Saturday, November 26, 2016

Beet Cheesecakes

Featured Ingredient: Beets

There is a great ice cream parlor in Austin, Texas called Lick. When we were there last winter on a cycling vacation I fell hard for their roasted beet ice cream. Sweet, earthy, minty all at once. Who knew that beets could be so awesome in a dessert? I’ve made red velvet brownies before, but this took things to a whole new level. And it’s that rosy ice cream where I gleaned inspiration for these beet infused cheesecakes.

If you think about it, beets have some of the highest natural sugar levels of any vegetable, so it should be of no surprise that you can manipulate that gift from Mother Nature to create a praise-worthy cheesecake. One that is as fetching to look at as it is to eat. And by dividing things up among muffin cups you end up with 12 individual desserts. A gift that keeps on giving. Oh, they're also no-bake and star a much healthier base than what most cheesecake recipes call for. I swapped out the customary cream cheese for goat cheese as it’s a natural fit for beets. But you can make these with cream cheese instead and end up with something that is just as tasty.

Beet Cheesecakes

2 medium sized beets, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup unsalted shelled pistachios
3/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 Tbsp. unflavored gelatin
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup plain Greek or Balkan style yogurt
4 ounces soft goat cheese
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 tablespoons cacao nibs (optional)

Place beets in a steamer basket set over at least 1-inch water. Bring to a boil and steam covered until beets are fork tender, about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Place oats and pistachios in a food processor container and process until pulverized. Add raisins, coconut oil, 2 tablespoons honey, cocoa powder and cinnamon; process until the mixture sticks together when squeezed between your fingers.

Divide oat mixture among 12 silicon or paper lined metal standard sized muffin cups and press down firmly to form an even flat crust. Place pan in refrigerator while you prepare the topping.

Stir together gelatin and 2 Tbsp cold water in a small bowl; let sit 5 minutes. Bring milk, sugar, and 1/4 cup honey to a light simmer over medium heat in a medium sized saucepan. Add gelatin and stir until it has dissolved in the liquid.

Puree together beets, yogurt, goat cheese, orange zest and a pinch of salt in the food processor. Add hot milk mixture and blend until combined. Pour beet mixture over crusts and sprinkle on cacao nibs if using. Refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Pumpkin Chocolate Muffins

Featured Ingredient: Pumpkin

Every year a farm not far from our home plays host to a massive pumpkin patch. Sure, they have plenty of pumpkins used for Jack-o-lantern purposes, but they also have a huge selection of pie pumpkins as well as plenty of delicious sounding heritage squash such as Banana, Long Island Cheese, Kamo Kamo and Golden Delicious. And every year, I come home with a wheelbarrow full. I just can’t help myself. So this means we are eating plenty of pumpkin and other squash infused recipes and, it turn, risking the chance of suffering from a vitamin A overdose. Tabi has caught on that I'm sneaking pumpkin mash into our morning oatmeal. 

These only slightly guilty pumpkin muffins are what I consider fall comfort food. Just the right amount of seasonal sweetness and plenty of chocolate goodness in each bite. They are even better when smeared with the pumpkin butter recipe that I've provided bellow.

Pumpkin Chocolate Muffins

1 3/4 cups spelt flour or whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup pumpkin puree or other winter squash puree
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup sugar of choice
1/4 cup melted coconut oil or a neutral oil like canola
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, stir together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and then stir in pumpkin, milk, maple syrup, sugar and oil. Add wet ingredients to dry and gently mix together. Fold in chocolate chips.

Divide batter among 12 standard sized greased or paper lined muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out nearly clean. Let cool for a few minutes before unmolding and cool further on a metal rack. Muffins are best served warm.

Pumpkin Butter

1 1/2 cups pumpkin or other winter squash puree
1/3 cup brown sugar or coconut sugar
1/3 cup apple cider
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Place pumpkin, sugar, cider, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until the mixture is thickened, about 30 minutes. Stir the pumpkin butter frequently during cooking and keep the lid slightly ajar to help steam escape yet avoid splatter—a wooden spoon handle can help with this. Stir in vanilla, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. Let pumpkin butter cool to room temperature. Transfer to a container and keep chilled for up to 2 weeks.