, make sure the skillet is dry. If water is left on it, it may rust (which is fine- you can clean the rust off and after oiling it again, it should be fine to use!). You can dry using a towel or by putting the skillet back on the stove and heating up for a bit. After the skillet is dry, put a small amount of oil (canola, olive, or other oil of your choice) in the middle of the skillet, and use a clean towel to rub the oil into the bottom and sides of the inside of the skillet. This should be a thin coat- the oil shouldn’t be accumulating anywhere.
  • Storing the skillet: I stack all my cast-iron together on one shelf, and usually leave my biggest skillet out on the stove at all times (because it’s pretty). Some people will add a paper towel on top of their skillet for storage, so if something else is placed on top of it, the bottom doesn’t get oily. Usually, cast iron skillets come with a hole in the handle, so if you have a sturdy hook, you can also hang them. Cast iron’s only downfall is that it is heavy, so make sure to store it in a place that is easily accessible and you won’t throw your back out when you are putting it away or getting it out!

What kinds/sizes should you buy?

You can do all kinds of things with your traditional ten or twelve inch cast iron skillet, and would recommend one of these to start (the other things on this last are useful, but not absolutely necessary). Since I have a *teeny* obsession with cast iron, I have more than just the one :-) Here are the cast iron items that I own, plus some accessories. Clicking on the pictures and links will take you to amazon.com, where you can buy them! 

  • Must-have: 12-inch and 10-inch skillets. I have one of each. I use the 12-inch one most frequently since it has a larger surface area for things like searing chicken or cooking long strips of bacon. The 10-inch is great for smaller portions and for things like skillet cornbread. If you are going to have one piece of cast iron cookware, go for one of these. If I had to recommend one, I’d say get the 12-inch. It’s more versatile and you can cook more large portions in it (which I always tend to do, since I often cook in bulk and freeze/store the remainder for a busy day). If you tend to cook smaller portions, get the 10-inch(I have both Emeril’s brand and Lodge brand – both are equally great).
  • Tiny, adorable, 5-inch skillets: These are great for serving individual portions of food- just take directly out of the oven and eat out of the skillet! (well, maybe allow to cool for a few minutes or so) :-) Perfect for individual casseroles or pot pies, or my favorite: baked gnocchi with marinara, mozzarella, and fresh basil. The cast iron keeps the food warm while you eat, so it doesn’t cool off. Plus, fewer dishes! 
  • Pizza Pan: There are many cast iron products that are not traditional skillets. Similar to a baking stone, a cast iron pizza pan is heated in the oven to a very high temperature , then the assembled pizza is placed on the pan to get a crispy crust and melty cheese on top. You can also bake artisan bread on it! You can also use it on the stovetop as a large, round griddle- perfect for pancakes.
  • Reversible Grill/GriddleThis is a large grill pan on one side and griddle on the other that spans over two burners on your stovetop. You can also use it as a large, rectangular baking stone for pizza or bread in the oven by using the flat side. It’s great for indoor grilling, but I have to say: because the grill side is not flat, it is difficult to clean. I tend to use the flat side more frequently. It’s also a great thing to use under the broiler, since it can withstand very high heat.

  • Handle Mitts: These are great for putting on the skillet after taking it off of the stove/out of the oven. That way when you serve things, you won’t accidentally reach for the handle to steady the pan and burn yourself (been there, done that. It’s not fun.). Plus, they are super cute! Alternatively, you can just wrap a kitchen towel around the handle for the same effect.

Buying anything on Amazon through the links on this page will cost the same to you, but will provide Bowl of Delicious! with a small commission, supporting the blog and helping me spread the word about real food for busy people :-)

Tips for using and cooking with cast iron:

  • Cast iron takes a long time to heat up, since it is so heavy. Once it is heated, it retains its heat beautifully and cooks food evenly. When you are about to cook something, let the burner heat the skillet a little longer than you normally would.
  • Because it goes from the stovetop to the oven, it’s a great tool for browning meat on the stove and finishing cooking in the oven. You can then take the skillet back out and make an awesome pan sauce on the stovetop with the drippings from the meat. Best one-pot meal ever!
  • The build-up of oils can dirty a dishtowel you use on it to dry. Designate one old dish towel for cast iron usage so you don’t get sad ruining your pretty ones!
  • Remember, cast iron stays hot for a long time, so use caution when going to touch it- always use a dishtowel or potholder to handle it, even 15 minutes after cooking sometimes!
  • If you haven’t made cornbread in a skillet, it’s a must-try. I use the recipe from the Homesick Texan

Now, go! Be brave! Use your skillet!

