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Resolution Recipe 7: Almond Date Breakfast Bars


Getting caught up on recipes and posts before school starts up so here’s the last one I have in the queue that I’m getting around to posting about. 20140825_215216 These bars are really easy to make but they do require a few different ingredients you probably don’t have in your pantry. These include dates and wheat germ. I definitely had to make a stop a Sprouts to pick up these items as well as the oats, almond butter and almonds since I didn’t have those in my pantry either. I thought I had whole wheat flour on hand but I didn’t. This always seems to happen to me with one ingredient! You would think I would have learned by now, but nope. I’m learning to be the substitution queen. In this case I felt lucky because whole wheat flour seems like an easy thing to replace with regular flour. However, I’m wondering now if it would have helped with holding them together since it is more course then regular flour. Noted for next time. 20140825_215438 I was able to find pitted dates at Sprouts so I encourage you to try and find the same if you can since I imagine pitting these guys is not the easiest thing to do since they are a bit on the sticky side when cutting into them. I have to be honest. These look like bugs to me….cockroaches to be exact….so I pretty much never eat them if I can help it, let alone work with them. I got over my squeamishness a little bit working on this recipes, but just know the sacrifice it took for me to do this you guys….it was a big one. (Dramatic much…:) 20140825_221817   Recipe is easy…combine dry ingredients as seen above. Then…. 20140825_223325   Combine your dry ingredients until you reach the smooth texture you see here.

This is the point in the recipe where things went a little south for me…unfortunately. I’m learning the ropes in my parents kitchen since I recently moved home. (Side note…had to move from Whittier to Corona because they are selling the house I lived in. Sad to leave but happy to have a place to transition to while I figure out where I’ll live next. Rent free and nice kitchen to cook in is a super bonus, but commute to work/school went up so we’ll see how long I last). Being in this new kitchen has been lovely. More surfaces to use and better kitchen supplies on hand…all great. What is not great is the bummer process of learning how you mother stores her ingredients the hard way. She has an olive oil bottle (seen pictured above with ingredients) that HAS been used for olive oil in the past. I swear! Recently she put a different kind of oil in there…thinking canola oil….and uses olive oil straight out of the bottle. *sigh*. And guess who did not smell the oil to make sure it was right?! Yep yep, this novice right here. Lesson learned.

20140825_223447I sadly ended up using the canola oil which, let’s face it, does not taste as good as olive oil. As soon as I poured it in the bowl I knew I had done something wrong because the smell was more of the oil used in deep frying and I had pictures of deep fried treats dancing through my mind as soon as the smell hit my nose. NOT the taste or smell you want associated with your healthy breakfast bars. I kept hoping that the taste would not be affected, but sadly it really was. It had an unfortunately greasy taste to it and I don’t think that’s what we were going for with these. Ugh. 20140825_223655 Back to the recipe…after you get the creamy consistency of your wet ingredients you’ll combine it with the dry and mix until well coated. You’ll pour that into the pan and do your best to press the mixture down into the pan to make it as compact as you’re able. I do not think I did as good of a job at this as I could have. I know that would have made the difference in how well they were able to stay together in the end so learn from my mistake please!20140825_223951 Deb gives a suggestion to do two crisscross pieces of foil or parchment paper to help with removing the bars after they have cooked. Doing this also makes for an easier clean up with all the oil you’re using as well so I suggest you take her tip. 20140825_230658 You won’t notice a major change in color once it come out but the oats will be a bit more brown like an apple crisp (my only real comparison…haha). She suggests that you let them cool inside the pan for a bit and then to take them out with your foil and place them on a cooling rack before cutting them. I did try to do this but when I went to take them out, they began to break apart. I was able to do it in part to get a picture but they are pretty fragile.  I ran into the same problem the next day so I wasn’t able to really cut them into easily removable bars that would hold up long term. Again, I’m sure this was due to me not packing them in very well so there is hope for success next time. 20140825_233144Instead of keeping them in crumbly bars, I ended up breaking them up into the chunks of granola they were naturally falling into. I figured the crumbles would make good bite sized versions. It would also be a good yogurt topping as well if you’re a yogurt lover.  The think I loved about these clusters/bars that is different from anything I’ve had is the orange zest! It’s a different but lovely flavor to have in bars like these. I might also want to add dried cranberries when making these again since they would complement the freshness of the orange. Can’t wait to try them again with all the right ingredients!

RECIPE:

Once again I’m flying and not able to post the recipe without the book so I’m redirecting you to another blogger who has done the recipe and an excellent job of taking pictures of what it SHOULD look like! Check out the details on the blog Cafe Carol.

Thanks for reading everyone! Next post will be about my foodie adventures in Delaware and Philadelphia! I got to check something off my Philadelphia bucket list while I was there so I’m excited to pool my pictures and share about my good eats from my trip.

Also, if you’re a fellow Pinner, be sure to check out some of the stuff I’m pinning on the Novice Cook Diaries Pinterest Boards  if you haven’t already! Tell me which boards have the tastiest looking recipes and if I get enough feedback and I’ll pick a recipe from that board and give it a try.

Follow Novice Cook Diaries on Pinterest!

 

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Resolution Recipe 6: Chocolate Chip Brioche Pretzels


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I am not going to lie…this recipe killed me in so many ways. I earn my novice status with many recipes but my badge should be gold after making these. I know they may look like pretzels and they may even look good to the untrained eye, but I had so many issues with this recipe, I just want to spill my guts and get it over with…and pray they turn out better if I ever dare to try again…ugh.20140308_135337

Ingredients are minimal and you probably have everything you need in the pantry unless you’re like me and don’t keep chocolate ships in your pantry because that isn’t a healthy decision!

As grumpy as I am even typing this up, I do have some thoughts on what might have gone wrong for me….

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YEAST: I hate working with yeast sometimes. It’s so temperamental. It always feels like such an amazing victory to see your bread rise after you’ve been standing in the kitchen  biting your fingernails watching the dough like a worried mother. I guess these guys rose better then they could have but the consistency of the dough was like clay or even Play Dough and not at all soft like I would have expected to see for pretzel dough. So, while it’s possible I killed the yeast or that it was too old to be nice to me, I actually wonder if it wasn’t something else…

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MIXING: Guys this was a total disaster! The recipe says to mix it for like 10 min (I might be exaggerating, but I don’t have the recipe in front of me while I type this…) and within 2 min it was so tough that the mixer was literally skipping and hopping on the counter top. *sigh*. 20140308_141753

 

This is a picture of me holding the top down because it was not wanting to stay put. The dough hook had a terrible time working the dough and I was 100% sure I was going to have to apologize to my room mate for breaking her very expensive mixer and then some how replace it with the money I don’t even have to buy my own. Nightmare. I have no idea how I would have been able to mix it for the amount of time they suggest. But things got worse when I added…

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BUTTER: Oh geez. Imagine putting clay in your Kitchen Aid and then adding butter. Imagine with me for a second what that mess would look like. A greasy mess! That’s what it looks like. The dough was not able to absorb the butter (as you can see above) but it did start to soften it a bit out of the hard rocky ball that it had been previously. I continued to run the mixer, hoping it would improve and while it did show some signs of  improvement, but I was really discouraged by what I was seeing.

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Things seemed to shape up a bit after I added the chocolate chips. You can see below that it’s looking more like cookie dough and less like a wet buttery mess. Score!

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Back to the bad news…the dough totally didn’t rise. It looked like this after the set amount of time for raising. It was not yeasty and squishy like other doughs are. It should have been fluffy and doubled. It was not. I decided that this situation might end up a little bit like those experiences you have at the hair dresser getting a cut or style….you know that moment….about 10 min in to your new quaff you  inwardly start groaning thinking the person doesn’t know what they are doing and they didn’t listen and you’re going to look terrible!!!….and then…you just let them finish…haha. The relief ! All is right in the world. They get to keep their jobs and you’re happy….I was hoping these hopeless guys would turn out the same way with a little time and patience…soooo…ONWARD!

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Because I let my dough raise in the oven (dumb choice) the chocolate chips got nice and melted which turned the dough the chocolate color you see. These should be more like a chocolate brioche pretzels since you can’t see the chips in there but we’re going to keep the name the same for consistency sake. 20140308_181811

 

I started to work out the dough by rolling it out into long snake like strips before I started twisting it. Twisting it got easier once I figured out you need to twist the two ends together a few times before pressing them into the curve of the base and that you’ll have more twisting space in the dough the longer you make them.

