Salted honey and rosemary teiglach

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Teiglach! This sweet honeyed dessert reminds me so much of my childhood Rosh Hashanah dinners. It is a mountain of baked or fried dough balls that are combined with nuts, dried fruits, and sprinkles by a honey syrup. And though it looks complex, it is stupidly easy.

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Though teiglach, for me, tends to be specific to the Jewish Holidays, it’s a close cousin of the Italian struffoli, which is traditionally served for Christmas or Easter. So, you can feel good about serving this sticky treat for any occasion, really.

I added flaky sea salt and rosemary to my version because traditional teiglach is very sweet (hello, honey) and both of those ingredients tone down the sweetness. I also added almond extract to my dough, which makes for a more complex overall taste. The almond, rosemary, sea salt, and honey also play very well together.

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I baked the dough because a) it’s marginally easier; b) it’s marginally healthier; and c) I hate nothing more than smelling like fried oil. Don’t be afraid to overbake the dough balls slightly as this will help them to stay crunchy when they’re covered in honey.

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The only tricky part is making sure the honey syrup doesn't burn. I will admit that during recipe testing, I didn't turn the heat down fast enough and my honey almost boiled over. I used it anyway and it was completely fine.

One quick note: This is a relatively small batch of teiglach. So, if you're feeding a crowd for the holidays, I would double it.

 

Salted honey and rosemary teiglach

2 eggs, whisked
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp lemon zest (zest of 1 large lemon)
½ tsp almond extract
1 cup AP flour
½ Tbsp granulated sugar
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup toasted mixed nuts, roughly chopped
½ cup honey
2 Tbsp sugar
1 ½ tsp fresh rosemary, minced and divided
¾ tsp Sea salt, divided

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs and olive oil and whisk until well mixed and lightly bubbly. Add the lemon zest and almond extract and whisk again to combine.

Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt and mix just until all of the flour is incorporated. It will be a thick batter. 

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead 5-6 times, just until it feels a little springy and less sticky. Divide the dough in half and roll out each half into a long, thin snake, about ¾ of an inch thick. Chop the snake into ½-inch pieces. Roll each piece into a small ball. The balls should be between the size of a dime and a nickel. 

Bake at 350 for 20-23 minutes until the balls are lightly golden brown and hollow sounding. If you feel like they’re not browning, check the bottoms. If they're golden brown, the balls are done. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

While the balls are baking, roast the nuts in a toaster oven or stick them into the oven with the balls (on a separate sheet) until they start to smell nutty. Remove and let cool. Chop roughly, if desired.

Mince the rosemary and set aside ½ tsp. Combine the mixed nuts, 1 tsp of rosemary, and ½ tsp of flaky sea salt and mix well.

Once the balls are out of the oven, in a small saucepan, bring the honey and sugar to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Once the sugars starts boiling throughout (not just on the edges), reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Place the balls in a large bowl with the nuts, rosemary, and salt and stir. Pour the honey mixture over the cookies, nuts, and spices and mix well. This will take some elbow grease as the honey cools.

Pour the entire mixture into your serving bowl making a pyramid shape as your pour. If the honey is too warm and the mixture won’t form into a mound, let it cool for a few minutes and try again. Once you get the mixture into a mound, let cool completely in the fridge.

Bring back to room temperature for serving. Just before serving, top with the remaining ½ tsp of rosemary and ¼ tsp of flaky sea salt.

This dessert is best served the day it's made, but will keep well, covered with plastic wrap at room temperature, for up to two days.

Yield: Enough for 5-6 adults, depending on appetites and tolerance for sweet things

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Almond butter quinoa muffins

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What these muffins have: Good fats, protein, Omega-3s, deliciousness.

What these muffins don't have: Gluten, dairy, refined sugar, wheat, eggs, soy.

Bonus feature: The muffins only require one bowl!

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The new school year already started for lots of the country, but here in CT, M's preschool starts again on Monday. I've been thinking about quick ways to begin our day with protein that don't require cooking in the morning. These muffins are the answer!

