Cucumber Coolers

If I ever decide to open a spa (instead of a wine bar like I’m currently planning), I’m going to serve these Cucumber Coolers to my clients.  They look and taste like refreshing cocktails, but there’s nothing in them except for whole fruits and veg.  Crisp and clean – does it get better than that?

Cucumber Coolers

1 cup water
1/2 cup mint leaves, packed
1 apple, peeled
1 English cucumber, cut into large chunks
juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon (to taste)
1 cup ice

  • Combine all ingredients, in the above order and starting with the juice of just 1/2 lemon, in VitaMix or ohter high speed blender.  Process until smooth.  Taste and decide if you need to add more lemon juice.  Serve garnished with cucumber rounds.

Source: Covered In Flour

Carrot-Mint Juice

Confession time: I don’t like orange juice.  I’ll drink it on a very infrequent basis, when I’m really in the mood, but I am not the one throwing back a glass of Tropicana every morning.  For a long time, I was a “don’t drink your calories” person.  I stuck to water and tea (unsweetened) as my beverages on a daily basis, and wine for a treat.  I still don’t believe in drinking calories in the form of sugary soda, calorie-laden “coffee drinks,” cocktails (okay, I bend this rule occasionally) or sugar-bomb “juices.”

However… I have come to realize that there is a place for getting nutrients through liquids.  I’m talking about healthy whole-fruit smoothies (especially green smoothies) and fresh juices.  I recently got a VitaMix (cue angels singing) and I’ve been blending and juicing my veg-loving heart out.  Here is one of my first creations: a minty fresh carrot juice that’s full of fiber and Vitamin A goodness.  This is nothing but fruits and veggies, mint, and water.  No added sugar, nothing fake.  Just pure carroty goodness.

Carrot-Mint Juice

1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup mint leaves, lightly packed
1 apple (such as Golden Delicious), quartered and cored
2-3 medium carrots, chopped into thirds
1 cup ice

  • Place all ingredients in VitaMix in the order they appear in ingredient list.  Start VitaMix on variable speed 1, raise quickly to 10, and then to high.  Blend on high for one minute or until desired consistency is reached.  Makes 3 cups.

Source: Adapted from VitaMix

Whole Grain Apple-Cinnamon Muffins

I have a compulsion: I will almost always buy apples at the store, whether we need them or not.  I’ve been known to have three almost-full bags of apples knocking around my crisper drawer, because for some reason I just can’t stop myself from buying them at the grocery store.  It’s as if some unconscious part of me takes over in the produce section and says, “Mmmm, apples!  Delicious!” and just throws them in the cart without me having any control over it.  (That also happens with cucumbers.)  They are our standby lunch fruit, so we’ll go through 5-10 apples a week just by putting them in lunches (depending on if there are also grapes in the house, in which case I will take those for myself…) but we always, always seem to have extra apples.  I don’t know if they multiply in the fridge or what, but it seems to take forever to get through a bag and I invariably have leftovers at the end of the week.  When I am actually thinking intelligently about my grocery shopping, I will either restrain myself from buying apples or figure out some way to use up my extras – like turkey cutlets with sauteed apples and onions for dinner one night, or these muffins.

Ah, muffins.  Who doesn’t love muffins?  They are tasty, easy, and they have the cutest! name! ever!  But most of the time, they are also laden with butterfat and nutritionally void calories.  I try to make muffins at least somewhat nutritious by using whole grains, like rolled oats, along with whole wheat flour, and adding some flaxseed meal for the Omega-3s.  Tossing in a little fresh fruit can’t hurt, either.  And that’s where the apples come in… a relatively nutritious muffin, and an opportunity to use up some of those extra apples that are taking up half my crisper drawer?  That’s a very nice way to wake up on a weekend morning.

Whole Grain Apple-Cinnamon Muffins

1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour*
2/3 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup ground flaxseed meal
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup skim milk
8 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
2 large (preferably organic) eggs
1/3 cup honey
3 medium apples, large-diced

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Prepare a 12-cup muffin tin by spraying the wells with a baking spray (like Pam for Baking or Baker’s Joy), or by lining with paper or silicone muffin liners.
  • Combine the dry ingredients – flour, oats, flaxseed meal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon – in a large bowl and whisk together.
  • In a smaller bowl, combine the milk, applesauce, eggs and honey, and stir to combine.
  • Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix well.
  • Stir in the diced apple pieces.  Portion batter equally into muffin wells.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the muffins comes out clean.

*The whole wheat flour actually adds to the taste of these muffins, so I encourage you to stick with it.  If you simply don’t like the taste, you can substitute white whole wheat flour, which is much milder but retains the same nutritional benefits as regular whole wheat, or even all-purpose flour, which is less nutritious.  Whole wheat flour also gives the muffins a somewhat denser crumb than you would get with all-purpose flour, but again, I think it works well with the apple pieces.  Certainly, you can substitute some of all of it, but please do give it a try!

Yield: 12 muffins.