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I decided to have gravity help me out since the dough was pretty thick and kind of hard to work with.  That seemed to do the trick to get them the length I needed. I believe I divided the dough into rounds based on the serving size so I know what I had to work with for each pretzel. That helped them all be about the same size and shape when all was said and done. 20140308_184001

The egg was you put on them makes them look a little more exciting then the chocolaty marbled dough. This is what they looked like before a trip into the oven…moment of truth folks! Wasn’t sure what I was about to get….


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Well I guess you kind of already saw them at the beginning of the post (sorry for the spoiler after this dramatic interpretation of my experience!) but here they are in all their pretzely glory! I am really happy to say that they actually had a bready (…making up words here, friends…) consistency and tasted very much of chocolate which seems like a good place to be at the end of making this recipe. They are far from as lovely looking as Deb’s are and are not even sort of the best pretzels I’ve ever had…but…they are mine and I am happy with them. They were pretty sweet so they make a good after dinner treat.

I would love to try these again and see what I can do about fixing that rubbery dough. Deb has not blogged this recipe but I’ve found another happy Perelmanite fan like me who has the recipe posted on her blog as well as her review of the cookbook. Check out Think Well. Love well. Dine Well.

If you have tried something like this before or know what I might have wrong, would you be kind enough to tell me! I get a little nervous at the thought of doing this again, but I know there has to be redemption out there for me to find for these pretzels. It will happen :)

Coming up next…Almond Date Breakfast Bars and hopefully restaurant or dish reviews. As I type, I am on the way to Delaware to visit my best friend! I hope to do some fun food reviews of my travels around Delaware and Pennsylvania. I had some majorly good eats last time I was here and can’t wait to see what other goodies I get to try!

Weight Watchers Update: Ladies and gentleman I am 1 lb away from having lost 10% of my original body weight. I have been circling the 10% mark for the past 3 weeks and while I was hoping to hit it sometime in August, I’ve decided that with this trip, my upcoming birthday and school starting that I need to let my routine settle a bit before I beat myself too much. I’m still doing all I can to eat right and plan to keep it up but this plateau might just need a jump start with routine change to get me back in the loss. What a way to spend the summer :) I’m happy with the progress I’ve made. I’ll made these before I started weight watchers so I don’t know the points, but if I remember I’ll come back and post it.

Blessings, friends!

 

 

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Homemade Roasted Chipotle Salsa



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Alright dear readers. I am not a great cook. I’m not even a cook for goodness sake. I’m just a recipe follower that enjoys writing about my experiences in the kitchen. Novice status, confirmed.

However, once in a blue moon, I have a creative moment of genius. This salsa is my latest genius moment that I can’t help but get excited about!

Alright, let’s be honest. I got a little help from a fellow blogger since I am inexperienced in the roasting veggies for salsa department and she honestly lended me  tips to make this idea amazing….but…I kind of want to take the credit for thinking up the idea of doing a roasted salsa instead of buying one…and…for buying the ingredients that are going into the salsa! That was all me guys! I didn’t follow a recipe or anything until I got home and picked up a few extra ingredient ideas…..ugh. Who am I kidding. This is a semi-original idea at best. Who cares…it’s one of the best salsas I’ve ever had!

Where did the inspiration to make salsa come from you ask? Well it came about on a whim when buying ingredients for fajitas. Instead of buying salsa I thought it might be good to try and make my own so I know what’s going in it.

I think I’ve come to care a little bit more about what ingredients go into food since joining Weight Watchers. Since my world has become about counting everything I eat, I love easy, no count recipes that are full of fruits and veggies (0 point foods for the most part) because they make my life so much easier.

Alright back to the salsa! When you think about your favorite salsa(s) it’s likely that you have a consistency in mind when trying to put one together yourself. One of my favorite in the jar salsas is Pace Picante. I think it is just the right mix of chunky and spicy and the flavor works. If we’re talking restaurants, I love El Torito Grill’s chipotle salsa or Chili’s salsa you get with your chips (so so so my favorite thing they make!) For me, I’m not much of a fan of salsa that is pico de gallo consistency. I  tend to love the ones that resemble more of a marinara sauce and have a smokey or chipotle flavor to them.

For the record, I know very little about buying peppers/chilis or roasting them other then a few things I’ve seen on the Food Network, and let’s face it….I don’t remember the details of much to save my life, let alone a show I watched forever ago. So, the humorous part of this whole thing is that I did really good when picking peppers for this salsa. I ended up buying some jalapenos and Anaheim chilis along with chipotle peppers in a can to add to the flavor I was wanting.

The ingredients that I picked up from the store or assembled before starting this adventure include:

minced garlic, 2 jalapeno peppers, 1 Anaheim chili, 4 roma tomatoes, 1 can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, 1 onion, and 1 lime.

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Other ingredients that I included were cumin, fajita seasoning, salt, oregano and white wine vinegar. I have to give credit to Monica from “The Yummy Life” blog since it’s her site I landed on when trying to figure out how to roast my peppers for the salsa. She has a pretty delicious looking Roasted Salsa Recipe you should check out too!

I knew I wanted the flavor that comes with roasting the peppers so Monica’s site did a marvelous job of telling me how simple it was. What I wasn’t planning to do was roast the tomatoes and onion but I happily took that suggestion and added them to my roasting pan.

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To begin I cut the onion into chunks, halved and scooped the seeds out of tomatoes and then loaded up my jalapeno peppers and Anaheim chili. Monica suggests 450 for 30 min so I went with her recommendation and that worked well.

NOTE: I would probably spray your pan down lightly. I failed to do this and the onions were sticking to the foil. Luckily, I checked on them about half way into the 30 min and moved them around a bit to keep them from sticking too much.

When the time is up Monica suggests removing the veggies from the oven and putting something over the pan to help them steam up a bit. I found a pan that was about the same size and put it over top as she recommends but you could probably do foil too if you didn’t have two similar sized pans.

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Once the veggies sit for a bit out of the oven, the skins will be much easier to remove and make the rest of the process go a lot quicker. I peeled the tomatoes and then cut the peppers in half, removed the stems and then scrapped out the seeds. The one thing I do know about peppers is that their seeds are what hold some of the heat so if you are not like me and enjoy the burn of a hellish salsa, then leave those babies in there. If I had any seeds in there it was only by accident! She suggests using gloves when working with the peppers. Good idea if you are using some really hot guys, but I made sure to keep my hands on task and then straight into the sink when done to avoid transferring the heat of the chilis to the counters or other fun things like my eyes!

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Once you’re done with the peeling and extra cutting, then throw your stuff in the food processor along with a teaspoon or two of garlic, lime juice, and a chipotle pepper. I only wanted to put one of the chipotle peppers in after I licked my finger to try the adobo sauce. Spicy indeed! I about choked on the heat of it! Did you guess that spicy isn’t my thing?? Because of that I choose to drain the chipotle of some of its juices to reduce the extra liquid going into the salsa. I actually don’t know if it mattered too much other then it probably took some of the heat out of it.

At this point I added in my spices. I knew I was going to do cumin and salt and while scrounging through the spice cabinet I found some fajita seasoning I decided to include as well. However, Monica gave me the tip about the oregano and vinegar. She suggests apple cider vinegar….I wasn’t paying close attention (shocker) when reading her blog so I grabbed the white wine vinegar which was just fine. She suggests that the vinegar gives it a tang and to not put in a bunch or you can even leave it out completely if you’re not interested in adding that element to the salsa. I needed a little liquid so I probably put a teaspoon or two in to help with that. Water would obviously have done the same thing, but vinegar made sense in the moment. I didn’t have exact measurements for any of these ingredients so if you’re looking for something exact, go back up to the link and see her recipe. I was embracing the spontaneous that night :) If you’re feeling a bit dangerous and spontaneous yourself, then have at it. You can’t really mess up salsa unless you drop your salt shaker in there…and even then, if you go back and roast a bunch of veggies to make the batch bigger, eventually it won’t be that salty any more!

