Healthier Fig and Nut Blondies

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Hello? Hello? Anyone out there?

I know, I know I have been officially MIA for several months.  Life, man.  But it is the new year and time for a new start-up back here on Cinnamon Freud! Happy New Year’s!

So it is the New Year, the time when lots of people make resolutions to lose weight.  I understand well- Christmas and the holidays is a time of decadence. I myself have packed on some extra “warmth layers” since being in a relationship…in spring of last year (no one warned me about that perk or couple-dom).  So, eating healthier can benefit us all.

These “blondies” are a healthier way to help satisfy your sweet tooth.  Believe it or not, my sweet tooth has mellow out (this must be what people mean by adulthood), so these are the perfect dessert or snack.

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HEALTHIER FIG AND NUT BLONDIES
Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

INGREDIENTS

6 ounces vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12-15 dried figs, chopped
1/2 cup nuts

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9 inch by 9 inch baking dish with foil and grease.

In a large bowl mix yogurt, oil, brown sugar, sugar, vanilla extract, and maple syrup together. In a separate bowl mix together flour, baking soda, and salt. Slowly stir the dry ingredients until wet, mixing until just combined. Fold in figs and nuts. Add milk as needed to thin the batter (I added about 2-4 tablespoons).

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely. Remove with foil and cut into bars.

Soda Cracker Torte

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Soda crackers are the food you turn too when you are too nauseated to eat food but know you need to eat something.

Starting out a food blog post talking about nausea- tell me, is your mouth watering yet?

Well, soda crackers can be so much more than a snack of desperation when you are feeling sick.

I am a sucker for any recipe that involves meringue in a unique way.  I just cannot say no to whipped, sugary egg whites.  But I love this salty combo by adding in crushed saltines and nuts into meringue.  This is my kind of dessert.   Tastes like what I imagine heaven to be like- sweet pounds of puffy meringue that is crunchy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside.

SODA CRACKER TORTE
Barely Adapted from Eat, Live, Run

INGREDIENTS

20-25 saltine crackers, crushed
3 egg whites, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup chopped nuts
Whipped cream and cherries, for serving

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8 inch by 8 inch baking dish.

Beat egg whites and salt until frothy. Increase mixer speed and gradually pour in granulated sugar. Continue to beat until egg whites are glossy and and firm. Fold in saltine crackers and nuts. Pour into prepared baking dish and bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool completely. Serve with whipped cream and cherries

Meringue Filled Yeasted Coffee Cake: Secret Recipe Club

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I have gone into dessert baking withdrawal.

In December, I had desserts coming out the wazoo (a rather mysterious place), and I always had another dessert in mind to make next.  I was a desert making machine back then, AKA the good old days when I had extremely low amounts of required work.  Well, being busy and back to making meals for one has put my dessert making a little bit on pause.  But here I am ready to get back into the kitchen, and I am ready for a challenge.

So when I got Taryn’s blog Sweetly Serendipity for this month’s Secret Recipe Club and saw that she has lots of dessert recipes to choose from, I was absolutely thrilled.  Taryn has a lot of types of desserts to choose from: from easy sweet tooth fixes, lots of chocolate, and lots of homemade bread.  I went searching for a recipe to challenge myself, and I came across this meringue filled yeasted coffee cake.

You had me at meringue (how my romantic comedy would be scripted).

The recipe name is a mouthful, but I had never heard of stuffing a coffee cake with meringue.  I was intrigued automatically.  I set out to make the coffee cake the first day I had free.  First, I loved that the ingredients are listed by weight- weighing ingredients is so much easier than measuring them for the sole reason that there are less dishes to wash after.  Second, it sounded decadent and perfect for a kitchen challenge.

I got straight to work, and thing were going great.  But, my friends, this was a challenge.  Rolling a pasty around meringue makes for messy work, and if you compare mine to Taryn’s, I could not manage creating a circular pastry.  It was a little messy, but I say let’s call that rustic charm because it is delicious enough that no one will mind.  Just follow instructions and take it slow.  Makes for one decadent breakfast or brunch.

MERINGUE FILLED YEASTED COFFEE CAKE
Barely Adapted from Sweetly Serendipity

INGREDIENTS

For the Dough:
2 cups all purpose flour (200 g), divided
2 tablespoons granulated sugar (27 g)
1/2 teaspoon salt (4 g)
1/2 package of yeast (4 g)
1/4 cup & 2 tablespoons milk
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons water
1 egg

For the Meringue:
2 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup granulated sugar (55 g)

For the Filling:
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts

DIRECTIONS

For the Dough:

In a large bowl, whisk 1 1/2 cups of flour (115 g), sugar, salt, and yeast.

In a saucepan, combine milk, butter, and water over medium-low heat. Heat, stirring occasionally, until butter is just melted.

With an electric mixer or hand mixer, slowly add the liquid ingreidents to the dry ingredients until blended. Increase speed and beat for 2 minutes. Add egg and 1/2 cup flour (75 g). Beat for 2 more minutes. If needed, stir in any remaining flour to have the mixture come together as a dough. Knead dough for 6-10 minutes until smooth and elastic, adding extra flour as needed.

