Two-bite strawberry shortcakes

IMG_8003.jpg
IMG_8010.jpg

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?

IMG_7980.jpg

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.

IMG_7997.jpg

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.

IMG_7999.jpg
IMG_8004.jpg

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

IMG_8006.jpg
IMG_8008.jpg

Raspberry buckle

IMG_7028.jpg

Let's talk about the idea of healthifying desserts, shall we? Because I'm not totally sold on this strategy even though I keep doing it. Part of me thinks that boosting nutrition and finding balance (you can eat coffee cake, just make it a spelt coffee cake with less sugar, less gluten, and more protein!) is always good. But alternatively, might I actually indulge less if I just ate a small amount of the high fat, high sugar baked thing instead of trying to make spelt happen? Am I just kidding myself that a whole grain, barely sweet version is going to cut it when my real craving is for the doughy, crumbly, buttery, brown sugary coffee cake of my summer-on-the-jersey-shore dreams?

Ugh. If only there was one straightforward strategy that would always work.

I guess a wiser person than me would just accept that what we need from day to day or hour to hour can change. But I like predictability and this isn't cutting it.

IMG_7001.jpg

But, for now, we have an ever-so-slightly healthified raspberry buckle that is legitimately delicious on its own merits. I started with a recipe from King Arthur Flour and swapped out spelt flour for most of the white flour and reduced the amount of overall sugar.

I mostly left the crumble topping alone. I always want the first bite to pack more of a punch, which masks some of the healthier swaps later.

IMG_7012.jpg

I've made this cake without fruit which produces a straightforward coffee cake that's light and airy and not too sweet. I've also swapped coconut sugar for the brown sugar in the actual cake and it's good, but not great. The texture and bake time are the same, but I could really taste the coconut sugar and I didn't completely love it.

IMG_7021.jpg
IMG_7022.jpg

This recipe also works best in a 9x9 pan. If you only have an 8x8, reduce the amount of batter in the pan by about 1/2 cup and either bake the extra in a ramekin or toss it. Or, if you have a deeper 8x8 pan (one with higher sides), you can bake the whole recipe, but may need a few extra minutes at the end.

Raspberry buckle
 

For the streussel topping:
4 Tbsp butter, melted
3 Tbsp brown sugar, packed
2 Tbsp white sugar
½ cup AP flour
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt

For the cake:
2 Tbsp butter, melted slightly
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
½ cup milk (I use whole, but any will do)
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup apple sauce
1½ cups spelt flour
½ cup AP flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries (do not defrost)

Preheat oven to 375. In a medium bowl, melt the 4 Tbsp of butter in the microwave for 30 seconds. Cut up the butter and add the rest of the streussel topping ingredients. Mix with a fork until the mixture is fully combined and the texture of wet sand. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, melt the remaining 2 Tbsp of butter for 20 seconds in the microwave. Add the sugar and stir to combine. Measure the milk. Add the egg and whisk lightly. Add to the sugar and butter and stir well to combine. Add the vanilla and apple sauce and stir again.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix just until no streaks of flour remain.

Gently fold in the raspberries.

Pour the batter into a greased 9x9 pan and top with the streussel mixture.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Yield: 16 squares

IMG_7025.jpg
IMG_7033.jpg
IMG_7049.jpg

Chicken liver and berry puree (and a Whole 30 update)

Chicken liver and berry puree | Me & The Moose. Chicken liver, blueberries, blackberries, and apples are a fabulous combination for babies and toddlers (and adults). #meandthemoose #puree #chickenliver #iron #protein #berries

Yup, that's right. Chicken liver for babies. I was hesitant at first too, but we gave some to M when he was around 1 and he LOVED it. Who knew? Turns out, some people actually advocate chicken liver as a first food. Live and learn, I guess. M likes it plain, but combining it with berries and turning it a lovely purple color definitely makes it more appetizing.

