The Perfect Blueberry Muffin! By Nikki

Spring Farmer's Market

Spring Farmer’s Market

Last week I was on Spring Holiday. My Mama was visiting from Oregon. On one of our outings we walked through my local neighborhood Farmer’s market. It was a beautiful, sunny day and the usual vendors were out and everyone was smiling. My first stop was the big, orange tent with the dried fruit and nuts! This is my favorite tent at the market- I love everything I have purchased here! I stocked up on dried jahody (strawberries) and naturally dried zazvor bez cukr (ginger without sugar!) This post has nothing to do with these dried, yummy, market finds… I just wanted to tell you what I bought at my farmer’s market last week!

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warm muffins with butter

Blueberry muffins are my favorite! If they are made well, the blueberries should burst in your mouth with blueness and goodness. I prefer this recipe because it uses less sugar than many muffin recipes AND sour cream or greek yogurt instead of oil! You know I am a BIG fan of buttermilk in baked goods, but this time I gladly used the fresh sour cream I get in my weekly dairy delivery!

Spaldova flour

Spaldova flour

I also used my BIO spaldova (spelt) flour. I purchase this flour with my dairy order, but I hear you can find the vendor at the Dejvicka farmers market on Saturdays! This flour adds a slightly nutty flavor to baked goods and that compliments the texture and taste of this particular muffin. The hint of lemon zest adds a fresh, spring zing. These muffins taste best warm from the oven with a pat of butter! Go ahead and try them right now… why not, it is a one bowl, easy-to-whip-up recipe!

my favorite muffin

my favorite muffin

Perfect Blueberry Muffins

(adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)

ingredients:

 5 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces or 71 grams) unsalted butter , softened
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces or 100 grams) sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces or 191 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon (7 grams or 1/4 ounce) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) baking soda
1/4 teaspoon (2 grams) salt
3/4 cup (3 3/4 ounces or 105 grams) blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, don’t bother defrosting)

Preparations:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F or 180 degrees C.

Line a muffin tin with paper liners.

Directions:

Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

Add the egg and beat well, then add the yogurt and lemon zest.

Put flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a sifter and sift half of dry ingredients over batter.

Mix until combined. Sift remaining dry ingredients into batter and mix just until the flour disappears.

Gently fold in your blueberries.

The dough will be quite thick (and even thicker, if you used a full-fat Greek-style
yogurt).

Using your preferred method, fill the paper liners about 3/4 full.

Bake for approx 20-25 minutes (depending on how big your muffin cups are and how high you filled them!)

Look for the tops to be golden and a tester inserted into the center of muffins comes out
clean (you know, except for blueberry goo).

Let cool on rack as long as you can wait until you serve with a generous pat of butter!!

ENJOY!

A LITTLE NOTE: In the first photo of the muffins, I used the handmade napkins my sister recently made for me as a background for the photo. Kelli sewed every single one of those napkins with love. Then she sent them over an ocean in my mother’s suitcase- just for me! I am extremely blessed that I have a sister. Now, every time I set my table with these beautiful napkins I will think of my beautiful, creative, caring sister and how much she loves me. I love you Schmoopy!

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Mama-Friendly French Toast Casserole

French Bread from the Na Plavka Market in Prague 2

French Bread from the Na Plavka Market in Prague 2

It’s official, again. Both of my daughters are boycotting oatmeal. Sometimes, Little T will finish eating at least more than half of her portion. Little P, on the other hand, will take 2 or 3 spoonfuls and then shake her head, “No,” and thrusts her bowl of porridge back at me.

What’s a mother of twins to do? Oatmeal is such a quick and easy breakfast to prepare and it can be served in so many delicious ways. Really, what’s wrong with my kids?

If you’ve been following my previous posts, you know that we always have a fresh carton of eggs from the Farmers Market on hand. I’m a big fan of french toast, pancakes and waffles, but with two hungry impatient toddlers whining for their breakfast, those dishes are normally reserved for the weekends. However, in my search for a breakfast alternative and one that would “Wow!” my toddlers taste buds, this came just in time- Overnight Baked French Toast to the rescue!

Crispy- that's the way I like it!

Crispy- that’s the way I like it!

This dish is so easy to prepare, I’m sure our household will be enjoying this a few days during the week and not just on the weekends. It takes ten minutes to prepare the dish in a baking pan. Then it is covered with foil and stored in the fridge overnight. In the morning, pop it in the oven and by the time you’ve got your kids washed up and dressed, you’ve got a casserole of sweet and crispy french toast awaiting you and your family. Forget having to stand over a hot stove and waiting for each slice to cook, while trying to keep your children from jumping off the sofa or climbing on top of the dining table. It’s a win-win situation!

