Sugar free January Experiment

I’m aiming to be sugar free for the next 30 days. Who wants to join me?

Why? Just feel like I want a break. And I definitely eat too much of it. And diabetes runs in my family, so I might as well get in some practice early, right? Too bad I inherited a sweet tooth. 

You can do a few levels of sugar free:

  • No refined sugar: No white sugar, no corn syrup. This requires some label reading, especially if you’re using store bought ingredients. So this might be a home-made intensive cooking month. (good for you, dear reader, I suppose)
  • Adiu to All sweeteners: No added sweetener of any kind (stevia, coconut sugar, agave, honey…). Fruit is still ok
  • Hardcore: No fruit either. 

I think I’ll go with level 2…maybe a little less fruit, though I believe fruit in moderation is good for you.

The challenge I see coming: The office candy bowl, constant junk food on any available surface.

Here’s my plan to cope:

1.When the craving begins, set a timer for 15 minutes. Most cravings last only eight to 14 minutes.
2. Drink a full glass of water. Thirst is often mistaken for hunger, says Klauer.
3. If the sugar craving persists, eat a protein-rich snack, such as handful of almonds or walnuts, some unsweetened yogurt, or a piece of cheese. Add arugula, radicchio, endive, or chicory to your diet–bitter balances the need for sweet.

Let’s do this. 

Some resources I’m scanning: (this one says no fruit)

The Food Lover’s Cleanse


Tata For Now


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Peanut butter chocolate bars

Warning, these are decadent. And perhaps not a health food. But you can cut them small. But they were a hit of the Christmas party circuit. I recommend freezing or refrigerating them until you are ready to serve them. The inspiration comes from Fine Cooking Magazine’s cookie issue. But they tell you to bake off a shortbread cookie crust first. I didn’t feel like doing that so I repurposed some cookies I had laying around.

What Fine Cooking’s cookies looked like. Mine were pretty close, too. I just didn’t take a photo.

  • 1 cup of cookies (Amaratti, pizelles, shortbread cookies, graham crackers–all are good contenders)
  • 1 stick of butter (2-3 T for the crust, the rest of the 6 Tbs of butter, softened but not melted f0r the filling)
  • 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream
  • 1 bag of chocolate chips
  • 1/2 jar of creamy peanut butter (the recipe tells you to use an emulsified butter, such as Jiff. I used organic whole foods creamy peanut butter, and what I realized was that they turn out fine, but they really really need to be cold until serving, or you’ll get a pasty mouthfeel from them. and who wants that? So if you have Skippy  or Jiff laying around, or you frequent stores that sell them, go for it. I usually do my shopping where the au natural peanut butter is more common, so that’s what I used)
  • 1 1/2 confectioner’s sugar (note you can just blend regular sugar in the blender and get the same texture)
  • 1 T vanilla
  • a dash of cinnamon

For the crust

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350
  2. Blend up the cookies until they make crumbs
  3. Pour into a parchment lined 9×9 or 8×8 baking pan
  4. Cut your butter into pieces and lay on top
  5. Throw it into the oven for 10 mins
  6. Mix up your crumbs and let it cool (you can throw it into the freezer while you do the next step)
  7. The original recipe tells you to use a mixer for this, and perhaps you should. I was too lazy both times I made this and just used a fork to perfectly good results.
  8. Mix your butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add in your peanut butter and mix.
  9. Pour the peanut butter mixture over the crust and throw into the freezer while you make the chocolate ganache
  10. Heat up the cream on medium. When it bubbles and is hot, add in your chocolate chips. Lower the heat to simmer and stir constantly until it makes a smooth, shiny ganache. Pour over your now cold peanut butter. Return the pan to the freezer for a half hour or to the fridge for at least an hour.
  11. Cut into small squares. I put each square into a cupcake liner.
  12. Enjoy. mmm….peanut butter. chocolate.
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Crispy Sweet Potatoes

I discovered a trick to really good oven baked sweet potatoes recently. The microwave. Cooking the potatoes first and then crisping them in the oven leads to really good results and in a much shorter amount of time. The microwave dries them out a bit, too.

  1. Preheat your oven to 400.
  2. Chop the sweet potatoes into small pieces. Rub them with olive oil, salt, and a little bit of chilli powder (you can skip if you don’t want them to be spicy).
  3. Microwave them for about 3-4 minutes. You want soft but not mush. 
  4. Throw them onto a baking sheet and roast them off until crispy. 
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Kale salad with tahini balsamic dressing

The trick here is massaging the kale in olive oil in a ziploc baggie for about 5 minutes. Oh and this recipe is mostly about the dressing–the salad itself is pretty basic. Be creative.

  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 2 T olive oil
  • pepitas or walnuts
  • scallions
  • shredded carrot
  • grape tomatoes
  • celery
  • 2 T tahini
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1-2 T balsamic vinegar
  • a squirt of sriracha
  • 1 T barbecue sauce 
  • shredded parmesan cheese

This one of those “throw everything into a bowl and toss” salads. Be creative with the ingredients–other veggies, such as spinach, snap peas, broccoli slaw etc would work well too.

dressing: whisk up all of the ingredients. Add more olive oil or a drizzle of water if it’s too thick. 

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Butternut squash and sweet potato tart

We had a little adventure at the beginning of our vacation. My sister in law was still on her vacation, but we were staying at her house. When it came time to make lunch upon our arrival, I realized I couldn’t figure out her gas stove. At first, I thought it was just me–maybe after using electric for so long I’d forgotten. I tried lighting the pilot, I tried googling how to light a wolf range, thinking perhaps there was some trick to this. But no…we also realized the hot water was out…and that there was an oh so helpful note from the gas man on the door saying they needed to reconnect the gas after a line break. Shucks! that meant only microwave and oven cooking for us! I made lots of baked eggs with steamed veggies for breakfast. And this tart for lunch when everyone got home hungry

Ingredients for the crust:

  • 1 C almond meal
  • 1 C cornmeal (cheat: I used trader joe’s cornbread mix). One criticism, it’s sweet so I had to counteract it with chili and olive paste
  • 2 T olive oil (use more if needed)
  • 2 T olive paste
  • 1 generous pinch of chili flakes

Ingredients for the tart

  • 1 cup of butternut squash cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 cup sweet potato in 1/2″ inch pieces
  • 1 onion in thin slices
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • basil chopped
  • 1 T olive paste
  • chilli flakes
  1. Since I had no stove, I used the oven for the entire recipe.
  2. In separate foil packets, I baked off the squash, sweet potato, onion, and garlic at 450 degrees until soft
  3. While that is baking, the ingredients for the crust together. it should form a soft dough. Roll it out between pieces of parchment. You should have enough for a bottom and a top crust.
  4. Lay the bottom crust into a pie pan. Add in the roasted veggies and herbs and top with the top crust. Easy right? that’s it!
  5. Bake at 350 until the crust is a light golden brown, roughly 25-30 minutes
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Maamiyaar’s Soup

This is my mother in law’s recipe (aka my maamiyaar in Tamil). She made it when we were down in Tampa last week and we loved it so we got the recipe and made it again today.


  • 1-2 cups of butternut squash (i used pre-cut)
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 t ginger paste
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 onion
  • 1 box of vegetable stock
  • 1 box of strained tomatoes
  • 1 t cumin
  • 3 peppercorns
  • 1 dried red chilli
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 stalk of curry leaves
  1. Chop the onion and sautee it in oil in the bottom of a stock pot or large pot until golden
  2. Chop the butternut squash into small pieces (1/2 inch) if you’re not using pre-cut
  3. Chop the sweet potato and carrot into the same size pieces
  4. Add the cumin, black pepper, garlic, ginger, curry leaves, bay leaf, and chili to the pot. Add in 3/4 of the stock and 3/4 of the tomato
  5. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
  6. Cover and simmer for an hour or two (the longer the better). You can add more stock and strained tomato as it reduces down
  7. salt and pepper to taste
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Butternut Squash Thai Curry Soup

This recipe was on our mega Thanksgiving menu. My parents hosted 23 this year…and so I made a triple batch to serve everyone. I’ll just give you the recipe for a single batch though. My inspirations were these: and

The Ingredients

  • 2 pounds of butternut squash (roughly 2 small butternut squashes)
  • 1 Onion
  • 2″ piece of fresh ginger or ginger paste
  • 1 T garlic paste or fresh garlic
  • 1.5-2 T of thai curry paste
  • 1 t. coriander powder
  • 2 t cumin
  • 1 box of low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 1-2 T lime juice
  • 1/4 c chopped coriander
  • 1/4 c chopped peanuts
  • 1 T olive oil

The method

  1. In a heavy bottomed pan, heat 1 T olive oil
  2. Chop and sautee onion until golden.
  3. Add in garlic and ginger, coriander and cumin
  4. Microwave (if you’re in a hurry) or bake the butternut squash until soft enough to chop into pieces (roughly 8 mins in the microwave–I usually do 5 mins and check it). Chop into 1″ pieces
  5. Add butternut squash and stock to the pot. Add in half of the coconut milk,  half of the lime juice, and the curry paste
  6. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer until the squash is tender
  7. Let the soup cool some
  8. Blend the soup or use an immersion blender.
  9. Add in the remaining coconut milk and lime juice to taste.
  10. Add salt, pepper, and red chili flakes to taste.
  11. When serving top each bowl with the cilantro and peanuts
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New Years Menu

New year, new posts! Happy 2015 everyone! This year, I’m going to try harder to post once a week. Let’s not call that a resolution…just a goal. Since I’ve been remiss for a few busy months, I’ll give you a batch all at once.

This isn’t really stuff I made today (with the exception of #2, Maamiyaar’s soup).  I’ll start today’s marathon posting session with some recipes I’ve made over the past few months–butternut squash featured heavily into several of these recipes, it being fall/winter after all. Oh and then there’s my favorite new dessert of the christmas cookie season: Peanut Butter Chocolate Shortbread bars. Mmmmm….

1) Butternut squash and sweet potato coconut thai curry soup with cilantro and peanuts 

2) Mamiyaar’s soup (kind of a butternut squash rasam, in flavor anyway)

3) Kale salad with tahini dressing

4) Butternut squash and sweet potato tart

5) Crispy Sweet Potatoes

6) peanut butter chocolate bars

Inspirations for these came from many places…magazines, books and my own head. I hope you enjoy!

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Pumpkinfest 3: A healthier Pumpkin pie!

If you saw the previous recipe, you’ll know that we still had half of a kuri squash already roasted. What does one do with that? Well, if you’re and have a bevy of visitors traipsing through the house (aka campaign central) all the time, a healthy-ish dessert to go with coffee sounded like a good idea.

I quickly browsed some recipes for pumpkin pie made from fresh pumpkin and really didn’t like the amount of sugar they called for, nor the other random ingredients (evaporated milk, several eggs). Also, I like a good pumpkin pie, but a lot of them have this weird congealed, gelatinous texture that I surmise comes from the eggs/evaporated milk. The crust I made from what I had in the pantry–a stack of graham crackers, some butter biscuits, and a little almond flour. So I set out on my own. “How bad could it turn out?”, I thought. And well it was GOOD. So good that today, two days later, it’s all gone. 

rustic, homemade

The ingredients

  • 1/2 red kuri squash or any other squash/pumpkin (recommend sweeter varieties)
  • 4 squares of graham crackers
  • 5 small cookies (like the ones that come with espressos)–just use more graham crackers if that’s what you have
  • 1/4 cup almond meal
  • 4 T butter (crust)
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 2 t all spice
  • t 2 ginger
  • 1 t cloves
  • 1/4 cup of powdered milk
  • 1/4 cup Turbinado sugar

The method

  1. My squash was already cooked (if yours isn’t you can either bake it or microwave it until soft)
  2. Preheat oven to 350
  3. In a food processor or blender, break up the graham crackers and cookies into crumbs. my vitamix did this in about 15 seconds!
  4. Add 1/4 cup almond meal to the crumbs
  5. You can melt butter or do what I did–pour the crumbs into a pie plate lined with parchment and chop up softened butter and put it on top. Throw it into the oven til the butter melts and then mix it up.
  6. Scoop out squash into blender container. Pulse until almost smooth–i left a few chunks for texture. Spoon out into a bowl.
  7. Add in the spices, powdered milk, and a few spoons of sugar (add more to taste if you’d like, I used 2)
  8. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350. I found mine was a little moister than I wanted, so I lowered the temperature to 250 and baked for another 15 minutes, which yielded the perfect texture. Keep checking on it at this stage…you don’t want dry or leathery…just firm enough to cut neat slices. Fancy, no. Tasty? yes.
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Pumpkinfest2: Pumpkin & Faro

Next up in line was the red kuri squash I bought, which was supposed to have a sweet flesh and taste kind of like a pie pumpkin. It was big enough to make 2 dishes–a pie (next up in the post list) and a faro dish. 

Why faro? The husband and I both like it for its chewy texture and its ability to pick up flavor from anything you make. In past years, I’ve made a butternut squash risotto using forbidden/red rice or  purple rice, so Faro was a natural next step.


  • 1/2 of a red kuri squash
  • 1 package Trader Joe’s quick cook faro (you can use any other kind…1 cup)
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk (I happened to have some in my fridge so in it went)
  • 1 pat butter
  • 4 sage leaves
  • 1 T garlic paste (chopped garlic would work just fine)
  • salt & pepper to your taste

The method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 and toss in the squash (you can halve it first and scoop out the seeds if you wish. I roasted the seeds while the oven was on)
  2. Chop onion and caramelize it in some olive oil
  3. Add garlic paste.
  4. Add in the faro and toast it for a few minutes (careful not to burn it)
  5. Add the vegetable stock and cook the faro over low heat for 10 minutes.
  6. When the squash is soft enough to cut/scoop out, cut half of the squash into cubes and add it into the faro mix. Add in coconut milk and cook until the squash has softened.
  7. In a skillet, melt the butter and let it brown. Add in the sage leaves and fry til crispy.
  8. When the faro mixture is cooked, add salt & pepper, and a few of the sage leaves and butter from the pan. Stir. Top the dish with the remaining sage leaves
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Pumpkinfest 1: Squash Tart with cornmeal/almond crust

It’s October and pumpkins and squashes are everywhere, so pumpkin & family recipes are on the menu, too. (When did pumpkins go from cool things to carve to “the” thing you must display and cook with all fall/winter long? They do make a good meal though.) The display at our wholesome organic megalopolis included dozens of varieties I wasn’t familiar with, including a “red kuri” squash and the “sweet dumpling” squash that I picked up. (In case you are wondering what these varieties are, Epicurious and Real Simple  have good guides).

This recipe started with a “Roasted Butternut Squash Pie” recipe on Epicurious. It featured filo, which I didn’t feel like dealing with, so I changed it to a blue cornmeal-almond meal crust.  I also added in Kale and pumpkin seeds.



  • 1 Cup blue cornmeal
  • 1 Cup almond meal
  • 1/8 cup of olive oil
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1-2 Tbs water as needed


  • 1 sweet dumpling squash
  • 1 Cup spinach (I used a “power grains” Kale/spinach blend…they said the magic word when they said it was “triple washed,” which keeps me from having to repeatedly wash fresh kale/spinach)
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 stalks of scallions
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 T ginger paste
  • 1 T garlic minced or garlic paste
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup walnut pieces
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t allspice

The method:

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Cut squash in half and remove seeds.
  3. Wrap the squash in foil and and bake until soft.
  4. Chop onion and scallions and sautee them with the garlic and ginger paste.
  5. Chop spinach into ribbons and add to the onion mixture. Chop bell pepper into small pieces and add it in to the onion mixture.
  6. When squash is soft, scoop out the flesh and add to the onion/spinach mixture. Cook for a few minutes. Reduce oven to 350.
  7. Add in cilantro, cinnamon, and allspice. Set aside
  8. In a mixing bowl, combine the almond meal and cornmeal. Add olive oil and mix. Add water and mix by hand until it forms into a dough ball.
  9. Roll out the dough between pieces of parchment (you should have enough for a top and bottom. complete coverage on top is not necessary–if it ends up being cobbler-style patches, that’s fine.
  10. Line a baking pan with parchment and put in the bottom crust layer. Add pumpkin mixture on top. Sprinkle walnuts on top.
  11. Top with a top crust.
  12. Bake at 350 until crust is golden.
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Huevos rancheros with sweet potatoes and avocado

These aren’t your typical huevos rancheros. This is part of my is pantry/fridge challenge–use up ingredients you have. The ingredients: a sad looking avocado. A sweet potato needing to be used up. Some taco shells that happened to be out. Lentils that had been cooked the week before. Husband said he wanted eggs, soft boiled or poached. I went with soft boiled, because I didn’t feel like dealing with the precision required for poaching.

Note: you can play the pantry/fridge challenge too. leave  comment with an ingredient you want a recipe for. I’ll try to oblige. My next party trick is purple cauliflower.

The result:







The ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 T lime juice
  • 2 green onions chopped
  • 1/4 red onion chopped (prob will just need a wee little bit of this)
  • greens of some kind (I used radish and sunflower greens because that’s what I had)
  • 2 taco shells (use bread or tortillas if you prefer)
  • 2 T lentils (this was my substitute for black beans, which I don’t eat)
  • a few pistachios
  • 2 oz cheddar cheese
  • paprika
  • red chili flakes
  • tempeh “bacon”

Building your huevos “rancheros”

  1. After washing your sweet potato, swaddle it in a paper towel. Soak the paper towel and stick it in the microwave for about 4 minutes. (take a peek after 3). You want to be able to be soft enough to cut into pieces, and to come out of the skin easily.
  2. Chop up the sweet potato into bite sized pieces.
  3. Warm up a skillet with a little olive oil. Throw in your sweet potato and cook until it is crispy. Mine were a little dark. Salt/pepper to taste. I added a little paprika and red chili flake too
  4. Soft boil your eggs (i used an egg timer…and they were perhaps medium boiled. I might have preferred them a little runnier). You could poach them..I just didn’t feel like it yesterday.
  5. While the eggs are cooking, chop up your avocado and put it into a bowl. Chop scallions and add them to the avocado. Add some lime juice to that dish.
  6. Heat up your taco shell, tortilla, or bread
  7. Heat up your lentils/beans.
  8. Lay the taco shell on your plate. Smear your lentils on top. Then add your sweet potatoes. Top with avocado, then greens, then some shredded cheese. Pistachios were just for crunch.
  9. Place your eggs on top of this mound. salt/pepper your eggs as you wish.
  10. you could add salsa, but this version didn’t seem to need it.
  11. I served with a piece of tempeh bacon
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Ricotta Coconut pancakes (pantry-fridge challenge #1)

I woke up last Saturday to a note from my husband requesting pancakes for breakfast (for a friend who was visiting). Um ok, I thought…what do we have to make that happen? (not any kind of “pancake mix” (we rarely have that and if we do, it’s probably something multigrain) and not much maple syrup either, as it turned out) I’m calling this the pantry/fridge challenge because it’s a series of recipes developed from items we just happen to have lying around in the pantry, and a few things from the fridge.

Note: you can play the pantry/fridge challenge too. leave  comment with an ingredient you want a recipe for.

The pancakes were light, fluffy, and entirely non-traditional. They were primarily made of almond flour with a little oat flour thrown in. I had some ricotta and some coconut milk half used, so both of those things went in too. As did some coconut flakes and spices.

♣ The Ingredients

  • 1 C almond meal (in this case sliced almonds I ground)
  • 1 C oat flour (steel cut oats that I also ground)
  • 1/4 C coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 4 oz part skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 T flax seeds
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 T shredded coconut
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 1 t baking powder
  • cinnamon
  • allspice
  • vanilla
  • cardamom (a pinch, ground)
  • water if needed

 The Method

  1. Grind the almond and oat flours if you need to (I used a spice grinder). Add to a bowl, along with the coconut flour and flax seed
  2. Add in the ricotta cheese and eggs and stir around
  3. Add in coconut milk
  4. Add in your spices and shredded coconut.
  5. heat your griddle(s) to medium high (lower after it begins to sizzle). I use two to maximize space/minimize cooking time
  6. If your batter is too thick, thin it out with a little water
  7. My griddle allowed me to pour out four ladles worth of batter on each at a time. (probably about 3-4 inch pancakes)
  8. I transfer to a tupperware container lined with a towel and cover between batches
  9. I served with apple butter
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Apricot-Ginger tarts

It was my turn to host book club tonight. We read “The Hundred Foot Journey,” a visual book about an Indian boy who migrates to small town France, becomes a chef in a family Indian restaurant, and then becomes apprentice to an exacting (and somewhat bigoted) classical French chef. So…I made Indian (bhel puri) and Indo-French snacks…the apricot tarts fit in the latter category.apricottarts

The ingredients

  • 1 stick of butter, softened (ok so yes, these might be kinda paula dean-ish. but they’re a “sometimes” food. I used organic unsalted butter.
  • 1 cup of pastry flour or all purpose flour
  • 1-2 T sugar (I didn’t measure, but i did it to taste)
  • 12 teaspoons of ginger jam
  • 2 apricots, sliced thinly

The method

  1. Mix the flour and butter together with your hands to form a dough. It should come together and form a ball. If it’s too dry, add a little milk, a teaspoon at a time.
  2. Roll out between pieces of parchment, about 1/4 inch-1/8 thick.
  3. Cut into 2″ rounds with a cookie cutter.
  4. Lay out on parchment lined cookie sheets. use a spatula to transfer them.
  5. Fan out apricot slices on each tart
  6. bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.
  7. Let cool & enjoy!
  8. Spread a teaspoon of jam onto each of the tarts.
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Fig & Stilton Cheese Savories

I love fresh figs in the summer. So I bought a bunch the other day. I also bought an apricot Stilton cheese that I didn’t really like. And then had to come up with something to take to a colleague’s house a few days later. Enter: Fig and cheese savories, a take on this recipe.  They’re easy and really tasty. Maybe not so good for you. But they were for company!


  • 4 oz Stilton cheese (I used apricot Stilton, which was oddly sweet & salty)
  • 1 cup flour (next time I might try some whole wheat)
  • 1 stick of butter, softened (i softened it in the microwave, 10 secs at a time)
  • 3-4 T fig preserves
  • 2-3 fresh figs, cut into slices
  • black pepper for grinding
  1. Heat oven to 350 and line 2 cookie sheets  with parchment
  2. Crumble Stilton into a bowl. add butter and then flour. Work it into a dough with your hands
  3. Grind black pepper into the bowl…i used 3 or so grinds
  4. Form the dough into a ball.
  5. Roll out into a 1/4″ thin round (thicker probably is fine) between 2 pieces of parchment paper
  6. Use a 2″ round cookie cutter to cut out “cookies” and place them on the lined baking sheet.
  7. Use the back of a round measuring spoon or a melon-baller to make an indentation in each round
  8. Spoon 1/2 teaspoon or so of fig jam onto each round.
  9. top with a fig piece
  10. bake until golden, about 10-12 minutes. Let cool and serve as an appetizer, or as a cheese course dessert 🙂
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Neyyappam Muffins (brown butter coconut & cardamom muffins)

The other day, when my aunt asked me if I was planning to make Neyyappam this weekend, she sparked a new recipe–reinventing tradition, as I like to call it.  Neyyappam is a dessert that Tamilian/Keralan families make for a festival called “Avani Avittam” made of rice flour, brown sugar, coconut, cardamom, etc and fried like a fritter or doughnut in neyyi (ghee/brown butter/clarified butter). I hesitated  when she asked for a few reasons:  I don’t have the special pan needed to fry the dessert, and I only really like neyyapam when it’s hot, crispy and fresh off the stove–I think they’re kind of a waste of effort otherwise :). But we started talking about alternatives, and came up with baking them in a muffin tin. Yesterday, when it came time to make them, I decided to not just use the traditional recipe but bake them, as I found out just now that someone else has already tried & blogged about, but to futz with the recipe while I was at it to make them into breakfast muffins that have the flavor of neyyappams. Normally I don’t use butter much in my muffins, but for this, I needed the flavor of neyyi.

If you’re looking for a traditional baked neyyappam–substitute out the eggs (use 1/4 cup yogurt instead), and put the rice flour back in. You can try this recipe. (I swear I only landed upon these now when I was looking for a link to the traditional neyyappam recipe to link to for a comparison! 🙂  You also might want to add more sugar (i did a very low sugar version).

The Ingredients

Neyyappam muffinsThe ingredients

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 cup cooked oatmeal (this was a last minute addition–it was sitting out from breakfast). You could use oat flour or grind up some oatmeal to add
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 2 eggs ( if you want to keep this eggless you can do without, or add 1/4 cup yogurt instead. or 2 T flax mixed with water)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 1 inch pieces of coconut
  • 1.5 T butter
  • 2 T flax seeds
  • 1 T brown sugar (add more to your liking if you wish)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (non traditional but i just felt like it)

The method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 and line 9 muffin cups with liners
  2. In a blender, combine bananas, oatmeal, cinnamon, and cardamom. grind until smooth (you could leave oatmeal til later if you want more texture. this was to mimic the texture of neyyappam). Add coconut and pulse (you want a few “pieces” in your batter, but for the coconut to be distributed around)
  3. Pour out into a bowl
  4. add your eggs, flax, and brown sugar
  5. heat a small pan and add butter. cover with a lid and let bubble away until it is browned (usually for neyyi you just let it melt until clarified, but i went the additional step for the flavor of browned butter).
  6. Add the butter to your batter
  7. pour batter into muffin tins and bake until golden and a knife comes out clean, roughly 20 minutes.
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Arugula Pesto Pizza

For the bday dinner, we talked about going out for pizza, but when I found out they weren’t going to be available until 9 or 9:30 pm, I decided to make pizzas instead. This one was the favorite.

The Crust

Special Equipment: Stand Mixer, a pizza stone, and a pizza peel (all totally unnecessary, but things that make the pizza-making process fun)

I use Mark Bittman’s recipe. It’s easy, quick, and consistently turns out 2 thin pizza crusts. score. Still working on my pizza dough stretching skills–I like thin crust pizza, so I stretch, and then roll at the very end. I find it’s easiest to roll/stretch the pizza onto a piece of parchment paper. Also, I never have managed to leave enough time to let the dough rise for 2 hours– so I go with the shortcut method: I let it rise at least a half hour. hour. The other change is that I use my stand mixer rather than a food processor to make the dough. That said, you could mix the whole thing by hand, too…it’ll just take more time and kneading…the results will be just as good, I’m sure.

  • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour
  • 2 teaspoon fast-rising yeast (i use bread machine dry yeast)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 T Olive Oil
  • 1 cup of water
  • basil or rosemary if you’d like

The method

  1. Add the flour, yeast and salt into the mixer bowl. 
  2. Add the olive oil and turn the processor on–slowly at first or you’ll have a puff of flour in your face. I like my mixer bowl shield for recipes like this…you can drizzle in the liquid without the risk of ending up with a face full of flour.
  3. Add the water in slowly and turn the mixer up. Mix it until it forms a lose ball. (Like bittman’s recipe says, if it’s too wet, add a little flour at a time. If too dry, add a little water at a time. I’ve really never had to).
  4. Turn the dough out onto a piece of saran wrap. Cover loosely (the dough will rise). Put it back in the bowl and put a towel on top of it. let it rest/rise for as long as you can wait.
  5. When you’re ready to make pizza. form the dough into 2 balls.Cut 2 pieces of parchment.
  6. Stretch the dough–I let it hang from my hands and keep turning it in the air. and then eventually, I lay the dough onto the parchment and roll it the last bit.

The pesto

  • 2 cups of arugula/spinach mix
  • 1 cup basil (i think some parsley slipped in too–both from my garden)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 T pine nuts
  • 1/4-1/2 cup olive oil (put as much as you’re comfortable with. I don’t like my pesto that oily…
  • 1 T grated Parmesan
  1. Blend the whole mixture in  food processor or blender (I’ve found that my Vitamix container is to big for small batches like pesto).
  2. Now you might want to preheat your oven to 500 for about a half hour

The toppings

  • caramelized onions
  • cherry tomatoes split in half (i used ones from our garden)
  • fresh mozzarella  ( i tore the 2 “ovolines” into bits and spread them across the pizza)
  • fresh Parmesan
  • arugula/spinach to top
  • a handful of pine nuts
  1. Spread the pesto on the dough
  2. Add the onions, tomatoes, and cheese.
  3. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the crust is golden/cooked
  4. Top with the arugula, pine nuts, and a little more Parmesan

For the other pizza, I made an Arabaiata sauce (easy fix: add chili powder and basil to a fresh tomato sauce), topped it with a mushroom blend, caramelized onions, fresh basil, and fresh mozzarella. It was good, but needed salt (I’m experimenting with sea salt “flakes” and haven’t quite figured out proportions–sometimes things aren’t salty enough and sometimes that same pinch will make something like my gazpacho way, way too salty. (#firstworldproblems).

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Cherry Almond Dutch Baby Pancakes

I’ve made “dutch baby” pancakes  (Pannenkoeken) before—something I had to try after trips to the Netherlands—but this time, I decided to try making them a little healthier. I used less butter than the original recipes called for, no sugar (just fruit), and substituted in some almond flour instead of all flour. I almost made them fully almond meal, but was worried they wouldn’t fluff at all since its heavier than regular flour, an affliction I’m still working on with my tasty but somewhat flat almond flour muffins.

Base recipe: I looked at a few, including this one, before mixing them up to come up with the one I used.

Special Equipment: a blender, an oven proof skillet or an 8″ round baking pan.

I used a round silicone baking pan. I recommend lining the bottom with parchment just for the ease of cleanup. but you can totally just do the spray & flour method that I used below.


