The Meaning of Namaste and a Scrumptious Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Quinoa Muffin Recipe

DSC_0753My daughter Hannah and I were recently treated to a restorative day of yoga and relaxation. A good friend and fellow dance mom hosted our ballerina daughters and their non-stop mothers to a private lesson in her home. The low winter sun shone through the windows of her beautiful living room, warming us on our mats as we focused on being present and the gift of time with our girls.


An imperative goal this year is finding balance – mentally, physically, emotionally. And for that hour, I felt all three come together in such a restful way. I now see quite a bit of yoga coming to my life in 2016! Though I’ve attended many  classes, no one had ever explained that namaste can be translated as “the light in me honors the light in you.” Isn’t that lovely? Something to remember.

Now for the recipe. I offered to bring a healthy snack to the retreat, and wanted to create something both mothers and daughters would love. These muffins were a huge hit! They are protein packed and honey kissed – a perfect post workout snack or breakfast on the run.


Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Quinoa Muffins

makes 20

Spelt is a highly nutritious, easily digestible whole grain that is high in both fiber and iron. Though it is not gluten-free, many with gluten intolerances do well with spelt. If you cannot find it, substitute whole wheat or all-purpose flour.

  • 2 cups spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon powdered peanut butter (found in most grocery aisles next to regular peanut butter)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons canola  oil
  • 1 cup cooked and cooled to room temperature quinoa
  • 1 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with 12 paper baking liners and another tin with 8 liners.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, powdered peanut butter, baking powder, and kosher salt.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla.
  4. In a small saucepan, warm honey, natural peanut butter, brown sugar, butter, and canola oil over medium-low heat. Whisk until butter has melted and brown sugar has dissolved. Set aside to cool.
  5. When honey mixture has cooled, pour it into bowl with egg mixture and whisk to combine. Pour over flour mixture and stir just until blended, being careful not to over mix.
  6. Stir in cooked quinoa and chocolate chips. Fill each muffin cup two-thirds of the way full and bake in center of oven until a wood toothpick comes out clean when inserted in center of a muffin, 14-17 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before enjoying. Store cooled muffins in an airtight container at room temperature.

Thank you, Suzanne and Courtney, for such a special and relaxing day!


Breakfast Bite: Maple Chia Cherry Granola

DSC_0519You don’t have to spend a fortune on those little bags of artisanal granola you find at the market – it’s incredibly easy to make at home and customize to your liking!  When I was in Telluride last month, the hotel baked a fresh batch of chia seed-speckled granola every morning that was impossible to resist.  I came home determined to (a) make my own version, and (b) buy a home there.  I think my husband is relieved I’m focusing on the granola.DSC_0351DSC_0371DSC_0449Maple Chia Cherry Granola

makes approximately 9 cups

  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • 1 cup almonds*
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios*
  • 1 cup pecan halves*
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons canola or safflower oil
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons fleur de sel or kosher salt, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups dried cherries**

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

  1. Place oats, coconut flakes, chia seeds, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in a large bowl.  Roughly chop almonds, pistachios, and pecan halves and add to the bowl.  Stir to combine.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, oil, cinnamon, almond extract, and vanilla extract.  Pour over the oat mixture and stir until thoroughly combined.
  3. Spread mixture evenly on a large, parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for 40-45 minutes until mixture is light golden, stirring every 10 minutes during baking time.
  4. Remove granola from oven and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or kosher salt.  Allow to cool.
  5. Stir gently, allowing some chunks to remain.  Add the dried cherries and stir to combine.

*Feel free to substitute with any variety of  nuts.  It’s a great way to use up those odds and ends in your freezer or pantry!

