Monday, April 7, 2014

Juicy Blackberry Pecan Muffins. Hello Spring, nice to see you.

So gluten free, dairy free, soy free baking is a little tricky. Coconut oil works wonders as a butter substitute but often times imparts its signature flavor. Coconut milk is also a miraculous substitute for milk or heavy cream but same issue. And if you're religiously doing Paleo, almond flour technically works but so far everything I've made has a spongy/wet quality after cooling which isn't so great for things like quick breads or muffins.

So this time I tried modifying a Martha Stewart recipe with Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour and hooray! Muffins that act and eat like muffins and don't get soggy or weird when left out over night!

Like I said with my baby's allergies I got all hippie on you and made these gluten free and dairy free and with coconut sugar. But don't worry. My husband who is literally the pickiest eater when it comes to baked goods on the planet didn't notice the difference. In fact I have a hunch the coconut milk might have made them even richer but if you don't have the need to avoid dairy or gluten feel free to use regular 'ol butter and flour and sugar and cow's milk. I'm sure they'd be mighty fine.

Juicy Blackberry Pecan Muffins 
*Adapted from Martha Stewart
*Modifications for gluten free/dairy free below
*Coconut palm sugar imparts a dark golden color onto these muffins so don't be shocked if yours are lighter if using regular granulated sugar

*2 cups AP flour or Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups fresh blackberries
*1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or Earth Balance Soy Free, Dairy Free Buttery Spread, at room temp
1 cup sugar (or coconut palm sugar)
2 eggs, room temp
zest of a small lemon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
*1/2 cup whole milk or coconut milk at room temp
1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 375. Line a 12 standard muffin cup pan with paper liners or alternatively spray with either nonstick spray or brush lightly with melted coconut oil (if you need to avoid soy found in many sprays.) If not using liners, lightly sprinkle the greased cups with a little flour then tap out excess.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Take a heaping tablespoon of this mixture and sprinkle it over the blackberries in another medium bowl. Give a gentle toss to lightly coat all the berries and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a standing food mixer or large bowl with hand held mixer, blend the butter and sugar for 3 minutes until fully mixed, pausing midway to scrape the bottom and the sides.

Add the eggs in one at a time, blending well each time. Add in the zest and vanilla extract and mix until incorporated. Add the milk and blend just until incorporated.

Carefully add in the flour mixture in two additions, blending just until incorporated each time. Use a spatula to fold in the blueberries and nuts.

Use an ice cream scoop to divide the batter into your 12 cups. The cups will be full but don't worry - these muffins rise very well and don't spill over (though a baking sheet underneath is always good insurance.)

Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden on top and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Enjoy warm or store in an airtight container for 2 days.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Roasted Acorn Squash with Tomato Sauce, Sauteed Arugula, Sunny Side Up Egg and Crispy Prosciutto

This picture sucks. Blogging and baby raising don't mix. The egg had set by the time I snapped the picture (from the heat of the sautéed arugula underneath) so the whole 'sunny side up' thing was debatable. Also you can't even see the acorn squash hiding under there but no matter.

You'll just have to trust me that this was insanely good. Like some of the best recipes it's more of a suggestion than gospel. You could skip the arugula, swap it for spinach or add goat cheese as I would if my baby wasn't so anti dairy.

But here's what I love about a dietary restriction (and there ain't much…honestly if you knew how much I love cheese you'd be wondering if this was really me talking.) It forces you to try things you ordinarily wouldn't and in the best case scenario you discover something you'll make again and again.

For example would I normally think to roast an acorn squash and top it with this random combo that reads like an edible version of the island of misfit toys? No. But I'm glad I did because it's now one of my favorite meals ever. It's got it all (cue Steffan from SNL!) The acorn squash is sweet and satisfyingly toothsome with its crispy skinned shell to hold everything together. The tomato sauce is rich and earthy and a beautiful thing when topped with peppery sautéed arugula. Then there's the fried egg which needs no further explanation. Top it all off with crispy prosciutto for a little crunch and some flat leaf parsley and I dare you to think of a more satisfying meal that also happens to fit snuggly in the Paleo/gluten free/SCD diet category.