Half of the flour is ground quinoa, which has lots of protein. The other half is oatmeal. I originally made these muffins with almond flour instead of oats for even more protein, but the almond flour was so dense that the muffins stuck to the roof of your mouth. You could just feed your kid a spoonful of almond butter and save yourself the trouble.

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With the oatmeal, the muffins are still substantial, but they're no longer dense. They're actually a smidge crumbly because I omitted eggs and any other binding agent. I wanted them to stay vegan and I don't always have the patience to make a flax egg. Letting them cool completely before eating them made them sturdier too. 

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For the first day of school, I thought it might be nice to add some blueberry chia jam and a quick icing to make the muffins more special. (I also called them breakfast cupcakes, which went over VERY WELL.) The jam is simple and free of any added sugar. I used cream cheese and maple syrup for my frosting, but you could also use coconut cream or a pre-made dairy-free topping.

You could also mix the chia jam with some yogurt for a delicious breakfast for the younger set (or the parental set, if I'm honest).

If you're avoiding nuts, substitute coconut or rice milk for the almond milk and use sunflower seed butter in place of the almond butter. Still delicious!

Important note: These muffins are best when fresh, so I recommend freezing 3/4 of the batch and then either defrosting a serving at night for breakfast the next morning, or toasting a frozen one right before eating it.

 

Almond butter quinoa muffins

2 large mashed banana
1 cup creamy natural almond butter, well mixed (or nut butter or seed butter of your choice)
½ cup maple syrup
¼ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or rice, coconut, or other non-dairy milk of choice)
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup quinoa flour
1 cup quick oats
½ tsp salt
1½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp pie spice (or cinnamon)
2 tsp apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl, mash the bananas. Add the almond butter, maple syrup, almond milk, and vanilla extract and mix well.

Add the flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and spices. Mix well. Add the apple cider vinegar and mix again. Let the mixture sit while you prep the muffin tin and prepare the jam and icing (if using).

When ready, spoon the mixture into your muffin tin until each opening is half full.

Bake for 12-14 mins or until the tops turn golden brown and the muffins are firm to the touch.

Let cool completely in the muffin tin before serving.

Yield: 18 muffins

 

For the Blueberry chia jam:
1 pint blueberries
1 ½ Tbsp chia seeds

Put the blueberries into a small sauce pan and cook over a medium low flame until the berries have broken down and become syrupy, about 15 minutes.

Let cool for 5 minutes and add the chia seeds. Mix well.

Place the mixture in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes or until ready to use.

Yield: 1 Tbsp per muffin

 

For the frosting (optional):
2 ¼ cups whipped cream cheese
6 Tbsp maple syrup

Mix the cream cheese and maple syrup well with a spatula. The mixture will look curdled at first. Continue mixing until the two ingredients have come together. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Yield: 2 Tbsp per muffin

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S'mores energy balls

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Happy national s'mores day everyone! While I love a real s'more, I don't dig activities that include both my toddler and fire, so we're sticking with this faux, somewhat healthier version. Also, these energy balls can be packed in a lunchbox (after subbing the nuts for pumpkin or sunflower seeds if necessary).

Your kids' teachers and counselors will thank you for skipping the sticky marshmallows and melted chocolate.

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These balls start as your basic date, cocoa powder, nut, and chia seed energy ball. And if s'mores aren't your thing, you can absolutely stick with this base and have a delicious treat.

But, since it's summer and who doesn't want a s'more or something a little special, I like to stick some lightly toasted marshmallows in the middle and coat the outside in graham cracker crumbs. A couple of easy swaps here make this free of gluten, dairy, nuts, eggs, and soy. (Look for soy-free marshmallows; gluten-free graham crackers; and, as I said before, swap the nuts for pumpkin or sunflower seeds.)

One note about the toasted marshmallows: Since they're so small, toasting them makes them a bit crunchy. You can absolutely use untoasted marshmallows to have that soft texture in the center, but to me, the taste of slightly burned sugar is more s'more-like. I also like a little bit of crunch in the middle of a soft energy ball anyway.

