Seasonal Fruit Parfait with Honey Vanilla Yogurt


Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, let me tell you how this dessert came about.  I had R and her sister S in the house.  R was on her way back overseas for work (but she’s coming home for good soon!) and S stopped by for an overnight in part to see her sister and in part to break up a trip of her own.  Hubby, knowing what levels of silliness were likely to transpire (he’s spent time with me, R and S before) wisely decided to spend the day parked in front of a video game and ignoring us.  Meanwhile, we debated how we should spend the day we had together.  Yoga class?  Farmers market?  Long walk before it got too hot?  Beg hubby to make us lavender foot baths and take over the living room?  (That’s what R and I did on her last visit.  Hubby is a good sport.)

As appealing as that last one sounded, we decided to go to the farmers market and bring back ingredients for a fresh seasonal lunch, then cook it together.  R and S were in charge of lunch – they made a delicious heirloom tomato and purple basil salad with burrata (pasteurized – no worries) and fresh mushroom ravioli (bought at the market) with a sauce made from corn and tomatoes, sauteed and then simmered in a bit of broth and yogurt.  Divine.  And I was in charge of dessert.  While at the market we decided on a fruit parfait.  R wanted peach and blackberry, but the white nectarines at my favorite fruit and veg stand were so fantastic that S and I formed a voting bloc and outvoted her.  For the creamy element to the parfait, I whipped up a simple, sweet Greek yogurt cream and layered it with the diced nectarines and blackberries.  Perfect summer dessert, but not so decadent that it couldn’t double as a light (!) breakfast.  Dessert for breakfast?  That’s my favorite.

Seasonal Fruit Parfait with Honey Vanilla Yogurt

2 white nectarines or peaches
1 pint blackberries
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon honey
seeds of one vanilla pod

  • Prepare the fruit: wash the berries and wash and chop the nectarines into bite-sized pieces approximately the same size as the berries.
  • Whisk together the yogurt, honey and vanilla bean seeds.
  • Layer parfaits: spoon yogurt on bottom, then add a few berries and nectarine pieces, spoon yogurt on top, and continue with more layers as desired.  Finish with a dollop of yogurt on top.

Nota Baker: You don’t have to use nectarines and blackberries here just because I’ve called for them.  Use whatever fruit is in season in your area.  I recommend a combination of two fruits, but in any event no more than three.

Yield: Serves 4 as a small dessert or 2 as a good-sized breakfast.

Source: Covered In Flour


Spring Brunch

Another one from the archives… Life has gotten in the way of cooking, but I’m hoping things will calm down soon.  In the meantime, enjoy this menu (complete with recipe links) – and if you’re planning to celebrate the moms in your life, just add love!

 Just in time for Mothers’ Day, here is a spring brunch menu packed with yummy flavors and bright colors.  Whether you’re planning to celebrate Mom tomorrow, or to throw an impromptu brunch next weekend just because the April showers are over and the May flowers are finally blooming, these dishes will bring some warm spring sunshine to your table.  Set the table with bright linens and crisp white china, and fill bud vases with spring blooms and line them up in a cheerful parade down the center of the table.  Or – better yet – eat in the garden!

Cucumber Coolers

Minted Fruit Salad

Potato Leek Frittata

Peach Oatmeal Muffins

Enjoy, and Happy Spring!

Strawberry-Almond Muffins

Hubby has this little habit of making suggestions.  Usually, his suggestions involve things that I should bake.  (This is clearly a strategy on his part – he knows he’ll get the baked goods when I pull them out.)  This past weekend, my mom, aunt and friend were visiting, and hubby suggested me right into baking muffins for them before they woke up on Sunday morning.  (I’m an early riser.)  I thought first of making a batch of banana muffins, but I had a beautiful box of strawberries in my fridge, and the end of a bag of sliced almonds, and strawberry almond muffins were born.  They were the perfect fuel for a day of walking the monuments on my girls’ weekend, but I’m sure they’d be perfect for lazier mornings too.  These muffins are officially in the rotation.

Strawberry Almond Muffins

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs
3/4 cup applesauce
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 1/2 cups large-diced strawberries*
1/2 cup sliced almonds

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Prepare a muffin tin with 12 wells (line with paper liners or spray with baking spray such as Baker’s Joy or Pam for Baking).
  • In large bowl, whisk together oats, flours, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  • Add milk, eggs, applesauce and almond extract and stir to combine well, but do not over-stir.
  • Fold in strawberries and almonds, just until combined.
  • Spoon into muffin wells and bake for 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Serve warm.

*I used fresh strawberries.  To substitute frozen, just thaw and drain the strawberries so they are as dry as possible.  They will almost certainly still be wetter than fresh berries, so do use fresh if you can.  This winter, when fresh strawberries aren’t available, I’ll see about trying out the recipe with frozen berries and let you know if I have any tips.

Yield: 12 large muffins.

Source: Covered In Flour

Tropical Banana Muffins

Life lately has been all go-go-go.  It seems like I’m constantly running out the door and bouncing all over creation.  One of these days I’m sure things will slow down again, but until they do I’m really in need of portable healthy breakfasts and snacks.  Which is where these muffins come in.  I was lying awake in the middle of the night last weekend, thinking I really should make some banana muffins.  My original plan was to make classic banana-nut muffins (or classic-ish; I usually make mine with pecans because I don’t really care for walnuts, which I think are more traditional).  But then I remembered that I had a bag of frozen pineapple in my freezer and a can of lite coconut milk in my pantry, and a different idea started to take shape.  I fell asleep with the idea of “tropical” banana muffins with pineapple and coconut on my mind, and it was still there when I woke up and rushed down to the kitchen on Sunday morning.  Happily, these muffins definitely lived up to my imagination – they’re relatively healthy (I cut the sugar in half, replaced the butter with applesauce, and subbed in whole wheat flour for some added protein and fiber) and perfectly portable, great for breakfast on the go.  I’ll definitely be making these again, and perhaps freezing a few batches for busy mornings to come.

Tropical Banana Muffins

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup lite coconut milk
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 cups medium-diced pineapple chunks (fresh or frozen)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line or grease muffin tins: either 18 large muffins, or 12 large muffins and 12 mini-muffins.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • Add mashed banana, coconut milk, applesauce, eggs and vanilla and mix until well combined.  Don’t overmix!
  • Fold in shredded coconut and pineapple chunks.
  • Transfer batter to muffin tin wells.  Bake 25-30 (if using frozen pineapple, this recipe will likely take closer to 30; if using fresh, closer to 25) minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of muffins comes out clean.

Source: Loosely adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook (not an affiliate link)

Easy Poached Eggs for Two Friends

I can still picture the kitchen where I believe I learned to cook.  Oh, I knew how to make a scant few dishes before I ever stepped foot there.  But it was in this small, warm kitchen that I acquired the confidence to just throw things at a pot and see what happens, and that, to me, is the essence of cooking.  It was in this kitchen that I broke free of my compulsion to slavishly follow a recipe and learned to approach dinner preparations with a freer, can-do attitude.  The kitchen belonged to a little house on College Avenue in Ithaca, New York.  You’d step in the front door, turn left, and there you were.  It was an eat-in kitchen, which I think was probably rare in our college student walk of life.  The range was in the corner, the sink nearby.  It was a small space, and the table and chairs took up most of the room.  Cozy.

It wasn’t my kitchen.  “My” kitchen wasn’t really my kitchen at all.  It was a few blocks uphill on the same street, on the third floor of an apartment building, sounds of the bar downstairs wafting their way through the open windows.  The kitchen in my apartment was the domain of C, one of my five roommates.  The rest of us used it as a cereal repository only, perhaps respecting C’s exclusive right to the kitchen since she made delicious things there and we did not.  Yes, I made spaghetti from time to time and fancied myself a chef because I seasoned the jarred marinara with garlic powder and dried oregano.  But I didn’t cook there.  No, I cooked in that other kitchen, down the hill, where eggplant slices sizzled in olive oil and coconut milk turned into sweet and spicy Thai soups thanks to the power of a confident imagination.  R’s imagination.

It was a thrill to grocery shop with her.  I couldn’t see the potential of a pile of spinach or a jar of miso, but she could.  And into the cart things would fly.  Then we’d load the spoils into R’s car, hope it wouldn’t start raining (the wipers were temperamental) and drive back uphill, back to Collegetown, serenaded by Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre.  We’d laugh and chatter as we made dinner in her kitchen – invariably something delicious that came from R’s head; I never saw her consult a cookbook in those days – and after dinner we’d curl up on the couch with glasses of wine and watch quality television such as “Married By America,” our favorite reality show.  (Anyone remember that gem?)  Those days were bittersweet.  We were seniors and going our separate ways soon.  R was bound for Africa with the Peace Corps.  I was headed to law school in Washington, D.C.  We would write letters, but I think we both realized that the days of spending every waking moment together, except for the couple of classes we took separately, were numbered.  I knew that soon I wouldn’t see R every morning as we walked up College Avenue together toward the main Cornell campus, that I wouldn’t stumble smack into her after Wines class, that we wouldn’t be able to cook dinner and watch bad TV together every night until 11:00 when I would finally wend my way home to my own apartment.    We had a brief few months left of freedom before our lives began, and those months were steeped in the scents of spices and sauces, and they played out to the sounds of sizzle and simmer.

R changed my relationship with food.  She made it something I thought about.  Whether it was Thai-inspired eggplant soup or the melting-hot tomato, cream cheese and muenster bagels we ordered at Collegetown Bagels (or CTB, as we called it), food was suddenly interesting.  It was something people talked about and created and enjoyed.  It was more than pretzels that you popped in your mouth during an all-nighter before an economics final or the pickles you snacked on because they were virtually calorie-free.  (Just me?)  Food was an experience.  Where before I hadn’t really given food a second thought, now I knew things about it.  I knew that you had to salt eggplant and then rinse it off, and I knew how it wrung out like a sponge when you squeezed it under the running water.  I knew that one bay leaf was plenty and you needed to pick it out of the sauce before you ate.   I knew that you could cook together and laugh and gossip and share a meal, and that a warm and spicy soup could leave an impression on your mind as well as your tongue.

I knew these things because of R and I desperately wanted to give something back to her.  Finally, I got my chance when she asked me to show her how to make poached eggs.  Poached eggs were one of the few dishes that I could make when I started college, and they’ve always been my standby quick dinner or Sunday breakfast.  I learned to make them by watching my grandmother.  She made them simple, fuss-free; no swirling or fancy gadgets for her.  You slip the toast in the toaster slot, plop the eggs in the water and you’re halfway there.  Over the years I figured out that the eggs would come out perfectly if I followed a certain series of acts, and I felt as though I’d unlocked a great culinary secret.  No, my poached eggs aren’t pretty.  But they are good.  And I got to share them with R, and they became one of her go-to dishes, too.  After all that I learned from watching her, it’s the least I could do.

Easy Poached Eggs for Two Friends

4 eggs
2-4 slices bread*
butter or margarine
salt and pepper to taste

  • In a saucepot or saute pan, bring approximately 2 inches of water to just shy of a boil.
  • Place bread slices in toaster and set for medium.
  • Immediately upon putting in toast, crack the eggs directly into the water.
  • As soon as the toast pops, turn the water off and then butter the toast as fast as you can.  Take the eggs out and place them on the toast, 1-2 eggs per slice.  Season with salt and pepper and serve.

*Nota Baker: I used to eat 1 egg to 1 slice of toast but lately I’ve been putting 2 eggs on 1 slice of toast.  It cuts the carbs in half and hubby thinks that “the egg to toast ratio” is better.  ROTFL, as R and I would say.

Source: Messybaker’s grandmother

Cinnamon Applesauce

Put your hand up if you, like me, get absolutely crazed during the week between Christmas and New Year’s.  I’m currently preparing for houseguests (my lovely mother-in-law and her sister are visiting for Christmas 2.0 this coming weekend), which means I’m cleaning and organizing like a maniac.  Part of my organizing frenzy is the always fun “clean out the fridge and try not to scream” game.  Now, I generally keep a pretty clean fridge and we don’t have things that sit in there for months (except condiments, mmmmm, condiments).  But I find it doesn’t matter how clean you keep the fridge, or how disciplined you are about not buying more food than you can realistically eat… it still gets scary in there.