Last thing - while assembling this meal takes 10 minutes total (the eggs and arugula and prosciutto fry up in the same pan) you do need to bake the squash ahead of time as it takes over an hour. Good news is you can do this ahead of time - even a day ahead if you wanted to - refrigerate and just reheat in a low oven while you prep the rest for 20 minutes or so or even microwave it. Easy peasy.

Roasted Acorn Squash with Tomato Sauce, Sauteed Arugula, Sunny Side Up Egg and Crispy Prosciutto
Serves 2

1 acorn squash, split in half with seeds scraped clean
olive oil
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes
1/2 cup tomato sauce (or more if you like a lot of sauce as I do)
2-4 eggs depending on appetite
2 cups baby arugula, packed
4 slices prosciutto
4 sprigs flat leaf parsley for garnish

Lay acorn halves cut side up onto a parchment or foil lined baking sheet. Lightly rub the flesh with a teaspoon each of olive oil (or more) to coat then season with salt and pepper.

Roast in a 375 oven for one hour and thirty minutes (may be a little more or less depending on size of squash) until the tops are golden and the skin has shriveled and begun to crisp. The flesh should pierce easily with a sharp knife.

Set aside while you get on with the rest.

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat for two minutes. Add a slug of olive oil and let heat through another 60 seconds then crack the eggs in (2 at a time if making 2 servings/4 eggs or otherwise 2 will fit comfortably along with the rest of the ingredients.) Season with salt and pepper and fry for 3-4 minutes until the whites have begun to cook but the yolks are still runny. Pour the arugula in the spare room around the eggs, season lightly with salt and pepper and cook for 60 seconds stirring with a spatula to help them wilt. At this point if the tops of the whites are still liquidy put a cover over for 60 seconds to help them firm up being careful not to overcook the yolks (this dish is all about their runniness.)

Meanwhile heat up the tomato sauce in a small microwave safe bowl for 60 or until warm. Divide it between the acorn halves then top with the sautéed arugula. Top with the fried eggs and a pinch of red pepper flakes if desired.

Last step is to add the prosciutto slices to the same skillet and crank the heat up a little. They will pan fry to your desired texture in no time. I like it crispy which takes about 2 minutes. Remove and divide over the eggs.

Garnish with flat leaf parsley and dig in (feel free to add more tomato sauce over the top if desired also.)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Braised Short Ribs with Red Wine, Rosemary and Pancetta. Fall off the bone and smack your mama.

I know we're all tired of winter. I know we're ready for lighter meals outside with the summer breeze at our backs, pool parties and frozen drinks with tiny umbrellas in them.

But these are too good to wait to post until next year so I'm going to be unfashionably out of season and post them now.

Here's what gets me about short ribs prepared this way. The meat develops a crust on top as if you're biting into a delicious crispy meat chip. But the interior is tender and yielding dripping with all this red-wine-laced-butteriness. In fact I was shocked to learn this recipe actually has no butter in it (it was one of the reasons I could eat it with my baby's dairy allergy.) But that's the magic of short ribs, especially ones seared in pancetta fat. Mmm hmmm.

Anyway forget that this is literally one of the best things you'll ever put in your mouth. Forget the fact that it's company and special occasion worthy. What makes this recipe even more insane is that you can (and should) make it a couple of days ahead of time. The flavor and texture of the meat just gets better and better as it sits in the fridge getting drunk on wine and pancetta juice.

I also love that you serve them from the same big ole pot you make them in. It's rustic and chic at the same time.

So if you want to wish Old Man Winter farewell on one of these last chilly nights whip this up and invite friends around to feast and drink a bunch of red wine over plates of these short ribs (or even better make them for the Game of Thrones premiere in ten days. Woo hoo!)