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This picture shows where I was at after a pulsing it for a few whirls around the food processor. At this point I began tasting it for flavor and adding some salt and lime juice along with some of the other spices in as needed. I couldn’t tell you how much salt I added to it, so if you’re making this I would plan to start with 1 tsp and go from there adding as you see fit. I had a taste tester say it was too salty but I thought it was okay so know yours and your audiences palate to salt accordingly. Season it until you have it where you want it and then scoop and enjoy!

For using the four roma tomatoes, this only made up about 3/4 to 1 cup of salsa so any big batches you wanted to make would need to include a bunch more ingredients. That amount was enough for David and I to enjoy with chips and add to our fajitas, while also having about a 1/2 cup left over.

I love this salsa so much that when I’m done writing it I will be heading back to the store  to get more ingredients for a second batch. I still have chips that need a friend so I’m going to go and fix that quickly!

CANNING:

I see on Monica’s blog that she cans her salsa (with detailed instructions on how to do that…thank you!). I love and fear that idea since I’ve only ever canned stuff a few times before.I I do, however, really want to give it a try again and I have a good reason why! I”m possibly going to go on a missions trip with my church to Israel this next year and in the process of thinking through fundraising efforts I thought canning and selling some stuff would be a fun way to raise support and thank people for it at the same time. I pinned a few recipes I thought would be fun to make that are not too complicated but would produce some yummy results. I don’t know if I had a salsa on there, but I certainly will now!

I recently bought the Ball FreshTECH Automatic Jam & Jelly Maker with this fundraising idea in mind and I can’t wait to use it! Of course I will blog about those recipes but dream with me for a minute please…bacon jam, carrot cake jam, onion jam, and raspberry jalapeno jam….wow right?? I can’t wait to get started!! Even if I don’t get selected to go on the trip, you better believe I’m using my new little machine to on those guys!

Alright, this was suppose to be a quick post but I’m getting a bit long winded here. Make this salsa! You won’t regret it :)

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WEIGHT WATCHERS NOTES AND UPDATE!

WW friends this is zero points so eat hardy! I would love to add some fruit into this guy (mango, peaches, etc) which would also be a low point addition.

As for me and my journey, I am happy to report I am at a 16.4 pound loss as of 7/17. I’m happy things are still moving along and I’m still able to enjoy foods like this!

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Resolution Recipe 5: Whole-Wheat Raspberry Ricotta Scones



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Back to the blogging! Feels like it’s been awhile, but oddly enough I’ve been in the kitchen more then usual so I have a few posts coming your way. Let’s start with this one!

I made these scones back on February 1st. I think I made more mistakes with these then I would have liked, but let’s learn a few things from my failures, shall we? You can find the recipe on Deb’s Website along with her notes on how she came about the idea.

 

RECIPE: Whole Wheat Raspberry Ricotta Scones 

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Ingredient Notes

Baking Powder:

Deb has a note about Baking Powder in her book. When shopping for baking powder make sure to find one that is Aluminum Free. You can see in the picture above the Argo brand I chose. Deb’s note on the aluminum free suggests that, “Some bakers feel that aluminum contributes to a ‘metallic’ or ‘tinny’ taste in baked goods that use large volumes of baking powder, such as biscuits, scones, and muffins. She has also found that baking powders with aluminum in them are more likely to discolor or give a blue-green tint to baked goods with fruit in them, such as these scones (pg xiii).” I assuming the acid in the fruit is what’s going to cause that discoloration but you would have to ask someone who actually knows a thing or two about. How about a French pastry chef? Yeah, that works…check out David Lebovitz’s post on Baking Powder and read up on the benefits.

For those of you who might have a hard time finding it, Deb also offers a recipe for aluminum free baking soda in her “Notes and Tips” section of the book….mix 1/4 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp cream of tarter, and 1/4 tsp corn starch to make 1 tsp of baking powder (can find that on xiii in her introduction).

I didn’t have a difficult time finding it but if you want to make it go for it. I never have Cream of Tarter in my ingredients so I couldn’t make it if I wanted to!

 

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Raspberries:

Caution with the Raspberries! I don’t know how she was so careful with her raspberries because my dough was pretty pink while hers seems to have flecks of pink. I believe I used the Kitchen Aid to mix them in but it would have been better to to fold them in with a spatula or spoon. You do want the berries to break up a bit but try not to over stir where the berries are breaking and coloring your dough.