M's passion for chicken liver was helpful during Whole 30, as it's an easy, savory, protein- and iron-rich dip for veggies or a topping for chicken, fish, and other meats with some balsamic onions. Speaking of Whole 30, I have a little update: When I last posted, I was pretty down about the process. After some time and perspective, I feel a lot better and have forgotten the painful parts. Kind of like childbirth.

So I decided to do a Whole 25 before we left for a friend's wedding in August (I procrastinated!). Historically, an event like a wedding would have made me totally body-crazy. I would have awakened every morning intending to eat nothing but steamed veggies and chicken and run 5 miles, only to crash and burn by 3 pm and hate myself by bedtime. Instead, I tried to focus on feeling good rather than on being either unrealistically ambitious (eat nothing, run lots) or completely rigid (my first Whole 30), and it really worked. I definitely "cheated" a few times, but I only ate things that felt really worth it, (Roberta's pizza= WORTH IT) and I felt pretty happy with myself when we got all fancied up for the festivities.

I haven't been Whole 30-ing since then, but I do feel like the experience has changed the way I look at food and eating and wellness and myself. I'm guessing we'll do another one in the new year, so stay tuned.

Chicken liver pate | Me & The Moose. Chicken liver, baguette, and a variety of red and purple fruits are one of my favorite party snacks or appetizers. #meandthemoose #puree #chickenliver #iron #protein #berries #chickenliverpate

Back to the puree! This guy is delicious. Trust me. Actually, don't trust me: Make it for yourself and see.

If you've made chicken liver before, skip these next few pictures. If you're a liver novice, here's what mine looks like at various stages of cooking:

Stage 1: Put some olive oil in a hot pan and add the livers, making sure that each one has some space in the pan. Cook in batches if you have to.

Stage 2: Ready to flip. Once you see brown creeping up the sides, flip those puppies over and continue to cook.

Stage 2! Chicken liver and berry puree | Me & The Moose.

Stage 3: Add the onions. Once you have an even browning on both sides, add the chopped onions. It's okay if there are some pinkish areas remaining because cooking isn't over yet.

Stage 3! Chicken liver and berry puree | Me & The Moose

Stage 4: Cover. Once the onions are translucent and the livers are mostly browned (it's okay of there are some slightly pink nooks, but you should see any "raw" patches), cover and cook over a low flame for about 10 more minutes. 

Stage 4! Chicken liver and berry puree | Me & The Moose.

Chopped chicken liver

.75 lb chicken livers
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion
2 hard-boiled eggs
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper

Heat olive oil over a medium flame. Add chicken livers and brown on both sides. Once livers are browned, add the chopped onions. (It’s okay if there are small bits of pink still showing on the livers in the nooks and crannies- see photos.) Cook on medium heat until onions are opaque, about 5-8 minutes. Cover and turn heat to low. Let simmer for another 10-12 minutes or until livers are cooked through.

Immediately add cooked livers and onions and all liquid to a food processor or blender with hard-boiled eggs and balsamic vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste, but I’m usually very generous with the salt at this phase. Pulse the food processor until you’ve reached your desired consistency. Taste again for seasoning.

Yield: about 2 cups

Chicken liver and berry puree | Me & The Moose. Chicken liver, blueberries, blackberries, and apples are a fabulous combination for babies and toddlers (and adults). #meandthemoose #puree #chickenliver #iron #protein #berries

Berry compote

1 pint blueberries
1 pint blackberries
2 Tbsp water

Combine berries and water in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until the berries are cooked down, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool slightly. Puree. If your little is opposed to seeds (like mine), pass through a mesh strainer. 