 

A note about the graham cracker coating: If you can, store the crushed graham crackers in an air-tight container and roll the balls right before eating. Otherwise, the crumbs can get soft.

So many texture issues!

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S'mores energy balls

12 medjool dates
½ cup cashews (I like to use roasted, lightly salted cashews)
2-3 Tbsp cocoa powder (depending on how chocolate-y you like things)
2-3 tsp water
1 tbsp chia seeds
Pinch of kosher salt
15 mini marshmallows
5 graham crackers

Pit the dates and place them in a large food processor. Add the cashews (or seeds, if using), cocoa powder, chia seeds, and 2 teaspoons of water. Blend until the mixture starts to form a large ball, about 3-4 minutes. If your mixture won't come together in a large ball with the machine running, add the final teaspoon and blend until you have a large ball.

On a parchment-lined baking sheet, place your mini marshmallows so that none are touching. Toast them in an oven or toasted oven heated to 400 for about 1-2 minutes. The regular oven will toast the marshmallows very quickly, so watch them like a hawk. You can even leave the door open slightly to make sure that the marshmallows don’t burn too quickly. The toaster oven is somewhat easier to control, but you still have to watch the marshmallows very closely.

Place the graham crackers into a large bag and crush them with your hands, a rolling pin, or a heavy can.

To make the balls, measure out a slightly heaping tablespoon of the date and chocolate mixture. With wet hands, roll the mixture into a ball. Make a large hole in the center and add three toasted marshmallows. Fold the mixture over the marshmallows and roll into a ball again.

Roll each ball in the crushed graham crackers.

Yield: 10 energy balls

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Lemon basil ricotta cake

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You may find the idea of turning on the oven insulting given that the weather is so unbelievably hot and humid. But hear me out: This cake requires one bowl and less than 30 minutes in the oven. AND is chock-a-block with sweet, tangy, summery flavor. A weeknight cake if there ever was one.

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One of my favorite things about finally having a yard is growing our own herbs. And we can't keep up with how fast the basil grows. It's a good thing I L.O.V.E. pesto. And we've definitely been throwing a handful of basil into just about everything, including our cakes.

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I didn't healthify this recipe at all; It's full of white flour and sugar. I did use the smallest amount of sugar possible in the batter to have a sweet cake without it being cloyingly so. Not for nothing, there's another 3/4 cup of confectioner's sugar in the glaze, so this baby doesn't want for sweetness.

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It took some tinkering to figure out the right amounts of basil and lemon to impart a strong flavor without turning the cake bitter (too much basil) or sour (too much lemon). In the end, the basil is a background herby note that plays really well with the bright lemon flavor.

And ricotta! I adapted this recipe from the famous French yogurt cake and the textures are very similar. I think the ricotta makes the cake ever-so-slightly more dense and a little more savory.

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A quick note: Be sure not to overcook the cake. It will cool completely in the pan, which means it'll keep cooking a bit while it cools. Check the cake at the shortest time listed, even if your oven doesn't run particularly hot.

Lemon basil ricotta cake

2 eggs
1 cup ricotta (I've had equal success with part-skim and whole)
1/2 cup sugar
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tbsp lemon zest (zest of two extra-large lemons)
¼ cup basil (packed), minced
2 cups AP flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt

For the glaze:
¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
¼ cup of lemon juice (juice of 1 very large lemon)

Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly oil a 9-inch cake pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, ricotta, sugar, olive oil, vanilla, lemon zest, and basil and mix well.

Add the dry ingredients and mix just until the wet and dry components are combined and no clumps of flour remain. The batter will be very thick.

Pour (or plop, as this is a thick batter) the mixture into your prepared pan and bake for 22-30* minutes or until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. (We have a very hot oven, so yours may need more time, but check often to avoid overcooking.)

Let cool for about 10 minutes.