I hope I have at least started to convince you to get yourself a cast iron skillet and begin using it, but the only way to be 100% sold is to try it yourself! You may want to bookmark this page so you can refer back to it if you run into any issues. In addition, please feel free to leave comments below with other tips and tricks that I did not mention, or questions if you have them! 

Slow-Cooker Butternut Squash Soup (with curry and ginger)

Walking in to your house after a long day of work and having the smell of dinner simmering in your slow cooker welcoming you home is one of the Best. Things. In. The. World.

Especially when that dinner is butternut squash soup with curry and ginger on a crisp fall evening!

slow cooker butternut squash soup

What a relief, after working hard during the day, to not have to stress about “what should I cook tonight?” or “what do I possibly have the energy to fix for dinner tonight besides toast?” I cannot stress to you enough the importance of owning a slow cooker if you are a busy, working person who cares about eating home-cooked meals. I have a classic 6-quart oval Crock-Pot which is large enough in which to cook an entire chicken (which I do frequently), tons of soup (enough to freeze leftovers for another whole meal!), simmer chicken/vegetable stock in abundance, or any other one of these slow cooker recipes!

Last night, I prepped all of the ingredients for this soup by peeling and chopping the squash and other vegetables, and adding the measured spices to a large container. This morning, all I had to do was empty the contents of the container into the slow cooker and add the coconut milk and vegetable stock. It took all of two minutes this morning- easy! Then when home, I gave it a quick mix with my immersion blender to puree the soup. Topped off with some cilantro and Greek yogurt, this soup was the most delicious, healthy, and comforting thing I could have wanted after a day that included not only regular teaching but also a field trip into Boston with some very energetic freshmen (that’s a lot for one day!).

slow cooker butternut squash soup 2

This soup is vegan, and it’s made creamy and rich by the addition of coconut milk and an awesome, flavorful combination of Indian spices. It has ginger and turmeric in it, which have some AMAZING health benefits for digestion, to boost your immune system, and to fight off colds. (Which I probably need right now. It’s that time of year.) Serve with some toasty bread for dipping and you have a scrumptious, satisfying, and healthy meal.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to help myself to seconds thirds :-)

slow cooker butternut squash soup 3

To prep ahead: Peel and chop all the vegetables and add the spices ahead of time. Keep in the fridge for up to a week or the freezer for up to six months until you are ready to cook (at which point, add vegetable stock and coconut milk)

Freezer directions: You can store any leftovers in an airtight container in the freezer for up to six months.

Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Soup (with curry and ginger)

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 8 hours

Total Time: 8 hours, 10 minutes

Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Soup (with curry and ginger)

This creamy and scrumptious butternut squash soup is vegan, full of flavor, and super healthy from the addition of ginger and turmeric. Cook in your slow cooker for a really easy dinner- your house will smell amazing!

Ingredients

  • 1 medium-large butternut squash; peeled, seeded, and chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 2-inch piece fresh ginger, roughly chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 can (15 oz.) coconut milk (make sure it's unsweetened!)
  • 3-4 cups vegetable stock
  • Cilantro and Greek yogurt to garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients (except for cilantro and yogurt) in a slow cooker.
  2. Heat on low for 6-8 hours, or until squash is very tender.
  3. Use an immersion blender to blend the soup to a smooth consistency. (alternatively, you can use a regular blender in batches to process the soup)
  4. Garnish with cilantro and Greek yogurt (optional)

Notes

To prep ahead: Peel and chop all the vegetables and add the spices ahead of time. Keep in the fridge for up to a week or the freezer for up to six months until you are ready to cook (at which point, add vegetable stock and coconut milk)

Freezer directions: You can store any leftovers in an airtight container in the freezer for up to six months.