Because before we know it we'll all be complaining about the heat and mosquitos.

*These can be made gluten free/Paleo by using coconut flour or alternative flour of choice to dredge the meat in before searing.
*The only thing I do differently than PW for this recipe is to sear the ribs for way longer than 45 minutes per side to really get the edges brown and crisp before turning. If you don't get them crisp and brown now, you never will and then you won't have that amazing contrast of textures later so sear them however long it takes you. I have a hunch she uses a cast iron pan or something that gets crazy hotter than my Le Creuset because mine always need way longer than 45 seconds per side - more like 5 minutes.

Braised Short Ribs with Rosemary, Red Wine and Pancetta
Recipe by The Pioneer Woman
Direct Link to Recipe/PW Site:


  • 8 whole Beef Short Ribs
  •  Kosher Salt and Pepper To Taste
  • 1/4 cup All-purpose Flour or enough to coat (use coconut flour or other for gluten free)
  • 6 pieces Pancetta, Diced
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 whole Medium Onion, Diced
  • 3 whole Carrots, Diced
  • 2 whole Shallots, Peeled And Finely Minced
  • 2 cups Red Wine
  • 2 cups Beef Or Chicken Broth (enough To Almost Cover Ribs)
  • 2 sprigs Thyme
  • 2 sprigs Rosemary

Preparation Instructions

Salt and pepper ribs, then dredge in flour. Set aside.
In a large dutch oven, cook pancetta over medium heat until complete crispy and all fat is rendered. Remove pancetta and set aside. Do not discard grease.
Add olive oil to pan with the pancetta grease, and raise heat to high. Brown ribs on all sides, about 45 seconds per side (FYI this always takes way longer for them to brown, more like 5 min per side.) Remove ribs and set aside. Turn heat to medium.
Add onions, carrots, and shallots to pan and cook for 5-7 minutes until onions are soft. Pour in wine and scrape bottom of pan to release all the flavorful bits of glory. Bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes.
Add broth, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Taste and add more salt if needed. Add ribs to the liquid; they should be almost completely submerged. Add thyme and rosemary sprigs (whole) to the liquid.
Put on the lid and place into the oven. Cook at 350 for 2 hours, then reduce heat to 325 and cook for an additional 30 to 45 minutes. Ribs should be fork-tender and falling off the bone. Remove pan from oven and allow to sit for at least 20 minutes, lid on, before serving. At the last minute, skim fat off the top of the liquid. (Can also refrigerate for up to 1-2 days, then remove solid fat from the top. Then just reheat in a 325 oven for 25-30 minutes until heated through.)
Serve 2 ribs on bed of creamy polenta or mashed potatoes or celery root puree, spooning a little juice over the top.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Nigella's Terracotta Bean Dip

Hello! Anyone out there? It's been a while.

I actually started writing this post last night. I was almost giddy with excitement. My baby was down for the night and there I was spending some alone time with my blog for the first time in months feeling the old creative juices flowing again. I began typing rapid fire. I felt free! Like galloping bareback on my pony when I was a kid. And then…Sawyer woke up. Screaming actually. Blogging ended before it began.

But it was okay. Partly because he looks like this.

But also because there's something selfishly awesome about when your baby wakes up crying from a nightmare or whatever reason and you can be there to make it all better. I walked him around for almost an hour even though he stopped crying the second I picked him up.

This is a far different place from where we were a couple of months ago. You see part of my long absence wasn't just having a baby but having a baby with severe food allergies. Who literally never stopped crying once he started. Poor guy. But that's another post - maybe even another blog.

Anyway we went to a friend's on Saturday and she was such an amazing host and cook that I was actually inspired to post the dip I'd taken over that night.

I'm finally coming out of the baby fog y'all. And I'm going to feed every damn one of you.

