Superfood Smoothie Buddha Bowl Thingies

Orange and White fruits accent this blue spirulina and nice cream smoothie bowl

 

Some of you may be aware that I am allergic to melons and strawberries. They’re easy enough to avoid but it means that getting a smoothie bowl at someplace like Jamba Juice or Nekter is out of the question. So I make them at home. This week I’ll share 3 smoothie bowl recipes so you can make your own at home.

A really good blender or food processor is a must for these recipes. I try to keep a good supply of mangos, dragonfruit, berries and bananas up in the freezer. As well as steel cut oats and coconut milk in the pantry and Greek style yogurt in the fridge, I frequently use these to make overnight oatmeal so they’re super handy to have on hand and perfect for smoothie bowls. Things like chia seeds, nuts, puffed rice and shredded coconut are also nice to keep around to add texture and extra fiber to the smoothie bowls. There are also any number of protein powders and supplements out there that you can also add if you choose. I’ve used blue spirulina, butterfly pea powder, matcha powder, and pea protein powder, but they aren’t necessary and I use them more for color than for their nutritional properties.

Butteryfly Pea Powder blueberries and Blackberries give this smoothie bowl is purple color

Butterfly Pea Oat Bowl

1/2 cup steel cut oats

1/2 frozen banana chopped

1 tsp butterfly pea powder

1/2 cup coconut milk

1/2 cup greek yogurt

1/4 cup frozen blueberries

Toss everything into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.

 

PInk pitaya, dried cherries and raspberries give this bowl its pinkish hue.

Very Berry Dairy Free Smoothie Bowl

1/2 cup coconut milk

4 or 5 coconut milk ice cubes

1/2 cup steel cut oats

3 TBS freeze dried cherries

1/4 cup frozen raspberries

1/2 cup frozen pink pitaya/dragonfruit

1 frozen banana chopped

Combine all the ingredients except the coconut milk into the blender, slowly add in the coconut milk to get the blender going. Bend until smooth.

 

Frozen Bananas and coconut milk make up the base for this smoothie bowl.

Nice Cream Smoothie Bowl

4 frozen bananas chopped

1/4 tsp blue spirulina powder (optional)

1/4 cup coconut milk

2 tsp honey or agave syrup.

Blend until its the texture of soft-serve ice cream and serve

 

Enjoy and as always let me know how you liked these recipes

Here there be dragons…..

Homemade fortune cookies decorated for Valentine’s Day.

Every once and a while as I’m wandering around Pinterest and Instagram I see an idea that I find inspiring and I try to reproduce it or riff off of it and usually it works out how I imagined it in my head. So, with it being Lunar New Year (’cause I tend to write posts a week ahead) and with Valentine’s Day coming up I thought I’d try my hand at making fortune cookies from scratch. I love the idea of being able to customize the fortunes as well as the cookie itself being an interesting package to hide surprises. Seems perfect for Valentine’s Day, right?

I can deal with doing a lot of seemingly tedious culinary tasks. I can spend hours decorating cookies and using tweezers to apply sugar pearls and such to cakes and cookies. But I have to admit these fortune cookies are a little too tedious for me. The recipe I’m going to share will make 2 dozen fortune cookies. But I actually made 10 and called it quits. The batter is super easy but the tedium comes into play with baking them 2 at a time. Then putting the fortune into the hot from the oven cookie before the cookie cools too much and starts to crack. And off course accomplishing this without burning your fingers. Turns out this is much easier said than actually done. So cool idea but a bit of a PITA. Good luck and may the odds be in your favor.

Ingredients

  • 2 large egg whites
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp orange extract (or whatever other flavor you’d like)
  • 6 TBS melted butter
  • ⅔ cup AP flour
  • 24 precut sayings or fortunes

Preheat oven to 375F.

In a large mixing bowl, mix the eggs and sugar with a wire whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Then mix in, salt, extracts and flour. The batter will be really thick and that’s ok. Slowly drizzle in the melted butter and continue to stir until the batter is the consistency of instant pudding.

Using a silicone mat, spread 1 TBS of the batter into a 3 ½ round.

Try to spread the batter as evenly as possible. Bake the cookies at 375F for 5-8 minutes or until they start to brown around the edges. Remove them from the oven and place onto a cooling rack. Immediately use a metal spatula to loosen the cookies from the mat and place the fortunes in the middle.

Slowly press the edges of the cookie together (the cookies will still be hot to the touch) and fold over the edge of a cookie sheet or glass. I used a metal ruler I had laying around.

Allow to cool and decorate as you like. These should be eaten same day. Since there are no preservatives in them, they a susceptible to humidity.

Peppermint Chocolate Layer Cake with Peppermint White Chocolate Buttercream Icing

Rich chocolate cake stacked high with layers of Peppermint White Chocolate Buttercream Icing and finished off with more buttercream, chopped up candy canes, and peppermint bark

I hope everyone had a relaxing Christmas Holiday, things are settling back down around the homestead and the marathon cookie baking and decorating has come to an end. Now that we’re heading into the New Year, things are also calming down at work and I should be back to having consistent days off which will hopefully allow the blogging schedule to fall back into place.

This week’s recipe came about because I was asked to bring a dessert for Christmas dinner.  I’ve been intrigued (read obsessed) with MilkBar’s layer cakes (and their corn cookie and crack pie). The gang over at MilkBar always seem to come up with these fanciful flavor combinations for their cakes and they have a distinct visual style with their unfrosted sides. It’s been ages since I’ve baked a layer cake, so I thought it would be kind of fun to try my hand at building a MilkBar style towering marvel.

Over the years via interviews and various cooking segments, Christina Tosi (the genius behind MilkBar) has shared how she goes about designing and assembling these cakes with the cake itself, the frosting and a textural element as the basic components. In this case because of the holiday I opted for crushed candy canes and crumbled peppermint bark for my textural elements. I also decided to use peppermint oil rather than peppermint extract, because it provides an intense wallop of peppermint flavor. You can certainly use peppermint extract, it just takes a lot more extract to provide the same intensity of flavor and that will impact the texture of the frosting. I was able to find food grade peppermint oil at a specialty shop, but you should be able to find it easily enough on the interwebs.

As it turns out, I must have given away our cake pans when we moved from NJ to CA. So I had to go out and buy new cake pans. I opted for 7″ inch springform pans figuring that the springform would come in handy for assembly, transport and unveiling. I lucked out and was able to find 3 identical pans at Homegoods.

There’s basically three stages to creating this cake, first its the baking of the cake, then making the buttercream and then the last part is the assembly of the cake itself. The whole process took about 8 hours, which includes the time the cake had to chill in the fridge so the icing could set up and help hold the.cake together so It could be transported to its destination.

Part 1…the cake

Ingredients

  • 3 cups AP flour
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint oil
  • 8 oz. melted extra dark chocolate
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 8 tsp extra dark cocoa

Place a clean glass or stainless steal bowl over a pot of lightly boiling water to make a double boiler. Break the chocolate into small chunks and place into the bowl, stir until all the chocolate has melted. Set aside to let cool. While the chocolate is cooling, assemble the rest of the cake ingredients. In a large bowl, combine, flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and cocoa and set aside. In another bowl, mix the oil, water, sour cream, vanilla extract, peppermint oil and eggs lightly until combined then slowly pour into the dry ingredients.  Mix until just combined by hand or with an electric mixer. Slowly mix in the melted chocolate. Divide batter evenly between 3 prepared 8″ cake  pans and bake in an oven preheated to 350 for 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Because I used smaller pans and filled them to about half full, the cake took closer to an hour to bake for me. Remove from the oven to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then remove from the pans and let cool completely before icing.