**I add the cherries at the end because I find them to be too tough if they are baked.  This also allows me to set aside a little granola before they are added for the non-dried-fruit-granola fans in the house.DSC_0493

Spiced Pumpkin Muffins with (or without) Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

DSC_0003I have to admit, frosting these muffins is completely gilding the lily.  But I had to do it.  You see, my daughter became addicted to the pumpkin muffins with cream cheese frosting at Einsteins, so I had to come up with a frosted version.  Be honest – you can’t go naked next to something wearing frosting and win by comparison.  Not possible!  Does that mean they are technically a cupcake?  I say no  – that way there is no guilt when having one for breakfast.  But if you’re feeling like a straight arrow, skip the frosting and just give each one a sprinkling of demerara or coarse sugar (for a little crunch and sparkle) before you pop them in the oven .  They are seriously delicious either way.DSC_0041

Spiced Pumpkin Muffins with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting 

makes 12

for the muffins –

  • 2 cups all purpose or gluten free all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum only if making gluten free
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup canned pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • demarara or coarse sugar (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line 12 standard sized muffin cups with paper baking liners.
  3. Whisk flour, xanthan gum (if gf), baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, nutmeg and salt together in a large bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining muffin ingredients.
  5. Add to dry ingredients and stir just until combined.
  6. Divide batter into the 12 muffin cups (about 1/3 cup batter in each).
  7. Sprinkle with demarara or coarse sanding sugar if you are skipping the frosting.
  8. Place muffin tins on a sheet pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a wood toothpick comes out clean when inserted in center.
  9. Let cool completely before frosting (recipe to follow).

for the frosting –

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger (optional)
  1. Place cream cheese, butter, maple syrup and vanilla in a large bowl.
  2. Sift powdered sugar into same bowl.
  3. With beaters or a stand mixer, beat until creamy and completely smooth.
  4. Slather frosting onto each muffin and sprinkle with minced crystallized ginger.DSC_0001

The Weekend Kitchen: Apple Dumplings

DSC_0866Apple dumplings hold a special place in my heart.  My Grandmother Porter, of German descent and a product of the Depression Era, could not stand to waste a thing.  Her cooking was simple, hearty, and utterly delicious, and everything she made was from memory, learned no doubt from watching her mother and grandmother.  During her long stays with us she roasted chickens, creamed cabbage, made beef stroganoff, mashed lots of potatoes, and baked.  Baking was what she loved most.DSC_0891DSC_0939DSC_0924When she baked apple pie, bits of dough were often leftover.  Tossing them out would have been wasteful, so she cobbled these bits together, stretched them over a quickly peeled apple, and baked it alongside the pie.  This was a great treat because you didn’t have the unbearably long wait until after dinner to cut into the pie!  Apple dumplings were green lighted for after-school snacks, devoured just out of the oven.

Peeled and coated in lemon juice, cinnamon, sugar, and dark flecks of allspice.
Peeled and coated in lemon juice, zest, cinnamon, sugar, and dark flecks of allspice.

This is my version of apple dumplings, though I add butter to my crust which she never would have done (she used shortening only as shortening makes the most tender crust).  I love the combination because it delivers buttery-flaky goodness but remains tender from the addition of shortening.

Wrapped in dough blankets and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, waiting to go in the oven.
Wrapped in their dough blankets, waiting to go in the oven.

Apple Dumplings

makes 8

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup shortening, chilled and diced into small pieces
  • 11 tablespoons butter, chilled until very cold and diced into small pieces
  • 4-6 tablespoons ice water
  • 8 small apples (I used Cortland, Granny Smiths are great)
  • 1 lemon, zested then juiced
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 2 tablespoons butter, diced into 8 pieces
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  1. Butter a rectangular baking dish that generously fits 8 apples.  Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, add flour, sugar, salt, and pulse a few times until combined.  Add cold butter and shortening, pulsing until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Through the feed tube, add one tablespoon of ice water at a time, stopping immediately when dough comes together in a ball.
  3. Turn dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap, flatten into a disc and thoroughly wrap in plastic.  Chill for at least one-half hour.
  4. While dough is chilling, add lemon juice to a large bowl.  Peel and core apples, tossing each in the lemon juice as soon as you’ve peeled it.  Sprinkle lemon zest over apples and stir to combine.
  5. Combine sugar, cinnamon, and allspice in a small bowl.  Set aside 2 tablespoons of mixture for sprinkling over pastry.
  6. Pour sugar mixture over apples, coating each one thoroughly including the centers.
  7. When dough is thoroughly chilled, remove from fridge and and roll out on a well floured surface, turning disc every few rolls to prevent sticking.  When dough has been rolled  into 1/8 to 1/4-inch thickness, cut 6-in diameter rounds until you have 8.  I used a 6-in diameter bowl and cut around it with a knife, but you can free form it.  This is rustic at its best!
  8. One at a time, place each apple in the center of a dough round and wrap.  Set in buttered baking dish.
  9. Press a square of diced butter into each hole.
  10. Using a pastry brush, brush each dough covered apple with the lightly beaten egg and sprinkle with reserved sugar mixture.
  11. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until crust is golden and apples are tender. DSC_0013

