Christmas · Holidays · kid-friendly · Recipes

Sticky Toffee Pudding

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“Sticky Toffee Pudding” is kind of an odd name for what’s essentially a simple, sweet cake made of pureed dates, butter, sugar and flour, and topped with a delectable butterscotch-y sauce that you can drizzle or coat (I choose the latter). This is adapted from the Sunday Suppers Cookbook via Smitten Kitchen, and while it’s definitely resonant of Christmas and cold, snowy holidays, I find that it’s just right for a New England spring celebration, too, when it’s typically so raw and chilly. Make it for Easter Sunday in the still-snowy northern states, or just for yourself on a quiet, rainy afternoon. You won’t regret it.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

(Sweet Date Cake)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 heaping cups of pitted dates (about 12 oz.)
  • 2 1/4 cups boiling water
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 TBSP brown sugar (dark or light)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

For the sauce:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup plus 2 TBSP brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

To serve: homemade or store-bought whipped cream and/or vanilla ice cream.

DIRECTIONS

Boil your water and rough-chop the dates, placing them in a heat-safe bowl. Pour the water over the top of the dates, stir in the baking soda, and set aside (covered) for half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350F and butter a 9×13 baking pan (I used glass) then set aside.

Blend the dates and water in a blender or food processor until smooth. In another large bowl, mix together the butter and sugars; next, whisk in the eggs, then the salt. Stir in the flour, then finally, add the date puree.

Pour the batter into the buttered baking dish and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a knife or toothpick inserted into the top comes out clean.

You can serve as is, which we did on Christmas, or let cool for at least 15 minutes and flip onto a cooling rack then plate it for serving. I made the cake Christmas morning, let it sit out while I made the rest of supper and we opened presents, and then quickly crafted the sauce right before we served dessert.

To make the sauce, combine the butter, cream, sugar and vanilla in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Whisk until it thickens, about 7-10 minutes.

This is delicious at room temperature or warmed up, and it’s sweet without being cloyingly so. You can serve the sauce alongside for your guests to pour over the cake themselves, or you can coat the entire cake in the sauce and serve all together. I did it this way; I thought the sauce was the most scrumptious part and couldn’t imagine wanting anything less than to eat it as a luxurious topping on every single slice. This also makes it easier to transport!

As I said in my last post, dates are simply delicious and good for you, and while no dessert quite qualifies as health food, this one is certainly a bit unexpected and innovative. Best of luck trying it out! And happy weekend, even if you live in one of the sorry locales getting snow today and tomorrow like I do. Before you go, check out the new branding I am considering, and leave me a comment with your thoughts below! xoxo

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Booze & Beverages · kid-friendly · Recipes

Banana Date Smoothie

Does anyone else love dates? Like a lot? I sure do! They’re considered a super food for a reason, and are easy to work into your repertoire.

So delicious and full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, they are a great source of energy and have been a satisfying component to many Mediterranean diets for centuries. Eaten in moderation, which is always a good idea with dried fruits, dates can boost digestion and keep you fuller longer, and lend a special flavor to any appetizer spread, smoothie, or even dessert. In fact, I did just that on Christmas Day with Sticky Toffee Pudding, and it turned out so well that I made a batch to share with my co-workers a week later. I’ll be sharing it with you in just a few days! Sticky Toffee Pudding uses blended dates as the basis for a delicious, dense little cake topped with butterscotch sauce, and it would be simply perfect for Easter Sunday, too.

You know what? If you make that Sticky Toffee Pudding, you’ll have just enough dates left over to toss in this smoothie. How perfect! If you are interested in learning how to make a healthy smoothie using dates, bananas, nut milk and oats, read on.

BANANA DATE SMOOTHIE

Ingredients

  • 2 frozen bananas (or add a couple ice cubes if using fresh bananas)
  • a handful of dates, about 10 (I buy them by the box at Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats

Directions

In a blender, add the almond milk then the dates. Blend at medium speed until the dates are mostly broken down.

Add the bananas and blend again. Then, add the oats and let them sit for a minute to soak and soften. You can probably skip this step if you have a high-end blender such as a Vitamix or BlendTec.

Puree the entire mixture on medium-high until smooth. Makes two servings.

Enjoy!