Place dough in a grease bowl and put in a warm place. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2-2 hours.

For the Meringue:

After the dough has risen, prepare the meringue. Place egg whites and salt in a large bowl. Beat until foamy and opaque. Add vanilla extract. Slowly add sugar while beating until very stiff and glossy peaks form.

To Assemble to Coffee Cake:

Punch down risen down. Roll dough out into a 20 by 10 inch rectangle. Spread meringue filling on dough, leaving a 3/4 inch border on all sides. Sprinkle toppings on top of meringue. Carefully roll the dough into a long log. Transfer to a prepared baking sheet and form a ring.

Use a sharp knife to make cuts deep into the ring. Cover and place in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, 45-60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake for 25-60 minutes until golden brown. Let cool completely.

Make sure to check out what everyone else made this month!

 

No Bake Nutella Fruit & Nut Bars

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Are you ready for a snack, or are you ready for a snack?

Today we are going to get real serious about our snacking choices.  And by getting serious, I mean we are going to be using some Nutella. Nutella is amazing, and it is partially responsible for why I went all the way up to French IV in high school.  French culture day always meant eating lots of Nutella.  For educational purposes, of course.

I am currently working on my thesis (masters degree, I see you!), looking at issues with depression & alcohol, but what I would really like to write it on is the power of Nutella.  I am pretty sure just eating Nutella will be associated with lower levels of sadness.  New therapy treatment: instead of actually having to show up to work, I will just leave an open jar of Nutella and a spoon on my chair. Chocolate hazelnut therapy.

But if you really need some happiness, I suggest taking some Nutella and using it to make some no-bake bars.  I love lots and lots of stuff in my bars, so I packed these bars to the brim.  Filled with lots of chewy, sweet fruit and crunchy nuts, these bars make a great snack.  I used dried cherries and cashews, but the sky is the limit here.  I upped the Nutella & honey in this too, so they get nice a gooey. Mmmm.

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NO BAKE NUTELLA FRUIT AND NUT BARS
Adapted from White on Rice Couple

INGREDIENTS

3 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup honey
2/3 cup Nutella
Large pinch of salt
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 cups dried fruit
1 1/2 cups nuts
1 cup chocolate chips, optional

DIRECTIONS

Line an 8 inch by 8 inch pan with foil and grease.

In a saucepan combine butter, honey, Nutella, salt, and brown sugar.  Whisk together over medium heat until combined.  Remove from heat.  Stir in dried fruit, nuts, and chocolate chips.  Spread mixture into pan.  Chill until firm, about 1 hour.

Cranberry Cinnamon Sugar Candied Walnuts

7-3 Cranberry Cinnamon Sugar Walnuts

During the day, I am not much of a snacker.  I tend to stick to my main meals- although you will often find me with a Diet Coke by my side.  I know it’s not the best thing to pump into my body, but I am addicted. Just hook me up to a Diet Coke IV please.

However, the sun goes down (and I can’t drink Diet Coke anymore or else I will be awake all night), and my stomach starts to grumble.  I am a night snacker- I look forward to the unwinding from my day with a sweet snack, and I often will snack and scroll through food blogs.  I have my snack staples: ice cream sandwiches, leftover holiday candy (I just found a bag of Halloween M&Ms in my closet, hurrah for being a hoarder), and pudding.  But I was ready to mix it up.

So for this month’s Secret Recipe Club, I decided to look for a new snack to try.  I was assigned Desiree’s blog, Steak n Potatoes Kinda Girl.  And upon hearing her website, I just wanted a big juicy steak.  But I had a mission: snacks.  I had a great time looking through her great array of recipes, and when I saw her recipe for Salted Candied Pecans I knew I had found a new great snack.

I made a few changes: walnuts instead of pecans because that is what I had in my pantry, and I added craisins because adding craisins is always a good decision.  And these nuts did not disappoint.  Crunchy nuts, chewy craisins, and sweetness. Perfect for late night web surfing and also a great road trip snack!

Also goes great with Diet Coke.  But what doesn’t?

CRANBERRY CINNAMON SUGAR CANDIED WALNUTS
Adapted from Steak n Potatoes Kinda Girl

INGREDIENTS

1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup craisins

DIRECTIONS

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine walnuts, sugar, and water.  As the sugar begins to liquefy (3-5 minutes), begin stirring.  Cook, stirring constantly, until sugar thickens and crystalizes, about 4-7 minutes.

Decrease heat to medium low.  Continue to cook until sugar begins to harden and turn brown.  Stir in salt, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and craisins.  Stir to evenly coat nuts. Pour into single layer on a baking sheet and let cool completely.  Store in an airtight container.

Make sure to check out what everyone else made this month!

Fig and Walnut Tapenade

I hope everyone had a good Memorial Day weekend with lots of good food.  Our Half-Thanksgiving celebration was a huge success.  I got to spend a day cooking up food in the kitchen so all in all, a good weekend for me (excluding a terribly bitter chocolate pie and an emergency grocery store run for dessert).