While the cake is cooling, make the glaze. Add the confectioner’s sugar to a medium bowl and slowly pour in the lemon juice, whisking constantly, until you’ve reached your desired consistency (a thin glaze soaks into the cake better, so use your judgment) .

Once the cake is slightly cooled, pour your glaze over the entire top, making sure that the liquid goes into the holes. I sometimes use a brush to coax the glaze into the holes, but this isn't strictly necessary. Let cool completely in its baking dish.

Yield: 8-10 pieces

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Two-bite strawberry shortcakes

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The road to these stupidly easy strawberry shortcakes was long and winding.

I started obsessing about scones right around the royal wedding and thought, these would make a great base for a shortcake. Upon further research, I learned that "short" cake just means a cake with a high fat-to-flour ratio, like scones or biscuits. But I wondered, what's the difference between the two?

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Martha Stewart thinks they're basically the same, but many commenters found that suggestion insulting to both Brits and southerners. Food52 had a much more detailed description of the differences, but after reading I felt less inclined to use either traditional scones (too much butter) or traditional biscuits (too much technique) as my shortcake base. The only specific shortcake recipe I found that appealed to me was the classic from Bon Appetite, but it calls for two hard-boiled egg yolks and I'm generally too lazy for that.

 See the tiny flecks of black? Those are the vanilla beans dispersed in the cream.

See the tiny flecks of black? Those are the vanilla beans dispersed in the cream.

Enter, the Never-fail Biscuit from King Arthur. These use no butter, so if you're looking for a butter-y flavor, these may not be your biscuits. However, they are so so easy and come together so fast. There's no resting or freezing or rolling or cutting, but you end up with a flaky, risen biscuit that is easily adapted into a sweet shortcake. 

And! These are tiny, two-bite shortcakes, so you get the taste of sweet summer fruit, without eating a huge dessert. I didn't healthify these thanks to the tiny portion size, but you could surely swap in gluten-free flour, full-fat coconut milk, and coconut sugar in this recipe with good results.

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A couple of notes:
- I made lots of changes because I wanted sweet biscuits and I didn't have self-rising flour, so I had to fiddle with the ratios of salt, flour, and baking powder a bit. In the end, I used less salt and less baking powder than the original recipe.
- I also added more sugar, a little more cream, and half of a vanilla bean instead of using an extract (though you could add 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract instead. KA suggests using 1 tablespoon, but I felt like I could taste the alcohol of the extract a bit). 
- You want to really make sure these shortcakes are cooked. I don't know why, but I felt like I could taste raw flour before I cooked them for an extra minute or two. See notes in the recipe for some tricks to tell if they're really done.

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Two-bite strawberry shortcakes
 

1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
Scant ¼ tsp fine kosher salt
3 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
¾ cup + 1 Tbsp heavy cream
½ vanilla bean, scraped and seeds added
1 Tbsp demarara or other coarse sugar for sprinkling on top
24 medium strawberries
1 cup whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 450.

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to combine.

Measure the heavy cream in a large measuring cup and add one extra tablespoon. Using a small sharp knife, cut the vanilla bean pod in half lengthwise. Scrape out the inside of the pod and add the brown seeds to the liquid. Whisk vigorously to disperse the vanilla beans.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, making sure to scoop out any vanilla beans on the bottom of the cream mixture. Mix just until the wet and dry ingredients come together and begin to look like a flaky dough. This is a dry-ish dough, but you should be able to form the mixture into a ball easily with your hands. If the dough is falling apart, add ½ of tablespoon of cream at a time and mix again with your hands. You want the dough just coming together without falling apart, but without becoming too wet.

When the dough is together, scoop off a small amount (about 1 tablespoon) and lightly roll into a ball with your hands. Place the balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops of each ball with demarara or other coarse sugar.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating the tray once during baking. My best indication that the shortcakes are done was that the extra sugar on the tray (not on the shortcakes) had burned ever-so-slightly and the bottoms of the shortcakes were a dark caramel brown.

Yield: 24 mini shortcakes

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