“Kitchen Sink” – Power Breakfast Muffins

Breakfast Muffins

These days I have exercising like a fiend.  I am extremely proud of myself because I usually train when I have a race coming up, and then take a more relaxed attitude to working out.  But, since this year I wanted to not only lose weight, but get healthier and feel better, I have stuck to a rigorous gym workout for the last 4 months.  (Patting myself on the back now.)

The only problem, is mid through my workout, I get ravenously hungry.  I have done the fruit and yogurt with granola, the eggs with toast, smoothies, you name it.  I needed something filling and portable to take to the gym with me, that is healthy, but also feels like I am indulging.  So, I went into my pantry, I love having a pantry after all these years, by the way, and basically took out a basket full of ingredients that could possibly go into a muffin.  I edited quite a few, but I did end up using most of them.  The result was perfect.

photo (14)

Made with whole wheat flour, oat bran, chia seeds, walnuts, fruit and some cinnamon and chocolate for that splurge factor, these are fantastic little nutrient power houses, with no added fats!  Ridiculously delicious and easy to make, and super healthy, these will be a staple to carry in my gym bag when my belly starts a rumbling!!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 cup oat bran

1/4 cup chia seeds

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped semi sweet chocolate

1 ripe banana, mashed

1 cup oat milk (you can substitute soy, almond or real milk if you want)

1/2 cup apple juice or sauce

1/2 cup molasses

1 egg

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).  Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray, set aside.

In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together.  Sprinkle in the walnuts, raisins and chocolate.  Mix well.  In another bowl, mix the banana, oat milk, apple juice, molasses and egg.  Fold into the dry ingredients.

Use a 1/4 cup measurement to fill the muffin tin 3/4 full.  Cook for 16-18 minutes.  Let cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes before serving.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Buckwheat Polenta with Gorgonzola Cream and Toasted Walnuts

 

Buckwheat Polenta

 

The first time I tried Polenta I was 11 years old, my first year in Switzerland.  I remember seeing these enormous vats of polenta, being stirred constantly by a mechanical arm.  To tell you the truth, it really didn’t look very appetizing.  It looked like a big mass of yellow mush.  Then I tried it.  I’ve been hooked since.

I love the versatility of polenta.  It can be eaten soft, or left to harden then baked or fried.  It allows you to top it with an infinite nuber of possibilities, savory or sweet.  Buckwheat Polenta, or as they call it in Italy, Polenta Taragna, is quite different.  It has a saltier and denser quality, and usually it is eaten only with savory, and with a final addition of Bitto cheese.  In Lombaridia, the region where Milano is capital, there is an area called Valtellina.  This is the northern alpine area, and buckwheat is used in many recipes, two of the most famous being this polenta and a type of pasta called Pizzocheri.  They are both some of my favorites, but for my belly it needs to be quite cool to eat this since it is much more filling than normal pasta and polenta varieties.  That said, it is also a heck of a lot more nutritious too!

On my last trip to Lugano, I brought back some of this polenta, and finally the weather cooled down enough for me to make some.  I have a few friends here who are die-hard fans of polenta, so I wanted to introduce this variety to them.  I chose to top it with a creamy gorgonzola sauce, and some toasted walnuts.  If you are so lucky to find some, make sure you get the express variety, which cooks in about 5 minutes.  If not, you will have to stand over the stove and CONTINUOUSLY stir the polenta for 40-50 minutes!  (I haven’t had an arm workout like this in years.)  But, the end result is well worth the exercise, and throughout the process, I was channeling my inner nonna.

So, here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 6

500 g Polenta Taragna (or regular polenta if you can’t find it)

250 g Gorgonzola Dolce Cheese

200 ml cream

Salt, Pepper and Freshly Grated Nutmeg to taste

100g Walnuts, toasted

Cook polenta according to package directions.   In a small saucepan over medium low heat, add the cream and gorgonzola cheese, stirring until it melts.  Take off heat and add the salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Keep warm.

In a small frying pan, toast the walnuts until darkened and fragrant.  Take off heat.

On a plate, heap some polenta on it, then drizzle as much cream sauce as you want ( I like a lot) and top with the toasted walnuts.

It’s that easy and it’s even more delicious!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread

As a kid, I remember I would get so excited when my mom would bring home a loaf of Pepperidge Farm Cinnamon Raisin bread.  I remember smelling the slice before she put it in the toaster, how that cinnamon goodness would perfume the whole kitchen as I slowly waited those two minutes that felt like an eternity for the toast to spring up, and then another 30 seconds for her to smear some butter on it.

Last time I was in the States, I bought some, to relive my childhood memories, but I was very disappointed, quite frankly.  The bread was rather dry, and dull.   The smell was more enticing than the actual taste, and the raisins are almost miniscule!  It was a disaster.

