Monthly Archives: December 2015

Cannellini Beans with Bacon & Spinach

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADespite the fact that we got ourselves a cute little tree, I’ve been listening to Christmas music while getting ready in the morning, and I spent an entire weekend (and then some) making edible holiday gifts, it just doesn’t feel like Christmas this year.  It might be partly due to the fact that it’s been insanely warm for this time of year-–it’s been in the 60’s for weeks now!  Ugh.  My husband finds it humorous that I should complain about this, but I stand by it.  I want a little chill in the air, enough so that a winter coat is mandatory.  I want to walk down the streets of NYC, looking through the windows at the whimsical holiday displays while sipping a hot cocoa.   Is this too much to ask??  The world can be a tough place to stomach sometimes, and I feel like December is the one time of year when we are allowed to live in a fantasyland in our heads––dreaming of sugarplums, reindeer, and snowmen.  I am going to try and make the best of it.  At least we’re not housebound due to a huge snowstorm, eh?

You HAVE to make this dish, and soon.  I’ve made it twice in the past month, and I can’t get enough of it.  Not only is it a perfect, comforting winter meal (even if it is warmer than usual), but it’s super-easy and pretty healthy.   It takes all of 10 minutes, and you can make it in one pan.  Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACannellini Beans with Bacon & Spinach
Adapted from The Splendid Table

Yield:  4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
6 ounces smoky bacon, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots, minced
1 (28-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
6 cups baby spinach
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Put a large (approximately 10-inch) skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and let it get hot.
2. Add the bacon and cook until crispy, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the garlic and shallots, and cook for 30 seconds longer. Add the beans and cook for another 2 minutes.
4. Add the spinach and salt, season with pepper, and cook until the spinach wilts, about 4 minutes, adding a tablespoon or two of water, if needed, to help the spinach along. Serve immediately.

Sea Salt Caramels

DSC_6671I had a nice, leisurely brunch with a good friend today.  It was one of those enjoyable, meandering conversations that could have easily continued for several hours.  After we parted ways, I found myself thinking of several more things I wanted to talk to my friend about––what was the name of that running app she mentioned?  Avon Barksdale is in the new Creed movie!  When can we do another double date?
DSC_6656After I returned home, I started in on my holiday baking:  melting butter, whipping meringue, and rough-chopping chocolate, all the while thinking about the incredibly rich and meaningful female friendships I’ve had over the years.  There is a beautiful passage in an Anaïs Nin book that I love:  “Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”  She articulates so elegantly how different friends show us a side of ourselves that we hadn’t previously tapped into.  They see our potential, and challenge us within a safe space.   By the time I started cleaning up my post-baking mess, I found myself reminiscing about my college days and all of the incredible friendships I made throughout those four years.  Those women saw something in me before I really knew who I was or how I wanted to live my life.  Through their eyes, I learned so much about myself.
DSC_6668I haven’t made caramels, or any other candy, since the day I closed my business 2 ½ years ago.  I wasn’t sure if I would remember how to make them, but it all came back to me.  My stepdad has asked me to make these for him ever since I closed my business, and he will finally get some for Christmas this year!

Sea Salt Caramels

Yield: 35-40

12 oz. sugar
12 oz. evaporated milk
5 oz. heavy cream
1/2 vanilla bean, split
10 oz. corn syrup
1 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sea salt

1.  Line 8×8 pan with parchment paper.
2.  Combine sugar, evaporated milk, heavy cream, and vanilla bean in a large pot, and cook over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil, and add corn syrup.  Stir to incorporate.
3.  Insert candy thermometer and clip onto the side of pot.
4.  When temperature reaches 230 F degrees, add butter and stir until melted.  Mixture will start to thicken and darken in color.  Turn heat down to low, and stir frequently, scraping bottom of the pan every once in a while.
5.  When temperature reaches 240 F degrees, remove pot from heat, add sea salt, and stir until combined.
6.  Pour caramel into parchment-lined pan.  Using a spatula, smooth the caramel out, making sure it is distributed evenly throughout pan.  Cool completely, and cut into 1×1-inch squares.

Healthy Gingerbread Muffins

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI recently learned that my cholesterol is dangerously high.  In lieu of going on medication, I decided to actively try and cut out a decent amount of sugar from my diet.  Of course, there will still be plenty of dark chocolate.  I mean, I haven’t lost my mind.  There will ALWAYS be dark chocolate in my life.  What’s more, I have a huge sweet tooth.  Therefore, dessert will always be a part of my life as well, but I needed to find some recipes that incorporate sugar substitutions.   Turns out, there is a lot out there.  For the most part, bananas and dates are the healthiest options when substituting sugar in a recipe.  Although they still contain a decent amount of sugar– like fruit– they also contain fiber, which slows down the rate at which the body absorbs the sugars from the fruit.  Therefore, I have been making A LOT of (healthier) desserts lately to try and figure out what works and what doesn’t work.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of my favorite things to eat around the holidays is gingerbread-flavored anything.   I love the spices, along with the deep, complex flavor of molasses.  I had a deliciously spicy slice of gingerbread loaf last week from a bakery in Manhattan.  It inspired me to try and give gingerbread muffins a go, but with no sugar (other than the molasses, which I made an exception for).  They turned out really well.  My only complaint is that they are not quite spicy enough.  Therefore, if you really want that bite that you get from a gingersnap cookie, feel free to double the amount of ginger in this recipe.  If you are ok with a milder flavor, these will be perfect for you.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHealthy Gingerbread Muffins
Adapted from Pinch of Yum

Yield:  22 Mini-muffins

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup molasses
1 egg
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoon fresh ginger (sub 1 teaspoon ground ginger)
11/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
11/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
Candied ginger, roughly chopped

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray or butter.  In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil with the molasses.
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, mashed bananas, sour cream, yogurt, milk, ginger, vanilla extract, and orange zest.
  3. Add the olive oil and molasses from step one.
  4. Add the flours, baking soda, salt, and dry spices. Stir a few times until just combined. Scoop into a mini-muffin tin and place a piece of candied ginger on top of each muffin. Bake for 10-12 minutes (if making full-size muffins, bake for 17-20 minutes) or until the tops are puffy and firm to the touch. Cool for a few minutes before serving.