Cardamom and coffee blondies

 Coffee and cardamom blondies | Me & The Moose. These bar cookies are spiced, sweet, and dense, require one bowl, and are great for a crowd. #meandthemoose #blondies #coffee #cardamom #batchbaking #Christmasbaking #uniquedesserts #easydessertrecipes

Growing up, we made chocolate chip cookies a lot and there was always a cookie that wound up with, like, one chocolate chip…and I secretly preferred those. I know, right? BIZARRE. But I still have a soft spot for chocolate-less desserts.

I ALSO have a soft spot for anything with cardamom. We used to visit a chainlet of restaurants in NYC that served cardamom coffee and it felt like such a unique indulgence. The cardamom and the strong coffee paired perfectly with a bit of sugar.

Anyway, these blondies bring me right back to that little cafe with a mini M eating dosas and drinking that brew.

As I mentioned last week, bar cookies are SO MUCH EASIER when cooking for a crowd and these beauties couldn’t be easier. They only require one bowl and the butter gets partially melted at the beginning. These guys are ready in about 40 minutes start to finish (and that’s if you go slooooowly.)

A couple of notes:

  • I used decaf espresso because the last thing my energetic toddler needs is caffeine. OMG. If you don’t have those concerns, feel free to use regular espresso. If you don’t have an espresso maker, strong coffee will do in a pinch, but I recommend heading to your local coffee place and ordering a double shot of espresso to bring home for this recipe.

  • If you prefer a more cake-like texture and subtler flavor, add a second egg to the batter. You end up with a lighty spicy and sweet cake with an airier crumb. Using a single egg yields a denser, more brownie-like consistency and much stronger flavor. M loved both.

 Coffee and cardamom blondies | Me & The Moose. These bar cookies are spiced, sweet, and dense, require one bowl, and are great for a crowd. #meandthemoose #blondies #coffee #cardamom #batchbaking #Christmasbaking #uniquedesserts #easydessertrecipes
 Coffee and cardamom blondies | Me & The Moose. These bar cookies are spiced, sweet, and dense, require one bowl, and are great for a crowd. #meandthemoose #blondies #coffee #cardamom #batchbaking #Christmasbaking #uniquedesserts #easydessertrecipes
 Coffee and cardamom blondies | Me & The Moose. These bar cookies are spiced, sweet, and dense, require one bowl, and are great for a crowd. #meandthemoose #blondies #coffee #cardamom #batchbaking #Christmasbaking #uniquedesserts #easydessertrecipes

Cardamom and coffee blondies


12 Tbsp butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed and slightly domed
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
3 Tbsp brewed espresso (decaf or regular)
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp baking powder (½ Tbsp) 
¾ tsp salt
1 scant tsp ground cardamom (measure out a teaspoon and then knock some out to avoid any bitterness)

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a large mixing bowl, melt the butter halfway so that it has some shape left, but is beginning to pool on the bottom (this usually takes about 45 seconds- 1 minute on high in our microwave).

Add the sugars, vanilla extract, egg, and espresso and mix well.

Add the dry ingredients and mix until no streaks or lumps remain.

Pour into a 9x9 baking pan that has either been greased with more butter or lined with parchment allowing an overhang so you can get the blondies out more easily.

Bake for 20-24 minutes, until the blondies are set and springy in the middle.

Yield: 16 medium-sized pieces.

 Coffee and cardamom blondies | Me & The Moose. These bar cookies are spiced, sweet, and dense, require one bowl, and are great for a crowd. #meandthemoose #blondies #coffee #cardamom #batchbaking #Christmasbaking #uniquedesserts #easydessertrecipes
 Coffee and cardamom blondies | Me & The Moose. These bar cookies are spiced, sweet, and dense, require one bowl, and are great for a crowd. #meandthemoose #blondies #coffee #cardamom #batchbaking #Christmasbaking #uniquedesserts #easydessertrecipes

Polenta, turkey, and kale casserole

 Polenta, turkey, and kale casserole | Me & The Moose. This casserole requires one oven-safe pan, a few simple ingredients, and is an easy, fast, healthy, and delicious meal for any busy night. #meandthemoose #kalerecipes #polentarecipes #kalepesto #dinnerrecipes #onepotcooking #fastdinnerrecipes #casseroles

I don’t know if the abundance of sugar, salt, and fat change my tastebuds during the holidays, but I always struggle to live by the 80/20 rule in December. I indulge with the eating and drinking and then swear I’m going to be healthy the next day, but the healthy stuff never feels all that satisfying or tastes all that good. So I end up like a moth to a flame with the treats.

