Pumpkin, Molasses, Cranberry and Golden Raisin No Knead Toasting Bread

“I can’t believe you said that! Now I’m going to have to eat my feelings in peanut butter.”

“Sometimes I think you try to find things I say offensive, just so you can find an excuse to eat peanut butter.”

“……I can’t believe you said that! Now I’m going to have to eat my feelings in peanut butter!”

“Like I said.”

Roo may have a point, but I’ll never admit it.

Would you?

…Don’t answer that.

One of my favorite ways of eating peanut butter is standing by the kitchen cupboard and eating it out of the jar with a spoon.  I swear it tastes 10 times better this way.

I also love it on classics like toast.  Practically burnt toast with a dollop of peanut butter has been my breakfast for the majority of these bitterly cold mornings  (it’s 24F as I type).  This sticky, crunchy, lip smacking treat makes waking before sunrise almost bearable when paired with a hot cup of tea.

I said almost.

This past weekend I made a couple loaves of a recent favorite: pumpkin and molasses with dried cranberries and golden raisins.  It’s a great toasting bread, where the natural sugars from the pumpkin and molasses have this wonderful crunch; almost caramelized with an ever so slight, sticky chew.  It’s chock full of raisins and cranberries, but I love that the pumpkin still shines through.  Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger enhance the pumpkin’s warmth, but notes of caramel that can be tasted in the squash naturally make it a perfect partner to deep, lush molasses.

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Breakfast Under Five Minutes: Quinoa with Dried Cranberries, Golden Raisins and Slivered Almonds

I am not Bethenny Frankel.

I don’t even watch The Real Housewives of Whatever.  (My mother on the other hand loves that series.)

Some may even say she’s a better example of a human being than me.

Like, she’s a hardcore yogi.

Her arms are way more jacked than mine.

She’s either one of the best business women of 2011 or her agent/manager is Yoda.

What I owe in interest every 10 days for my student loans is probably what she makes per hour.  Correction, minute.

She owns an obedient, little dog while I have two cats that love to overeat and have tried to ruin Christmas by knocking over the tree.

But.  But!

I recycle.

Ok, I don’t know if she recycles or not, and quite honestly, even I don’t recycle sometimes.

I’m a terrible person, I know.

However, I hope that this quick and easy breakfast will convince you to forgive me for my non-Bethenny arms, drowning in student loan interest and occasional recycling ways.

This warm bowl of quinoa is creamy from the soy milk, has a hint of sweetness from the maple syrup and chock full of different textures with bright, sweet-tart cranberries, slightly plumped golden raisins and crunchy slivered almonds.  Quinoa is also a complete protein, so put down your cold, chalky protein powder shake and treat yourself to a warm breakfast that almost tastes indulgent.

Seriously.  You deserve more than that shake (despite what Sue Sylvester tells you).

*Roo was extremely dubious when I placed this in front of him from breakfast, not knowing how to deal with a non-savory quinoa dish (he suddenly forgot that he’s eaten it in a cake before).  Just try it.  I promise you it won’t taste like a quinoa patty with maple syrup on top of it.  Pinky swear.

Adapted from Bethenny Frankel

Makes One Serving (recipe can be easily doubled, tripled, etc.)

Ingredients

Half cup of cooked quinoa

3 tablespoons of soy milk (or any other non-dairy milk)

1 tablespoon of maple syrup

Half tablespoon of dried cranberries (or whatever you prefer as a yummy dried fruit)

Half tablespoon of golden raisins

1 tablespoon of slivered almonds (or whatever nut you prefer)

Equipment

A bowl

A clean spoon (or whatever you plan on eating the quinoa with, to mix the ingredients)

Microwave (or if you don’t own one, a small pot)

Add the cooked quinoa, soy milk (or other non-dairy milk), maple syrup, golden raisins, cranberries (or whatever you prefer for dried fruit) and slivered almonds to a bowl.  Mix together with a spoon (or whatever eating utensil you have on hand) and throw in the microwave to heat through for a minute or two (depending on how strong your microwave is).  If you don’t own a microwave, dump the ingredients after mixing into a small pot and place on you burner on medium low heat.  Cook till heated through, stirring occasionally.  Serve warm.

Quinoa with Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Parsnips, Carrots and Butternut Squash

Did you…

come home to see that the cats had knocked down your Christmas tree?

get your hands covered in wretched, sticky sap after putting the tree back up?

curse under your breath as you were washing off your hands, because you forgot that this also happened last year?

hysterically accuse your cats of hating Christmas while they just stared at you?

then find two green beans in your sneaker the next morning?

Coming home to a disaster in the living room isn’t exactly what I want to deal with before making dinner.

Instead, it makes me want to pour myself a glass of wine; throwing some items onto a baking sheet and into a pot, being just an after thought.

Thankfully this recipe is just that (sans wine).

Most of the work comes from prepping the veg: peeling, cutting, tossing with a bit of olive oil.  Then throwing them onto two baking sheets and roasting them while the quinoa cooks in a pot.  (Or rice cooker. And if you’re lucky, it’ll sing to you when it’s done.)

