Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dates and Walnuts

Date and Walnut Bread

A delicious way to start your Eid with a cup of coffee and this simple bread.  Even better, use this simple recipe and invite friends over for tea and impress them with your baking skills.

Health benefits of dates are uncountable, as this fruit is full of natural fibers. Dates are even rich in several vitamins and minerals. These natural products contain oil, calcium, sulphur, iron, potassium,phosphorous, manganese, copper and magnesium which are great for health. It is said that consumption of one date daily is suggested for a balanced and healthy diet. Dates help in fighting intestinal problems, weight gain, heart problems and sexual problems.

Date and Walnut Bread Recipe

1 cup pitted dates, chopped
3 tbsp orange juice
1 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease and 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pan with butter.

In a small bowl, soak the dates in 1 tbsp of orange juice for about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, stir together dates with juice, walnuts, baking soda, salt butter, and water until combined. stir in the sugar and eggs, then stir in the flour just until combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake until the bread is puffed and browned about 50-60 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let it cool completely   Unmold onto a serving plate and turn it right side up.  Spoon remaining  juice onto the bread, a little at a time, so that the bread absorbs all of it.  Cut into slices and serve.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

P is for pumpkin

Pumpkin Cake Roulade

This easy dessert is a great way to try out baking with pumpkin if you have never tried it before.  The pumpkin flavor is just right and does not take over the dish.  Macadamia nuts add a delicious buttery crunch.

Pumpkins are rich in vitamin A and boast a unique mix of both antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. They protect the immune system as well as the cardiovascular system, including the fine blood vessels of the brain. It also plays a role in regulating the kind of cell-to-cell communication that keeps cancer in check. Pumpkins are also a great source of potassium, making them a food useful in controlling hypertension and preserving healthy brain function by yet another means.

Therapeutic topic of the week:
Dealing with excess candy.  They're everywhere, you just can't ignore it---from the pumpkin patches on the side of the road to the array of pumpkins lined outside the grocery store, pumpkins are here.  Along with pumpkins come all that candy.  As an adult, the sales urge me to buy candy when normally I wouldn't.  As a parent, when my child comes home with sixty pieces of candy I wonder how to discourage him from eating it.  I can't help but wonder, is all this candy really necessary?

According to a study in the Journal of Education and Behavior conducted at Yale, 284 children between three and 14-years old were given the option of lollipops, fruit-flavored chewy candies, fruit flavored crunchy wafers, and sweet and tart hard candies, or stretch pumpkin men, large glow-in-the-dark insects, or Halloween theme stickers and pencils. Half the children chose the toys. This shows that kids may define the notion of "treat" much more broadly than many of us do.  The key here is to have our children understand that there are rewards other than food.  We also don't want to have such strict candy rules that they hide all half the candy under their bed and binge when they're at school.  Not only are these unhealthy habits, they may grow into adulthood with issues related to food.  Understand that food can be used as comfort to sooth ourselves.  Be creative and teach our children about other treats that don't revolve around eating.

Eating candy as an adult whether you have children or not during this time can be a challenge.  Dr. Judith Beck has a few suggestions  to survive through the season.

Remember: Candy is available year-round!  Drug stores and supermarkets sell fun-sized candy bars year-round, so you don't need to load up now. You can buy candy any time.

Don't buy candy until you need it. Even if it adds a small amount of cost or an additional chore on your already busy October 31st, isn't it worth not having to worry about giving in and expending the mental energy to resist until it's time?

Buy candy that you don't like so much in bulk and just a single serving of your favorite candy. You'll obviously have the most trouble resisting your favorite candy, so buy candy in bulk that you don't enjoy as much-you'll have an easier time resisting it. You can and should buy a single-serving of the candy you like the most. This way, you'll be able to savor your favorite candy without worrying about having to stop yourself from going back for more.

Get rid of left overs! Give them away, donate them, bring them in to work, or simply throw them away. If you have the sabotaging thought, "I can't throw the candy away because it would be a waste of money," remind yourself, "Either way the money is already gone. Eating the candy won't bring it back." One way or another, if you can limit your amount of exposure to leftover candy, you'll make it so much easier on yourself. 

Pumpkin Cake Roulade Recipe 

3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar, divided
3/4 cup flour
1-1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts
4 oz. (1/2 of 8-oz. pkg.) Cream Cheese, softened
1-1/2 cups thawed Whipped Topping

HEAT oven to 375°F.

GREASE 15x10x1-inch pan; line with waxed paper. Grease and flour waxed paper. Sprinkle clean towel with 1/4 cup powdered sugar.

MIX flour, spice, baking powder and salt. Beat eggs and sugar in large bowl with mixer on high speed until thickened. Add pumpkin; mix well. Add flour mixture; beat just until blended. Spread onto bottom of prepared pan; sprinkle with nuts.

BAKE 15 min. or until top of cake springs back when touched. Immediately invert cake onto towel; remove pan. Carefully peel off paper. Starting at one short side, roll up cake and towel together. Cool completely on wire rack.

BEAT cream cheese and 1/2 cup powdered sugar in medium bowl with mixer until well blended. Add whipped topping; mix well. Carefully unroll cake; remove towel. Spread cream cheese mixture over cake. Reroll cake; wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 1 hour. Unwrap and sprinkle with remaining powdered sugar just before serving.

Adapted from Kraft

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Delicious Mess

Eton Mess

Eton mess is a traditional English dessert consisting of a mixture of strawberries, pieces of meringue and cream, which is traditionally served at Eton College's annual cricket game against the students of Winchester College.  The dish has been known by this name since the 19th century and was originally made with either strawberries or bananas mixed with ice-cream or cream.