But you know what? I don’t have to toggle between bland salads and a dozen cookies. This polenta casserole may just be the middle ground: It’s still delicious and a little indulgent with a garlicky pesto and plenty of cheese on top, but it also features kale and ground turkey breast and is the perfect vehicle for any of those leftover veggies in your fridge that are about to go bad. Throw them in and see what happens!

I used my own kale pesto recipe, but cut down on the oil and nuts. But for ease, feel free to use any store-bought pesto that you can find. And to up the nutrition, add any veggies you have in your fridge. You may need to add a bit more pesto to cover the extra ingredients.

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 Polenta, turkey, and kale casserole | Me & The Moose. This casserole requires one oven-safe pan, a few simple ingredients, and is an easy, fast, healthy, and delicious meal for any busy night. #meandthemoose #kalerecipes #polentarecipes #kalepesto #dinnerrecipes #onepotcooking #fastdinnerrecipes #casseroles
 Polenta, turkey, and kale casserole | Me & The Moose. This casserole requires one oven-safe pan, a few simple ingredients, and is an easy, fast, healthy, and delicious meal for any busy night. #meandthemoose #kalerecipes #polentarecipes #kalepesto #dinnerrecipes #onepotcooking #fastdinnerrecipes #casseroles

Polenta casserole

1-2 Tbsp olive oil
2 lb ground turkey
Large pinch of salt
¾-1 cup kale pesto (recipe below)
1 log premade polenta
½ cup mozzarella, shredded
½ cup hard gouda (not the softer, smoked variety), shredded
¼ cup grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 425.

In a large oven-safe sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium flame. Turn the heat to medium-low and sauté the ground turkey until no pink remains and it has just begun to brown, about 7-10 minutes. Season with a large pinch of salt.

Turn off the heat and stir in the kale pesto.

Slice the polenta log into 1/4 –inch pieces and layer over the turkey and pesto.

Top with cheese and cook in the oven for 13-15 minutes, until the cheese is brown and bubbling.  

Yield: 4 servings

Kale pesto

4 cups packed chopped kale
1/4 cup toasted walnuts
2 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
4 Tbsp olive oil

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and fill another large bowl with ice water. Wash and chop kale, leaving the middle stems.

When water is at a rolling boil, add the kale and swirl with a slotted spoon a few times. After 1-2 minutes, remove it from the boiling water and add it to the bowl of ice water. Drain the kale (gently squeeze out the water) and add to your blender or food processor.

Roast the walnuts in a 350 oven or toaster oven for about 5 minutes or until just lightly browned and starting to smell nutty. You can also toast them in a sauté pan on the stove top. When browned, add them to the blender or food processor as well.

Add the garlic, salt, and lemon juice and start to blend, slowly adding the olive oil in a thin stream. If using a small food processor or a blender without a top that opens, just add the oil with the rest of the ingredients and process together. Blend until you've reached your desired consistency.

Yield: about 1 cup

 Polenta, turkey, and kale casserole | Me & The Moose. This casserole requires one oven-safe pan, a few simple ingredients, and is an easy, fast, healthy, and delicious meal for any busy night. #meandthemoose #kalerecipes #polentarecipes #kalepesto #dinnerrecipes #onepotcooking #fastdinnerrecipes #casseroles

Cranberry bars

 Cranberry bars | Me & The Moose. These simple cranberry bars are a showstopper that looks complicated, but is actually easy to bake ahead and cut up for cookie swaps, office holiday parties, and your cookie tray. #cranberrybars #christmasbaking #lemonbars #meandthemoose #holidaydesserts #batchbaking

Cranberry bars! Have you guys seen To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before on Netflix? It’s a DELIGHT and I’ve watched it like 6 times. How does this relate to holiday desserts, you may ask? Well, there’s a part in the movie where one character pretends that making cupcakes for a school bake sale is her top priority and two other characters point out that the easiest way to bake for groups is to make something that can be cut into pieces. This is good advice!

