Saturday, June 22, 2013

Happy 2nd Birthday, Dancer Bakes! {Oatmeal Banana Nut Muffins}

Pretend there's a candle in one of those muffins because the blog turns two today!!  WHOA!

It barely feels like this last year happened for me - graduation, marriage, and 6 months at sea dancing my little tush off made it fly by!  But even though I'm still in denial that it's really been two entire years since I started this little online journey, I couldn't be happier about where it's taken me.  I started my dance career, I lived in one of the most beautiful places in the entire world, I have a wonderful husband who helps and supports me in every way, and I've developed a deeper love of food than I ever imagined when I decided to start writing it all down.

This occasion really demands rich and delicious baked goods.  In lieu of rich, have healthy and delicious baked goods!

The other day, I got hit by a particularly strong urge to bake, fed in part by the appearance of a Nutella Swirl Banana Muffin recipe on my newsfeed - courtesy of Jessica over at The Novice Chef. I basically started salivating on sight.
However, I've recently tried to renew my commitment to eating a clean diet - high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein and healthy fats; low in sugar, saturated fat and processed chemicals.  The hardest part for me to cut out is sugar.  It's no secret that I love sweets, and I particularly like finishing a meal on a sweet note, so sugars - even natural ones - are hard for me to both limit and avoid altogether.
I couldn't shake the banana muffin craving, though, so I searched for a healthier recipe, and voila!  I found one!  Still sweet, but not a cupcake masquerading as breakfast.

These are oatmeal muffins, but not in the same sense as an oatmeal cookie.  In this recipe, the oats are ground into oat flour to form the base of the muffin.  I was a little low on oats at home, so I supplemented with a little white whole wheat flour and they still turned out great.  Also, these are basically the easiest muffins to make in the history of the world: all you do is process the oats, add all the rest of the ingredients, process until it looks like a batter, and bake!

In terms of the calorie count (if you even care), these beauties come to a whopping 135 calories per muffin!  Not bad at all.  If you're watching your sugar intake, you'll still need to balance these with low-sugar, high-veggie-and-protein meals, but eating one is nothing to feel guilty about!  Score :)

Oatmeal Banana Nut Muffins
Source: slightly adapted from this recipe by Michelle Hein
Yield: 1 dozen muffins

2 cups old-fashioned oats
2 extra ripe bananas, cut into quarters
2 eggs
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp honey
3/4 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 400˚F.
Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray, butter, or shortening (I used Baker's Joy).
Place the oats in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely ground. 
Add the remaining ingredients and blend until a smooth batter is formed.
Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin tin, evenly filling all 12 cups.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the tops of the muffins spring back when pressed lightly.  For me, it only took 15 minutes, so make sure to test them at the minimum baking mark - don't let them overbake and get tough!  Serve warm and enjoy - add candles if you're feeling celebratory :)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Spinach Artichoke Hummus

Up until about a year ago, I was convinced that I did not like hummus.
At all.
As in, "get that weirdly spiced baby food away from me."

Looking back on that version of me, I have to shake my head in shame.
What was I thinking??  Was some pickiness from my "ew, beans!" phase sticking around?

Thankfully, shortly before I started rehearsals for the ship, I discovered just how ridiculous I was being and fell head over heels in love with hummus. During rehearsals, fresh vegetables, pretzels and classic hummus-to-go packs were lunch most days.  Once aboard the vessel I called home for half a year, baby carrots, flatbread crisps and spinach artichoke hummus saved my patoot during our month of Condition Red (a story for another post that...isn't pureed).  And once I got home, I learned how ridiculously easy and cheap it was to make at home and did a happy dance.

This was Attempt Number One.
And holy yum, Batman.
This was a replication of - or dare I say, improvement upon - my favorite hummus-and-everything-else flavor to date: spinach and artichoke.  There's something about the freshness, mild fragrance, and gorgeous green color that just lights my candle!  Thanks to Ali, the genius behind Gimme Some Oven (yay blog puns!), I found the ultimate recipe.  The only change we made was to swap in lime juice for the lemon, since that's what we had on hand, and thankfully the bright lime was a great complement to all the other green stuff in there.

Jon and I have been devouring it nonstop since it came out of the food processor.
And the best part? It's only 60 calories per 2 tbsp serving!!
Translation: room for more dessert later!

...kidding.  Ish.

This recipe was definitely a big step in the clean eating direction for our little kitchen, and I couldn't have been more thrilled with the results!  Especially when paired with baked falafel...

If you're a hummus fan with a food processor, what are you waiting for??  Get hummus-ing!

Spinach Artichoke Hummus
Source: barely adapted at all from Gimme Some Oven

1 (15 oz) can chickpeas, packing liquid reserved
4 cups loosely packed fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup canned artichoke hearts
2 tbsp tahini (sesame seed paste)
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Place all ingredients into the bowl of a food processor.  Using the steel blade, process until smooth.  Add a tablespoon at a time of the reserved chickpea liquid as needed until your desired consistency is reached.  Crack out the veggies and pita chips and enjoy!

To store, scoop into any air-tight container and refrigerate.  It'll last for a couple weeks easily.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies

I really need to practice making cookies.

But seriously.
I have cupcakes and layer cakes down.  Brownies? Check.  Biscuits, scones?  Super easy.  I can even do pie crust.
But cookies?  They're the first thing most kids bake!  The one thing that their moms will let them help with!  The foolproof dessert that can only get screwed up by not setting a timer!
I follow every direction, measure with extreme precision, set painstakingly exact timers...
And I CANNOT nail them!

I want to say I can blame my oven.  I probably need an oven thermometer so I can test what temperature "350˚" actually is.  And maybe I need to play with temperatures as well as times.

I'm just saying, for me, thick golden cookies that don't spread like the dickens are apparently a lot to ask for.
In the picture are the prettiest three cookies of nearly 3 dozen.  They just kept spreading and browning really quickly!

At least they taste good!

Pretty will come with time.

I hope.

For now, I will accept any cookie tips and tricks that you lovely people have to offer me, and will also sit back with one of my poor dilapidated tasty cookies.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies
adapted from these cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp unsulphured molasses
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant or quick)
1-1/2 cups chocolate chips
scant 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl with a very sturdy hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugars until very light and fluffy - about 5 minutes.
In a separate bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, whisking together thoroughly until no clumps of baking soda remain.  Stir in the oats, raisins, and pecans.
Returning to the mixer, add the eggs to the butter and sugars one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Stir in the vanilla extract and the molasses.  Gradually add the flour and oat mixture on a low speed to the creamed butter mixture until well combined.
Chill the dough, covered, for a few hours or overnight - optional, but recommended.
To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350˚F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, a silicone baking mat, or (in a pinch) foil sprayed lightly with cooking spray.  For giant cookies, (cause who doesn't like a giant cookie??) drop the dough in 1/4-cup sized* balls spaced evenly on the baking sheet.  Place in the preheated oven on a rack centered in the oven.  Midway through the baking time, rotate the baking sheet so the cookies bake evenly.  If necessary, flatten the domes of the cookies with a spatula.  Bake the cookies for 20-22 minutes, or until the tops are just starting to brown - don't overbake them!  You'll be sad.  Remove from the oven, cool completely on a wire rack, and enjoy!