As I have mentioned before, I have this amazing book called The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, which I turn to almost weekly to churn out an amazing recipe every time I use it.  This time was no different, when I decided to make this Cinnamon Raisin Walnut bread.   It is fairly easy, if you have a stand up mixer, and all you really need is time on your side.  So, it’s probably best if you tackle this recipe on a weekend, so that way you can have lots of options for breakfast.

I had these wonderful sultanas that I bought a while ago,

these aren’t your regular weeny raisins.  They are about an inch long, and super juicy and sweet.  If you can find some in your local grocery store, I highly recommend you make this bread with these.  My daughter, who isn’t a fan of raisins, or walnuts for that matter, asked for a piece of bread after it had come out of the oven.  I asked her to wait the requisite hour before slicing.  When she finally got her slice, she said to me “Mom, this is one of your recipes that should be illegal”.  She had about three more slices after that.

Need I say more?

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Makes 2 loaves

Adapted from The Bread Baker’s apprentice

3.5 cups unbleached bread flour

4 tsp granulated sugar

1/4 tsp salt

2 tsp instant yeast

1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1 large egg, slightly beaten

2 tbsp shortening, melted or at room temperature

1/2 cup buttermilk or whole milk, at room temperature

3/4 cup water, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups raisins, rinsed and drained

1 cup walnuts, chopped

Stir together the flour, sugar, salt, yeast and cinnamon in a mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer).  Add the egg, shortening, buttermilk and water.  Stir together with a large spoon (or mix on low-speed with the paddle attachment) until the ingredients come together and form a ball.  Adjust with flour or water if the dough seems too sticky or too dry and stiff.

Sprinkle flour on a counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing on medium speed, switching to the dough hook).  The dough should be soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky.  Add flour as you knead (or mix), if necessary, to acheive this texture.  Knead by hand approximately 10 minutes (or by machine for 6 to 8 minutes).  Sprinkle in the raisins and walnuts during the final two minutes of kneading (or mixing) to distribute them evenly and to avoid crushing them too much.  (If you are mixing by machine, you may have to finish kneading by hand to distribute the raisins and walnuts evenly.)  Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat it with oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces and form them into loaves.

Place each loaf in a lightly oiled 8.5 inch by 4.5 inch pan, mist the tops with spray oil, and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

Proof at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until the dough crests above the lips of the pans and is nearly doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C) with the oven rack on the middle shelf.  Place the loaf pans on a sheet pan, making sure they are not touching each other.

Bake the loaves for 20 minutes.  Rotate 180 degrees for even baking and continue baking another 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the oven.  The finished breads should be golden brown on top and lightly golden on the sides and bottom.  They should make a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom.

Immediately remove the breads from their pans and cool on a rack for at least an hour, preferably 2 hours, before slicing or serving.

*Note:  To add flavor brush the tops of the baked loaves with melted butter as soon as they come out of the bread pans, and then roll them in cinnamon sugar.  When the bread cools, the top will have an additional sweet and crunchy flavor burst!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

Grenoblois: Grenoble Caramel Walnut Cake

Today was sort of a baking fiasco.  I love my kitchen, the huge amount of space, my wonderful marble countertops (great for kneading), and the funky color scheme ( mint green ceiling, yellow tiled walls, and terracotta mexican tiling).  But I HATE MY OVEN.  I think the last time this kitchen was updated was in 1986, when kitsch was cool.  I mean, it’s still cool, in a retro sort of way, but an oven that is from that year…..well, do I have to say anything more?

I have a hard time baking in this oven.  It’s either too hot, or not hot enough.  The times that I know I need for certain cakes/brownies/cookies etc. are all out of whack, and it frustrates me to no end.

But, I persevered, and through blind faith and luck, the cake came out great, albeit a little denser than I would have wanted.  I baked it in a bundt mold, a large one, but it looks like it was made in a miniature one.  But, no despair, the most important part is the taste right?

I decided to make this because I hadn’t since I was at culinary school, and I had a surplus of walnuts in my pantry.

This cake is really wonderful as an alternative dessert, instead of flour you use bread crumbs, and that is why it is so moist and dense.  The beaten egg whites help to make it a little fluffier, but when you take it out of the oven, it will sink.  That’s ok though.  Taste is not compromised!

It’s lovely with coffee, even better with a brandy.  Your choice!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

300g butter, melted

250g walnuts

6 eggs, separated

200g sugar

3 tbsp rum (I used Frangelico, hazelnut liqueur)

1 tsp instant coffee dissolved with 1 tsp water

3/4 cups breadcrumbs

For the caramel:

6 tbsp sugar

6 tbsp water, at room temperature

1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp frangelico or rum

walnuts

Preheat oven to 200C (400F).  Butter your cake pan and set aside.  Finely chop the walnuts in a food processor.