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So this year, we’re only making bars that can be baked in one go and cut into pieces. You’re welcome.

But one place where bars fall short is in their appearance. I love a brownie or blondie (recipe coming at you next week, actually), but they’re not the most attractive dessert. Instead, make these simple cranberry bars and you have a holiday showstopper without much fuss.

 Cranberry bars | Me & The Moose. These simple cranberry bars are a showstopper that looks complicated, but is actually easy to bake ahead and cut up for cookie swaps, office holiday parties, and your cookie tray. #cranberrybars #christmasbaking #lemonbars #meandthemoose #holidaydesserts #batchbaking
 Cranberry bars | Me & The Moose. These simple cranberry bars are a showstopper that looks complicated, but is actually easy to bake ahead and cut up for cookie swaps, office holiday parties, and your cookie tray. #cranberrybars #christmasbaking #lemonbars #meandthemoose #holidaydesserts #batchbaking

These bars have the same sweet/tart profile of a lemon bar, but in a more festive color. I’ve also simplified the recipe so that you can reuse the same kitchen tools for the crust and the filling. And unlike most cranberry curd or bar recipes, I recommend not straining the cranberries after they’re pureed. It doesn’t make enough difference to justify the extra time, effort, and dishes.

 Cranberry bars | Me & The Moose. These simple cranberry bars are a showstopper that looks complicated, but is actually easy to bake ahead and cut up for cookie swaps, office holiday parties, and your cookie tray. #cranberrybars #christmasbaking #lemonbars #meandthemoose #holidaydesserts #batchbaking

A couple of notes:

  • I fiddled with the amounts of sugar in the filling because I like the bars a little bit tarter and Ethan likes them a little sweeter. If you like tart, use 3/4 cup. If you like sweet, add the remaining 2 Tbsp.

  • I listed a huge range in the cook time for the tart because it has cooked at wildly varying speeds for me. When I pour the filling directly into the hot shell, it cooked faster, but when my timing was off and I left the crust out to cool while I made the filling, it was a little slower. Also, when I used super fresh cranberries, there was more liquid in the filling and it took longer. Anyway, you get it. Check the tart at about 15 minutes knowing that there is a chance it will take much longer.

 Cranberry bars | Me & The Moose. These simple cranberry bars are a showstopper that looks complicated, but is actually easy to bake ahead and cut up for cookie swaps, office holiday parties, and your cookie tray. #cranberrybars #christmasbaking #lemonbars #meandthemoose #holidaydesserts #batchbaking

Cranberry bars

Shortbread base
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
10 Tbsp butter (1 stick + 2 Tbsp), cut into ½-inch cubes
1/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
Heaping ¼ tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350.

Butter the bottom and sides of a 9x9 tart pan or a 10x10 brownie pan. Set aside.

Combine all of the shortbread ingredients in a food processor and pulse 15-20 times until the mixture looks like coarse sand.

Dump the mixture into your tart pan or brownie pan. If using a tart pan, start by pressing the mixture into a medium-thin layer up the sides of the pan. Then press the remaining shortbread mixture into the bottom of the pan in an even layer. If using a brownie pan, just press the mixture onto the bottom of the pan and don’t worry about the sides.

Bake in the middle of the oven until blondish-brown, about 17-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prep your filling.

 

Filling
10 oz of fresh cranberries (a scant 3 cups; save the rest of the berries for decoration)
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
¾ cup sugar + 2 Tbsp
3 Tbsp flour
3 large eggs  

In a small saucepan, combine the cranberries, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Heat over a medium flame until bubbling and the cranberries can be squished with a spatula without any give, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Wipe out your food processor and puree the cranberries until smooth, about 30 seconds.

Add the sugar and flour and puree for another few seconds until combined and the mixture looks like liquid.

Add the eggs and puree again until combined, about 10 seconds.

Turn the oven temperature down to 300.

Remove the tart shell from the oven (if you haven’t already) and fill with the cranberry mixture until right at the top of the tart. You may have some filling left over.

Bake for 18-34 minutes, until there is no wobble left in the middle when the tart is shaken and the filling feels firm, but springy when lightly touched.

Let cool completely before decorating.