Part 2….the Icing

Ingredients

  • 1lb unsalted butter (softened and room temperature)
  • 12 oz white chocolate chips
  • 1lb powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp food grade peppermint oil
  • 2 TBS corn syrup
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream

Use a double boiler or microwave to melt white chocolate chips and set aside to cool. Once the white chocolate has cooled but is still liquid, whip butter in a large bowl or stand mixer with whisk attachment on high speed until the butter turns pale yellow. Scrap down the sides of the bowl and add vanilla extract and peppermint oil and whisk on medium speed until flavoring is incorporated. With the mixer on low, slowly drizzle in the white chocolate and add the corn syrup*. Turn the mixer off and scrap down the sides. Add ⅓ of the powder sugar and turn the mixer on to low, mix until the powered sugar is thoroughly incorporated, turn off the mixer and scrap down the sides between each addition. Continue until all the powdered has been added. You should hear the motor of the mixer slow down. Now gradually start adding the heavy whipping cream. Your looking for a nice spreadable/pipable texture that’s not too loose. The icing should be airy but still hold a peak so you may not need all the cream.

Part 3….Assembly

Some assembly required. A springform pan and a sheet of clear vinyl hold the cake together during assembly.

 

  • large spoon or piping bag with large tip to apply icing
  • 1 cake pan
  • 1 cake board
  • a 10″ wide strip of acetate of clear vinyl.
  • clear tape
  • crushed candy canes
  • broken up pieces of peppermint bark

Cut the acetate of vinyl so that the length is equal to the circumference of the cake pan with 1″ overlap. The acetate/vinyl is what will allow you to build up the layers of the cake.  Level all three cakes, crumble the tops and set aside, you’ll use them to form the bottom layer of the cake.

Place the cake board at the bottom of the cake pan, then form a cylinder with the acetate/vinyl and place it into the cake pan, making sure that the cylinder is snug against the sides of the cake pan. Tape the top and bottom of the cylinder.

Spread a thin layer of icing on the cake board and pack the crumbled up cake into the bottom of the cake pan and top with a layer of buttercream. I find that its easier to use a piping bag for this rather than trying to spread with a spoon. Sprinkle the buttercream with crushed up candy canes and peppermint bark. Continue layering cake, buttercream and candy until get to the top layer. Frost the top layer and sprinkle with more candy canes and peppermint bark. Place a layer of plastic wrap over the top of the cylinder and place in the fridge to chill for at least 6 hours or overnight. This will allow the frosting to firm up which will help keep the cake together.

To serve, tip the cake onto its side and remove the cake pan, keeping a hand on the cake board so that it stays in place, turn the cake back up upright and place it onto a cake stand or plate. Cut the tape and remove the vinyl/acetate cylinder.

Enjoy….

* The corn syrup is necessary for texture and to help stabilize the frosting. Honey or agave will not substitute in this case because they’ll solidify and turn gritty when the cake is chilled.

Holiday Hiatus

Just letting you all know that we are going on a little Holiday season break here at itstimefordinner.com. We will be back the beginning of the year with all new content. In the meantime, check out my Holiday Treat Series. You’ll find the link to all my past Holiday Treat recipes and videos from years past, which I hope will  inspire your Holiday baking.

Happy Holidays and I’ll see you in the New Year.

Christmas Cookies 2018

This weeks post is going to be short and sweet. No pun intended. I’m in the midst of baking and decorating this years batch(es) of Christmas Cookies. So, I’m just going to share my favorite recipe for cut-out style sugar cookies and some tips to get the best results and then get back to decorating.

So the first thing to note is that I use a shortbread recipe versus a tradition sugar cookie recipe. I prefer the shortbread for a few reasons, there’s fewer ingredients, its simple and consistent and because it doesn’t have any leaveners in it, it reduces the likelihood that cookies will puff up and spread out.  Secondly, make sure to chill the dough for at least an hour before rolling and try to roll the dough between ¼” and ½” thick. Lastly, once you cut out the cookies and lay them out on a baking sheet, chill them for 30 minutes. These steps will help prevent the cookies from spreading out too much and give you a nice smooth top for decorating.

