Monday, April 20, 2015

Irish soda bread muffins

Muffins. I really like muffins. Not the kind with tons of sugar and fat that seem more like dessert (okay I like those too), but the kind that start a day off right. The low sugar, whole wheat, power me through the day kind. I can tell you that muffin mornings are really enjoyable. We may find ourselves thinking that muffins are only meant to be splurged upon at the coffee shop for indulgent treats. I disagree. We can splurge every day in our homes with little effort. A good book, some tea, and homemade muffins are all we need for a little extra happiness in our days. 

So you heard when I said easy right? So easy. You can't mess them up. Twenty minutes to make the batter + twenty minutes in the oven=dreamy muffin mornings. These muffins take the cake or the muffin, if you will. They are a little like biscuits turned muffin. Buttermilk gives them moisture and a richness without actually being rich. Currants (or raisins) and a tiny bit of sugar make them slightly sweet. They are absolutely my favorite. Second only to these carrot cake power muffins. A really excellent muffin morning awaits you. 

Irish soda bread muffins 
Makes 10 muffins, adapted from King Arthur Flour 

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar + more to sprinkle on top
1 1/2 cups currants or raisins 
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups buttermilk 
3 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar. In a large bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk, butter, and currants. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix with a spatula until just combined. 

Evenly distribute the batter between 10  muffins cups. Sprinkle sugar evenly over the top of each muffin. Bake 10-15 minutes until slightly golden brown and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

Let cool for five minutes in muffin tin and then remove to let cool. Serve with some jam on top for extra goodness. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tortilla crusted chipotle salmon cake salad

We are going to go ahead and call this salad. Lettuce is involved. Also involved is an awesome chipotle salmon cake crusted in tortilla chips. Tortilla chips in a salad I can get behind. The crunch from the tortilla chips is really exceptional in tandem with this smoky salmon cake. Layer some chipotle aioli, avocado, and goat cheese over the top and you have yourself a meal.

We ate this meal after both of us had pretty grueling weekend workouts. Blake spent 16 hours on his feet climbing on some snow in Rocky Mountain National Park and I completed my last long training run before the Colorado Marathon. The run took me on the back roads from Boulder to Lyons in an exhausting head wind. The idea was once I got to Lyons we would celebrate at our favorite local brew pub Oskar Blues. Turns out after running 20+ miles ruebens and nachos aren't that appealing but we ate them anyway and both immediately regretted it.

Hence the need for a salad but a salad of substance. This salad hits all the marks and proved to be much better recovery food. Did I mention we had some ice cream too after the pub food? Apparently we don't learn.

Tortilla crusted chipotle salmon cake salad
Adapted from How Sweet It Is, serves 4

1 pound of salmon
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 egg
1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 tablespoon adobo sauce from can of chipotles in adobo sauce
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 cup tortilla chip crumbs (use a food processor or blender to break up)
3 tablespoons olive oil
Head of butter lettuce
Goat cheese
1 avocado

Chipotle aioli
1 chipotle pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons adobo sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray and bake salmon for 20-25 minute until cooked through.

In a large bowl, flake the salmon into small pieces using a fork. Add shallot, garlic cloves, egg, seasoned bread crumbs, adobo, chili powder, paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, and parsley. Use a large spoon to mix together.

Form the salmon mixture into 4 patties. Place your tortilla crumbs on a plate. Press salmon cake into crumbs on both sides.

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan on medium high heat. Once hot, add salmon cakes and cook until golden brown on each side, about 4-5 minute a side.

On top of the lettuce layer the salmon cake, goat cheese, avocado, and drizzle chipotle aioli over the top.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Graham cracker carrot cake

You know what is kind of magical? Spring trees in bloom. Colorado is currently lit up by various shades of fluffy pink and white blooms on trees. And then there are the tulips, the daffodils, the irises, and trees budding out. The world is colorful again. It’s lovely. We all could use a little more magic in our days.

We spent last weekend basking in the spring sun. First, we enjoyed many of Colorado’s delicious beers at Avery Brewing’s Strong Ale Fest. Then we spent Easter Sunday with family. I made carrot cake and pastel colored M&M cookies for Easter dinner. Not just any old carrot cake though, graham cracker carrot cake. That’s right ground up cinnamon graham crackers replaced some of the flour in this cake. If you love graham crackers like any self respecting adult should, you will love this cake.

The cake is jam packed with carrots making it super moist. The graham crackers give it an extra little special kick of flavor and then, of course, we have cream cheese frosting. The only kind of frosting in my opinion. For some reason, I have a hard time slathering a cake with all the butter in buttercream frosting, but when it comes to cream cheese, I say the more the merrier. Have your cream cheese enrobed cake and eat it too has always been my credo.

Also, this is a layer cake and we don’t have enough occasions in life to make a layer cake. So while this may be a little late for Easter, make this cake to celebrate spring or Friday. You know there are never enough reasons to celebrate in my book. Also, don't be scared of making a layer cake. I think most people are deterred by making frosting. The key to frosting is well softened, room temperature butter and cream cheese. Use your electric mixer to mix your softened cream cheese and butter with powdered sugar until light and fluffy. You can do it. I promise

Graham cracker carrot layer cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, serves 14-16 people

1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup finely ground cinnamon graham crackers, use your food processor or blender to make the crumbs
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
½ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
10 tablespoons butter, melted
3 large eggs
3 cups peeled and grated carrots, this was about 5 large carrots for me

Cream cheese frosting
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper and spray with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.

In a medium bowl, whisk together butter, sugar, and eggs until smooth. Stir in carrots. Pour wet ingredients in to the dry and stir with a spatula until flour just disappears. Pour batter evenly into your two cake pans. Bake 18-22 minutes, until a knife or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the cake pan five minutes before removing. Then cool on a cooling rack until completely cool. It’s important that the cakes are completely cool before you frost them.

For the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter together until completely smooth. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract and beat again until smooth.

Spread top of one cake with about 1/3 of the frosting. Place the next layer on top. Spread the rest of the frosting over the top and side. My method is to start with the frosting on the top of second layer and spread outward to the sides and over.