Thursday, October 27, 2011

Halloween Brownies anyone?

The m and m's may suggest "kid" food, but the brownie is all about the adults

Full disclosure; the following recipe is not my usual healthy take on a classic recipe. This is pure unadulterated sugar, butter and CHOCOLATE...but oh so good on an occasional basis; particularly over Halloween.

That said, the brownies described are a new recipe to me. I typically make either a healthier version or if I'm going all out, I use a recipe that calls for many more eggs than I had left in my refrigerator.  So I set out on a google search for a rich, no holds barred, brownie recipe that only required 4 eggs.

Enter David Lebovitz. He calls these his absolute best brownies and the man does not lie. I didn't change the recipe much, except I recommend using  parchment instead of foil and I doubled the recipe to bake enough for a party. Also, to Halloween-ify them, I dotted the top with orange m and m's, 10 mins before they finished baking.

Something I learned from the Baked gods, you can freeze a brownie very successfully. Who knew? You just triple wrap them in cling wrap and let them defrost at room temperature when you feel the craving. Having learned that useful snippet, I see no point in ever baking a small pan.

Anyway, these are super-decadent, fudgy rich brownies. Bake them at your waistline's peril. I had hoped to take some to a Halloween party, but there's no way they'll last that long.

Halloween Brownies


12 tablespoons butter
16 oz dark chocolate (chips or chopped)
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup all purpose flour
Orange m and m's


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F
  2. Butter a 9x 13" baking pan, line it with parchment, leaving 2" extra on 2 sides. Then butter the parchment paper.
  3. Using a low heat, melt the butter in a medium sized pot 
  4. When melted, turn the heat off 
  5. Add the chocolate and stir until melted 
  6. Stir in the sugar and vanilla 
  7. Stir in the eggs beating or whisking vigorously until combined 
  8. Finally add the flour and stir "energetically" for 1 full minute until the mix looks glossy and the graininess of the sugar has gone (apparently this is the key to success with this recipe)
  9. Pour the mix into the prepared pan and into the center of the oven 
  10. Cook for 20 minutes then remove the brownies and push in the m and m's to the almost set batter
  11. Return the pan to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes or until the center of the brownies is just set.
  12. Cool the brownies in the pan
  13. When completely cool, lift the brownies out of the pan by the parchment paper and cut them into squares

These will keep in an airtight container for 4 days (good luck with keeping them that long!) and will freeze beautifully (see above).


Monday, October 10, 2011

The Everything Muffin

The Everything muffin

Those who know me well, know they will often be offered a muffin at some point during a visit. I do love me a muffin. My current favorite and (Jayne, this ones for you) is this little fella' pictured.

Often I find that muffins are no use for an on the go snack; great in the house, where we can sweep up the crumbs easily, but in the car or anywhere else, a little too messy. This one is different. It maintains it's integrity, but is still soft and moist enough to be very delicious. And, it's healthy to boot; it has no oil or butter in it. Yet it doesn't have that tell tale, rubbery or hard texture, of many healthy muffins. These points make it a great kid snack and particularly when you're on the go. My 4 year old (for only 6 more days...) now takes a packed lunch to school, so these have been a snack feature frequently in the last month. I should add, they freeze exceptionally well.

Are you in yet? If I still haven't convinced you, then here's my last attempt; it's got ooey gooey chocolate chips in it. It doesn't take many chocolate chips to take a healthy muffin from blah to crave-worthy.

The Everything Muffin
based loosely on a Cooking Light recipe

makes 18 muffins


1 cup whole wheat pasty flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup old fashioned oats
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon wheat bran
3 tablespoons ground flaxseed
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain or fat free or low fat yogurt (I prefer to use 0% Greek yogurt)
1 cup mashed ripe bananas ( about 2 bananas)
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups chopped dried cherries or prunes or apricots (or combination of all or your favorites)
1/2 cup chocolate chips

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F
  2. Place muffin liners in the muffin pans
  3. Place flours, oats, what bran flaxseed, baking soda and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine.
  4. Add the brown sugar and whisk also.
  5. In a separate bowl whisk together the egg, yogurt and bananas
  6. Add the Dry ingredients to the wet and stir until just combined.
  7. Finally stir in the dried fruit and chocolate chips.
  8. Using an ice cream scoop fill the muffin cup to about 2/3 full 
  9. Place in the oven for approximately 20 minutes or until the spring back when touched lightly on top.
  10. Remove the muffins from the pan immediately and cool on a wire rack.
If you wish to freeze them, make sure they are completely cool, then place muffins in a zip-lock bag and into the freezer.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A simple fall dinner

Nothing says Fall more than the huge butternut squash that hit the markets at this time of year. I love the taste of butternut squash, probably more than any other vegetable. Sweet, earthy and nourishing to boot.