Decoration

2 oz cranberries (whatever is left in the bag)
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup powdered sugar

In a small sauce pan, combine 1/4 cup of water and 1/4 cup granulated sugar and heat over a medium low flame. Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves, about 1 1/2 - 2 minutes. Don’t let the sugar water get too hot; you’re just trying to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat.

Add the cranberries and cover well with syrup. Remove from the syrup with a fork or slotted spoon to remove most of the liquid. Add to a bowl with the remaining 1/4 cup of granulated sugar. Roll the berries around to cover with sugar and remove to a plate. Let harden for 20-30 minutes.

When bars are cool, cover with powdered sugar. Add the cranberries in whatever pattern you like.


Yield: 16 medium squares or slices


 Cranberry bars | Me & The Moose. These simple cranberry bars are a showstopper that looks complicated, but is actually easy to bake ahead and cut up for cookie swaps, office holiday parties, and your cookie tray. #cranberrybars #christmasbaking #lemonbars #meandthemoose #holidaydesserts #batchbaking
 Cranberry bars | Me & The Moose. These simple cranberry bars are a showstopper that looks complicated, but is actually easy to bake ahead and cut up for cookie swaps, office holiday parties, and your cookie tray. #cranberrybars #christmasbaking #lemonbars #meandthemoose #holidaydesserts #batchbaking

White bean and pasta soup

 White bean and pasta soup | Me & the Moose. This soup is quick, easy, wholesome, and a surefire way to get my toddler to eat beans and bone broth. It’s also a warming lunch for these cold days. #soup #whitebeansoup #recipes #meandthemoose

This soup is a metaphor for how I’m feeling about this holiday season. (As always, to skip this meditation on holiday blues and just get to the damned soup already, scroll to the next photo!)

As you can see, the dry pasta is vibrant pink and white adorableness. But when cooked, it loses some color and is a rather bleh peach and cream. It still tastes good, but doesn’t live up to the promise of the shiny and bright dry version. I feel that way about the holidays: The idea is one thing, but the experience is another.

I have the holiday blues. They came early this year, which is probably because Thanksgiving was so early and now we’re officially in the holiday season even though Halloween was 10 seconds ago and it’s all going too fast and increasing my seasonal ennui.

But if I’m honest, I always have the sneaking suspicion that everyone else is more engaged in life and more present in their lives and more, I don’t know, successful at life than I am. I’m sure I’m not alone.

Unsurprisingly, I have to take social media with a HUGE grain of salt and constantly remind myself that these idealized versions of life aren’t the whole picture. So, I guess this is my friendly reminder to all of YOU that ‘tis the season of matching jammies and perfect cookies, which are fun and pretty and inspiring, but also staged and only a sliver of someone’s day.

 White bean and pasta soup | Me & the Moose. Alphabet pasta is a perennial favorite in our home, but the snowflakes are a seasonal contender for favorite pasta shape. #soup #whitebeansoup #recipes #meandthemoose

Anyway, make this soup! Seriously though, one way I try to combat the holiday blues is to be mindful about what I’m eating. This soup is more nutritious if you use a whole grain or grain-free pasta (or skip it entirely). However, M’s soup consumption increases dramatically if there’s a fun shape in there.

And if you can, make the broth yourself. It’s light years better than the stuff in paper cartons from the store. And you can make a lot at a time and freeze it for later. And the chicken can be frozen for later meals too!

 White bean and pasta soup | Me & the Moose. This soup is quick, easy, wholesome, and a surefire way to get my toddler to eat beans and bone broth. It’s also a warming lunch for these cold days. #soup #whitebeansoup #recipes #meandthemoose

White bean and pasta soup

1 Tbsp olive oil
½ medium onion, chopped
1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh or 1 tsp dried rosemary, minced
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
6 cups herbed chicken stock (recipe below)
1½ cups dried pasta, cooked in separate water
Parmesan cheese

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.

Heat the olive oil over a medium low flame. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and rosemary and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the white beans and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Let cool slightly.

While the soup simmers, cook the pasta separately. When the pasta is done, add it to the slightly cooled soup.

Top with cheese before serving.  