  • 1 t olive oil spray
  • 4  eggs
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1/4 cup white wheat pastry flour
  • 2 T  shredded coconut
  • 2 bananas
  • 10-12 cherries, pitted and cut in half
  • a dash of cinnamon
  • 1/4 t almond or vanilla extract
  • a tiny pinch of sea salt
  • as for equipment, you will want a small oven-proof skillet or a round 8 inch baking pan

The Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400
  2. Spray cooking spray or rub olive oil into pan. sprinkle with a little bit of cornmeal
  3. In a skillet, heat a smidge of butter or olive oil until sizzling.
  4. Slice up 1 banana and halve the cherries. Add to sizzling pan and cook until bananas are golden.
  5. Spread half of the fruit into the bottom of the baking pan.
  6. put all of the remaining ingredients (except coconut) into the blender and blend until smooth. Add coconut after blending
  7. Pour half of the batter over the fruit.
  8. Top with remaining fruit, then remaining batter.
  9. Bake until a tester comes out clean, probably 15-20 minutes.
  10. Slice up and enjoy.
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Birthday Breakfast Doughnuts

For Neefu’s birthday, I decided to make something a little special–birthday doughnuts. I didn’t really have much time, and not that much by way of ingredients, but I wanted her to wake up to something special, since she’s been helping K so much. 

I also wanted it to be tasty, and yet at least semi-healthy, so I  made some substitutions: some whole wheat flour, agave syrup instead of sugar (I’m still not sold on fake sugar, though I’ve been trying–that aftertaste, yuck.  though maybe one day I’ll get there).

base recipe:

◊ modifications: agave syrup, changing the balance of wheat and AP flour, and adding in some almond flour too. oh and cocoa powder!

◊ special tools: a doughnut pan

happy birthday neefu!

♠ Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 c almond flour
  • 1/4 c cocoa powder
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 C agave syrup or a wee bit less (I eyeballed it–probably 3  squirts.  A side note, agave has more moisture, so it balances out the addition of cocoa powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil/melted butter/melted fat of your choice
  • 1/4 cup  milk
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg

♥ The method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350•
  2. Beat the egg and the olive oil together
  3. Add the milk and yogurt, agave, and vanilla and stir briskly with a fork
  4. Mix in the flours and baking powder
  5. Mix in the cocoa powder, and salt, cinnamon
  6. Pour the mixture into the doughnut pan. fill each well half full.
  7. bake for roughly 6-10 minutes.
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4th of July Fruit Tartlets

We’ve had these 3 boxes of mini filo tart shells in our freezer since April (I bought them to make something for K’s bday but he wanted to use another shell for what I made, so these just sat around). Yesterday was the perfect day to use them up–fruit was on sale. (yay, emptying freezer!)


  • blueberries
  • cherries
  • almond paste
  • 3 T butter
  • a splash of milk or coconut milk (what I used)
  • 2 T powdered sugar
  • filo tart shells (I used mini shells)
  • 1 t vanilla
  • a mini star shaped cutter (if you wish) and a cherry pitter (really not essential)

The original method

I’m posting two versions–the method I actually used, and one I think might be easier. Why? I cooked the fruit with a bit of almond paste (no cream) first, and thought it was a little bland, so I made an almond cream, pulled the fruit out, piped it in, and replaced the fruit. This method tasted amazing, but was a bit tedious, and the fruit wasn’t bright (as it was when it was raw).

  1. Arrange filo tart shells on a baking pan lined with parchment
  2. Make an almond pastry cream by combining a nub of almond paste (3 inches?), butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Add milk/coconut milk to thin out a little bit. fill into a pastry bag
  3. Add a small nub of almond paste to each tart shell–you just want a thin bit to taste.
  4. pit cherries. slice cherries into small bits.
  5. add 3 blueberries and cherries on top.
  6. Bake at 350 for 5-7 minutes (read filo package for exact time)
  7. cool for 10 mins
  8. remove fruit. pipe in pastry cream and replace fruit
  9. I cut out mini stars from almond paste and placed one in each tart. So you have the flag in a tart shell: red=cherries, white=shell and almond paste star, blue=blueberries,

option 2: with almond cream and fresh fruit, or…fruit cooked separately

  1. bake tart shells as directed
  2. let cool
  3. add nub of almond paste to each shell
  4. make almond pastry cream. pipe in pastry cream
  5. either cook fruit on stove for a few mins (you don’t want jam or compote) or top with raw fruit (still will be really tasty)
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