Our menu included fried turkey, stuffing, cornbread, broccoli salad, cranberry sauce.  All great but my favorite was this fig and olive tapenade.  This recipe is an example of mother knowing best.  My mom found this recipe which sounded okay, but I was not tempted.  She had it and liked it, so when I couldn’t come up with another dip for appetizers, I decided to settle for this tapenade.  So. Delicious.  I had to restrain myself from downing this dip so I would still have room for dinner.  But in the end, I finished the dip up (with some help from mom) as a late night snack.  I miss it already.

FIG AND WALNUT TAPENADE
Slightly Adapted from Bon Appetit
INGREDIENTS

9 ounces dried figs, stemmed and chopped
1/3 cup water
2/3 cup chopped Kalamata olives
1 1/2 tablespoons capers, chopped
1/4 teaspoon herbes de Provence
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

To Serve: Goat Cheese, Crackers

DIRECTIONS
In a medium skillet over medium heat, combine figs and water.  Cook for 5-7 minutes, until water has evaporated and figs are soft.  Remove from heat and cool slightly. In a large bowl combine figs, olives, capers, herbes de Provence, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.  Stir to mix.  Chill for at least 1 hour, preferrably overnight, to allow the flavors to meld.
Heat a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add walnuts and cook for 2-3 minutes, watching carefully, until toasted.  Mix walnuts into tapenade.  Serve on top of a cracker with goat cheese.

Fruit and Nut Rice



The hustle and bustle of the holidays is now over.  Instead of indulging in cookies and sweets, people are trying to squeeze in gym work outs and vegetables.  Everyone is back to work with no vacation in sight.  Let’s be honest: January just is not as much fun as December.  The everyday blues are beginning to sink in during my semester off from school.  The hustle bustle of work, dinner, sleep, work, dinner, sleep is exhausting and tiresome.

This was an easy, healthy dinner that reminded me of the fun holiday food I ate last month. It is easy enough to make on a weeknight after work and doesn’t break any New Year’s resolutions. This rice is a fun way to shake up your dinner plans during the lull of January.  It will at least keep you occupied until Valentine’s Day.

FRUIT AND NUT RICE
Adapted from Heat Oven to 350
Originally Pressure Perfect by Loma Sass
INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups dried brown rice
Olive oil
25 grapes, sliced in half
3/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped
8 figs, coarsely chopped
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/5 teaspoon ground allspice
Salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Cook rice according to instructions.  Set aside.Toss grapes with about 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil.  Spread on baking sheet.  Roast for 20 minutes.  Set aside.  Toast walnuts in oven for 5 minutes, watching carefully.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Combine rice, grapes, walnuts, dried apricots, and figs.  Stir in cinnamon and allspice.  Season with salt and peeper to taste.

Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side dish.

Fig and Strawberry Baklava


I have been waiting for fresh figs to pop up in grocery stores for about a year.  I just missed last year’s fig season by a couple of weeks (this was back during the days when I was only beginning to cook for myself), so it’s been a long year of anticipation.  Except that I completely forgot that fig season was happening, so maybe not so full of anticipation.  I nearly walked past these in the grocery store, but luckily I finally got to buy my fresh figs while they are in season.
Now that I had fresh figs, and I went to work finding a recipe to make with them.  I wanted a recipe that let figs shine as the star.  I debated between a savory or sweet recipe, but in the end, I decided not to fight my sweet tooth.  I browsed through my recipe books and was sad to find that most of the recipes with figs only needed dried figs.  I wanted to make a recipe that could only be made with fresh figs, so I decided to come up with one myself.
This is my spin on baklava, using fresh fruit instead of all nuts.  And it’s still somewhat healthy for a dessert, so everyone can stick to their resolutions for 2012 and still enjoy a little something sweet.

FIG AND STRAWBERRY BAKLAVA

From Cinnamon Freud
INGREDIENTS

15 strawberries, chopped
10 figs, chopped
3-4 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon brown sugar
16 ounces walnuts, chopped
1 pound phyllo dough, thawed
2 sticks butter, melted
2 cups honey
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
Toasted almonds, for serving

DIRECTIONS

In a large bowl, combine strawberries, figs, honey, and brown sugar.  The amount of sugar and honey needed will depend on the the sweetness of the fruit used.  Taste and add more sugar if needed.  Macerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Brush a 9×13 baking pan with butter.  Layer 6 sheets of phyllo dough, brushing with melted butter on each layer.  Top with a small layer of the strawberry and fig mixture.  Top with walnuts.  Layer 3 sheets of phyllo dough, brushing with melted butter on each layer.  Top with a layer of strawberry and fig mixture.  Top with walnuts.  Layer 6 sheets of phyllo dough, brushing each layer with butter.

Bake for 35-40 minutes.  If top begins to brown too much, cover with aluminum foil.

Meanwhile, combine honey, water, sugar, and vanilla extract in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer.  Let cool.

After taking baklava out of oven, pour honey sauce over top warm baklava.  Let cool to room temperature for several hours.  Cut with a sharp knife into triangles.  Top with toasted nuts if desired.