You can make this soup on the stovetop as well. Just saute the vegetables in a bit of olive oil over medium-high heat until softened. Add the spices, stir to combine, and then add vegetable stock and coconut milk. Simmer on low for approximately 30 minutes, or until squash is tender. Blend as instructed above.

http://www.bowlofdelicious.com/2014/10/08/slow-cooker-butternut-squash-soup-with-curry-and-ginger/

Pumpkin Pie Pancakes (made with whole wheat flour and no refined sugar!)

Today, I am excited about two things.

First, October is in full swing, as is fall! As you can imagine, living in Salem, MA brings out the best of this month with halloween-themed festivities. It also means PUMPKIN ALL THE TIME. Pumpkin coffee, pumpkin candles, and these delicious pumpkin pie pancakes. Mmmmmmm.

pumpkin pie pancakes 2

Second, this is Bowl of Delicious’s 100th post! Woo hoo! I’ve been absolutely LOVING blogging and creating healthy recipes and sharing them. I love that each month more and more people see the blog and try out my food. Blogging is a fascinating world and I’m learning a lot as I go, and I’m very excited to see where this blog will be after 100 more posts! Thanks to all of you who are following, commenting, sharing, and cooking!!

OK enough about that. Back to pumpkin pie pancakes. These are much more important right now :-)

pumpkin pie pancakes 3

I am calling them pumpkin pie pancakes because they have a texture similar to pumpkin pie; the batter has less flour than usual, and is a bit wetter because a whole can of pumpkin is used. They take slightly longer to set than your traditional pancake, and the result is a creamier (yet somehow still fluffy and light) pancake that is so melt-in-your-mouth yummy you will want to make a big batch so you can freeze half of it for quick breakfasts on work days.

Which is exactly what I did. Frozen extra pancakes are awesome- just stick them in the toaster! It makes an ordinary weekday morning much more special.

pumpkin pie pancakes 1 

Best part? They are made with whole wheat flour and sweetened with honey, rather than regular sugar (similar to my banana chia seed pancakes). They are a guilt-free way to enjoy one of the most decadent-tasting breakfasts in the world. Especially when topped with chopped pecans and maple syrup… YUM.

One quick trick to working with whole wheat flour: be careful not to overwork it. Stir the batter just enough to incorporate and no more, otherwise it will have a tendency to be dense (this applies not only to pancakes, but to cakes and breads as well).

Hope you like these and hope you are enjoying fall as much as I am. And thank you for being here to help me celebrate my 100th post milestone! :-)

Pumpkin Pie Pancakes (made with whole wheat flour and no refined sugar!)

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 14-16 small pancakes

Pumpkin pie pancakes are decadent and creamy yet still light and fluffy! Made with whole wheat flour and no refined sugar, you can enjoy this fall treat without any guilt :-)

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter, plus more for frying pancakes
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 can prepared pumpkin
  • 1 .5 cups whole wheat pastry (or spelt) flour
  • Maple syrup, fresh fruit, pecans, or other fixings for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine butter, eggs, milk, yogurt, vanilla, honey, baking powder, salt, spices, and pumpkin. Mix well using a whisk.
  2. Add flour and stir until just combined (do not overwork, or pancakes will be dense).
  3. Heat a skillet over medium heat until hot. Melt 1/2 tablespoon butter in it, and spoon approximately 1/4 cup of batter into skillet for each pancake. Because the batter is a bit more dense than traditional pancakes, I recommend using a wooden spoon or spatula to smooth out the top to create a thinner pancake. This will ensure that it cooks the whole way through without burning the outside.
  4. When edges begin to look cooked, use a large spatula to flip the pancake quickly.
  5. Remove cooked pancakes to a plate and continue cooking in batches until the batter is gone, using 1/2 tablespoon more of butter to fry each batch.
  6. Top with maple syrup and fixings, and enjoy!

