the almond milk rescue

I was still on a high from last weeks pretzel success and feeling rather invincible when I decided that this week I would make another attempt at baking “the perfect crusty loaf”. Going back to work has seriously affected the amount of time I have to cook, so when I found a recipe that actually read “1. Mix together all the ingredients in the morning before you go to work. 2. Leave it in the warmest spot in your kitchen and allow to rise for 6-8 hours. 3. When you come home from work…” Are you kidding?!? I had joked that 2014 might be the year I finally achieved baking success, but I didn’t actually believe it. So before I left for work one morning I followed the recipe directions (seriously, I did!); mixed together the ingredients, left the covered bowl in a warm spot, said a quick prayer to the baking gods and hustled myself and the kids out the door. Flash forward eight hours to the biggest epic fail of my baking career. BIGGEST. EPIC. FAIL. After an eight-hour rise the dough was still fairly flat, I gave it a quick knead and attempted a second proofing only to be left with a big sticky mess to clean up and to top the disastrous attempt off nicely—the loaf stuck like glue to the bottom of my brand new dutch oven. Sigh… Calgon take me away.

It seemed a little early for a glass of wine and while I love coffee; freshly ground, freshly brewed, strong coffee, if you know me then you know that the only time of day I actually drink it (or anything caffeinated for that matter) is in the morning. If I need something warm and soothing later in the day then its usually a cup of decaf chai tea with a splash of milk—I love the creamy, spicy warmth that comes with chai. I’ve recently started making green smoothies again which means that I have always have almond milk in the house. I started tinkering around with other ways to use almond milk and discovered that when you heat it up and add lots of spices to it you wind up with the perfect warm, smoothing chai-type drink. Sure it won’t make you the queen of all bakers, but it will warm you from the inside out and offer you a few moments to regroup before the next “perfect crusty loaf” recipe comes along.

Warm Spiced Almond Milk
This recipe also works with regular milk, however I actually prefer it with the almond milk.

almond milk5

2 cups almond-coconut milk
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. Chinese Five Spice
1/2 tsp. real vanilla extract
2 tsp. honey

  1. Place all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat over a medium flame, stirring frequently, until the milk is hot but has not yet begun to simmer.
  2. Stain milk mixture through a fine mesh strainer and into a large mug and enjoy!

Criss-Cross Applesauce

I love Fall, it’s absolutely my favorite season. I love the beautiful blanket of falling leaves (it drives me crazy that here in Northern NJ everyone sweeps up their leaves the minute they hit the ground); I love the chill in the air; I love the contrast between the bright blue sky and Mother Nature’s muted colors; I even love the cool, earthy and slightly damp way the season smells. And there is no food that says Fall to me more perfectly than apples.

It seems like this time of year everyone you talk to has either just gone apple picking or has plans to. (Although truth be told, the Greco family prefers to apple pick mid-August in Vermont. Sorry N.J., but you really can’t compete.) Anyway, back to those apples. If you in fact do go apple picking then you’re probably like me and end up bringing home way more than you and your family can possibly eat out of hand. And seriously how many pies does any one person feel compelled to make? So to use up all those lovely fresh picked apples I make applesauce. In the past I would make it on the stove top and just let it cook until it was mushy and “done”. Then I discovered a Martha Stewart recipe for roasted applesauce. Hello delicious!

This is honestly some of the best applesauce I’ve ever tasted. It’s loaded with wonderful spices, takes less than an hour to make and freezes beautifully. My family likes to eat it in the morning with toast, at dinner alongside chicken or pork chops and warmed up with a bit of vanilla ice cream for dessert. I promise that after making this roasted version you’ll never bother with the stove top kind again.

Roasted Applesauce
Roasting the apples rather than cooking them on the stove really gives this applesauce a much more complex flavor.

1/4 cup water
4 tbsp. packed brown sugar
3 tsp. fresh lemon juice
a big pinch of salt
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
3 lbs. apples (about 10-12)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Peel, core and cut apples into medium size chunks. Place in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Combine water, sugar, lemon juice, melted butter and salt in a small bowl. Stir until blended and sugar has dissolved.
  3. Pour sugar mixture over the apples and toss to coat well. Place apples in a large baking dish, cover tightly with foil and roast 40 minutes.
  4. Let cool slightly then mash apples with a fork. Adjust spices (if needed) and serve warm over vanilla ice cream, at room temperature, or freeze for a later date.

*adapted from martha stewart

Baking with my Cookie

“Let’s make cookies!” my daughter says on the way home from nursery school one afternoon. “Oh baby, I don’t have the ingredients for cookies, next time I go to the store I’ll get some.” “Yes you do” she replies, “sugar, flour, milk and eggs…” Hmmm, my two-and-a-half year old budding chef might be right, we in fact could make sugar cookies with the ingredients she just rattled off. So, since she specifically requested a little kitchen time with mom (and I would hate to deny my sweet girl), it looked like we’d be baking after lunch.

Here’s something you may not know about me, I don’t like to do anything if it seems too easy. I guess I equate a certain degree of effort with a successful final product. I’m sure plain sugar cookies would of been fine and certainly would of satisfied my daughter’s desire to bake, but in my little head that would of been too simple. I had to make sugar cookies that were a bit fancier. Cookies with some added cinnamon and nutmeg in the dough and then a quick roll in more cinnamon and sugar before baking. Yeah, those are my kinda sugar cookies!

So how did our little mother-daughter baking session go? Well, as is often the case with a two-and-a-half year old her enthusiasm for the project didn’t last long. Once the ingredients were measured and the stand mixer switched on, she was more interested in pillaging the fruit bowl and helping herself to cheese sticks from the fridge. Oh well, there’s always next time.

But the final results, seriously delicious.

Cinnamon-Sugar Cookies
These cookies are fantastic as is or with a glass of cold milk. They’re even better along side of a scoop of vanilla ice cream.


12 tbsp. Smart Balance spread
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. creme of tarter
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. milk
1 egg
3 cups flour

For the cinnamon sugar topping:
3 tbsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl mix together the cinnamon and sugar for topping, set aside.
  2. To make the dough cream together the softened butter, sugar, brown sugar, honey, baking powder, baking soda, creme of tarter, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and salt. Add the egg and milk and blend into the butter mixture, then slowly stir in the flour.
  3. Scoop out rounded tablespoons of the dough (it will be very soft), shape them into balls, and roll each ball in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Place each ball on the prepared cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 12-16 minutes, until the cookie is golden brown and the tops have begun to crack.
  4. Allow to cool on a wire rack and then try to eat just one. Store remainder in an air tight container.

* I realize you may think I’m crazy to use anything other than butter to make these cookies. I agree it’s unorthodox but here’s the thing, I tested this cookie recipe three times and on the last try I ran out of butter and substituted Smart Balance. While the butter cookies were good, they got hard very quickly sitting in my cookie jar, but the Smart Balance cookies stayed soft and yummy for days. Like the saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention”…