Saturday, August 7, 2010

"Just Peachy" Muffins

Unfortunately, I haven't done much baking lately. I did bake banana cupcakes with cream cheese icing a few weeks ago for a party, but they weren't really worth documenting. Although the cupcakes were fine, I was in a rush and used cream cheese frosting from a jar, which I wasn't a big fan of. Once again, homemade is always better.

This week, being peach season in Ontario, I bought a basket of local peaches from the grocery store. Unsurprisingly (since I live alone), I was unable to eat them all before they got really ripe and juicy. This called for something peachy. Being me, the first thing that came to mind was peach muffins. It seems my muffin phase isn't over after all. But who am I kidding? I never really thought it was.

I adapted this recipe from, making a few of my own alterations and substitutions here and there to make the muffins a bit more healthy. The results: a moist, peachy muffin with a (strong) hint of cinnamon. (I didn't even alter this part - I was surprised to see that the original recipe called for a whole tbsp of cinnamon).


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2  cup sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups peeled, chopped peaches (ripe & juicy!)
1 cup mangoes, pureed (I used frozen ones)
1/2 cup canola oil
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup milk, if needed (I actually didn't measure)


Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease muffin cups or loaf pan.

Peel and chop peaches. Try to do this over a bowl or measuring cup to catch all the juice!
Using a blender (or food processor), puree about 1 cup of mangoes. Note, I came up with this idea to increase moisture, since I had some frozen mangoes that were nearing a freezer-burned point of no return. I'm sure apple sauce would work well too - I just didn't have any on hand.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, mix the oil, eggs and mango puree (or apple sauce).

Make a well in the centre of the dry mixture. Pour in the wet mixture, and stir until just moistened. Fold in the peaches (the juice will add some moisture to your batter). At this point, I was concerned that my batter was still a bit too thick, so I added a big splash of milk and stirred gently. I think adding another cup of (juicy) peaches might work even better, and would add a more distinct peach flavour to the batter.

Pour batter into muffin cups (the original recipe yield is 16), or 2 loaf pans. I baked one loaf and had enough batter left for 9 good-sized muffins.

Bake at 350F. In my oven, the muffins were ready in about 20 mins and the loaf was ready in about 45 mins. Other ovens may take up to 1 hour for the loaf - my oven always seems to cook things quickly.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Yoga & Yogurt

Did I mention I like yoga? It's something I've been doing about once a week for a few years now, and have been really meaning to get more into it (kind of like baking). I've been taking a "yoga in the park" class this spring/summer and every time I go, I come out of it feeling so at peace and at ease. Even if that feeling only lasts for a half hour after class, I think it is worth it for the sense of calm it instills in me. It just occurred to me that I originally started baking as a sort of stress reliever a few years ago, about the same time that I started taking yoga. This got me thinking about the links between food and the body. 

There is something to be said for creating good, wholesome, homemade food (I'm not talking about my peanut butter cookies here), that kind of makes you feel "one with the earth". A few months ago, I started researching holistic nutrition programs and I can really see the similarities between the healing properties of yoga and those provided by fueling your body with a balanced, nutritious diet  - something I've yet to fully experience as a grad student. However, one of my goals is to delve further into the realms of both yoga and nutrition, and try to incorporate them more into my daily life. I've learned that exercise and food have considerable effects on  my mental state, and I think it would be interesting to see how my overall sense of well being was influenced by incorporating a daily yoga practice into my life. My prediction is that not only would this act as a stress-reliever and improve my flexibility, but that practicing yoga more often would also motivate me to treat my body better in terms of nutrition. After all, "you are what you eat!".

I'm still quite interested in learning more about holistic nutrition, so if anyone has any thoughts/experience on this subject, I would value your feedback.

Ok...time to stop blogging and start acting like a grad student (cue hunching of shoulders and consumption of far too much caffeine).


P.S. for a clue about the origin of this post's title, check out this video. It's pretty amusing (and completely unrelated).

P.P.S. No, that's not me in the photo. When I perform that pose, I generally begin to fall forwards and inevitably topple to one side in an effort not to fall on my face.

P.P.P.S. On the topic of yogurt...if each probiotic yogurt contains "over 1 billion active live bacteria" an average consumption of 3 yogurts per day too many??

My first peanut butter & cinnamon creation...

Peanut Butter & Cinnamon Raisin Bran Cookies

This recipe was inspired by a Betty Crocker peanut butter-raisin bran cookies recipe. I won't type the recipe out, because truthfully, I copied it exactly - with one addition. I added about 3/4 tsp of cinnamon to the batter. The cookies are cooling right now, but based on the taste of the batter (a good baker always samples the batter!), I think they are going to be delicious!