Notes

Freezer directions: You can freeze extra pancakes separated with a small piece of parchment paper for up to 6 months in an airtight container or bag. When you want to eat one, just pop in the toaster or microwave for about a minute!

http://www.bowlofdelicious.com/2014/10/05/pumpkin-pie-pancakes/

Fried Rice with Crispy Tofu

My thoughts about tofu up until this meal have been just… “meh.” Not anymore! I’ve totally converted from “meh” to “ican’tstopeatingthis.”

This method of frying the tofu is super easy and really, REALLY yummy. Paired with a simple and scrumptious 10-minute fried rice (yep… 10 minutes!!!), this meal is hearty, delicious, easy to make, and really healthy. 

fried rice with crispy tofu 3

The biggest key to cooking tofu properly: dry it out.  Simply slice the tofu into the sizes you want to cook, and lay it out flat on a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and cover with another paper towel, and let sit for about 10 minutes- the salt and towels will draw out much of the moisture, making it easier to brown. (You can do your prep for the fried rice while you’re waiting for the tofu!)

At this point you can bake it or saute it as is. I wanted extra crispy tofu, however, so I coated the pieces with a thin layer of cornstarch before frying (a lot of fried asian foods are coated in cornstarch rather than flour or bread crumbs). Just put a few tablespoons of cornstarch in a bowl with salt and pepper, add the tofu, and shake around to coat.

crispy fried tofu

Another trick: it’s best to use a cast iron skillet for frying the tofu. With a natural non-stick surface created by layers of oil, it makes it ideal for frying delicate foods like tofu (using a non-stick skillet for frying isn’t ideal, since the oil gets so hot it can damage the Teflon surface). Don’t have one? You should seriously consider purchasing one- it’s my favorite thing in my kitchen! The tofu will fry easily in a thin layer of olive oil, browning on each side for 2-4 minutes. It’s a cinch.

Once the tofu is done cooking, the DELICIOUS fried rice comes together super quickly in the same skillet. (This part of the recipe is adapted from Pinch of Yum- one of my favorite blogs. Go check it out!) The thing that sets this fried rice apart from others? The chopped fresh basil and scallions. So fresh, and so tasty.

fried rice with crispy tofu 1

Hey, if you want to forgo this whole “frying tofu” thing all together and just make the fried rice for dinner, I hear you. That’s what I did the first time I made it! (just add a couple more eggs and call it a day). But seriously, the tofu is super tasty. And it makes the meal so much more hearty and satisfying. Even with frying the tofu, this whole meal only takes about 30 minutes to make. Not too shabby!

One final thing: top this off with Sriracha sauce. You won’t regret it. YUM!!!

Fried Rice with Crispy Tofu

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Fried Rice with Crispy Tofu

This fried rice recipe is packed with flavor, and includes how to make the tastiest, crispiest fried tofu you have ever had. Topped with scallions and basil for a super fresh taste, you'll never want take-out again!

Ingredients

  • For the tofu:
  • 1 package extra firm tofu
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • plenty of olive oil to fry

  • For the fried rice:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, minced*
  • 2 eggs**
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice (1 cup dry)
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • Sriracha hot sauce (optional)

Instructions

  1. To make the tofu, cut a block of tofu into pieces approximately 1/4 inch thick, then cut those into four pieces each (so you have pieces approximately 1" x .5")
  2. Arrange the tofu pieces on top of a paper towel (or other clean towel), sprinkle with salt, and put another towel on top. Allow to sit for approximately 10 minutes so the the moisture is drawn out of the tofu.
  3. Place tofu in a medium sized bowl with cornstarch, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir/shake gently to coat the pieces of tofu in cornstarch.
  4. Coat the bottom of a heavy skillet (cast iron recommended) with olive oil. Heat over medium-high heat, and add tofu. Allow to sit for 2-4 minutes, or until golden brown. Flip and allow to brown on other side, and remove to a clean paper towel to drain. You will probably need to do two-three batches.
  5. To make the fried rice, in the same skillet as the tofu (or a wok), heat olive oil.
  6. Add garlic and ginger; saute for one minute or until fragrant.
  7. Crack eggs into skillet and stir to scramble, until just set.
  8. Add rice to skillet and stir to incorporate.
  9. Allow to sit undisturbed for a few minutes to brown. Using a thin metal spatula, flip rice over and allow to brown on other side.
  10. Add carrot, peas, corn, sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, salt, pepper, and fried tofu.
  11. Stir to incorporate, and allow to continue heating for a few minutes until all ingredients are warm.
  12. Top with scallions and basil, as well as sriracha if desired.

