Joshua Tree Date Nut Bread

I am now convinced of two things: dates are amazing and great things come from Joshua Tree.

Not only do dates make amazing milkshakes, give cause for an awesome harvest festival down in Indio, or have 50 references in the Bible (according to Wikipedia), but they also make amazing bread.

Not only is Joshua Tree a funky-lookin’ tree…

(Photo credit not mine)

…or the name of an incredible U2 album…

…but it is also the place where my great-grandmother lived, who made fame in my family for her Date Nut Bread. So when I received a surprise care package from my aunt that featured a fine-lookin’ box of dates, I decided I must try my hand at the recipe.

The first time I made it, I ate it in four days. By myself. I wish I was joking.

I made it for the second time last Saturday, and worked up enough self-control to get it to last through the week. There’s still one piece left and I had actually shared some this time.

Fortunately for my conscience , this bread is full of natural ingredients and rather nutritious as a result of a few changes I made to my great-grandmother’s recipe. I used whole-wheat pastry flour, which adds some hearty fiber, and I substituted half of the sugar with unsweetened applesauce. The dates are the key ingredient of the bread, acting as a natural sweetener and giving it a very exotic flavor…if there is such thing as an “exotic” flavor…

First, crank the oven to preheat at 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine:
1 cup chopped dates
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup boiling water
After stirring mixture, set aside and let cool.

…don’t worry, it’s supposed to look like something you might encounter in a college boy’s dorm room…

In a large bowl, beat together:
2 eggs
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened natural applesauce

Stir in the date mixture. If it hasn’t cooled enough, the eggs will coagulate…and that’s bad. Frowny face :(

Hand-mix in:
2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
2 Tbsp. melted butter
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Pour into greased loaf pan and bake from 45 minutes to 1 hour.

And check it out! Look at that fine bread!

Let’s get some natural lighting on that bad boy…oh yeah!

Just a little suggestion: I ate this for breakfast with hot Breakfast tea and a bowl of sliced banana with granola and plain yogurt (mixed with a few drops of agave nectar to sweeten it a bit)…and the combo was to die for. The experience might even have been further maximized if I had listened to U2’s The Joshua Tree at the same time…

Advertisements

Home Sweet Home Pancakes

This recipe blog post is kind of awkward for me.

1. I’ve been sorta-kinda working on it for like four weeks.

2. The first recipe I didn’t make myself.

3. I kinda failed on the recipe I did make.

Just letting you know ahead of time.

With that all cleared up, I want to talk to you about pancakes.

First, nothing says “Home sweet home” like pancakes made from scratch for breakfast. They were actually yelling that at me before I ate them. It was kind of weird.

Okay, I’m sorry, my pancakes don’t talk. That was a sick joke. I promise not to do that again.

Anyways, my daddy happens to make the best pancakes. And not with bisquick…we actually try not to say the b-word in my house. Just because the pancakes on the box look fantastic does not mean they taste anywhere near as delicious as from scratch. Trust me, it’s totally worth the effort.

So these pancakes my dad makes–they’re not only made-from-scratch yumminess, they’re actually rather nutritious for you…of course, that’s pre-butter and maple syrup drenching.

Here’s how he does it:

Set aside 1 mashed ripe banana

Mix in a bowl:
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 TBSP sugar (for sweeter pancakes, add another TBSP)
1 TSP baking powder
1 TSP salt
½ tsp baking soda

In another bowl:
Whip 2 eggs
Then add:
1 1/3 Cups (approx.) low-fat buttermilk or low-fat plain yogurt, until the desired consistency is reached
(For richer pancakes, add 1/4 cup of melted butter)

Stir wet ingredients into the dry, until just combined.

Once the skillet (greased beforehand) is heated up, reduce heat to medium, then spoon batter onto skillet. The pancake is OK to flip when the batter starts getting a bunch of holes in it, but cook time will vary depending on how dark you want your ‘cakes.

Don’t you want some of these sweeties?

Now, I saw this recipe by Joy the Baker called The Single Lady Pancake, so I performed my own rendition of it the next day with some of the leftover batter from the aforementioned recipe. This is how it went down:

I got a 1-cup measuring cup, which I filled with 2 Tbsp of oatmeal…

A heaping Tbsp of dark chocolate chunks…

And about half of a large sliced banana.