On Friday, I had about 1 hour in the house before heading out on a variety of kid centered missions in the afternoon. The challenge was; to get a dinner prepared that could be on the table within 5 minutes of us arriving home. The second challenge; that the dinner actually taste good having waited a few hours for our return.

Enter roasted sagey squash, onion and potatoes with sausages. I hurriedly chopped the potatoes and squash into small pieces, tossed them with fresh sage, olive oil, salt and pepper, then into the oven for a while. Sausages into the microwave to defrost, then onto the grill (my oven is tiny; if I had room they would have snuggled in alongside the potatoes). Dinner was made and ready to reheat when we arrived back at later. A hunger emergency was narrowly avoided in our house.

The verdict; a delicious but utterly simple, Fall dinner, kids and adults agreed. Super tasty served with a chutney or relish alongside.

Sagey Fall Vegetables with Sausages


1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped into bite sized pieces
1 red onion, halved and sliced
4-5 medium potatoes, chopped into bite sized pieces
A small glug of olive oil
Salt and pepper
A small handful of fresh sage, chopped finely
1 lb sausages of your choice


  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F 
  2. Using a large roasting tray, toss the squash and onions together with some olive oil, seasoning and sage
  3. On another roasting tray, toss the potatoes with olive oil and seasoning
  4. Meanwhile preheat your grill and get the sausages on 
  5. Check on the vegetables after 10 minutes and shake to move around
  6. The vegetables should take about 25-30 minutes to cook; the potatoes will need a little longer than the squash
  7. Serve when ready or cover for reheating later.
A couple of notes:
  • I am not a big salt fan, but roasted vegetables need salted generously in my opinion. I use sea salt to lower the sodium content.
  • Please feel free to substitute a herb of your choice for the sage. I happen to love sage and the earthy Fall vegetables, but rosemary would also be lovely here.
  • A few cloves of garlic are be delicious roasted with the potatoes

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Baked Beans

Baked Beans

This recipe is a good fit for a rainy, homebound day; it takes a long time, but is very worth it. If it needs more selling, the large periods of inactive cooking time make it  the perfect choice if you (like me) are also juggling the demands of a 3 year old underfoot.

My husband and I were raised on Heinz baked beans. For those of you not from the UK, baked beans were most mothers "go to" side dish on a busy night and they were always the pairing with sausages. I think nowadays I'd find them too sweet, nevertheless, recently I have been thinking about them a lot.

So browsing through Mark Bittmans's Food Matters Cookbook, I was drawn to the Boston Baked Beans. American baked beans are a different breed, but I thought I'd give them a go. I mean they start with bacon; whats not to love? The verdict; my husband and I loved them. The girls were indifferent which blew me away, given my fond childhood food memories. I may have caught them on a contrary night; it wouldn't be the first! I'll keep you posted when the saved leftovers come out of the freezer for attempt #2

In the meantime, try them out for yourself (when you have a day at home...).

Baked Beans
adapted from a Mark Bittman recipe


8 oz bacon, cubed or thinly sliced
2 onions, chopped
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 lb dried white beans (confession; I used dried kidney as I was all out of white), rinsed
salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F
  2. Using a large oven proof casserole (I used a cast iron dutch oven) cook the bacon over a medium heat until crispy and the fat is rendered.
  3. Remove the bacon from the pot and pour off most of the bacon fat, leaving approx 1 tablespoon 
  4. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pot and the onions.
  5. Cook the onions until soft and browned (approx 15-20 mins)
  6. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for a couple of minutes
  7. Add the cooked bacon, molasses and mustard
  8. Then add the beans and enough water to cover everything by 2 "
  9. Bring to the boil and scrape up all the tasty bits on the bottom of the pot while stirring
  10. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven.
  11. Bake for 1 hour then stir and check the liquid level. It should not fall below 1 1/2 ". Add more water if necessary.
  12. Cover and bake for another hour, then check again. By this point the beans should be getting softer.
  13. Keep checking every 30 minutes and when the beans are tender, remove the lid, increase the oven temp to 400°F.
  14. Continue baking until the liquid reduces to the correct consistency (mine took over an hour to do this, Mr. Bittman suggests anywhere between 15 mins and an hour)
  15. Serve and then freeze the leftovers