Nigella's Terracotta Bean Dip
Mildly adapted from FEAST
* A twist on your typical bean dip, this one uses red kidney beans and a mix of warm spices. I absolutely loved the lime in it it so I put the zest in the dip as well as on top. This is an unusual, but not weird change of pace and easy to make.

2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced (or 3 shallots)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon cumin (I'd even try upping it next time)
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon paprika
pinch cayenne, optional
1 (15 oz) can red kidney beans (including the juice)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, or to taste
zest and juice of a medium lime
Chopped cilantro for garnish
Tortilla chips or pita chips for serving

Heat the oil in a medium/large cast iron pan or heavy bottom pan for one minute over medium heat. Add the onion, season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and sauté until soft and golden. Stir in the garlic and sauté a couple more minutes. Add in the tomato paste and spices and stir around cooking a few more minutes to let the flavors deepen.

Add in the beans and liquid from the can and cook a couple more minutes. Turn off the heat and remove the pan from the burner to let cool for a bit. Then transfer to a food processor and add in the lime zest (you can reserve a little zest for garnish if desired) and juice and additional 1/4 teaspoon salt. Blend until as much a puree as the skins on the beans will allow.

Taste for salt and add any more or pepper if you wish and blend again.

Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with additional zest and cilantro. Serve right away or refrigerate for up to eight hours before serving with tortilla or pita chips to serve.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Chocolate Hug Cookies

When you live in Texas and it gets cold enough to turn your heater on and that heater smell of toasting lint (is that what it is?) wafts through your house it feels like Christmas. Or at least it does to me.

So here we go with my first Christmas cookie post of the season. Hooray commercialism! And malls! And sugar!

My hands down favorite cookie at the holidays (AT the holidays? Southern much?) are peanut blossoms. AKA chocolate kiss cookies or Hershey Kiss peanut butter cookies. My mom made them for us growing up and for me they are edible childhood. I honestly can't be trusted with them. An entire batch will disappear into thin air David Blaine-style.

The only problem is my husband isn't a fan. I try not to let this change my deep endearing love for him but it's tough. Who doesn't like peanut blossoms? WHO???

Anyway I recently had an idea to try and appease his tastes while keeping with my own traditions, now that we have a kid and all. He is a bonafide chocoholic so when I saw a few recipes for Nutella Kisses I thought - SCORE!

Well it was a score alright but of course there was a minor drawback. They didn't taste so much of Nutella as they did chocolate. Personally I thought this was a bonus given the fact a lot of people don't like Nutella. So I changed the name to something that reflected their intensely chocolate, chewily rewarding, chocolate-studded chocolate-kiss topped vibe.

Will they replace my personal favorite in the holiday lineup? We'll see. Actually the tie breaker will be when my son is old enough to taste between the two of them and choose. Though if his tastes are as similar to his father's as his looks are, I'm screwed.

Thankfully I like the alternative almost as much...

* As the picture indicates I made these for Halloween and rolled them in orange sugar before baking. If making for the holidays simply choose another color if desired.

Chocolate Hug Cookies
Adapted from All Recipes

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 cup salted butter, at room temp
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 large eggs, room temp
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread)
2 cups chocolate chips
2 packages dark chocolate Hershey kisses
colored sanding sugar, optional


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.
  2. Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder in a bowl. Mix with a whisk to break up any lumps.
  3. Beat butter, brown sugar, and white sugar with an electric mixer in a large bowl until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time until completely incorporated. Mix in vanilla and chocolate-hazelnut spread.
  4. Slowly add in flour mixture and stir just until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Use a small cookie scoop to keep the cookies a uniform size and roll each scoop of dough between your hands to form a ball. Roll the ball in sugar, if desired.
  5. Bake in preheated oven until edges look dry and cookies are fragrant, about 8-9 minutes. Press a chocolate kiss in the center and let cool slightly on the sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

German Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Bars (Queen of the Potluck Bars)

These were inspired by the blog Crazy for Crust and I'm not going to lie - they are too much. Thick, chewy peanut butter cookie bar. Layer of sticky gooey caramel slash chocolate. Topped with sweetened coconut. But wait. Stop the presses. The season of 'too much' is upon us! Make these right now and embrace your calling as Queen of the Potluck or Book Club or OM group (look up OM-ing - I dare you.)

