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Posts tagged as “baking”

The quest for a less-sweet lemon bar: The classic

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Every time I make one of my all-time favorite desserts, lemon bars, I'm always reminded of the insane amount of refined sugar that most recipes require. I tell myself the next time I'll find a better recipe that uses less sugar. But when that next time comes, the same thing happens.

I mean, 3 cups of sugar for a filling? Lemon bars are supposed to be sweet, but... yuck...

For that reason, I adapted Ina Garten's recipe to create a less-sweet version that cuts out half of the sugar in the filling and half in the crust.

A “new normal” farmer’s market visit & Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

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Farmers markets are a sign of springtime, one of my favorite things about the weather getting warmer and not to mention also a wonderful alternative to making a trip the grocery store—especially right now.

As I'm sure you've also experienced, grocery stores and super markets have been extra chaotic. Limited choices are available of produce, meats, dairy and other essentials unless you go to the store at specific times or on specific days. Masks, bandannas or some other kind of facial covering are required to enter the store—speaking for New Jersey, which mandated this at least three weeks ago, but now also Pennsylvania within the last week or two. And sometimes you need to wait your turn to enter the store because of restrictions put in place on the number of people allowed in at once, otherwise choose to come back at another time.

Visiting a farmers market, by contrast, is a nice break from making a now-normal grocery store visit, so this weekend Dave and I stopped at a farmers market we saw in a local strip mall parking lot. It was a very different experience when compared to visiting open air markets in seasons past .

“Almost Vegan” Citrus Bars

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A few months back, Dave and I took a trip to our local Asian supermarket to get some ingredients for dinner. We ended up picking up delicious pre-made frozen scallion pancakes (one of my favorites) as an appetizer and veggies for what Dave would probably consider to be his signature Thai red curry. It's delicious every time he makes it, without fail.

While shopping for produce, I spotted something curious: soon tofu. Labeled as "extra silken" or "extra soft" tofu and packaged in a tube-shaped plastic sheath, neither of us had ever seen it before in conventional or other Asian supermarkets. The tofu's custard-like consistency and general lack of flavor (aside from a faint nuttiness) inspired me to try my hand, once again, at making a vegan dessert that didn't suck—lest anyone forget the chia pudding and avocado chocolate pudding fails that I've mentioned before and still haunt me to this day. (Fail and yuck.)

At that point, lemon bars had been on my mind for a while, so I made vegan lemon bars using soon tofu my challenge. I processed the tofu with cane sugar, coconut cream, citrus zests and juices, cornstarch, and a few other ingredients to form a very smooth filling. The mixture as it cooked resembled a thick, lemon curd-type filling. Success! It needed more sugar than I would have liked to include, though, in order to mask the nuttiness of the tofu and make it taste like a dessert. Otherwise, so far, so good.

When I started to make the crust as the filling cooked, I found that the only cookies I had on-hand were Simply Made Keebler Butter Cookies. As the name implied, they were made with butter and, therefore, not vegan.

Well, damn.

Not wanting to go back to the grocery store that day, I pressed on with making and chilling the crust. Once cooled, I added the filling and put it back in the fridge to chill several hours until well-set. Dave and I ate the bars for dessert that night and they still tasted great!

There's good news for anyone hoping to recreate these as a totally vegan, dairy-free dessert: Unlike traditional lemon bars, the filling isn't loaded with eggs and butter. It would be easy to substitute a vegan cookie in the crust and get similar results.

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

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Crisp fall nights call for baking. Lots of baking. Cookies and cakes are obvious go-tos anytime I choose to bake something sweet. When it comes to savory dishes, though, the first thing that always comes to mind is pasta.

There's just something so nice and comforting about taking a big tray of baked, bubbling, cheesy pasta out of the oven. It's instant happiness and a whole meal without putting in a lot of effort. Sometimes, if I'm in the mood, I'll serve a big tray of pasta with a side dish, like a green vegetable or a salad. It can help to feel a little bit better about eating all of that cheesy goodness, even if I know, deep down, that it doesn't make a damn difference.

When it comes to naming a so-called king of baked pastas, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone in my house who disagrees with the fact that it's macaroni and cheese (baked ziti, a distant second place.) It's one of the most versatile baked pasta dishes that I can make and everyone loves it. I'm always trying new recipes, too -- adding spinach or other vegetables, bacon, or simply just loading up on different kinds of cheese because more cheese, more better. The best part is that even when a recipe doesn't come out quite as I planned, even bad mac and cheese is good.

This is how, on a whim a few years ago, I ended up with this memorable, very orange -- and, dare I say, sort-of healthy -- mac.