Notes

*I keep fresh ginger in the freezer, and grate directly from the freezer to use in recipes. It's easier to grate when it's frozen! **The fried rice is delicious on it's own as a meal, without the tofu. I'd recommend using 4 eggs instead of 2 to make it more substantive. For a vegan option, omit the eggs.

http://www.bowlofdelicious.com/2014/10/02/fried-rice-with-crispy-tofu/

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Is there ever a bad occasion for chicken soup? It’s great when you’re sick, when you’re healthy, when you’ve had a little too much wine at a wedding the night before (ahem…I plead the fifth), when you’re cold, when you’re a kid, and when you’re an adult. I don’t think there is another meal as soul-satisfying, easy to make, and simple as chicken soup.

I must really love chicken soup of all kinds, because this is the third fourth version I’ve posted on this blog (Easy chicken soup with lemon and dill, Avgolemono, and Smoky chicken tortilla soup). This version with wild rice is really, really tasty- it has all the classic tastes of traditional chicken soup with a bit of an earthy, nutty flavor from the wild rice.

chicken and wild rice soup 2

Fun fact: did you know that wild rice is actually a seed, not a grain? And that it contains as much protein as quinoa? And it has a lot of fiber? It’s a great, healthy thing to keep in your pantry (and if you have extra, you should make wild rice casserole).

Whenever I make soup, I make a huge batch and freeze half of it. Sometimes, I forget about the things in my freezer. Often, I’ll go through my freezer and make an exciting discovery, and do a quick celebratory dance around my kitchen. It was no exception with this soup- even though I made it only a couple of weeks ago, I was really psyched to realize that I had it ready to go. Just run some warm water over the container you freeze it in to dislodge it, then pop the frozen soup right into a pot and heat up on the stove. So easy!

 chicken and wild rice soup 3

I’m going to make a plug for you to get a slow cooker right now if you don’t have one. It’s a busy person’s best friend, and in my opinion, it’s the best way to cook a whole chicken (not to mention countless other things). A whole chicken is cheaper by the pound than buying cut up chicken pieces and you can get so much more out of it. A couple of weeks ago, I threw a whole chicken in a slow cooker with some salt, pepper, and a little bit of water, and came home from work to an entire cooked chicken and some chicken stock. I made chicken pot pie with half the meat. THEN, I put the carcass back in to the slow cooker, added water and some celery/carrot/onion scraps, and made chicken stock. THEN, I made this soup with the other half of the meat and the stock.

This may seem like a lot of work, but it’s not. While using a slow cooker does take some foresight and planning, it takes hardly any extra hands-on time, making it really great for busy people who are on a budget (like me)!

chicken and wild rice soup 1

Speaking of slow cookers, you can make this soup on the stovetop OR in the slow cooker (see notes in recipe below for instructions).

You can also make this soup with any pre-cooked chicken you want, and store-bought stock, to make it extra quick and easy. Enjoy!

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

This chicken soup is soul-satisfying and easy to make, with a nutty, earthy taste from the wild rice. Make on your stovetop or slow cooker, and freeze the extra for a rainy (or sick) day!

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter (or olive oil)
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 3/4 cup wild rice
  • plenty of salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Saute the celery, carrots, and onions in butter in a large pot until softened (about 5 minutes)
  2. Add the chicken and chicken stock; bring to a boil.
  3. Add the wild rice, salt, and pepper; stir.
  4. Cover and simmer for 30-45 minutes, or until rice is cooked.