It’s also very easy for it to look lovely in presentation: quinoa placed on a platter with assorted roasted veg on top; all their caramelized edges facing outward, just asking to be snatched up and popped into hungry mouths.  It’s quite possibly the easiest way to impress guests for a meal that took less than an hour to make.

I love the sweetness from the roasted veg and golden raisins, crunch of the toasted almond slivers, and basically any excuse to eat quinoa.

It’s so good that it almost makes me forget that the cats tried to ruin Christmas.

Serves 4

*This recipe is so simple to add flavors to that you’re craving during the winter months. Feel free to add, for example, a sprig of rosemary to your quinoa as it cooks. Or for example, for added richness, a tablespoon of butter.*

Ingredients

One cup of quinoa, rinsed

Two cups of low sodium stock (I used homemade vegetable) (*if using a rice cooker, fill the bowl to the “1” with stock after adding the quinoa)

2 – 3 tablespoons of mild tasting olive oil (basically enough olive oil to lightly coat the veg before going into the oven)

1 teaspoon of fine sea salt salt

Half a small butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and cut into half inch pieces (the smaller the chop, the faster it’ll cook!)

1 pound of brussels sprouts, halved

1 large parsnip, peeled and chopped into one inch chunks

Two large carrots, peeled and chopped into one inch chunks

One third cup of golden raisins

One third cup of almond slivers, toasted

Salt and pepper to taste

Equipment

A small pot to cook the quinoa with a lid, or a rice cooker (this is what I used)

A sharp knife

A vegetable peeler

(At least) Two cookie sheets

Two large bowls (or one, and after tossing the veg with olive oil clean it out and use it to serve the meal with)

A small pan (to toast the almonds with)

A spatula

A platter/very large plate to serve the dish on

Place your oven racks to the middle upper and middle lower positions in your oven.  Preheat your oven to 400F.

In a small pot add the quinoa and stock.  Place over a burner on medium high heat and bring the liquid to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer the ingredients for about ten to fifteen minutes, covered, or until the curly-q tail (you’ll know it when you see it) is visible.  Remove the pot from heat, fluff the quinoa with a fork and set aside.

If using a rice cooker, add the quinoa and then stock, filling the bowl to the “1 cup” marker.  Cook on “quick cook,” or whatever similar setting you have on your rice cooker.  When the quinoa is cooked, fluff it with a fork and set aside.

In a large bowl add the brussels sprouts, parsnips, carrots and butternut squash.  Add the olive oil and salt.  Toss all the ingredients together (I used my hands) till well coated with the oil and salt.

Throw all the veg onto your cookie sheets and place in the oven on the upper middle and lower middle racks.  Roast for about thirty minutes.  Halfway through roasting turn all the veg over so that they can be browned on both sides, and rotate the cookie sheets, placing them on different racks.  The veg will be done when they’re browned and soft when pierced with a fork/knife.  Remove the veg from the oven and set aside.

In a small pan add the almond slivers and place over a burner on medium heat.  Watching the nuts closely, swirl them around over the heat until they are browned.  Remove from heat.

In another large bowl (or the one you tossed the veg with, cleaned), add the quinoa, roasted veg, raisins and almond slivers.  Toss the ingredients together till combined.  Taste and add salt and pepper if desired.

Scoop out the quinoa onto a platter then place the roasted veg on top.  Serve immediately, being sure to scoop up all sorts of veg and quinoa onto your plate.

Pumpkin Bread with Golden Raisins and Dried Cranberries

Just when I thought this week was going to be easy to write up about, the desire to procrastinate was incredibly strong.

Today felt like as if everyone I ran into was on edge. It was as if the immense emotion from the September 11th anniversary had carried on from the weekend and took a giant dump on my Tuesday. It wasn’t exactly how I wanted to start my work week. Nor did it set me in the right mood to start writing up about the friends I love.

But promises are well…promises, and instead of procrastinating by creeping on Facebook and Twitter (hey, at least I admit it), and dreaming up all of the things I’d love to buy on Amazon….

Sorry, I got distracted again, by boots.

I have a problem.

Anyway, let me tell you about my best friend E.

E and I met in sophomore year of undergrad at polo team tryouts.  I can’t say I really remember my first impression (it was over 10 years ago), as most of the afternoon was filled with anxiety; wanting to know if I had made the cut.  However, I do remember after a couple of practices, scrubbing our tack with Murphy’s Oil Soap and talking about our individual plans for the night, that she was someone that I wanted to hang out with.  Immediately.

E is a person that will always put you at ease.  Extremely open and always one to smile at a joke that may not be the funniest, she always makes you feel comfortable with who you are.  She was a great friend to have at the start of my undergrad career because I was at that age where I was trying to figure out that very exact thing.