Recipe

3 ½ cups sifted AP flour
1 ¾ cup / 3 1/2 sticks softened room temp unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract or flavoring of you choice

In a large bowl or stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar together until doubled in volume and becomes a pale yellow. Scrap down the sides of the bowl and add the extract and salt and mix for a few moments. Gradually stir in the flour. Blend on low until flour is well incorporated. The dough may still be crumbly or even loose and that’s ok. Just make sure there are no visible clumps of flour, especially at the bottom of the bowl. Scrap down the sides of the bowl and clean off paddle.

Turn dough out onto waxed paper and form into a 1-2 inch thick disk. Wrap in wax paper and place into a zip top bag and chill in the fridge for at least one hour. To bake, take dough out of the fridge and let warm up for about 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325F, roll out dough on a board dusted with powdered sugar. For cut outs I’ll stick to rolling the dough out to between ¼ and ½ inch thick and use a 3” cutter. I’ll yield about 3 dozen cookies. Place cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until the bottom of the cookie starts to turn golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Cookies need to be completely cooled before decorating.

If you don’t have cookie cutters, no worries. Just use a really sharp knife and cut into bars also jelly jars make decent cutters in a pinch. As for decorating: lightly coat the cookie with corn syrup and apply sanding sugar or sprinkles or dip into white candy melt and use edible markers.

 

 

Coquito – aka Puerto Rican Egg Nog

So what the heck is Coquito? Well, its a popular drink in Puerto Rico and with the Puerto Rican diaspora. Its a coconut based rum drink that’s seasoned with cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg similar to egg nog. Coquito iss popular during the Christmas Season and is frequently given as a gift to loved ones, friends and co-worker

Some claim that its roots stem from Spanish sailors that were familiar with egg nog and decided to use the local coconuts to make a similar drink. I personally (based on zero research) think that its probably a coconut based boozy version of  turtle-nut horchata which is something that Spanish sailors were familiar with and  some home-sick sailors probably thought the fatty richness of coconut would be a good substitution for rich, meaty, turtle-nuts.

Coquito doesn’t require any specialized equipment to make, though I’d suggest a funnel which makes getting the fairly thick drink into narrow mouthed bottles.  It’s fairly common for folks to save up all their rum and wine bottles through the year to use for their coquito gifting. TJ Maxx (who had some for $1.99 the other day) , Micheals and 2nd hand shops are my go to for looking for nice flip top bottles for gifting.

Recipe

1 can full fat coconut milk (preferably Goya)

1 can Creme de Coco such as Coco Lopez

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 can evaporated milk

¾ cup white Puerto Rican Rum such as Don Q*

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground clove

½ tsp ground allspice

½ tsp ground nutmeg

1 cinnamon stick

Mix all the ingredients together in a pitcher or bowl and then divide amongst bottles. This recipe will make enough to fill 1 750ML bottle with a a little left over. Served over ice with a cinnamon stick for garnish.

*my preference is for Don Q because it is a true Puerto Rican Rum from Ponce, PR. Though Bacardi is labeled as such and widely used for Coquito, it is a Cuban rum and is just distilled in Puerto Rico for the North American market.

Lemon & Lavender Shortbread

lemon and lavender cookies with nasturtium and lavender blossoms

I’ve been looking forward to posting this recipe for quite a while. We have quite a few lavender bushes around our yard and I’m always trying to think of ways to put all that lavender to use. Last Holiday season, I embedded some into resin to make coasters and trivets and I plan to make candles (ssh…they’ll probably wind up as Christmas presents for some folks) and maybe try soap though messing with lye kind of scares me so maybe not.

Anyway back to the lavender. A few weeks back I went through and picked blossoms off the lavender plants and I’ve been letting them air dry. I realize that not everyone grows their own lavender, several of the popular online spice retailers have dried lavender available and of course good ‘ol Amazon does.  Just with Amazon, make sure that its food grade or for culinary use.