Notes

Slow cooker instructions: Add all ingredients except for butter into a slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours. Freezer directions: Freeze in an airtight container for up to 6 months. When ready to eat, run warm water over the outside of the container to dislodge the soup, and heat frozen soup on the stovetop in a pot over medium heat until heated through.

http://www.bowlofdelicious.com/2014/09/28/chicken-and-wild-rice-soup/

Mini Meatloaves

Where did meatloaf get such a bad reputation? It’s AMAZING! It’s like a big fluffy burger without the bun. Comfort food at its finest. What’s not to like? On it’s own, with ketchup, in a sandwich, with gravy… there are so many possibilities for such a simple supper.

mini meatloaves 3

And when the meatloaf is made mini, it’s extra amazing. Why?

  • Not only do they taste amazing, they are also so adorable!
  • They are extremely quick and easy- with only 5 minutes of prep time (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
  • They can be made in bulk and frozen individually for really easy future meals
  • Because they are small, they take half the cooking time of traditional meatloaf (only 25 minutes!)
  • Meatloaf is already an inexpensive meal to make, and by making the mini loaves, it’s a little easier to make it go a bit further (and prevent you from going in for too many helpings).
  • It’s only 5 ingredients besides salt and pepper!

Have I convinced you yet?

mini meatloaves 1

Seriously, this has to be one of the most easy, simple things I’ve cooked in quite some time. And, you know me… I LOVE quick and easy*, especially with my busy schedule. I made mine in bulk with two pounds of ground beef (my grocery store has a delicious grass-fed brand that’s under $5 a pound, so I stocked up), which yields eight mini meatloaves. That’s four (FOUR!) dinners for me and Zach. In only 5 minutes of prep, and for about $10 total. The cost to benefit ratio here is outrageous!

mini meatloaves 2

You can make meatloaf with either breadcrumbs or oats. Since I usually make my own breadcrumbs by putting whole wheat bread in a food processor (to avoid the extra scary ingredients in most breadcrumbs), I opted for the quicker and easier option of oats this time. This is simply a mixture of ground beef, eggs, oats, salt, pepper, and a little soy sauce and hot sauce for an extra boost of flavor. The mixture is divided into eight parts (originally, I did six, which you can do if you have a big appetite. We wanted ours a little smaller next time) and formed into small loaves, with some individually wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for later.

When you are ready to bake, place in a buttered baking dish, and add ketchup or barbecue sauce to top it off. Or, add nothing! It’s delicious plain as well :-) Enjoy!

* I gave my recipe pages a little makeover! Do you like the new visual gallery? It’s from an amazing new plugin from Strawberries for Supper called Visual Recipe Index. If you have a blog and don’t have a visual index- go get this plugin! Now!

Mini Meatloaves

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 8 mini loaves

Serving Size: 1 loaf

Mini Meatloaves

Mini meatloaves are delicious and adorable, but they also are very quick and easy to make, use only 5 ingredients, and can be made in bulk and frozen for later. How easy is that?

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • optional: few dashes of hot sauce
  • optional: ketchup or barbecue sauce

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients except for ketchup/barbecue sauce in a large bowl.
  2. Mix well- for best results, use hands.
  3. Divide the mixture into eight parts and form them into loaf shapes.
  4. If not cooking right away, follow directions below to freeze/store them*
  5. Place loaves in a buttered baking dish and spread ketchup or barbecue sauce on top, if desired. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.

Notes

This recipe is for a bulk batch of mini meatloaves. You can cut it in half, if you want to!

* Make-ahead / freezer directions: After all the loaves have been formed, wrap the ones you don't want to cook right away like burritos in plastic wrap. They can be kept in the fridge for a few days until you are ready to cook, or freezer for up to 6 months. Before cooking, make sure you defrost in the fridge for at least 24 hours to fully unfreeze the meat, otherwise you risk overcooking the outside and undercooking the inside.

http://www.bowlofdelicious.com/2014/09/23/mini-meatloaves/

Easy Baklava

One of my oldest and dearest friends got married last night :-)

It was a beautiful, simple, and elegant wedding, and it perfectly suited the couple. Instead of a traditional multi-tiered cake to feed all the guests for dessert, they had a small cake and asked a few friends and family to make a dessert to be served alongside it. I was honored and happy to make one of my family’s favorite desserts for this special occasion- baklava!

