Monday, February 28, 2011

great dates

I bought some dates this weekend at the Farmer's market and have never really baked w/dates but wanted to incorporate them into a breakfast food. As of late, I've been in a baking rut, using the same tired recipes, so I wanted something unique and chocolate-less. The recipe I used was found (Walnut Date muffins)  on Regina Rae's blog to which I made no changes except I made a struesel topping, since I figured w/little sugar the recipe may lack for sweetness.
For me dates have a special meaning  because as a child and young adult at about this time every year my family would make the annual and quite lengthy trek to the Indio Date Festival. A place that was once responsible for much of the nations date crops also became home to a festival honoring and even blessing the date as part of opening ceremonies. Because of the arid climate and a little engenuity on the part of farmers, dates flourished. And even though Indio was once responsible for a larger part of the nations date crop, they've since otherwise been overcome by  large companies like Sunsweet.
The festival features various foods made with dates including and not limited to date cookies and date shakes. The festival boasts and Arabian theme and still features Arabian themed plays like tales of 1001 Arabian nights. As children our favorites were the play and the camel and ostrich races.
The dates and this little recipe took me back to those cherished days gone by spent w/family and food.

Walnut Date Muffins
Ingredients:3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar (preferably dark)
heaping 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
scant 1/2 teaspoon all spice
scant 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
scant 1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk (or other alternative or milk)
1/3 cup molasses*
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 free-range eggs
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped, pitted dates
few pinches of extra all purpose flour

Streusel Topping:
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 tbsp. soft butter
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. chopped nuts
*Cool trick for the molasses: to avoid having the molasses stick to the measuring cup, simply grease the inside of the cup with a thin layer of vegetable oil.  Then, measure desired amount of molasses into the cup.  When you pour the molasses into other liquids it will slide right out and leave little-to-no residue in the bottom of the cup.

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease preferred muffin tin.  Because I was making these muffins for dinner (as a side dish, rather than a breakfast-style main dish) I made 16 small muffins.  Alternatively, grease two 6-muffin containers, or one mongo-muffin container and vary the cooking time.
2.  Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir with a fork to combine.
3.  In a separate bowl, lightly beat egg.  Add soy milk and vegetable oil.  Grease the 1/3 cup with vegetable oil (see above note) and measure molasses.  Whisk with a fork and incorporate into dry ingredients.  Fold in walnuts.  Before folding in chopped dates, because they’re gooey when cut and prone to sticking together, I tumbled the chopped dates in a sprinkling of white flour and then folded them into the batter.  That way the were able to move uniformly throughout the dough and not clump together. Roll dates in flour and fold into batter.
4.  Spoon batter into muffin trays 3/4 full.  If you desire more of a muffin-top (as I did), fill 4/5ths of the way but be sure to grease the top of the pan, too, because the muffins will rise over the top.
5. Mix together struesel ingredients and sprinkle evenly over the top of each muffin.
6.  Depending on the muffin size, the baking time will vary.  For small muffins, mine were set in the middle and clean (from the “knife test”) within 18-20 minutes.  For large muffins, I imagine they’ll need to bake close to 30 minutes.
7.  Once removed from the oven, let cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack so they set.  To remove muffins, carefully take a dull knife and run around the edge of each container (and very carefully under the muffin top, if you filled them a bit higher) and gently pry out.

My husband thought the muffins were not sweet enough, but I found them to be just right w/ that mild sweetness of the dates and the sugary crunch on top.  I think they would probably be amazing w/a little  tangy orange marmalade. Until next time, Au Revoir!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Enveloped in cheesy comfort

So I haven’t baked for a couple weeks, because I’m trying to shed some of my winter weight. Come to think of it I’ve not been cooking much either, so I decided to treat Mikey to a comfort meal.  And although the sun was out here in Socal. today, it’s still been winter in the evenings, hence perfect weather for comforting.
I got the recipe for the Mac n’ cheese  from Allrecipes  and tweaked it to my liking. I really don't like my mac n' cheese creamy (tramatized from Kraft mac n' cheese from childhood-sorry mom.)  I guess I'm a mac n' cheese snob of sorts. So if you like the artificial boxed stuff, this is not the recipe for you.

Classic Macaroni and Cheese


  •  12 ounces of macaroni
  • 1 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, sliced*
  • 1 tablespoon butter melted
  • one clove of garlic pressed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (190 degrees C). Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
  2. Grease a 2 quart casserole dish. Place a quarter of the macaroni in the bottom, followed by an even layer of one-quarter of the cheese slices. Dot with garlic and  butter mix and season with salt and pepper. Repeat layering three times. Pour evaporated milk evenly over the top of all.
  3. Cover with baking sprayed aluminum foil  and bake for 45 minutes* and then uncover for additional 15 minutes or until top is golden brown.
* I like to use various types of cheese.  I have tried grating it also, but I prefer the sliced method as it seems to bond better.Today I used half jalapeno jack and half extra sharp cheddar.
Also, I stir the macaroni at 30 min. and 45 min. to blend everything well as the milk has the tendency to sink and sit at the bottom.

To contrast the heaviness of this oh so heavenly comfort food I made a nice Italian salad. I got that recipe from Once Upon a Chef blog.

*I couldn't find fresh parsley at my local grocer and I was too lazy to go to Trader Joe's , so I had to use dried and it worked out fine. Also, I used feta instead of ricotta slata and it was fine.

The homemade dressing was divine and pretty darn easy to make w/the food processor. I just may make this my go to salad for italian meals.

Until later, Ciao'!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Non-traditional V-day

So lets face it ladies V-day is a girl's holiday and there really is not much in it for the guys and I already spotted the bag of Godiva in our fridge, yes. . . .that makes me giddy, bc I'm such a girl. I like chocolate, flowers, and champagne.
When I asked hubby what he wanted I got the same answer I always get. . . . . .oh, nothing.  So I'm not cooking, bc well it's Vday, but I am of course baking and torturing myself with what I least like to bake, but the DH loves the most and that's carrot cake. I know it's not very valentiney like chocolate covered strawberries or chocolate cupcakes, but it's his favourite and we all should get our favourite things on this day of love, February 14, 2011.

Here's the recipe I got from Allrecipes w/the alterations I made:

4 cups grated carrots

2 cups + 4 T cake flour

2 cups white sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 eggs

1 cups vegetable oil

1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple with juice

3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts


1 (250 g) package Cream Cheese, softened

1/4 cup butter, melted

2 cups confectioners sugar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
Last time I made this it made a 1/4 sheet plus a small round cake, so I put the excess in a heart pan. I'm also going to double the icing, so I can split the 1/4 sheet and fill it. The original recipe calls for 1 1/2 c oil, which is way too much, so I cut it down and you can even sub. applesauce, which I did for 1/2 the oil last time and it worked out fine.

Monday, February 7, 2011

It's not LA Fitness, but it's sure convenient. . . .

So one of the many reasons, I've not been baking (besides grading horrendous stacks of papers) is this garage/gym project, which we've been working on for the past month or so. We moved a crap load of stuff/junk from our garage to this little shed and in the process threw junk away that I didn't even know we had.

The reason: To begin with was for Mike to have a little workout area, which of course turned into (our) little workout area. Today, we finally received the elliptical machine which took several hours to assemble and I can't wait to jump on in the morning, instead of making my early trek to LA Fitness.

We moved our TV to the garage along w/cable hook up, so we are now wired and ready to "Just Do it"! LOL  It's been almost cathartic to rid ourselves of so much junk and start with a clean slate for the new year.