Shortbread is pretty easy to make there’s no leavener, its just sugar, softened room temperature butter, a pinch of salt, flour and whatever flavoring you’d like to add, like vanilla extract or in this case lavender and lemon. They’re also nice because you don’t need any special cutters. You can roll the dough out to about a ½” thickness and then cut the dough into bars with a knife or pizza cutter. The dough is also very forgiving. I frequently re-roll the scraps though typically I will chill the dough back down in the fridge for a little while before I do that.

I suppose you can also make shortbread vegan by replacing the butter, though I’ve yet to find a shortening or similar that actually tastes good enough that I’d want to give up the butter. Shortbread dough is versatile. I use shortbread for my cut-out style Holiday Cookies and shortbread is a nice crust to use with custard style pies. Just dock the crust and blind bake before filling.

I’m using my regular shortbread recipe which you’ll find here. With a few important differences, first the cooking temperature and time which in this case is 275F for 60-75 minutes and I’ll be adding lemon zest and lavender blossoms as well as lemon extract. Baking the cookies low and slow will give them a really nice snap (perfect dunking texture). Here are the ingredients and instructions and there’s also a video below to walk you through the process.

Recipe

  • 3 ½ standard sticks of room temperature softened unsalted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 Tablespoon lavender blossoms
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon zest
  • 3 ½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup of powdered sugar for dusting rolling pin and work surface
  • white sanding sugar, 1 TBS more of lemon zest and lavender for decorating (optional)

Cream butter and sugar together in a large mixing bow or the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment. Add the your flavorings and slowly incorporate the salt and flour. Blend until dough starts to pull away from the side of the bowl and a ball starts to form. Wrap the dough in wax paper and chill for at least an hour. Roll out and cut into desired shape and dock cookies several times with a fork or toothpick. Optional step: sprinkle with the sanding sugar, zest, lavender blend and use the rolling pin to slightly press the decorations into the dough.  Bake at 275F for 60-75 minutes. Larger thicker cookies require more baking time. You want the cookies to be golden brown on the bottom and set. Let cool on a wire rack

Holiday Cookies

Homemade Holiday treats.

Homemade Holiday treats.

Christmas is just around the corner so it’s the perfect time for Holiday baking. This year, in a (failed) attempt to simplify the cookie options, I decided to keep the selection to 3 basic cookies. Marranitos (aka cochinos, puerquitos) are traditional Mexican spice cookies and are usually shaped like pigs. It’s often referred to as Mexican gingerbread, though there isn’t any ginger in them. Shortbread, I used the same dough recipe, but prepared them three different ways. First, decorated in traditional Christmas fashion. Next, drizzled with white chocolate and milk chocolate and lastly, dipped in white chocolate and sprinkled with chopped pistachios and dried cherries. The final cookie is what I call a trail mix cookie, they’re a whole wheat oatmeal cookie and I use trail mix as the add in, thus the name. Use your favorite trail mix. The trail mix I chose had almonds, peanuts, cashews, chocolate chips, coconut and cherries. Here are the recipes.

Marranitos

Ingredients:
piloncillo 250g
whole wheat flour 360g
white flour 140g
softened butter 150g
water 200ml
palm sugar 50g
1 egg
baking powder 10g
salt 2g
vanilla 10ml
egg and water for egg wash

This recipe was translated from Spanish and uses weight versus volume measurements. Piloncillo is unrefined sugar. It can be found in Latin-American markets and is usually cone shaped. Melt the piloncillo in the water along with the spices and vanilla, steep them together for 30 minutes on low heat. While the spices are steeping in the sugar water, measure out the dry ingredients. Once the spices have steeped for 30 minutes, strain with a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth. Discard the spices, save and set aside the liquid.

In a mixing bowl, blend the white and wheat flour, salt, and baking powder. Add the butter and blend together then add the egg. Slowly add the piloncillo liquid just enough until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. You may not need all the liquid. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Form into a disk and wrap with waxed paper. Chill for at least 1 hour.