Easy Baklava 2

Baklava is one of those things that most people don’t make from scratch. Usually, people have it when they visit a Greek deli or go to their local Greek festival once a year. It’s a little intimidating, especially for non-Greek folks. But let me assure you, this recipe is easy to make (albeit a tad tedious to assemble) and uses only a few ingredients. It’s a delicious, impressive dessert that’s buttery, sweet, and filled with the warming spices of cinnamon and clove. 

Easy Baklava 1

Traditionally, baklava is topped with a syrup consisting of sugar, honey, and water. I cheat with a trick my mom taught me- instead of making a syrup, I just use plain ol’ honey to top it off. (to ensure the honey is not too thick and coats the baklava evenly, I set it on top of the stove while the baklava is baking, which heats it up and thins it out really well.) 

This recipe is certainly not 100% unprocessed (there is white flour in the phyllo dough and white sugar in the nut mixture), as most of my recipes are. However. Using honey does cut down on the amount of white sugar in favor of a more natural one. Plus, nuts are super good for you! So, not only is it a wicked impressive dish to make- it’s also certainly not the MOST unhealthy thing you could consume for dessert :-)

Easy Baklava 3

Working with phyllo dough: Phyllo dough can sometimes be difficult to work with, so just make sure you are in a patient mood when using it. Phyllo consists of very thin layers of dough separated by a dusting of flour. Sometimes the layers are stuck together, which can make them tear. This is fine- just patch up pieces of the phyllo as necessary! No one will ever know. In addition, you will need to work rather quickly, since the dough has a tendency to dry out. One final thing- the phyllo dough will come in a size that needs to be cut down. Put your baking dish on top of the phyllo after rolling out and use a sharp knife to cut the stack of dough to the size of the baking dish by tracing it- and put your geometry skills to work by getting as many pieces as possible out of the dough.

Making ahead: Baklava can be assembled ahead of time and stored in the fridge or freezer until you are ready to bake it, which makes it a really great option for entertaining!

Serving suggestion: You can make baklava sundaes by chopping up a piece of baklava and serving it over vanilla ice cream. YUM.

Easy Baklava

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Easy Baklava

Baklava is a delicious, impressive dessert that's buttery, sweet, and filled with the warming spices of cinnamon and clove. It's not as hard as you think- especially with this super easy trick!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. phyllo dough, thawed*
  • 5 cups chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1.5 sticks butter, melted
  • one 16 oz. jar honey
  • whole cloves**

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 and butter a 9x13 baking dish.
  2. Mix together the walnuts, sugar, and cinnamon in a medium sized bowl.
  3. Unroll the phyllo dough and, using a sharp knife, cut the stack down to the size of the baking dish (You can place the dish on top of the phyllo to trace it. You should be able to get two baking dish size cuts out of the stack, with a few scraps.)
  4. Place one piece of phyllo on the bottom of the baking dish. Using a pastry brush, brush melted butter on top of it. Layer another piece of phyllo and repeat until you have 6 layers.
  5. Spread 1 cup of the walnut mixture on top of phyllo layers in baking dish.
  6. Layer 6 more layers of phyllo on the walnut mixture, and repeat until you have no mixture left, ending with the rest of the phyllo dough (the top layer may have more than 6 layers).
  7. Spread the rest of the butter evenly on top of the last layer of phyllo.
  8. Using a sharp knife, cut the top layers of phyllo into small squares, diamonds, or triangles.
  9. Stick a whole clove in the center of each piece.
  10. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until golden brown.
  11. While the baklava is baking, place the jar of honey on top of the oven. This will thin it out and make it easier to pour.
  12. When baklava is done, pour entire jar of honey on top of baklava.
  13. Allow to cool completely, then finish cutting the baklava through to the bottom.