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Flour:

I definitely over floured the dough. Definitely. I put them on the pan with more then a little too much flour and mostly because the dough is very moist. Moisture in dough is fantastic, especially scone dough, because it can be on the dry side which makes scones dense. This recipe boast the opposite as you’ll read in Deb’s post on her site and it’s surely the ricotta cheese that helps with that. She mentions being generous with the flour, but don’t do what I did and over use it for fear of the dough being to wet.

Because I put so much flour on the scones as I was rolling them and cutting them, they ended up very floury when they went in the oven. The end result is a burnt flour funkiness on the bottoms of the scones (sorry, I forgot to take a picture) and the tops need to be brushed off a bit. Instead you might try to find the balance of allowing the scone to be both moist and yet controlled a bit with the flour. If I get it right and find a magic trick to this, then I’ll make sure to update! Next time, I would really try to brush the flour off the bottom before putting them in the oven. I imagine that would make an improvement. Squares

 

Review of Recipe:

These are good, but I don’t think I did them very well. I really want a redo on them. I am not the biggest scone eater either so I was hoping for my mind to be changed. I would be very interested to hear a bit from those who do like scones and have tried this recipe. What do you think??? For my WW friends, you can enjoy these scones for 6 Points a piece at the normal yield of 9, two-inch square scones. If you make the scones a bit smaller you can cut those points in half for 3 a piece. Not bad for a pastry.

I am also learning that I’m not a fan of baking with whole-wheat flour. I use King Arthur brand since that seems to be the only one I find when I shop for it. Not sure if it’s the brand, the recipe, or the cook :) but I am not a big fan. I would be up for trying this with a 2nd cup of AP flour and pulling out the whole wheat flour to see if I like it better. I know that baking is a science so I would hate to alter it too much but it’s worth a try.

Hope you give these a try and please post a review if you have one yourself!

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COMING UP NEXT:

Home made Salsa, Chocolate Chip Brioche Pretzels, and Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies…sounds good doesn’t it?!

 

 

Blog Facelift


Soooo, what do you think?1 I’ve been wanting to do something new on the blog for awhile now but wasn’t sure what I liked. Working on having a logo created and hoping to debut that in the next month. Tell me what you think!. Should I keep it here, go back to blues, or keep away from the patterns and be more foodie with solids? I’ll take any and all feedback happily!

 

 

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Resolution Recipe 4: Gingerbread Spice Dutch Baby


Final DBIf you’re looking for a simple and fun breakfast idea that is outside of the norm, then try this little guy. Such a quick and easy thing to throw together and the sky is the limit for what you can add Deb has one on her website that is great for this season since cherries are plentiful …check it out (Cherry Almond Dutch Baby). Serving size is 1 to 2 people. If you’re a WW person then probably you should share since it’s a bit higher in points. Ingredients

Ingredients for this recipe include: 

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon unsulfured molasses
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Confectioner’s sugar, maple syrup, or heavy cream, to serve.

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Run the eggs in a blender until they are pale in color. Blender with Eggs
  • Add remaining ingredients except butter and confectioners’ sugar and process until smooth.

Blender with all ingredients

  • Melt the butter over high heat in a 9 inch ovenproof skillet and swirl it up the sides, making sure the pan is nicely coated. Butter in Pan
  • Pour the batter into the prepared skillet, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Cake in PanPan in Oven 2
  • Slide pancake onto a plate. Serve with powdered sugar maple syrup, maple syrup, and/or a drizzle of heavy cream. finished in ovenOn Plate from side 1

I don’t have any tips or tricks for this one other then just follow the directions and it will turn out great. This is a rarity that I get a recipe right the first time but I’ll take it. WEIGHT WATCHERS MODIFICATIONS: For those of you doing weight watchers with me I recommend splitting this guy with someone so it’s only 9 points for you since it’s 18 for the whole thing (not counting syrup or confectioners sugar). One modification I thought of is not using butter but spraying the pan down with a low point spray. The butter probably helps give it flavor but also keeps it from sticking so that would be a 6 point reduction making it 14 points so 7 for half (but make sure to count the spray you use).