Combine egg yolks with 2/3 cup (150g) of the sugar in the bowl of a stand up mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat until pale and fluffy, and doubled in volume, 10 minutes.  Fold in the butter, your liqueur, and coffee, then the bread crumbs and walnuts.

Wash out your bowl, or if you have another one, beat the egg whites, fitted with the whisk, until soft peaks form.  Add the remaining sugar, and beat until smooth and shiny.  Gently fold the egg whites into the walnut mixture.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until browned, about 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the 6 tbsp sugar, water, lemon juice and liqueur in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cook until a dark caramel forms, then add the walnuts.

Turn the cake out onto a serving platter.  Pour the caramel over.  Let cool completely before serving.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Walnut and Feta Cheese Coins

Today is a holiday here.  It feels much more like Sunday than Monday.  We went to the beach, relaxed a bit and came back home lazy and warmed. Yet one of the things that relaxes me the most is baking.  So, I was on the hunt for an easy option, that didn’t require too much prep or cooking time.

As I have mentioned before, I am trying to use my cookbooks more often.  I looked at my shelf, and picked up my book of Greek food.  Leafing through the pages, I came across this recipe that seemed different, delicious yet super simple.

I liked the combination of walnuts and feta cheese, and after we tried them, even my daughter gave them the stamp of approval, and asked me incredulously, “Did you make these?”  It was a proud mama moment.  Mind you, she is very, very picky.  These will be great to serve with a glass of wine, and some cheese and grapes as an hors d’oeuvres.

I had to tweak the recipe a bit, as when I was making it I found the proportion of butter to flour to be too much.  So below you will find the revised recipe.

Adapted from: “Cocinas del Mundo.  Grecia”  By Susanna Tee

So here’s what you’re going to need:

40g Walnuts

230g flour

salt and pepper

115g butter

115g feta cheese

1 egg, beaten for the glaze

Preheat the oven to 190 celsius (375 F)

Place the walnuts in the food processor, and pulse until finely chopped.  I chopped mine by hand so I could get different sizes.  Place in a bowl and set aside.

Add your flour, salt and pepper to the food processor, and add the butter, chopped into squares.  Pulse until the mixture looks like coarse sand.  Add the crumbled feta, the walnuts and mix until you have a smooth dough.

On a clean work surface, dust with flour and place your dough.  With a rolling-pin, roll to about 1/2 inch thick.  Cut with a small biscuit cutter, about 2.5 inches.  Place on a baking sheet, glaze with the beaten egg.

Bake for 10-20 minutes, or until firm and golden brown.  Let cool on a wire rack.  Keep in an airtight container for 3-4 days. (If they last that long!)

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Pancetta, Pear and Parmesan “Strudel”

 

 

Hello readers!

How was your weekend?  Mine was great, caught up with some friends who we hadn’t seen in 3 years, took them to a nice tapas restaurant, and then had some cocktails.  But anyhow, today I thought I would post an incredibly simple, yet ridiculously delicious cocktail dish or starter.  I made this a couple of weeks ago for a dinner party, and it was a hit.  So much so that I took an initial picture of it when I cut it open, but then I arranged the slices on a plate and put it on the table, went to get my camera….and *poof*.  They were gone.  Not all of them, because I had one, but the picture would have looked terrible.  So I only have the one picture that I don’t think does it any justice, but I think that by the ingredients you know it’s going to be good.  So go ahead and try it the next time you have guests over.  Or not.  You can definitely make it any time, since it is so easy.  So here goes!

Pancetta, Pear and Parmesan Strudel

1 package of Filo dough

3 Concorde pears, peeled and cut into match sticks

150 g of Pancetta

50 g Walnuts, coarsely chopped

60g of Parmesan cheese, grated

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tbsp of olive oil

4 tbsp of butter, melted

Poppy seeds for garnish

Pre-heat your oven to 350 deg F (180 C).  On your baking sheet, lay out your filo dough.  Start by placing the pancetta over the filo, overlapping the slices.  Then scatter the nuts over the pancetta.  Scatter the pears and parmesan, add the salt and pepper and drizzle your olive oil over the whole thing.

Roll it into a log, making sure that you seal the edges.  Brush the melted butter over the whole log, and sprinkle with poppy seeds.

Before you place it into the oven, it is incredibly useful if you cut the slices prior to cooking, cutting almost all the way through, but leave it intact on the bottom.  If not when it’s cooked and crispy, it will be almost impossible for you to cut it without losing half of the filo.  Trust me, I’ve tried it and cried.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until it is gold and crispy.  Take it out of the oven and let it cool for about 20 minutes before serving, as it gets cooler the flavors meld together and it is delicious!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla