Maca Mocha Cocoa Mix

My pantry is never without a stash of this homemade DIY dark cocoa mix. Warm, cozy drinks are an important staple for this Florida Girl adapting to life in northern Washington, you know? I mix it up in bulk, and I’ve been known to pack it up into jars for a simple handmade-with-love holiday gift. This year, I wanted to share the recipe with you in time to give you a chance to do the same!

My not-so-secret ingredient is maca – Lepidium meyenii – a plant in the brassica family (cousin to broccoli and all its cruciferous brethren) native to high altitudes of Peru. In the Andes, it’s long been eaten as a staple food and regarded for traditional medicinal uses. The dried root is thought to enhance endurance, and is known to contain glucosinolates and other compounds that can contribute to antioxidant and anticarcinogenic effects. It has a nutty flavor and aroma reminiscent of butterscotch that I really adore in my cocoa mix.

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[Instant Pot] Pumpkin Salted Caramel Flan

Silky-smooth custard, salty-sweet caramel, pumpkin-spiced joy. This seasonal treat is a perfect fit for Instant Pot’s dessert wheelhouse – like we learned when we made Maple Espresso Creme Brulee and Greek Yogurt Cheesecake, high-pressure steam can be a very effective way to quickly and evenly cook any custard.

If you’ve never made caramel before, it’s an interesting reaction to observe. Upon heating pure sucrose, the sugar molecules begin to break down and their pieces get shuffled around to form a virtually infinite array of new and different compounds, each with unique flavors and aromas. This is why as caramel darkens, it gradually becomes less sweet and more complex.

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[Sourdough] Dark Molasses & Honey Bread

This no-knead sourdough loaf is modeled after the dark, sweet, grainy rye breads I became accustomed to encountering in sandwich shops when I lived in southern California. They usually called it squaw bread (I wonder if they still do…) and it makes an excellent foundation for the veggie-loaded sandwiches they do so well down there.

Let’s take a moment to talk about molasses, and how it comes to be. When fresh sugar cane is harvested, it is pressed to yield a juice with about 15% sugar by weight. This cane juice is evaporated, and as water is lost, the solution passes its saturation point and sugars start to crystallize. The syrup is spun in a centrifuge to separate the crystals, which undergo further refinement on their way to becoming white sugar. The dark syrup that remains is molasses, and its darkness is a reflection of the complex products of the sugar cane’s plant biochemistry. Among the “impurities” fractionated into molasses from refined sugar are a significant amount of B vitamins and minerals, including iron, calcium, magnesium, copper, potassium and selenium.

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Pistachio Fro-Yo Pops

Calling all pistachio lovers! These perky pops are my new favorite summer treat. This simple recipe features none of the artificial flavors or colors that too often taint that old-school neon-green ice cream at the supermarket – just lightly sweetened whole-milk yogurt and plenty of roasted, salted pistachios.

Nuts and seeds are designed to fuel a baby plant through germination until they can develop enough roots and leaves to fend for themselves, which makes them very nutrient-dense foods. An ounce of roasted pistachios has about 6 grams of protein, 13 grams of fat, and 8 grams of carbohydrates (including 3 grams of fiber and 2 grams of natural sugars). Their biochemical profile supports antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, and clinical studies have demonstrated favorable effects on blood lipids, glycemic control and vascular function associated with pistachio consumption.

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[Sourdough] Cheesy Kale & Everything Bagels

My latest sourdough specialty is the almighty BAGEL. The technique that makes this bread so classically dense and chewy is a dunk in boiling water before baking. When the dough is boiled, its exterior undergoes starch gelatinization – granules of starch absorb water, they swell, and their tightly packed chains of molecules start to dissolve. This process gives the crust its chewy texture, and because the cooked crust restricts the bagel from continuing to rise/expand when baking, it’s also responsible for the interior’s dense crumb. Baking soda added to the water accelerates the Maillard reaction via increased alkalinity, promoting more browning during baking.

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[Sourdough] Pumpkin Garlic Knots

On a whim last weekend, I baked sourdough pumpkin garlic knots. It then became my solemn duty to write the recipe ASAP, lest it be forgotten and my future self and family – and my fellow Keepers of the Sourdough out there – be deprived of its simple glory.

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[Instant Pot] Roasted Tomato Soup

Ever think about using your Instant Pot to transform fresh tomatoes into soup? Think about it! I gave it a shot for the first time this Summer, and the results blew me away: rich, velvety, and intensely flavorful.

Ever wonder why so many recipes tell you to remove the seeds and skins from tomatoes? I avoid that step whenever I can, and not just because it’s annoying…

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[Instant Pot] Maple Espresso Creme Brulee

Here comes the fanciest dessert ever to step out of my Instant Pot. Pressure cookers have a special talent for foods that need to cook in a hot, wet place – including the finicky oven/hot-water-bath setup required by cheesecakes and, yes, creme brulee!

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