Chicken liver and berry puree | Me & The Moose. Chicken liver, blueberries, blackberries, and apples are a fabulous combination for babies and toddlers (and adults). #meandthemoose #puree #chickenliver #iron #protein #berries

Combo

2 Tbsp Chopped chicken liver
2 Tbsp Berry compote
1 Tbsp Applesauce

Squash, chicken, and apricot puree

Squash, chicken, and apricot puree | Me & The Moose. A nice blend of fruit and veggies lend a mellow sweetness to this protein packed puree. #meandthemoose #babyfood #puree #protein

Where did the summer go? July felt interminable and then I blinked and it was mid-September. Part of me is so happy: Soon it'll be "just a sweater" weather; the beginning of a new school year feels like a fresh start for everyone; and we can finally FINALLY eat apples and squash day and night. But, we also have to let go of those lazy, meandering days; tomatoes go mealy again; and as Ned Stark likes to remind us, winter is coming. There is something undeniably melancholy about the prospect of gray days and bare trees.

So, fall is like an exercise in wanting two things at once. I want time to pass and to stand still. Incidentally, this is exactly how I feel about parenting. I can't wait for M to tell me what he needs with actual words (and maybe even get it himself?), but I want to hang onto these dwindling baby days too. I'm so proud when he learns something new, but I also miss his little mewling cries and when he used to snuggle into my chest for naps.

But alas, time marches on. Here is one last summer-centric puree to take advantage of the season's remaining produce. If apricots are already scarce in your markets, feel free to swap in dried or frozen ones (though, I'd use half because the flavor is more concentrated). Or, use super-ripe, late summer peaches instead.

Squash, chicken, and apricot puree | Me & The Moose. A nice blend of fruit and veggies lend a mellow sweetness to this protein packed puree. #meandthemoose #babyfood #puree #protein

Squash, chicken, and apricot puree

1 cup chopped yellow squash
6-8 fresh apricots, pitted (or 3-4 dried apricots reconstituted in hot water; or 2 large peaches)
1 large apple, peeled and chopped
10 oz raw chicken breast, cut or pounded into thin strips
1 Tbsp olive oil

Bring a few inches of water to a boil. Add chicken to steamer and steam for 10 minutes (or use pre-grilled/cooked chicken breasts left over from a previous night's dinner like I did; about 6-7 oz cooked). Chop the yellow squash and apple into large chunks and add to the steamer; steam for 10 minutes. Pit the apricots and add to the mixture and steam for 2 more minutes. Check the chicken and squash for doneness and continue steaming as needed. Once cooked, put all ingredients in a blender and add ¼ cup of the steaming liquid (reserve more to use as needed) and add 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Puree to desired consistency.

Orange, peach, mango, and carrot puree

Orange, peach, mango puree and popsicles | Me & The Moose. #Meandthemoose #Orange #Peach #Mango #puree #popsicles

Remember that flavor of orange, peach, mango juice? Maybe it still exists, but I stopped drinking my calories long ago. HOWEVER, I remembered it being so good that I thought, why not try it as a puree with some carrots thrown in for good measure? This puree is vitamin-c-tastic and tasted great as a puree or a frozen pop.

Orange, peach, mango puree and popsicles | Me & The Moose. #Meandthemoose #Orange #Peach #Mango #puree #popsicles

If you're leaving this one as a puree, I recommend eating it within 3 days, as it seemed to go bad fairly fast. But this puree tastes great as a frozen treat, or you can freeze the puree and defrost small batches to maintain freshness.

Orange, peach, mango puree and popsicles | Me & The Moose. Little sails also make hepful handles for little hands. #Meandthemoose #Orange #Peach #Mango #puree #popsicles

Orange, Peach, Mango, and Carrot puree

1 orange, squeezed
1 cup mango, fresh or frozen
2 large peaches or 1 cup frozen
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

Bring a few inches of water to a boil and steam carrots in a steamer basket for 15 minutes, until they are very tender. While steaming the carrots, peel and chop the mango and peaches, or, if using frozen fruit, throw it into the steamer with the carrots for 3 minutes after carrots are done. No need to steam the fresh fruit. Juice the orange. Whizz everything in the blender until you reach your desired consistency. This puree is also delicious with 1 Tbsp of melted coconut oil thrown in for a bit of extra fat.