So we had a huge snow storm last week (and it’s freezing this week…spring, WTF are you hiding from??) which meant I was trapped at home for two days with no school and barely-plowed roads. I love getting in extra time with my G, but we definitely ran out of things to do after a little while. Often when that happens, we start cooking or baking together. She loves making smoothies, and this is one I’ve been wanting to try for a long time because it is so filling and fiber-rich that it really qualifies as a meal replacement. It’s delicious and good for you, and boy was I glad I’d made it a few days later when I had some early mornings and evening meetings that otherwise would have forced me toward the drive-thru for sustenance. The only thing I’d change next time is to make sure I have two smaller frozen bananas, because the ones we got at Costco last time around were so gigantic that the flavor *almost* took over the dates in my smoothie. If you find that you can only get larger bananas too, then I’d just use one or one-and-a-half.

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I thought you’d all appreciate a glamorous behind-the-scenes shot of my life testing recipes and staging food photos while home with a mischievous toddler and elderly cat. Have a great weekend everyone! 🙂

Holidays · Recipes

Buttery Irish Beer Bread

I still have memories of the fresh-baked bread a neighbor used to make when I was a kid. That smell wafting over the summer air when we were outside playing … mmm, I can just about taste it.  If, like me, you’ve always aspired to be the kind of person who makes homemade bread, but you lack the time, skills, fresh yeast or patience to mind rising and kneading strategies, then have I got the recipe for YOU. And just in time for St. Patty’s Day! Classic Irish Beer Bread is so simple, lends itself well to customization, and — most importantly — is delicious. With a soft buttery crust and chewy, warm center, it’s just begging to be dipped into soup or served alongside a hearty stew. This will make you feel like a master bread baker in no time.

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So the cool thing about beer bread is that the carbonation actually helps to leaven the bread, because the same yeast that makes bread rise makes beer alcoholic. Most of the alcohol will bake off while this bread is in the oven, and you’ll be left with a fluffy loaf seasoned with whatever type and flavor of beer you’ve chosen. If you use a nice IPA, as I did here, you’ll get a fantastic hoppy bite at the end. If you choose something more malty or mild, you’ll get that flavor coming through in the final product, too.

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The most mouth-watering part of this bread is the melted butter you drizzle on top before baking. Try adding more or less than what I call for, to see how you like it.

Buttery Irish Beer Bread

INGREDIENTS

  • 12 oz. (1.5 Cups) beer (can substitute non-alcoholic beer, soft drink or sparkling fruit juice, such as sparkling pear or apple cider).
  • 3 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • 3 TSP sugar
  • 2 TBSP butter, melted

You can substitute another sweetener, such as honey, in place of sugar if you prefer. It will change the taste of the bread, but that’s what’s fun about this recipe! It’s endlessly personalize-able.


DIRECTIONS

Preheat your oven to 350F and lightly butter a glass (or metal) loaf pan, or use non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder) and pour in the beer you’ve selected. Mix until just combined, taking care not to overdo it.

Pour the mixture into your loaf pan and drizzle with the melted butter. Bake for 45-50 minutes if using a metal pan, and 50-55 for a glass pan, or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick or knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool the bread in the pan for 5 minutes then remove to a plate. Serve warm or cool.

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The baking powder makes for a fluffier, less dense bread, but you can omit if necessary or if you don’t have any on hand. All you really need for successful beer bread is beer, sugar and flour. From there, it’s all about tailoring to your taste.

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There are so many ways to make this your own. A few ideas:

  • Instead of beer, use a cup of water and a 1/2 cup of salsa. Add in a dash of chili powder and a half cup of sharp cheddar cheese and bake as usual.
  • Add some mustard to the bread mix before baking, or serve the finished bread with a good grainy mustard.
  • Pick a blueberry beer and fold in fresh or frozen berries of your choice.
  • Use sparkling apple cider instead of beer, and add in a palm full of chopped nuts (such as pecans or walnuts), a half cup of chopped apple and a dash of cinnamon.
  • Try the special flavors of a micro brew or go light with a wheat beer; conversely, try a stout like Guinness and see how drastically it changes the tone and texture.

IMG_0078I hope you try this and enjoy it. Let me know how it comes out! And Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, when everyone gets to be Irish. 🍀