One element of this round of “clean out the fridge and try not to scream” involved me finding a creative use for a bag of apples that were aging gracelessly in my crisper drawer.  I think I’ve mentioned before that I have this compulsion when it comes to apples.  They’re available year-round and I frequently toss them in my cart without stopping to think about whether I need more or not.  At the moment, though, I’m on a citrus kick (it happens around this time every year) and I’ve been ignoring apples in favor of tangerines, clementines and grapefruits.  So the last batch of apples I had bought were still sitting in my crisper, getting younger by the day (not).  What to do, what to do?  I didn’t really feel like baking with them, and I have an idea percolating for a fun muffin that doesn’t involve apples anyway, so baked goods were out.  But I had another trick up my sleeve – applesauce!  It’s one of my go-to recipes for using extra apples; it’s easy, healthy and delish.  Sweetened with a kiss of maple syrup and flavored with a generous helping of cinnamon, this applesauce will take tired apples from your crisper and turn them into a healthy treat that will definitely not last long in your fridge.

Cinnamon Applesauce

4 pounds apples, peeled and large-diced
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 generous teaspoon cinnamon

  • Pile apple pieces into a Le Creuset (3 1/2 quart capacity or larger) or other heavy pot and begin cooking on high, tossing frequently.  When apples are beginning to warm and a few have acquired golden crusts, turn the heat down to medium-low.
  • Add maple syrup and cinnamon and stir thoroughly to combine.
  • Place lid on pot and simmer, stirring occasionally, for two hours.
  • Remove lid and stir.  Continue cooking on medium-low until apples are extremely soft and falling apart.  Mash with a fork (or potato masher) to achieve desired consistency.
  • Try to let it cool before you dive in, or you’ll burn your tongue!

Source: Covered In Flour

Cabbage Frittata

Okay, I realize that I haven’t behaved quite as you may have expected this holiday season.  I haven’t given you cookie or pie recipes.  If it’s any consolation, I haven’t baked anything for my friends or co-workers, either.  In fact, the other day several people brought treats into work and I can’t even tell you how many people stopped by my office to ask if the treats were from me.  The answer is, well, I just haven’t felt like baking recently.  It’s just not on my radar screen at the moment.  What IS on my radar screen?  Quick and easy, but still healthy, dinners to power me through long evenings of gift-wrapping, card-writing, tree-decorating, et cetera.  Like this cabbage frittata, which I’ve now made twice (plus another time as a sort of deconstructed frittata – scrambled eggs with a side of cabbage).  It’s definitely good enough for a repeat, and – bonus – packs plenty of protein and nutrients to get you through those long days ahead.  So I’m being a little bit different and not giving you more ways to rot your teeth this year… I’m just trying to go with my heart.  Enjoy!

Cabbage Frittata

1/2 head green cabbage, shredded
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 eggs
splash milk
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In a heavy-bottomed saucepan or saute pan, heat olive oil until shimmering.  Add shredded cabbage and saute, tossing frequently so as to avoid burning.  When cabbage is softened and browned in parts, remove from heat.
  • Beat together eggs, milk, salt and pepper.  Add cabbage to egg mixture and toss to coat cabbage well with eggs.
  • Add cabbage and egg mixture to a greased or sprayed casserole dish.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, until top is set.

Source: Covered In Flour

Maple-Date Banana Bread

Happy Thanksgiving!  Do you have your stretchy pants ready?  Marshmallows for the sweet potatoes?  Tofurkey roast defrosting?  Oh, who am I kidding?  Of course you do.  After all, Thanksgiving dinner is the meal we’ve all been preparing for all month, isn’t it?  You don’t need me to tell you what to have for dinner tonight.  But… have you considered Thanksgiving breakfast?  I mean, that is, if you’re not fasting in preparation for the big meal.  If you’re looking for some last-minute easy but festive breakfast to fuel you up for the Turkey Trot or the parade-watching… well, look no further, friends.  I have one.  This is a simple, but moist and delicious, banana bread.  It’s literally ready in two shakes of a turkey’s tail.  And it’s basically fat-free and sweetened with nothing but maple syrup and fruit.  So there ya go, you can feel good about indulging in a slice of this bad boy.