Maple Glazed Cream Puffs and Mini-Eclairs

DSC_0566 DSC_0569Let me set the record straight: I am NOT, by nature, a baker of fancy desserts.  Or overly involved desserts.  If you’d like any sort of crisp or pie, I can do that for you.  Cookies?  Coconut cakes?  Lemon bars?  I’ve got you covered.  But 30 layer crepe cakes?  Dyed, rolled and personalized heart cookies?  Homemade cream puffs and eclairs?  That train is driven by my daughter Hannah.

And Martha, of course.  Martha Stewart has, through her beautifully shot magazine and her PBS television series Martha Bakes, convinced my daughter that anything is easily achieved in the kitchen.  Our kitchen.  Admittedly Hannah and I watch the show together, but most of the time I would be content to simply observe the goings-on in Martha’s world of baking.  H wants to actually make it all.  Just yesterday morning, the first thing out of her mouth was, “Good morning Mommy.  Can we make cream puffs today?”  And because I’ve silently sworn to say no less often, cream puffs it was.

There were a few stumbles, a few tense moments, but we got messy and we laughed a lot.   We also agreed that the entire puff/eclair making process was much easier than anticipated, so you should seriously give it a shot.  The pate a choux dough was a snap with only 5 ingredients (butter, sugar, salt, flour, eggs), and if you aren’t interested in making pastry cream filling, you can throw in ice cream and top with chocolate or the maple glaze for profiteroles.  I say make the glaze – it was so good I could have bathed in it.

DSC_0577Thank you, H, for continually pushing me to try new things!  My world is brighter and much more delicious because of you.

Click here to check your local listings for the PBS series Martha Bakes.

Click here for the Maple Glazed Cream Puffs and Eclairs recipe.

Chocolate Hazelnut Crepe Cake + A Very Happy Birthday

DSC_0132Oh my, was this cake a labor of love!  My daughter Hannah requested a crepe cake for her birthday after seeing a picture of one on Pinterest (doesn’t she know 99.9% of pinned recipes are for viewing pleasure only?) and she asked that we make it together.  How hard could it be?  I thought to myself.  After all, we’d made crepes several times before.  All we needed to do was make a big batch (30 to be exact) along with some pastry creme and a little chocolate ganache.  Right?

DSC_0978DSC_0972  DSC_0987DSC_0984DSC_0033DSC_0025The original recipe (found here) comes from Martha Stewart Living and it is a recipe (cake) within a recipe (filling) within a recipe (glaze/ganache).  Our only modifications were that we:

  1. used plain crepes for our base (recipe here) rather than the chocolate crepes in the Martha recipe
  2. made half of the suggested amount of hazelnut filling as the Martha recipe made a whopping 8 cups
  3. substituted Nutella (slightly warmed in microwave to soften) for the hazelnut creme in the filling recipe, and
  4. decorated with 4 oz chopped hazelnuts (toasted in the oven at 350 for 5 minutes then cooled)

DSC_0060DSC_0064Did it take several hours?  Yes.  Was it worth it?  ABSOLUTELY.  The meringue based hazelnut filling was as fluffy as a cloud and the crunchy salty hazelnuts against the velvety chocolate ganache made for a heavenly match.  The best part was that I had Hannah all to myself for the afternoon, and she was so proud of what we created.  I had to laugh when I left the dinner table to fetch the cake and she asked me to please arrange her birthday candles in rainbow order.  The apple definitely does not fall far from the tree.

DSC_0121DSC_0106all photos via the aesthete and the dilettante

A Dessert First Kind of Day – Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

DSC_0038Both of my kids were having a crummy couple of days, so I surprised them by making dessert mid-week (something usually reserved for weekends) and having it ready for their after school snack as they walked in the door yesterday.  As my grandfather wisely once said, “Life is too short – we should have dessert first.”

DSC_0016Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp recipe found here.  Make it now before rhubarb is out of season!

photos via the aesthete and the dilettante