Little P's hands couldn't wait for the photo shoot to end. "Gimme, gimme!"

Little P’s hands couldn’t wait for the photo shoot to end. “Gimme, gimme!”

Overnight Baked French Toast Casserole

1 shallow baking dish with enough space for your slices of bread

1-2 loaves of french bread (all depends on your baking dish)

1 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup buttermilk (or just use 2 cups of regular milk)

1/4 cup brown sugar (for a sweeter dish, increase sugar to 1/2 cup)

1 tablespoon maple syrup

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

5 eggs

Butter a baking dish.

In a bowl combine the milks, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract and eggs.

Whisk to combine.

Dip each piece of bread in the batter, covering it completely, then lay it in the baking dish. (You can layer the slices on top of one another)

Pour any remaining batter over the top of the bread.

Cover with foil and refrigerate.

The next morning, remove the foil and then bake at 180 C/350 F for 25 minutes.

Your french toast will come out crispy on top, but will also surprise you with a custard-like middle.

Serve with toppings of your choice.

We enjoyed it with some maple syrup, stewed apples and bananas!

Gluten-Free Energy Blasts by Allison

I’m headed out on a cycling trip here in the Czech Republic for 3-5 days to seek some sun (hopefully), fun, and adventure with a few friends. Traveling with Celiac disease can be a bit tricky at times, but the best thing to do is to be prepared as you never know what you’re going to come across as far as restaurants. I needed a healthy snack that would provide protein and a zap of energy. I am not eating anything packaged right now, so all of those pre-packaged gluten-free bars that are pricey and often have preservatives and who knows what else in them are out of the question. So I decided to try something new! These energy blasts are not only gluten-free, but they are dairy-free and sugar-free as well. Might as well as some more variables into the equation! I also packed a small cutting board and a ceramic knife with a blade cover so I could chop up some fresh fruits and veggies along the route as well.

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Gluten-Free Energy Blasts 

Ingredients

3/4 cup roughly chopped almonds

1 cup certified gluten-free oats

1/4 cup chia seeds (can be found at Country Life here in Prague)

1/3 cup ground flax seed

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

1/3 sunflower seeds

1/2 cup roughly chopped cashews

1 1/2 cup natural peanut butter

2/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

This is super easy……wait for it……wait for it………. 1. Place all the ingredients into a bowl and mix thoroughly with your hands. 2. Shape into desired pan lined with wax paper or baking paper and cut or form balls. These are packed in the saddle-bags on my bike as I write. I think I’ll need all of those vitamins and minerals while I’m biking! Enjoy!

p.s. You can feel free to add more of any of the above nuts or seeds you really enjoy or use what you have on hand!

 

* place in refrigerator to help maintain shape

It’s Smoothie Time! By Nikki

smoothie ingredients

smoothie ingredients

I think Spring is finally here in Praha… the sun has been peeking out of the clouds and finally smiling down on us about  mid day. The morning air is crisp but the temperature is much warmer. The truth is, I have been complaining about the weather for the past few weeks. This seems to have been the longest winter in Prague- at least that I can remember! At the end of February, when the snow finally melted, I shifted my 1/2 marathon training outdoors. It was cold, and obviously dark in the winter mornings, but it was necessary to do the long runs on the pavement rather than the treadmill. Last week, I ran the Prague 1/2 marathon for the first time. In fact, it is my first time EVER running a race bigger than 10km. It wasn’t easy, but I finished with a time of 2 hours and 11 minutes. I hear that is not bad for a first timer! I felt very good after finishing and then VERY sore the next three days.

put it all in the blender...

put it all in the blender…

No matter what season it is, I like to replenish my muscles after a workout with a healthy smoothie. I put a variety of fruits into these smoothies along with two handfuls of fresh spinach leaves, two scoops of protein powder and two tablespoons of ground flax seed. Together the spinach revives my tired body with iron while the protein and flax add texture and replenish my muscles, not to mention they curb the hunger.

blend it up

blend it up

Lately, I have seen many smoothie recipes on food blogs, in running magazines, and on pintrest that use almonds, oatmeal, protein powder, peanut butter and all sorts of combinations of ingredients to create delicious smoothies. Below are three recipes for smoothies that rotate through my morning routine.

YUM!

YUM!

Note: for smoothie success be open minded and creative with your ingredients… if your smoothie seems too thick just add  a little more liquid (water, soy milk, milk, orange juice…)

Blueberry Iron Woman

ingredients: 1 cup orange juice, 2 handfuls of fresh spinach leaves, 1/2 banana sliced, 1/2 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen), 1 small apple, sliced with the skin removed, 2 scoops of vanilla flavored protein powder and 2 tablespoons ground flax seed

Blend all ingredients in a blender until well combined. Enjoy!