See you at the Turkey Trot!

Maple-Date Banana Bread

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose or white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 large eggs
1/2 cup diced dates
2 medium-large bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In large mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt).  Set aside.
  • In small mixing bowl, beat together applesauce and maple syrup until combined.  Beat in eggs one at a time, then beat in chopped dates, mashed banana, and vanilla extract, one ingredient at a time.
  • When wet ingredients are thoroughly mixed, add to dry ingredients and fold together until just combined.  Transfer to loaf pan and bake for between 1 and 1 1/4 hours.  Remove from oven when a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out almost clean (there will probably be a little bit of banana stuck to it; don’t worry about that).  Allow to cool slightly before slicing and serving (if you can!).

Source: Loosely adapted from How To Be A Domestic Goddess, by Nigella Lawson (Amazon link for convenience only; I am not an affiliate).

Fall Fruit Salad with Spiced Yogurt “Dressing”

I crave fruit all year.  Spring, summer, fall, winter.  But my cravings change depending on the season.  I know it’s fall when I walk by the pints of berries without a second thought and head straight for the new, shiny, beautiful Asian pears – my favorite autumn fruit.  When stone fruits are suddenly boring to me and the thought of apple-picking is a thrill.  Those days are here again, and I made this fruit salad to celebrate.

You could use any of your favorite fall fruits.  Apples would be lovely.  So would pears.  We always have bananas, so I used those, as well as one of my precious Asian pears.  (Despite my current goal to save money on groceries, I’m willing to spend the money on Asian pears because they’re a special treat for me and they’re only available in the fall.  But they are pricey, so I only bought a few.  Fortunately for me, hubby hates them.  So those few Asian pears are all mine.)  The key is the dressing – it’s truly an autumnal dressing.  It starts as plain Greek yogurt, but becomes a fall masterpiece with the additions of maple syrup and cinnamon.  Mmmmmm, cinnamon.  Excuse me while I lick the plate.  Happy October!

Fall Fruit Salad with Spiced Yogurt “Dressing”

1 Asian Pear or large apple, cut into 1-inch dice
1 banana, sliced lengthwise and diced
1/2 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt (i.e. Oikos)
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
sliced almonds, for garnish

  • Cut up fruit and set aside in small bowl.  (The fruits above are just suggestions, but the proportion of one banana and one large apple or Asian pear is just about right for two small salads or one large salad.)
  • In a small mixing bowl, stir together yogurt, syrup, cinnamon and vanilla until well blended.
  • Portion salad onto two small plates (or one big plate!) and drizzle yogurt “dressing” over.  Garnish with a pinch of sliced almonds.
  • Resist the urge to lick the yogurt bowl and get yogurt all over your face.  Serve immediately.

Source: Covered In Flour

Tropical Sunshine Smoothie

Here in the mid-Atlantic it seems like the temperatures just keep climbing.  I keep thinking, “This is the hottest it can possibly get,” until it’s hotter the next day, and the day after that… Fortunately, hubby and I currently have a working air conditioner (hurray!) and we’ve been hiding inside for the most part.  Last week I went to IKEA (more on that later) and the walk from the parking lot to the front door and back was about all I could handle.  And I actually enjoy hot weather.  So that really is saying something.

So to beat the heat I’ve become quite the smoothie guru lately.  These tropical smoothies are a perfect way to start another hot-hot-hot day with some cool, fruity nutrition.  Just make sure to drink them, okay?  I know it’s tempting to pour them over your head, but that’s not the intent here.

Tropical Sunshine Smoothies

1 1/4 cups almond milk (or organic milk)
1 cup frozen mango cubes
1 frozen banana
1/2 cup frozen or fresh pineapple chunks
1 scoop vanilla protein powder (optional)

  • Blend all ingredients together in a high speed blender.  Enjoy!

Source: Covered In Flour