who knew it was quinoa?

No one!

Would you believe me if I told you that at one point I had upwards of TWENTY different kinds of flours in my freezer?  (Thank goodness for extra freezer space in the basement.)

It all started with Good to the Grain, a cookbook that features multiple grains/flours, such as oat, amaranth, corn, buckwheat, etc…  The book came out in 2010, before these flours were available in most grocery stores, and I remember placing a rather large order with Bob’s Red Mill to get the lesser-known varieties (teff, kamut) shipped to my door.

Over the years, the amount of baking I’ve done has decreased for multiple reasons, including time constraints in my schedule, ascribing to a more ‘paleo’ style diet (no grains) and a desire to be healthier overall (decreasing added sugars). However, I really love to bake and do still indulge in both decadent treats and healthier baked goods from time to time.

I’m getting off topic.  Quinoa.  Back to quinoa.

ANYWAY, I’ve been experiencing an on-again, off-again push to–once and for all–use up all those alternative baking flours that are taking up space in my freezer and keep my collection limited to those flours used most often in paleo-style baking and that yield a good product.  The ‘baking-with-ancient-grains’ ride has been fun (and informative!), but I’ve gotta simplify.

Quinoa flour, which boasts it’s own chapter in Good to the Grain, has a strong flavor of…dirt.  I said it. In addition to the fiber and protein quinoa flour adds to your product, it also adds a certain ‘earthiness’ that’s hard to disguise. I’ve made quinoa-beet pancakes, quinoa-pumpkin pancakes and many other things and I can still taste the flour a bit more than I’d like, and I’m pretty accepting of less-than-perfect products.

So when I spied the recipe on the back of the bag for chocolate cupcakes, I realized I’d been going about this quinoa flour thing all wrong.  I needed an equally strong flavor to balance out the quinoa!  (Apparently, beets aren’t strong enough.)  CHOCOLATE.

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Bob’s Red Mill Sour Cream Fudge Cupcakes

Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
    Place the butter and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and whisk in the cocoa powder. Sift together the sugar, quinoa flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the cooled cocoa mixture, egg yolks, vanilla and sour cream and blend well. Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold into batter.
  2. Spoon into a muffin tin lined with paper cupcake liners. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.
    Makes 12 gorgeous cupcakes.

I actually ended up making these cupcakes twice in one weekend–once to bring to a friend’s house, topped with Ina’s Chocolate Frosting, and another batch to my sister-in-law’s house for the Super Bowl, topped with this peanut butter frosting from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

I was shocked at how well the cupcakes turned out!  Not a hint of quinoa flour at all!  (Not that it’s all bad, but you’ve gotta know your audience with some of these ‘healthy subs’ and believe me when I tell you I faced two tough crowds this weekend.

So, moral of the story: give quinoa a try!  Just make sure to throw in a little chocolate, too.

 

 

how I spent my Thursday

…NOT studying, I can tell you that.

I baked instead.

Well, first I blogged at 4:30 in the morning, because that’s when the dog got me up.

And then I swam, followed by a marathon-shopping trip to Wegmans for a few essentials (we were almost out of milk already!) and goodies for Andrew’s Easter basket.  I got myself a coffee and put my feet up at one of their cafe tables to chat on the phone before I even ventured into produce.  Can you tell I’m on a break from school?

Well, as the clock neared 11 (I arrived just after 9 a.m.) I realized I’d better go going or I’d never get anything done.  I raced home to whip up Steakhouse Side Macaroni and Cheese, a recipe that caught my eye in last month’s Cooking Light.

It’s just what the name says; it incorporates all the famous sides from a steakhouse (creamed spinach, sauteed mushrooms and an iceberg wedge with bacon and blue cheese) into one dish.  It was good, but not fantastic.  It was almost a little weird–if you’ve craving that traditional, orange-cheesey mac, this is NOT IT.  But it was yummy and fun to put together.  And (relatively) healthy.

And THEN I baked.  And baked.

My desire to “send Abigail and Grandma home with some goodies” after the Easter weekend has turned into making goodie bags for all my nearest and dearest here.

Susy just gave me the Clinton St. Baking Company cookbook, so I tried their ‘brookie’ recipe.  Easy and so good.  I mean, what’s better than a cookie and a brownie mixed together?  I’d also pulled out a recipe for some sort of mocha muffin awhile ago, making a mental note at the time to make them for Abigail when she was home from school, so I whipped up some mini-muffins to spread the wealth.

I even went all out and got Easter baggies and treat boxes.  If only I could spend ALL my time doing stuff like this…  I have a few more things to make this weekend before I’m finished: almond butter bars (recipe will be added here soon) for the goodie boxes, as well as some savory muffins and Pioneer Woman’s Tres Leches cake for Easter Sunday.  Some lucky ducks are going to get some sweet surprises this weekend!

And then I did the dishes.

After fitting in some co-op work, a dog walk and–eventually–some studying for my Micro test, I headed back into the kitchen to make dinner.  At 8 p.m.  Because that’s when Andrew came home.  Good grief.

I didn’t take a photo, but I made Pioneer Woman’s Sloppy Joe’s (I’m on a never-ending hunt for the best recipe from scratch) to see if they were better than our current favorite, Cooking Light’s version.  They weren’t, but they were still very good.  Very similar.  Amazingly, Andrew professed a love for CL’s recipe, which is just fine with me, since it’s probably healthier.

Andrew’s off tomorrow, so I’m planning a workout, then brunch, then more baking/studying before meeting a friend for a mid-afternoon “snack/lunch” at Danny’s, a local favorite.  Then, it’s pizza and wings and HOMEMADE APPLE PIE (it’s been in my freezer just waiting for the perfect occasion) at the Layer’s house with Abigail and Grandma 🙂