Yield: 7-8 cups soup, about 4 big bowls  

Herbed chicken stock

1 chicken, cut into pieces (2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 wings, 2 drumsticks), skin and bones included
1 large onion
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 large carrot
1 stalks celery
2 sticks rosemary
8-10 sticks thyme
10-12 sage leaves
1 bay leaf
10-14 cups water, enough to cover the ingredients
1 Tbsp salt

Add all of the ingredients to a large stockpot and stir to distribute the salt. Cover with water.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, partially covered, for 1½ hours. If a lot of the water evaporates, add more to maintain the original level of water.

Let cool. Strain the broth with a fine mesh sieve. Remove the bones and skin of the chicken, but save the meat in a separate container for other meals.   

Yield: About 12 cups of stock; one entire chicken, dark and light meat

 White bean and pasta soup | Me & the Moose. This soup is quick, easy, wholesome, and a surefire way to get my toddler to eat beans and bone broth. It’s also a warming lunch for these cold days. #soup #whitebeansoup #recipes #meandthemoose

Sweet potato muffins

 Sweet potato muffins | Me & The Moose. These one-bowl, whole grain muffins sneak in some vegetables at breakfast, lunch, or snack time. #sweetpotatomuffins #meandthemoose #sweet potatorecipes #thanksgiving #healthybaking

Thanksgiving is here! I love this holiday and the season that follows, but there are definite downsides. I’ve talked about keeping expectations in check with kids and holidays. And while it’s exciting and fun that there’s always something going on: Making cookies, making gifts, buying gifts, wrapping gifts, listening to music, decorating, holiday events, holiday parties, holiday-themed school things, concerts, visiting relatives, etc, it can be…a lot. And for a little one like mine who’s always searching for his equilibrium, it can be.. A WHOLE LOT.

 Sweet potato muffins | Me & The Moose. These one-bowl, whole grain muffins sneak in some vegetables at breakfast, lunch, or snack time. #sweetpotatomuffins #meandthemoose #sweet potatorecipes #thanksgiving #healthybaking

So, let’s not add even more by completely abandoning our commitment to balanced eating, mkay?

These sweet potato muffins are a fantastic “sweet” to have around. They feel festive and would certainly make a fitting Thanksgiving breakfast to watch in front of the parade or DOG SHOW (!!!!!!!), but are just sweet enough thanks to the applesauce, a few Tbsp of brown sugar divided between the batter and the muffin tops, a handful of golden raisins, and sweet potatoes.

And did I mention that they only require one bowl? You’ll have enough dishes this week.

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A couple of notes:
- Chop the sweet potatoes into 1/3-1/2 inch chunks. Any bigger and they may not soften enough during baking, but if you shred them, they disappear and make the batter a bit too wet.
- This is a thick batter, almost dough-like in consistency. Don’t worry. It always puffs up well in the oven and results in an airy, light muffin.

 Sweet potato muffins | Me & The Moose. These one-bowl, whole grain muffins sneak in some vegetables at breakfast, lunch, or snack time. #sweetpotatomuffins #meandthemoose #sweet potatorecipes #thanksgiving #healthybaking

Sweet potato muffins

4 Tbsp butter or coconut oil, partially melted
½ cup applesauce
1 egg 
1/2 cup brown sugar, divided  
3/4 cup yogurt 
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup wheat flour 
1 cup white flour 
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda 
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt 
1 medium sweet potato, cut into tiny squares (about 1.5 cups)
¼ cup golden raisins

Move your oven rack to the bottom or lower middle portion of the oven. Preheat to 375.

In a large bowl, partially melt the butter or coconut oil. Microwave it for a few seconds until it just begins to liquify, but is still partially solid.

Mix in the applesauce, egg, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, yogurt, and vanilla extract. Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined and no streaks of flour remain.

Add the chopped sweet potatoes and raisins and stir again to combine.

Spoon the batter into the cups of a muffin tin, filling about 3/4 of the way. Top each muffin with a large pinch or two of brown sugar.

Bake for 18-22 minutes until firm to the touch and a tester in the middle comes out clean. Check after 12-15 minutes and cover if the sugar browns too fast.

 Sweet potato muffins | Me & The Moose. These one-bowl, whole grain muffins sneak in some vegetables at breakfast, lunch, or snack time. #sweetpotatomuffins #meandthemoose #sweet potatorecipes #thanksgiving #healthybaking