Notes

* To thaw phyllo dough, place in refrigerator for at least 24 hours before using. It will last for about a month in the refrigerator. ** You can make this without the cloves, but I recommend having them- it makes the baklava look beautiful and gives it a great flavor!

http://www.bowlofdelicious.com/2014/09/21/easy-baklava/

Chicken Pot Pie (with a whole wheat biscuit crust)

“Cozy” has been the theme of the week. The crisp fall air has rolled in, and the pumpkin beer has arrived. When Zach and I get home from work all we want are flannel pajamas, slippers, dim lighting, and lit candles… and of course a cozy, warm supper to match the ambiance.

Is there any meal cozier than chicken pot pie? Methinks not.

chicken pot pie 4

Even Oscar is hopping on the cozy bandwagon! However, he declined to partake in the pot pie. He is a cat, after all.

Cozy Oscar Kingdom of Blanket

This was the best thing I’ve eaten all week. It’s so comforting, delicious, and warming. It comes together in a jiffy with a quick and easy whole wheat biscuit crust (no rolling out pie dough for this recipe!), making the meal 100% real/unprocessed, not counting a small amount of white flour used to thicken the gravy.*

And, it’s made in one pot! Just make sure you use a pot that can go from stovetop to oven. I used my Dutch oven, but you could use a cast iron skillet as well. It’s also really versatile- you can throw whatever veggies you have laying around in it (I added broccoli to mine) and any herbs or seasonings you want. 

chicken pot pie 1

Use leftover roast chicken to make this, or any other pre-cooked shredded chicken. For mine, I cooked a whole chicken in the slow cooker all day when I was at work (with just salt and pepper for seasoning, and water added to the pot), so I had both cooked chicken AND chicken broth to use for this recipe when I got home. I left no waste behind- I actually went so far as to use the chicken fat to saute the veggies and add to the biscuit dough (as suggested in my original Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book). I definitely recommend trying this- not only was it amazingly tasty, but I got a ton of satisfaction knowing I was getting as much use out of the chicken as possible. (You can totally use butter too, though. No pressure. It will still be delicious!)

chicken pot pie 2

The meal can be prepped ahead of time as well: simply make the filling and keep in the fridge, and when you are ready to cook it mix up the biscuit topping, spoon on top of the filling, and bake! One more tip- As I was sitting down to eat the leftovers today at work, a coworker mentioned a brilliant idea. She makes her pot pies in individual ramekins, then freezes them for when she wants a quick and easy dinner for one. Genius!

Now, back to being cozy with my kitty, my husband, and my slippers. Ahhhhhh :-)

*A note about thickening the gravy- I’ve heard mixed things about using whole wheat flour for this purpose. I’ve never tried it so I can’t confirm or deny how well it works, but I tend to use white flour as a thickening agent without batting an eye, since it’s not the main event in the dish.

 

Chicken Pot Pie (with a whole wheat biscuit crust)

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Chicken Pot Pie (with a whole wheat biscuit crust)

With a whole wheat biscuit topping instead of a traditional pie crust, this one-pot meal comes together in a jiffy! Made with 100% clean, real ingredients. The coziest comfort food out there.

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons melted butter or chicken fat
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1 cup chopped broccoli
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary (or parsley, thyme, and/or oregano)
  • 2 tablespoons white flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups cooked shredded chicken
  • 2 cups whole milk, divided
  • 1.5 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Heat two tablespoons of butter or chicken fat in a heavy dutch oven or cast iron skillet.
  3. Add onions, celery, carrots, broccoli and saute until tender (about 5 minutes).
  4. Add white flour; stir until vegetables are coated. Add peas.
  5. Add broth and stir (gravy should begin to thicken). Season with salt and pepper liberally.
  6. Add chicken and 1 cup milk. Stir, heat through, and turn off heat once it is thickened.
  7. Meanwhile, mix together whole wheat flour, baking powder, remaining 4 tablespoons butter or chicken fat, and remaining 1 cup milk in a small bowl. Season with salt. Stir until combined.
  8. Spoon biscuit dough on top of chicken mixture (it does not have to be evenly spread- it will expand while cooking and float to the top).
  9. Bake in oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
http://www.bowlofdelicious.com/2014/09/17/chicken-pot-pie-with-a-whole-wheat-biscuit-crust/