Then I poured pancake batter into the cup to fill up the remaining room, and mixed it all together.

Now I ran into a little problem…I was so excited about this pancake, that I poured it on the skillet immediately…

…but  I forgot about spraying the skillet.

Yeah.

Kind of a fail.

But, hey, just because it doesn’t look pretty doesn’t mean it can’t taste good.

So after I scraped that sucker off the skillet, drizzle a little honey on it, piled on the rest of the sliced banana and some granola, I stuffed it. In my mouth, that is.

Best pancake ever? Totally.

Keep the Party Alive in a Hippie Salad

Sometimes I feel like such a hippie. In the I’m-obsessed-with-vegetables sort of way. Almost every mealtime is overflowing with veggies from a salad or soup or stuffed in my sandwich or even dominating the toppings on my pizza.

Really, I don’t know what happened–I was that kid who liked to have her steak, and leaves and other green stuff were always eaten with some mayonnaise-based product. Somewhere along the way, though, red meat completely lost my interest, and ranch dressing pretty much grosses me out now.

Not to say that I would never eat one of those fresh-from-the-grill pulled-pork sandwiches dripping with tangy barbeque sauce…

But here we’ve got the mother of hippie salads, a bowl full of green goodness that will make you feel wonderful as much as it tastes wonderful.

First, you’ll need lots of spinach–the greener the leaf is, the more nutrient-packed it is. A small amount of iceberg lettuce is good for adding some crunchy texture.

The key to making an amazing salad is thinking of the lettuce as being bored and wanting to have a party. But not just any guests can be invited; the party has to have a theme, otherwise weird ingredients that no one wants to party with–like sardines–start showing up, or foods that have issues with each other–like apples and tomatoes–start a nasty fight.

Tonight’s salad party is hosted with a theme that includes the delicious flavors of sweet, rich, tangy, nutty, and earthy.

The guest list includes: half of a diced green bell pepper, half a shredded beet, a good handful of crumbled feta, about a whole avocado cut up into pieces, two or three sliced mushrooms, two medium shredded carrots, a small handful of chopped walnuts…

…and about half a cup of diced cherry tomatoes. Shall we dance?

And just like Family Force 5‘s “Keep the Party Alive” gets the people groovin’, a couple dashes of Trader Joe’s Fat Free Balsamic Vinaigrette kicks this hippie salad into a full on veggie party!

Crushcrushcrush on Cinna-Apple-Banana Muffin Bread

The college student strikes again.

Dorm Room, you CANNOT confine me in your four walls of kitchen-less purgatory! Meal Plan, you are NOT my master! I CAN be a simple freshman AND bake delicious food!

Therefore, Dorm Room and Meal Plan, I lick my batter-dripping spatula and then laugh in your conquered faces.

See, I had a few problems: 1. I had a lot of extra ingredients from the Devil Wears Peanut Butter and Chocolate M&M Cookie recipe, and 2. I didn’t have enough ingredients for Shred, White, and Blueberry muffins.

So I, the college student, looked around my room. I had no applesauce, nor an abundance of walnuts, nor buttermilk…but I did have a bunch of apples and bananas, a few walnuts left over from a salad, granola bars, and a tub of yogurt. And cinnamon.

So I thought, “Well, I guess I could make a banana puree for the applesauce…and cut up some apples and another banana for the fruit pieces…

…and yogurt can substitute for buttermilk, right?

And I could use the few walnuts I have and crumble one of those ‘Oats ‘n Honey’ granola bars on top…

“…and listen to Paramore at the same time!!!!”