(photographed above)

Good Morning Berries

ingredients: 1 cup orange juice, 1/2 greek yogurt, 1 cup strawberries, 1/4 cup raspberries, 1/4 cup blueberries, 2 handfuls of fresh spinach leaves, 2 scoops protein powder and 2 tablespoons ground flax seed

Blend all ingredients in blender until well combined. Enjoy!

Strawberry Nirvana

(Like the Jamba Juice!)

ingredients: 1 cup strawberries, 1/2 banana, sliced, 1/2 to 3/4 cup mango, 1 cup soy milk, 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, and 2 scoops protein powder

Blend ingredients until well combined. Enjoy!

Careless Carrot Cake Recipe by L

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eggs +

carrots =

carrots =

Carrot Cake!

Carrot Cake!

Ok, maybe you need a few other ingredients, but these two were the ones that came directly from last week’s visit to my local farmers’ market. This is another recipe that I’ve had for some time and not exactly sure where it came from. It’s a low-fat carrot cake recipe (although I think it’s got a lot of sugar, so not really sure how this helps,) that is super moist! I happen to like that in a cake and it’s all thanks to the buttermilk.

This recipe must have come into my life before the time of the internet because it’s recorded in ancient script. When I get a craving for this cake, I realize I missed something during the act of copying the recipe down. Each time I  review the ingredients and steps, I notice that a very key player in this baked treat is missing: the carrots. No where is it written in the recipe or list of ingredients about how many carrots are needed. Therefore, I wing it based on the kinds of carrots I have stored in my bin. Somehow, it always turns out perfect! Thank you baking gods!

recipe documented in old skool style

The recipe documented in “old skool” style, minus the carrots.

Carrot Cake

9 tablespoons butter

2/3 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

2 large eggs

2 egg whites

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup buttermilk

2 large carrots, grated

Frosting (optional)

1-2 packages of cream cheese

1/4 cup butter

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/8 teaspoon salt

crushed toasted pecans

2 cups powdered sugar

Directions:

Pre heat oven to 350F degrees or 180 C

Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan.

Mix butter and both sugars for 5 minutes.

One by one, add the eggs and egg whites.

Then add the vanilla.

Combine all the dry ingredients.

Slowly add some flour and then some buttermilk.

Continue to alternate the addition of the flour and buttermilk.

Then stir in the carrots.

Bake for 30 minutes or until center comes out clean.

Let cool for ten minutes before adding the frosting.

Directions for Frosting:

Beat the first four ingredients at medium speed.

Then add the powdered sugar and beat at low-speed until well combined.

Let it chill for 30 minutes before using.

Top with crushed pecans if you like.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake by Allison

There’s nothing like chocolate cake, a chocolate birthday cake, chocolate cupcakes, chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, chocolate cake with Nikki’s peanut butter frosting, chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting, or chocolate cake with mocha frosting. Any way you have it it is delicious in my opinion. When I moved to Prague I struggled with all the different kinds of flours available and what to use them for as when I was experimenting with substituting different flours for recipes that called for the traditional all-purpose flour, they didn’t seem to turn out quite right in my baked goods. Then I asked a colleague who was known for her baking after I tasted her “go-to” chocolate cake at a celebration and she pointed me to the “Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake” recipe. I mixed it up and it turned out fabulous. Then several years later I had to go gluten-free and went months without cake, then the craving for chocolate cake surfaced and I tried substituting the flour for a gluten-free flour mix and it turned out great. In fact, my friends who are not on a gluten-free diet didn’t even know they were gluten-free…..now that’s a compliment!

So here’s my question to you: How do you like your chocolate cake?
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Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake

recipe from Hershey’s Kitchens

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar (krupice is the sugar I use here in Prague)
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used Schar brand “Mix C” gluten-free flour)
  • 3/4 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa (I use Orion brand kakao here in Prague)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder (needs to be gluten-free with the wheat free symbol on it)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2  eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
  •   “PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE” CHOCOLATE FROSTING (recipe follows)

Directions

  1. 1 Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
  2. 2 Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
  3. 3 Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with “PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE” CHOCOLATE FROSTING. 10 to 12 servings.VARIATIONS:
    ONE-PAN CAKE: Grease and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Heat oven to 350° F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely. Frost.

    THREE LAYER CAKE: Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost.

    BUNDT CAKE: Grease and flour 12-cup Bundt pan. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely. Frost.

    CUPCAKES: Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 30 cupcakes.

    “PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE” CHOCOLATE FROSTING

    1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
    2/3 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
    3 cups powdered sugar
    1/3 cup milk
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency.
    Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.