Source: Covered In Flour

Apple and Pecan Salad with Goat Cheese

I’ve sung the praises of salad on here before, I know.  It is a wonderful way to get lots of nutrients in a light dish, it’s endlessly adaptable to the seasons, it’s a snap to put together after a long day… is there anything bad about salad?  If there is, it’s just that salad can sometimes be a bit boring.  But that’s easily fixed – the trick is to make sure there is plenty of visual interest, different flavors and textures, and variety from night to night.  If you treat salads like a meal, making an effort to get plenty of different colors onto the plate and adding a protein, you’ll happily eat them for the rest of your life and never get bored.

I love this particular salad in the fall.  It has some of my favorite flavors – crisp apples, crunchy-sweet pecans, and creamy goat cheese – all tossed with greens and wrapped in a tangy honey mustard vinaigrette.  Best of all, it’s put together from ingredients I almost always have on hand.  It does what the best dinner salads do – provide a healthy but filling dinner on five minutes’ prep.  It’s a winner.

Apple and Pecan Salad with Goat Cheese

2 cups mixed greens
2 apples, sliced thinly
2 ounces goat cheese (I like Laura Chenel), crumbled
1/2 cup pecans, toasted (substitute walnuts if desired)
2 tablespoons honey mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

  • Divide the greens evenly into two bowls.  Add half of the following to each bowl: sliced apples, toasted pecans, crumbled goat cheese.  Toss gently to combine.
  • To make the vinaigrette, simply combine the mustard, honey, vinegar and olive oil in a clean jar and shake briskly until the dressing is emulsified.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and shake again to combine.  (Nota Baker: This makes way more dressing than you will need for the salad.  I like to make mine in a tupperware container with a lid and a spout and store it in the fridge.  It will keep for quite some time – I’m not sure how long, because I’ve never been able to keep the stuff in the house long enough for it to go bad!  In the fridge, the dressing will solidify; don’t worry about that.  Just let it come up to temperature and then shake it again to recombine all of the ingredients before using it.  It’s wonderful on all types of salads, not just this one.)

Yield: Serves two

Source: Covered In Flour

Apple Pluot Crisp


How’s this for a transition dish?  The last of summer’s beautiful, mouthwatering pluots, combined with the first of fall’s abundant apples, and topped with a crunchy, sweet oat crisp.  Yes, please!  This is seasonal food at its best… crisps are a fantastic option for summer and fall desserts because they welcome any fruit filling you can imagine.  I think of fruit crisp as the quintessential farmers market dish: just pick the most delectable fruit you can find at your farmers market (or, better yet, at a local orchard – go to to find one near you) and go nuts.  Your dinner guests will love it!

Apple Pluot Crisp

Fruit Filling
5 pluots
3 medium apples
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch salt

Crisp topping
1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons butter, cubed
pinch salt

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Prepare fruit: peel and core apples, then chop into medium-large chunks.  Bring a pot of water to a boil; score the bottoms of the pluots with “x” marks and drop them in the boiling water.  Allow pluots to boil for 30-45 seconds, then remove and place in cold water immediately.  Peel pluot skins off (they should come off easily now) and core and chop pluots.  Mix apples and pluots together in a medium bowl.  Add salt, sugar and cornstarch and toss to coat evenly.
  • Combine flour, oats, sugar and salt in a separate bowl; whisk together.  Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or two knives (alternatively, combine dry ingredients in a food processor, then pulse in the butter).
  • Spread fruit filling out in 8×8 baking dish.  Cover evenly with crisp topping.  Bake for 50-55 minutes, until fruit is cooked through and topping is golden brown.  Serve with homemade vanilla bean ice cream.


Source: Covered In Flour, inspired by The Barefoot Contessa

Apple Coconut Family Cake


Last week I wasn’t quite ready to welcome fall, and I’m still not quite there.  I’m getting closer, but I’m not at the point where I’m ready to haul out my autumn candleholders and research pumpkin patches.  This is late for me; as I type this post my husband is yelling out “TOUCHDOWN!”  Usually, I’ve already got my Thanksgiving menu planned by the NFL kickoff, but not this year.  Still, I am making my first concessions to the season.  According to Dorie Greenspan, this Apple Coconut Family Cake tastes like “early fall.”  Okay.  I’m on board with early fall… especially when it tastes like a moist cake flavored with apples and coconut.

Apple Coconut Family Cake

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 or 3 apples (see below), peeled and cored
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup coconut milk
6 tablespoons applesauce
1 tablespoon dark rum
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup shredded coconut

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Butter and flour a loaf pan (or spray it with PAM for Baking or another baking spray) and set aside.
  • Chop 2 of the apples into small dice, cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together until smooth (approximately 1 minute).  Whisk in the coconut milk, applesauce, rum and vanilla for another minute, until smooth.  With the whisk or a spoon or spatula, stir in the dry ingredients.  fold in the shredded coconut and diced apple.
  • Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.  If desired, slice a third apple into decorative half-moon shapes and place atop the cake.  (If using third apple, dot with a small amount of butter to aid in coloring.)  Place the loaf pan on a foil- or parchment-lined baking sheet.
  • Bake for 50-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.  Remove cake from oven and cool another 20 minutes.  After cake has cooled, transfer to a platter.  If desired, dust with powdered sugar and serve.


Source: Adapted from Baking: From My Home To Yours, by Dorie Greenspan.