My only question as I sit and wait for them to cool? Why I decided to bake on this super hot, humid day in an apartment with no air conditioning. I'm sweating in my apron right now and I can't say it's from trusty Kitchenaid Stand Mixer did most of the hard work!!

...about 5 mins later...the verdict: I'd say these cookies are pretty good, but not the best ever. I liked the batter way more before baking, as the peanut butter and cinnamon flavours were much more evident. They are also a bit crispy for my liking, although this could be a product of my hot oven. I'll have to see what others think. In the meantime, this has inspired me to come up with a no-bake peanut butter cinnamon recipe!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Cinnamon-Sugar Rugelach

Rugelach are a Jewish dessert best described as tiny crescent rolls with various sweet fillings. Common fillings include chocolate, cinnamon-sugar, apricot, raspberry, and walnut.


2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
1 8-oz package cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of coarse salt (table salt works too)
2 1/3 cups flour

Cinnamon-Sugar Filling:
4 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup sanding sugar (that's the coarse, crystalline sugar you often see sprinkled on top of cookies - it withstands heat)


1) To make the dough: Using an electric mixer, beat together butter and cream cheese at medium speed. Add sugar, and beat until fluffy. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each one. Add vanilla and salt, and beat to combine. Reduce speed to low, and beat in flour. Remove from bowl, and divide into 3 pieces on a lightly floured surface. Pat into disks, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, and up to overnight. The cooler the dough, the better.

2) To make the filling, mix together butter, sugar and cinnamon in a separate bowl.

3) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper to prevent sticking. On a lightly floured surface, roll one piece of dough into a 12-inch circle, less than 1/8 inch thick. Brush evenly with cinnamon-sugar filling.

4) Cut the dough circle into 16 equal-sized wedges, like you're cutting a pie. Starting at the base of each wedge, roll towards the centre to enclose the filling, forming crescent shapes. Pinch the corners to seal. Place on prepared baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

5) Glaze: Brush tops of rugelach with beaten egg, and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Makes about 4 dozen.

**This recipe was adapted from - I chose to create a cinnamon-sugar filling rather than the walnut one featured in the Martha Stewart recipe.

I have made this recipe twice, and both times I used a variety of fillings for variety. In addition to the cinnamon-sugar filling (my favourite), I also tried chocolate, apricot and raspberry. For the chocolate filling, I melted some semi-sweet chocolate chips (or baker's chocolate squares) with a dab of butter to facilitate spreading. Raspberry and apricot fillings can be made using melted jam (just heat in the microwave for a few seconds and then spread). The first time I made these, I was fortunate to discover that the family I was staying with had a jar of fresh apricot preserves in their fridge, and these tasted much better than the jam I used the second time around. Like (almost) always, homemade beats store-bought!

B'tayavon (bon appetit!)

Homemade Sangria

As mentioned in my previous post, cinnamon sticks are a key ingredient to really delicious sangria. (Whole cinnamon sticks are best, but a dash of ground cinnamon will work in an emergency situation).

There is no "right" way to make sangria. Every glass of sangria I've tried has been slightly different, and some have been much better than others. I can tell you one thing for certain: stay away from bottled sangria and make your own. It's guaranteed to be better.

I have yet to come up with a "perfect" sangria recipe, since (as I mentioned), each one is slightly different than the one before. However, after inquiring with a few bartenders in Spain and Portugal, I have come to the conclusion that I prefer Portuguese sangria.

Here are some of the key ingredients...these are guidelines only - the quantities are up to you! Keep in mind that the quality of each ingredient used will affect the taste of the final product.

Portuguese Sangria

-1 bottle of red wine (preferably something from a warm climate such as Spain, Portugal or Chile). Keep in mind, the better the wine, the better the sangria. However, don't go crazy and use your best bottle, since it's ultimately being mixed with pop - or "soda" to any American readers out there!)
-1/2 bottle (more or less, depending on preference) of 7-Up, Sprite or Gingerale. You may have to experiment, as they have slightly different flavours. I usually use Spritz Up!
-shot of brandy
-shot of Triple Sec
-shot of Porto wine, if available
-shot of Martini Rosso (vermouth)
-orange slices
-lemon slices
-apple slices (finely chopped)
-2 cinnamon sticks

Although this is straying from the traditional sangria recipe, feel free to add any other fruit you wish. I have tried delicious sangria with blueberries (strawberries and blackberries work too), red grapes and even kiwis. Remember to chop fruit into small chunks so that it fits in their glass. I prefer to remove the rinds of orange slices so that guests can eat the fruit easily with a spoon!