The word mess may refer to the appearance of the dish, or may be used in the sense of "a quantity of food", particularly "a prepared dish of soft food" or "a mixture of ingredients cooked or eaten together". A popular, though thought to be untrue, myth is that Eton mess was first created when a meringue dessert was dropped accidentally, but what could be salvaged was, and it was served as a crushed meringue with strawberries and cream.  Whatever the reason it was created, it is a delicious bit of mess.

Light, airy and slightly sweetened cream mixed with berries and pomegranate is the perfect end to a heavy meal.  The balance of crunchiness from the meringue with chocolate chips is a perfect touch.  Whip it up in no time for unexpected guests for what seems to be an extravagant dessert.

Therapeutic topic of the week:
Stress and food intake. You really do crave rich foods when stress is unrelenting. And a very special and well-meaning collaboration between your brain and your body makes you do it. We seek chocolate, ice cream or napoleons, scientists have discovered, not just because they taste good. It's actually the body's attempt to put a brake on the runaway machinery of chronic stress. "One of the functions of stress hormones is to move energy around," explains Norman Pecoraro, Ph.D, a postdoctoral fellow on the San Francisco team. The escalating levels of cortisol released in chronic stress usher the excess calories straight to your abdomen, where they get deposited as fat. By virtue of its location, abdominal fat has privileged access to the liver. That allows it to be quickly mobilized for energy.

Here's the mark of the body's brilliance. Those fat deposits are absolutely crucial. They send out some metabolic signal that feeds back to the brain, telling it to shut off the stress response. Those who eat cream puffs and chocolate are trying to give the body what it needs to dampen output from their stress system, Pecoraro says. "Eating seems to ameliorate some of the symptoms of depression, so you won't feel as anxious. This seems to be the body's way of telling the brain, 'It's OK, you can relax, you're refueled with high-energy food.'"

The catch is, consumption of calorie-rich foods may make us feel better and function better, but it's bad for long-term health. The stresses we face today are not like the eat-or-be-eaten stresses we faced when our bodies evolved. Nowadays we're up against long-term job insecurity and romantic rejection. The stress goes on and on and we feel immobilized by it. The energy reserves do not get used up.

There is a way out, Pecoraro says. There are other ways to shut off chronic stress. There's exercise, yoga, meditation, hot baths and, yes, sex. They all stimulate the same pleasure centers in the brain that make us seek comfort food. Relaxation techniques may work even earlier in the process, by reducing the psychological perception of stress in the first place.

"In the short term, if you're chronically stressed it might be worth eating and sleeping a little more to calm down, perhaps at the expense of gaining a few pounds," says Pecoraro. "But seeking a long-term solution in comfort food—rather than fixing the source of the stress or your relationship to the source of the stress—is going to be bad for you."

Written by Hara Estroff Marano, published on November 21, 2003.  Original article published in Psychology Today.

Eton Mess Recipe
2 cups strawberries
1 cup raspberries
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
2 cups whipping cream
1 package of chocolate chip meringue cookies (store bought or homemade)

Hull and chop the strawberries and put into a bowl with raspberries and pomegranate seeds.  Add the sugar and pomegranate molasses and leave to macerate while you whip the cream.

Whip the cream in a large bowl until thick but still soft. Roughly crumble in a few of the meringues cookies - you will need chunks for texture as well as a little fine dust.

Take out about half a cupful of the chopped fruit, and fold the meringue cream and rest of the fruit mixture together.

Arrange in four glasses or in a mound, and top each with some of the remaining macerated fruit.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Banana chocolate craze

Chocolate Banana Upside Down Cake

There is something unusually gratifying about baking a cake. This one requires no frosting, which means only one thing: it goes in your mouth faster.  I used a smaller baking pan than what the recipe asked for causing the bananas to slide to the side.  It actually looks beautiful this way!  Just be sure to put a baking tray underneath to catch the excess drips.

This cake's aroma is sweet and comforting with the deep chocolate Valrhona with little bananas peeking though gives a visually stunning appearance.

Chocolate Banana Upside Down Cake Recipe

For the topping:
4 Tbsp butter
1/4 Cup + 2 Tbsp dark brown sugar, packed
2 - 3 ripe bananas

For the cake:
1 1/2 Cups cake flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 Cup + 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 Cup + 2 Tbsp hot water
1/3 C buttermilk @ room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 Cup + 2 Tbsp canola oil
3/4 Cup granulated sugar
3/4 Cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 eggs @ room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease the sides of a 9-inch square pan.

For the topping, melt the butter in a saucepan. Whisk in the brown sugar and cook for a minute until blended. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and distribute it evenly across the entire bottom of the pan. Slice the bananas about 1/4” thick and arrange on top of the butter sugar mixture. Set aside.

Sift the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
Whisk together the cocoa powder and hot water until thoroughly blended and smooth.
Mix the buttermilk and vanilla extract.

Combine the oil, granulated sugar and brown sugar in a large bowl. The mixture will look like wet sand. Add the eggs and blend well. Whisk in the cocoa mixture. Stir in the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk and beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix just until well blended. Pour into the prepared pan over the bananas and gently tap the bottom of the pan on the work surface a few times to remove any air bubbles.

Bake for about 33 - 35 minutes or until a toothpick tests with a few moist crumbs adhering. Cool 15 minutes. Run a thin bladed knife around the edges. Place a platter over the cake and invert. Cool completely.

Recipe from Pastry Studio

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