(Photo credit not mine)

Within the hour, along with Hayley Williams‘ voice, a heavenly baked-good scent poured out of the kitchen, tinged strongly with cinnamon. And not long after that, I beheld the fruit of my labor:

And not long after that came the most important part, the tasting:

I’ve got a lot to say to you, yeah, I’ve got a lot to say; I’ve noticed Cinna-Apple-Banana Muffin Bread is DELICIOUS!…Crush…crush…crush…

Okay, enough with the Paramore references. Here’s the recipe:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Prepare and set aside:
1 cup of dime-sized apple pieces
1 1/4 cups banana puree (I blended some bananas with a fork, adding about 3 tablespoons of water to it)
2 medium bananas, split into thirds and cut into pieces
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (I wish I had this many when I baked it–I had to satisfy myself with the few I did have)
About half a cup granola for topping (optional)

Mix in a large bowl:
2 1/2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour
2 1/2 cups of old-fashioned oatmeal
2 teaspoons baking power
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 teaspoons cinnamon

Mix together in a medium bowl:
1 1/4 cups banana puree
1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
4 tablespoons oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Make a well in the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients until the dry is just wet (I explain why on the Blueberry Muffin Bread recipe).

Fold in the apple and banana pieces and the walnuts. Then, pour into a prepared pan (I used a 9 x 8 pan, but you can use whatever depending on how thick you want your loaf, etc.). Crumble your favorite granola on top (I used the “Oats ‘n Honey” bar).

After 20 minutes of baking, cover with aluminum foil. I, not being quite as fortunate to own such, covered the tin with another slightly larger metal pan that I found in the kitchen. Bake for another 10-15 minutes. I’m pretty sure that’s how I did it; I used a bit of trial-and-error because the middle was taking so long to bake, and I don’t remember my method exactly. I judged the bread was done by using the stick-a-knife-in-the-center trick.

When it’s done, give it some cooling time and then enjoy! I highly recommend a little spread of peanut butter and a nice cup of coffee to compliment. You may even want to hum “Crushcrushcrush” in between your “Mmmmm”s…

…Nothing compares to a quiet evening alone, just the one, two I was counting on. That never happens, I guess I’m dreamin’ again, so I guess I’ll eat my Muffin Bread…

The Devil Wears Peanut Butter Chocolate M&M Cookies

The Devil Wears Prada = a headbang-’til-you-die metalcore band from Dayton, Ohio.

Peanut butter and dark chocolate = the most raw-rocking food marriage ever.

Oatmeal = so hardcore.

I happened to combine all three of these. With a small addition of sugar and flour. And now I think I’m about to go into a peanut butter-chocolate-Cookie Monster vocals-induced coma.

I’m not joking! These cookies are as face-melting as TDWP’s “Danger: Wildman”!!!! You don’t get it…

I go through these stages where I just NEED peanut butter and chocolate. And when this craving combines with a cookie craving, too…well, there was no way I could make it through this weekend without baking some cookies, I DON’T CARE THAT THE DORM KITCHEN IS CLOSED DOWN, I’LL TAKE MY COOKIE BUSINESS OVER TO THE NERD’S DORM KITCHEN INSTEAD!

Right. So, me and this great girl I know that lives across the hall gathered all of our supplies and before long had made the most intense batch of Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies EVER…

Reason #1. We both love The Devil Wears Prada and other music old church ladies don’t understand–and when two such people bake together, of course the product comes out hardcore.

#2. The cookies came out moist and chewy and thick, the way hardcore cookies should be.

#3. In addition to adding peanut butter (the good, natural kind you have to mix and actually refrigerate) and Ghiradelli dark chocolate chips, these cookies contain also contain Peanut Butter M&Ms. Yes.

And, #4. These cookies are…healthy. Please don’t cry.
Now, when I say “healthy,” I mean in the sense that these cookies contain low amounts of sugar, use no butter, and contain whole grains and healthy sources of protein and fat. The proof is in the pudding, or the cookie rather, just look at this recipe, my dear:

Blend well in large bowl, as if creaming butter and sugar:
1 cup natural unsalted peanut butter (I used smooth)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

Add in and beat well:
2 eggs
2-1/4 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt

Mix in well:
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda (add first so soda can react with yogurt)
1/2 tsp. salt (adjust if p&b is salty)
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

Stir in:
2 1/2 cups of oatmeal

Finally, add:
1 cup dark chocolate pieces or chips
1  cup Peanut Butter M&Ms

Bake at 350 degrees, about 10 minutes. Do NOT over-bake, or these cookies will come out dry, as if all the peanut butter was sucked out of them. Err on the side of being not quite done, because they will cook a little after they are taken out of the oven.

I recommend eating them warm with a glass of cold milk…while listening to “Dogs Can Grow Beards All Over.”