Mix together all ingredients except the7-Up/Sprite/Gingerale, and let sit for several hours, or preferably overnight. This will allow the wine and cinnamon flavours to seep into the fruit and vice versa - this is key to delicious sangria. Add the pop just before serving, and stir. Serve in a big bowl with a ladle to facilitate fruit-scooping.

Cheers, santé, salute, salud...and saude!

Cinnamon Flavour Combinations

I haven't experimented with cinnamon as much as I have with peanut butter, however here are a few ideas to start you off.

Cinnamon Flavour Combinations

1) Cinnamon with peanut butter! (Surprise, surprise). Seriously though, mix some into natural peanut butter and you'll be surprised at what a delicious combination it makes.

2) Cinnamon toast or cinnamon-raisin toast or bagels are delicious toasted with butter/margarine, cream cheese or peanut butter.

3)  Cinnamon added to coffee/lattes. I like to sprinkle some cinnamon onto the top of a plain latte, or add some to my coffee grounds before putting through the coffee maker or French press. It just adds a hint of flavour, and eliminates the need to add artificial flavour shots.

4) Cinnamon (or cinnamon-sugar) sprinkled on apple slices. My mom used to make this for me as a kid, and I still have it as a late night snack sometimes (minus the sugar). Yum!

5) Soft cinnamon-sugar pretzels. I have yet to make pretzels from scratch so this recommendation is based on the ones they sell at pretzel stands. However, this is on my list of things to bake!

6) Cinnamon-swirl coffee cake.

7) Cinnamon rolls. What could beat warm, gooey cinnamon buns on a Sunday morning? (Cinnamon buns with peanut butter, obviously). 

8) Cinnamon-sugar rugelach (a Jewish dessert best described as mini crescent rolls with various sweet fillings). I've made these from scratch and they were delicious.

9) Apple cinnamon crepes.

10) Did you know that cinnamon sticks are the secret ingredient to homemade sangria? I decided to share this with you since sangria really isn't the same without it. Try my sangria recipe and see for yourself.

Peanut Butter Flavour Combinations

Over the years, I have tried peanut butter on just about everything (ok, not on a hamburger, but I heard on the radio that it makes a great combination. Since I currently don't eat red meat, I expect someone to try this for me and write in with the results.) Below are some particularly good combinations that you should try.

10 Delicious Peanut Butter Flavour Combinations (besides PB & Cinnamon!)

1) Peanut butter and banana (on its own, in a sandwich, on toast, on a panini, in a wrap...)

2) Peanut butter and honey (especially on toast, but also in dessert squares, etc.) Honey also makes an excellent addition to a peanut butter and banana sandwich.

3) Natural peanut butter mixed into vanilla ice cream/frozen yogurt. This is literally THE best thing ever (especially when peanut butter and ice cream are two of your all-time favourite foods). Peanuts and peanut butter sauce also make a great addition to sundaes, banana splits, homemade smoothies or milkshakes. Peanut butter ice cream pie fits in this category of brilliancy as well.

4) Peanut butter spread on almost any type of bread-like substance: toast, bagels, muffins (especially bran muffins), English muffins, wraps/pitas/tortillas

5) Pretzels dipped in peanut butter (Snyder's of Hanover makes peanut butter pretzel sandwiches which inspired me to make my own).

6) Peanut butter and crackers. I especially like peanut butter on Triscuits, Premium Plus/Saltines, and Ritz crackers. If anyone remembers those orange cheese-flavoured peanut butter sandwiches that used to come in packages (I saw them in the States in a vending machine last year so I guess they still exist), Cheese Nips and peanut butter evokes a similar taste sensation, not to mention a bit of nostalgia.

5) Dry cereal dipped in peanut butter. Literally every cereal I have tried tastes good with pb, but some of my personal favourites are: Honey Nut Cheerios, Shreddies, Bran Flakes, Life Cinnamon (Cinnamon Toast Crunch would probably work too), and any type of granola mixed with peanut butter (the more clusters, the better).

6)  Peanut butter and apple slices. I also tried this in a wrap for lunch one day and it was surprisingly good.

7) Peanut butter and chocolate. Did I even need to list that?? Reese's Peanut Butter Cups exist for a reason.

8) Pancakes or waffles: skip the syrup, slather on some pb. I often do this because it adds some protein to an already sweet breakfast. Peanut butter chip pancakes are also delicious - thanks go out to EggCetera restaurant in Guelph for this wonderful idea!

9) Peanut butter in any type of square or cookie (e.g. peanut butter Rice Krispie squares, peanut butter trail mix cookies, chocolate peanut butter bars, etc.) You can't really go wrong here.

10)  Chocolate peanut butter cheesecake. Enough said.

...Alright, that's ten so I'll stop. Feel free to email/comment with your own pb-inspired ideas!