It's true, I've been (sadly) delinquent here at Enlightened Cooking for two months. Mea culpa. It was a decision I had to make for sanity's sake. A looming deadline (January 15th) forced me into self-imposed exile at my computer to finish the final elements of my next cookbook.
But the deadline was met, I'm almost caught up on sleep, and I'm happily savoring the calm, as well as the chance to get back to reading, writing, and cooking. Last night, for example, I finally got around to reading Molly Wizenberg's (aka Orangette) article in the February issue of Bon Appetit. I say "finally" because I typically flip to her column immediately upon removal of the plastic wrapping on said magazine (i.e., on the walk back to the house from the mailbox). She is the finest food writer out there; there, I said it. Laurie Colwin has topped my list for the past two decades, but Molly, with her wit, wisdom, hilarity, and ever-engaging prose has succeeded her.
In addition to making me laugh out loud as I read here latest work (all while eating the crusty of Nick's peanut butter jelly sandwich and loading the dishwasher), her topic hit home. Her topic is the irony of eating random odds and ends (often culminating with packaged cookies and television at the end of a long day) despite owning and operating a fine dining restaurant.
I'm not in the restaurant business, but the same scenario applies to food writers (or, at least, this food writer). Although my mind was steeped in food from morning to late night, my body was sustained by power bars, raisins, Quaker cinnamon oatmeal squares (they don't make crumbs as I nibble--critical for computer food).
But I did make the time for smoothies. Many smoothies. They are a perfect way to incorporate so much goodness in a delectable, portable, and incredibly easy glass-ful. I had to train myself to set the glass on the floor (for fear of knocking over onto the keyboard), but other than that, a smoothie is hands-down fabulous fare for hungry and stressed-out souls. Enjoy!
Banana, Date, & Cardamom Smoothie (no added sugar)
I've taken to using 1 or 2 dates to naturally sweeten smoothies--first for 3-yr-old Nick, but now for me, too--but you can use any sweetener (e.g., agave nectar, honey) you like here (including other chopped dried fruit; dried apricots and golden raisins are also great).
Makes 1 serving
1 cup plain nonfat or lowfat yogurt
1/3 cup nonfat or lowfat milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 medium-size ripe banana, peeled, sliced, and FROZEN
2 dates, chopped
Optional: pinch of cardamom
1. Combine the yogurt, milk, vanilla, banana, dates, and (optional) cardamom in a blender.
2. Blend until smooth.
3. Pour into a large glass. Yum.
It’s unlikely you’ve heard this uttered before now: I love spelt.
We made our acquaintance almost five years ago when I made the Chocolate Espresso Spelt Cake from the October 2005 edition of Gourmet (sniffle; I still get verklempt knowing that Gourmet is no more). The cake was extraordinary. The combination of chocolate and espresso was expectedly divine, but the spelt flour was a nutty, sophisticated surprise; I knew we would be friends for many recipes to come.
Spelt is something of a wundergrain, so once I did a smidge of research, my surprise was replaced with delight. Here's the scoop: spelt is an ancient whole grain native to southern Europe. It's packed with fiber, manganese and vitamin B3, and naturally higher in protein than wheat. I know, I know , but what about the taste? That's easy: yum. Spelt has a deep, nutty flavor that, when ground into flour, makes incredible baked goods.
I use spelt flour most often in a range of quick breads--pumpkin bread (one of my few ways to get 3-year-old Nick to eat a vegetable), pancakes (often with blueberries added), and muffins. Lots of muffins.
This is easily my favorite spelt muffin recipe (my husband thinks it's incredible/incredibly silly that I have MANY favorite spelt muffins. Hey, he picked me) . It's Nick's and Kevin's, too. Is there ever a time when the sweet-tart combination of maple and cranberries isn't delicious? Let me know; I've yet to find an instance. Nevertheless, tinker with the recipe to your heart's content: vary the dried fruit (or replace with toasted nuts, seeds, or a bit of chopped dark chocolate), the spices and flavorings (perhaps some cardamom or citrus zest in place of the cinnamon and vanilla) or replace the honey with an equal amount of molasses, honey, or agave nectar; you can’t go wrong.
Maple-Cranberry Spelt Muffins
You can find spelt flour at health food stores, but also in most supermarkets (that includes tiny towns, such as mine) in the health food section (you should find an alternative flour section). Once purchased, I recommend storing the spelt flour in the refrigerator (airtight bag or container) to best preserve its flavor and nutritional value.
Store the cooled muffins in an airtight bag at room temperature for 2 to 3 days; freeze any extras for up to 1 month.
Preheat oven to 425°F
12-cup muffin tin, greased
Makes 12 muffins
2-1/4 cups spelt flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl
2. Whisk the eggs, oil and vanilla in a medium bowl until blended. Whisk in the milk.
3. Mix the milk mixture into the flour mixture until just blended. Gently stir in the cranberries.
4. Divide the batter equally among the prepared muffin cups.
5. Bake 15 to 18 minutes until muffins are golden and a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool in the tins 3 minutes, then remove.