Once dough has chilled, roll out to about ¼ – ⅛ inch thick. Cut into desired shape. Lay out on a baking sheet and brush with egg wash. Bake at 300F for 30 minutes. They hould be cake like in texture.

Shortbread

¾ cup softened butter
3 ½ cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt

Cream butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Add the vanilla and slowly incorporate the salt and flour. Blend until dough starts to pull away from the side of the bowl and a ball starts to form. Wrap the dough in wax paper and chill for at least an hour. Roll out and cut into desired shape. Bake at 350F for 12-20 minutes. Larger thicker cookies require more baking time. The cookies are done when the start to turn golden brown along their edges. Let cookies cool completely before decorating.

Trail Mix Cookies

1 cup softened butter
1 ¼ cup packed brown sugar
1 ½ whole wheat flour
½ tsp cinnamon
½ salt
½ tsp ground clove
1 tsp baking powder
3 cups oats
1- 1 ½ cups trail mix
2 eggs

Cream together the brown sugar and butter and add cinnamon, salt and clove and eggs. Slowly incorporate the flour and baking powder until well combined. Add the oats and trail mix. Form into 1 inch ball and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 350F for 15-18 minutes.

Peppermint bark recipe can be found here.

Holiday Treats IV-Peppermint Bark

Peppermint Bark

Barks are really easy candies to make and you can use either white or dark chocolate. Just melt the chocolate, pour it onto a wax paper lined baking sheet (one with sides) and then top with whatever flavorings you want. Things like, dried fruits, like dried apricots, coconut and candied orange zest, nuts, crumbled candies, crumbled pretzels and crumbled malted milk balls are just a few examples of things I’ve used. Use whatever your family likes.

You can melt the chocolate using a double boiler over a simmer and stir constantly (Be careful not to get water into the chocolate or the chocolate will seize and you’ll have to start over). The kid friendly way to work with chocolate is to employ the nuker. Microwave the chocolate on 50% power for 30 second intervals, stirring in between the intervals until the chocolate is melted.

The other caution I’ll give is to good quality chocolate bars versus chocolate chips when making candies, especially when it comes to white chocolate. White Chocolate chips rarely have any cocoa butter (thank you FDA and your lax food labeling policies) in them which is what you want for this.

Peppermint Bark
Probably one of the easiest home-made candies you can make.

1/2 cup of crushed candy canes or any hard peppermint candy

1/4 tsp peppermint extract

16 oz white chocolate (not chips) chopped

Line a sided baking sheet with wax paper and lay out 1/2 of the crushed candy. Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Make sure to stir constantly. Remove from heat and stir in peppermint extract.

Pour over candy on baking sheet. Then top with the remaining candy and spread so its a 1/4″ to 1/2″ layer. Let cool in the fridge for about an hour then break apart and store in an airtight container.

Holiday Treats Part III – Cranberry Pumpkin Seed Biscotti

Cranberry Pumpkin Seed Biscotti

For part three of my holiday baking series, I’ll share with you my recipe for biscotti. Like my other holiday treat recipes, this ones fairly easy and doesn’t require any special equipment or ingredients. You can make them with whatever you’d like. This variation is with pumpkin seeds and cranberries, but you can make them with just about any combination of nut and berries.

Cranberry Pumpkin Seed Biscotti
3 ¼ cups a.p. flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
½ vegetable oil
3 eggs
zest of one orange
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

Preheat oven to 350ºF. In a large bowl, mix the 3 eggs, orange zest, sugar and oil together. In a separate bowl or on a large sheet of wax paper, combine all the dry ingredients. Then slowly add them to the egg and sugar mixture. Mix until it stiffens into a firm dough. Add the cranberries and pumpkin seeds. Form into two loaves 1 ½ inch thick loaves and place on a greased or parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and remove from the cookie sheet to cool for an hour. Once the loaves are cool enough to handle, slice into ½ inch thick slices, place onto a greased or parchment lined cookie sheet and back at 325ºF for 8 minutes. Turn over and bake for another 5 minutes.