I should also warn you that they freeze well and are even better pulled from the freezer and heated for 30 seconds in the microwave. It's criminal. I'm not kidding. I'm going to go fast now.

Lastly I only mentioned OM-ing because we recently had a group of them living across the street from us and were convinced they were a scary underground group plotting to do something crazy. And it turns out they were. Oh they certainly were. Gotta love living in South Austin.

German Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Bars

Cookie Layer, adapted from Crazy for Crust

1/2 cup salted butter, at room temp
3/4 cup peanut butter (I used chunky)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 egg, room temp
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon whole or 2% milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups AP (all purpose) flour

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2-2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2-2 cups shredded sweet coconut

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9x9 inch pan with foil (so that you can lift it out later) and spray well with nonstick spray. Or just grease a ceramic 9x9 inch pan that you can cut them in later and serve from. Up to you.

Cream the butter, peanut butter and both sugars well in a mixer with a paddle attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer. When smooth and well mixed, add the egg, vanilla, milk, baking soda and salt and mix until combined, scraping down sides. Slowly add flour in 2-3 additions and blend until just mixed each time.

Carefully press the cookie dough (it will be thick, not pourable) into your greased pan and bake for 18-22 minutes just until golden on top and set.

Remove and spread the chocolate chips in an even layer over the top followed by the coconut.

Stir the sweetened condensed milk and drizzle it as evenly as possible over the top. If using an 8x8 inch pan you may not be able to fit it all so just be careful and don't over fill!

Put in the oven for another 5 minutes just until the coconut has lightly begun to toast but not brown (you don't want to burn the cookie layer.)

Remove and let cool completely before cutting and serving.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

I am a sucker for Halloween themed cookbooks. Most of these impulse purchases end in disappointment, the books full of gimmicks and fluff. All filler and no substance.

But over the summer I came across 'Ghoulish Goodies' by Sharon Bowers at Half Price Books and have been happily surprised recipe by recipe. These Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bars, which I baked in an 8x8 inch ceramic dish to make them more cake-like, are honest to God delicious.

She sells them as being adult oriented with the whole wheat flour and spices. I sell them as one of the best coffee cakes I've ever had. Even my husband who is VERY annoyingly picky when it comes to baked goods has eaten them like they were running away from him.

So tis the season for pumpkin and things that go bump in the night and baked goods that help you get through a 3 am feeding followed by another at 4 am and 5:30 am. Did I mention my baby is a vampire?

One last thing. I added toasted walnut pieces which I think turned these up to 11. You know you're getting old when you're tempted to add nuts to about every baked good. I can remember being little and wishing like hell my mom had left them out!

Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Bars (or Coffee Cake)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (I was out so used more nutmeg)
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temp
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg, room temp
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
1 (12 oz) package (2 cups) semi sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup to 1 cup lightly toasted walnut pieces, if desired

Preheat oven to 350. For bars, grease a 9x13 baking pan and set aside. For coffee cake, grease an 8x8 ceramic pan with nonstick spray and see my tip below.

Combine the all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves in a medium bowl.

Beat the butter, two sugars, egg, and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Mix in the pumpkin puree until well combined, then add in the flour mixture in about 3 parts, beating each time until just combined. Use a wooden spoon to fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts then spread the batter which will be a bit on the thick and dry side evenly into the pan.

Bake for 35 minutes, until lightly golden and set.

Alisa's Tip:

For a cake like consistency instead of bars, Bake in a well greased 8x8 ceramic or glass pan at 350 for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 and bake another 10-15 until the sides begin to turn dark but the middle is still quivery. Reduce heat to 300 and bake another 15 or until middle is set, entire 'cake' has risen and a cake tester comes out clean.