Baked Asparagus Risotto

You always know when it’s spring in my family because that’s when there’s fresh, wild asparagus incorporated into nearly every dish. Asparagus was never something we would buy at the store when I was growing up since we always had so much of it growing around our property. Because of that, we only ate it seasonally, but we sure made the most out of asparagus season!

Sometimes we would just have it grilled or steamed with melted butter on top. Other times it would be pureed in asparagus soup or added to my mom’s famous veggie lasagna (hopefully a post on this coming soon). But one of my favorite spring dishes has always been asparagus risotto.

During my time volunteering at Healthy Community Kitchens, I learned how to make authentic risotto. It was only then that I realized that this recipe isn’t true risotto. That being said, risotto is one of those dishes that has to be very precise and takes some time to master. So while I work on developing that skill, enjoy this simpler baked version!

Makes 4, 1 cup servings

Ingredients

1 Tbs olive oil

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 cup uncooked Arborio rice

8 cup spinach leaves (about 4 oz)

2 cup vegetable broth*

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (optional)

1/2 cup fresh, grated Parmesan cheese, divided (2 oz)

1 1/2 cup diagonally sliced asparagus (about 1 inch pieces) **

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F

Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook 4 minutes or until tender. Add rice and stir well. Stir in spinach, broth, salt, and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer and cook for 7 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup cheese.

Cover and bake for 15 minutes. Stir in asparagus and sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheese. Cover and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until liquid is almost absorbed.

Notes

*Substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth to make it vegetarian.

**Also try substituting half of the asparagus with peas (as pictured).

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Banana Chocolate Chip Cake

Good morning! Today I’d like to share a simple banana snack cake recipe. It tastes like banana bread, but has a light, fluffy cake texture. I chose to use whole wheat pastry flour instead of all purpose and to reduce the sugar by 1/2 cup to make it a little healthier.

You may also notice the aquafaba in the ingredients list. I go into this in a little more detail in my post on egg substitutes, but it’s basically just the water from the can of garbanzo beans.

The original cake recipe (from Brown Eyed Baker) also suggests topping it with cream cheese frosting. But you know what? I don’t think it needs it. Wait…what?? Me?! Saying it doesn’t need frosting?! I know that probably comes a shock, because if you’ve been following me for any amount of time, you’ve probably gathered that I love all things frosting, glaze, and ganache. But I honestly think the cake is sweet enough and moist enough on it’s own and the cream cheese was just a bit too tangy for me. (Maybe I just didn’t have enough sugar in the frosting 😉) That being said, if you want to make it more of a dessert cake than a snack cake, by all means go ahead and add some frosting! Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¾ tsp sea salt
  • ½ cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbs. aquafaba*
  • 1 cup mashed, ripe bananas (2 to 3 medium bananas)
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup skim milk
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions

Grease a square 8 inch baking pan and preheat the oven to 350° F.

Before measuring any other ingredients, mash the banana to ensure you have the right amount. There’s nothing worse than getting halfway through a recipe and finding out you don’t have enough of something!

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.

Use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add the aquafaba, bananas, and vanilla.

Now, stirring by hand, alternate between adding the milk and dry ingredient mixture until a batter comes together. Gently fold in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (with the exception of some melted chocolate). Rotate the pan in the oven halfway through baking.

The cake can be stored at room temperature for up to two days or in the refrigerator for up to 5.

*This amount of aquafaba is equivalent to 2 whole eggs.

Vegan Cranberry Orange Muffins

Good morning! Since everything is still closed due to the extreme cold, I figured it would be a perfect time to bake a batch of muffins. Although I’m only egg free, I decided to make this recipe totally vegan for those of you who are. The egg is replaced by flax seed and butter with coconut oil. To make the muffins a little healthier, I used whole wheat flour instead of white and reduced the sugar to only 1/4 cup since the orange juice and cranberries have enough sweetness of their own. The recipe is also super simple and will be ready to go in the oven in only a few minutes.

Ingredients

1 Tbs ground flax seed

3 Tbs hot water

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup melted coconut oil

3/4 cup orange juice

Zest of one orange

1 cup dried cranberries

Directions

In a small bowl, mix the flax seed and water to form an egg substitute and set aside. Preheat the oven to 400°F and grease a muffin tin or line it with muffin cups.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk the “egg”, juice, oil, and zest. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until everything is moistened, being careful not to over mix. Gently fold in the dried cranberries.

Fill each muffin cup 3/4 full with batter and bake for about 15 minutes or until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in a muffin comes out clean. Enjoy!

Artisan Bread

Today I want to share a super simple bread recipe from It’s Always Autumn. There are only four ingredients and no kneading is required. All you need is flour, yeast, salt, and water! It’s crisp and chewy on the outside, but soft and delightful on the inside. Enjoy a slice or two alongside your favorite winter soup or by itself with butter and raw honey.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water

Directions

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and stir until the dough comes together into a cohesive ball. It will still be sticky, but that’s okay.

Cover the bowl and set aside for 8-24 hours at room temperature. When you’re ready to bake it, turn the dough onto a well floured surface, form it into a ball, and let rest for 30 minutes.

While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 450° and place a baking dish with sides in the oven.

Remove the dish and grease with olive oil before placing the dough inside. Cover and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the cover and continue baking for 10-15 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Enjoy!