I came from an almost all-white town in suburbia, where I spent every afternoon at an equestrian facility.  There, along with two other girls, we practically ran the place.  And we knew it.  Suffice it to say, it was not a childhood experience I think I’d want for my future daughter.  The three of us grew up a little too fast, and got away with a little too much.

I am so grateful I at 18 I at least had the common sense to a giant state school.

Coming out of high school I was a selfish, arrogant, and somewhat slutty (I said it) “big fish” in the equestrian facility pond.  I desperately needed to be “thrown to the sharks.”

For those who had the small college experience, freshman year at a school that has on average 30,000 people walking around on campus everyday, is a bit overwhelming.  I thought I would love molding myself into who I wanted to be.  I believed that I could make myself queen of whatever flock I chose, and that I didn’t need the equestrian community anymore.

I got so lost.

During freshman orientation, I chose to live in the known “diversity dorm,” on campus because I thought being half-asian was super ethnic and that would be my launching pad for queen.

It’s not.

I went from picking up a smoking habit of Marlboro Ultra Menthol Lights (so gross), finding myself at frat house basement parties, betting on who’s house shirt I could steal as a souvenir (who. was. I?!?), and keeping lookout as one of my hall-mates stole a giant vat of ice cream from the dining hall, to running…Directly back to another equestrian facility.

When I saw the flyer posted randomly in the campus center, next to a Cannabis Club meeting time (oh yes), at first I dismissed the idea of trying out.  I had never played polo before, so why bother.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

And I’m thankful I did.  Because instead of being caught up in the drama of “women hating women,” I found a truly great friend.

One of the best memories I have is when I showed up to her dorm room for a Halloween party.  I arrived in jeans and a t-shirt.  Maybe flip flops?  She was horrified.  How did I not know what Halloween meant in “girl world?”

In a whirlwind of clothes and face paint, she dressed me in jeans spray painted with dashes of gold, a mesh shirt (it’s as bad as it sounds), and drew a lunar eclipse on my forehead.  She wore something of the like, and drew a sun on her forehead.  How we explained that our “costumes” went together, I can’t remember.  And I’m kind of glad I don’t!

With that memory in mind, and in celebration of her recent birthday (in which she insists every year she’s “25”), I made her pumpkin bread.  If I could write a crash-test guide on E, the first page would list three things: She loves the color orange, pumpkin is her favorite type of pie, and she hates, hates nuts in brownies.

Thankfully pumpkin bread is (theoretically) orange and in this version, without nuts.  I love stuffing breads like banana or zucchini with as many dried fruits as possible.  And in this loaf, I added handfuls of golden raisins and dried cranberries.  Having them plump up, and enveloped by a spice filled batter, makes it a quintessential fall treat.  Perfect with a mug of earl grey tea, sitting with your legs curled up under yourself, and maybe with a cat in your lap, it’s a slice that I especially love to have on a rainy September afternoon.  With E’s birthday being yesterday, I can only hope that this will make the perfect belated birthday gift.

Adapted from Orangette

Makes 2 Loaves (Recipe Can Be Easily Halved)

Ingredients

2 cups of pumpkin puree

1 cup of olive oil

4 egg whites

Half cup of water

3 cups of white whole wheat flour (if you only have all purpose flour, feel free to use it)

One and a half cups of sugar (this yields a not so sweet bread, if you like a very sweet pumpkin bread, go with 2 cups)

2 teaspoons of baking soda

Half teaspoon of salt

Half teaspoon of ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Three quarters of a cup of dried cranberries (I love a lot of “things” in my cake, so if you’d like it to be less intense, use less)

Three quarters of a cup of golden raisins

Equipment

1 large mixing bowl

1 medium mixing bowl

A whisk

A spatula

A loaf pan (I used a 9×5 pan) (Two if you’re lucky to have them around and can bake both loaves at the same time)

Parchment paper (optional) or butter and flour to coat your loaf pan (or even baking spray)

Cooling rack (if you have one)

Move the oven rack to the middle position in the oven. Preheat the oven to 350F.

Line the loaf pan with parchment paper, or butter and flour the pan, or coat the pan well with baking spray. I prefer parchment paper because I’m incredibly lazy and can’t bear the thought of cleaning another dish after baking.

Add the pumpkin puree, olive oil, water, and egg whites to your large mixing bowl. Mix till combined. At first it’ll look like an oily mess, but keep going, and it’ll all incorporate together.

In the medium mixing bowl, add the white whole wheat flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, ground cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk till combined.

Add the dried cranberries and golden raisins to the wet mixture. Stir till just combined.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, in multiple increments, adding a bit of dry to the wet, stirring till just combined, then adding more dry to wet, until everything is just combined.

With you spatula, scrape the bottom of the bowl, folding from the bottom up to the top, making sure that everything is combined.

Split your batter into two loaf pans, or, split the batter in half, and work on the first loaf.

Throw the loaf pan(s) into the oven. Bake 50 – 60 minutes or until a cake tester (like a toothpick) pulls out clean from the center of the loaf.

Let the loaf cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before taking it out of the pan to cool on a cooling rack (if you have one).