Lemon Cheesecake

Around Easter last year, I shared a recipe for Egg-Free Lemon Cheesecake. Since then, I have improved the recipe and would like to give an updated version. This is a great recipe to have on hand for spring and summer or right now in the middle of January when we sometimes wish it was already spring.

This cake features a soft graham cracker crust, sweet lemon filling, and is topped off with a tangy, curd. It’s a rather involved recipe, so I would recommend reading through it before starting so you know what you’re getting into. Enjoy!

Makes one 8 inch cheesecake or four 4 inch cheesecakes

Ingredients

Crust

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1 tsp sugar

1/4 cup melted butter

Filling

1 cup white chocolate chips*

2 Tbs. melted butter

2 8-oz. packages of 1/3 fat cream cheese

1/2 cup sugar

2 Tbs. raw honey

2 tsp. lemon extract

1/4 tsp. sea salt

Zest of one lemon

Lemon Curd

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup + 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup + 1 Tbs. sugar

1/3 cup melted butter

1/4 cup water

1/8 tsp. sea salt

2 Tbs. corn starch

Directions

Grease the bottom and sides of an 8 inch spring-form pan with canola spray or melted butter.

Grind graham crackers in a food processor and until they are just small crumbs and you have 1 1/2 cups worth. In a small bowl, mix the cracker crumbs with sugar and add melted butter. Then press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Set aside.

Add approximately an inch of water to the bottom of a double boiler and melt 1 cup of white chocolate chips* on medium heat. Stir every few minutes and be sure not to get any water in the chocolate. When the chips are melted, remove from heat and stir in 2 Tbs. of melted butter. Allow the mixture to cool for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a large, deep bowl, combine the somewhat-cooled chocolate mixture, cream cheese, sugar, honey, lemon extract, sea salt, and lemon zest. Use an electric mixer to blend all the ingredients until smooth and creamy. Be sure to scrape down the sides every so often to ensure that everything is well combined. Do not over-mix.

Put the filling in the spring form pan and using a small offset spatula, smooth out the filling until it is even across the pan.

Bake for 30 minutes, making sure to not open the oven! Any rapid change in temperature or humidity can lead to cracking and caving.

Turn the oven off and let the cheesecake rest in the oven for another 30 minutes, still not opening the door. When the time is up, remove the cake let it cool for approximately 30 more minutes before letting it chill and set up in the refrigerator. Wait at least three hours before serving.

While the cheesecake cools, it is time to make the lemon curd! In a small saucepan, heat the cream, lemon juice, sugar, butter, water, and sea salt on medium heat. Whisk frequently. After about 2-3 minutes, add the cornstarch and whisk continuously until it thickens. You will know the curd is thick enough when it has a custard-like consistency and the whisk leaves a mark in it. Allow to cool slightly before spreading over the cheesecake with a small offset spatula. Do not wait for it to set up completely, as it would be hard to spread. Any leftover curd can be stored in the refrigerator for two weeks. Serve with whipped cream and enjoy!

Tips

*Be sure to read the ingredients on the white chocolate chips and avoid artificial flavors. I use Trader Joe’s brand because they contain actual cocoa butter.

Make sure you put together the spring form pan correctly. Otherwise, oil from the crust will leak into the oven causing a huge mess. I’ve learned this the hard way. Three times to be exact.

Line a baking sheet with foil and put the spring form pan on it while baking. This will prevent any major mess in the event that some leakage does occur.

Again, whatever you do, do not open the oven until it is time to take it out. I know it’s tempting, but this is crucial to cheesecake success! This is also where it becomes imperative that the pan is put together correctly and a baking sheet is below the pan. If you have to open the oven to clean up burned butter as the house fills with haze, the cheesecake will surely cave in the middle. (Yes, I also learned this the hard way.)

If the cake does cave in, the curd will fill the space. To make the edges more appealing, you can make a little buttercream frosting and pipe a boarder around the cake. No one will know that it’s caved in and you get frosting too!

Don’t cover the cheesecake in the fridge until it is totally cool to prevent condensation from collecting on top. If this does happen, dab it off with a paper towel.

The lemon curd is naturally an cream color, so if you want it to be yellow, simply add a drop or two of yellow food coloring.

3 Ingredient Roasted Butternut Squash

Fall is finally here which means back to school as well as lots of opportunities for fall baking. I’ve been settling into apartment life for the past month and now that classes have started again, it’s hard to find time to actually cook wholesome meals. Thankfully I had yesterday morning free to do a little meal prep, including roasting some squash from my grandpa’s garden. It makes a perfect side with pretty much anything. This recipe is extremely simple and easy too (only three ingredients), so it’s perfect for this busy time of year. Enjoy!

butternut (1)

Ingredients:

1 Butternut squash

2 Tbs. butter

2 Tbs. brown sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Cut squash into halves vertically and scoop out seeds to discard. Place the squash skin side down in a glass baking dish.
  3. Make three slices in each half of the squash, being sure not to cut all the way through. (See above photos.) This will allow the butter and brown sugar to flavor more of the squash.
  4. Spread the butter evenly on both halves and sprinkle with brown sugar.
  5. Bake skin side up for approximately 30 minutes or until the squash is soft a fork can be inserted easily.
  6. Squash can be eaten as is or scooped out of the skins and mashed. Enjoy!