Archive for October, 2010

A Cookie Secret


Some recipes are too special to share. Right?

A few weeks ago, I requested and received my favorite molasses cookie recipe from a family friend, who might as well be my second mom.

The Lowell’s aren’t just friends; they’re family. My parents are best friends with them and have been since before any of us kids existed. We grew up with them in every sense: our houses are less than five minutes apart, birthdays are spent together, and our Christmas morning tradition is to go to their house in our pajamas, eat breakfast together, and swap gifts.

And while my mom’s chocolate chip cookies reigned supreme in our house, Jill made all my other favorite cookies. Especially her molasses, monster, and oatmeal butterscotch.




Nick had never tasted Jill’s Molasses cookies so I got to work last weekend and made my first ever batch with her recipe.


The great thing? Mine tasted just like hers. Biting into the first cookie brought me back into their home, where I fell in love Five Alive juice and slid down their staircase in sleeping bags and built forts with the dining room chairs while wearing Jill’s old Candie’s platforms.


But after tasting them, I knew I couldn’t just give out the recipe. This one is something special, and I think there are some recipes that should stay family recipes. It’s part of their charm and keeping them in the family gives me a reason to start my own index card recipe box to pass onto to my future kids someday.

So I’m working on my own version, with a fun little twist Winking smile That recipe will be coming soon.


What about you?

Are there family recipes you won’t share with other people? Dishes you want to make for others but never give them the ingredients to make on their own?

If so, what are they? Casseroles, cakes, breads? I love hearing food traditions from other people.

For instance, foods that will always make me think of my family:

  • fudge pie
  • Texas Sheet Cake and homemade icing
  • roast and noodles
  • ham gravy
  • chicken casserole
  • spaghetti sauce
  • no bake cookies

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We’ve been having some strange weather lately: highs in the 70s, strong winds, warm evenings.

But this morning looked like a creepy, foggy fall morning even though it was still in the 50s.


In fact, the weather has been so mild that I’ve been wanting overnight oats again. Cold breakfasts do not go well with cool mornings, but the past few days gave me a reason to have a few more bowls of overnight oatmeal before the weather truly turns.


This is definitely “fall in a glass”.


While working on a few recipes Monday, I cooked up a quick cranberry sauce:


Bring 1 cup fresh cranberries to a boil with 2 Tbsp maple syrup, 1-2 tsp fresh orange zest, and 1 diced orange. Cook/simmer until most of berries burst, take off heat, and let cool.


I used this cranberry sauce in another dish but knew I wanted to fit it in with something pumpkin, too.

Introducing, Overnight Pumpkin Cranberry Oats!

Oat base (mix up the night before and let sit in the fridge)

  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup vanilla almond milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • pinch salt
  • cinnamon
  • cloves
  • ginger
  • nutmeg
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup yogurt

In the morning, layer:

  • overnight oat mixture
  • cranberry orange sauce
  • wheatberries
  • chopped pecans
  • maple syrup


I added some wheatberries since I had some extras on hand that were cooked and needed to be used, but you definitely don’t need them!

I loved the crunch of pecans in this, though. It went great with the tart cranberries, the fall spices, and the little drizzle of maple syrup.

Do you use fresh cranberries? What’s your favorite way to have them?

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I have this friend. She’s a foodie friend.

Do you have those?

We’re eerily alike in some ways, and I love it.

Her and her husband were the ones that gave Nick and me some local steak as a thank you gift a few months ago. So, yeah. They get us, and we get them.

One thing you can always catch us chatting about is food – gardening, canning, cake, cookies, icing, whatever.


And lucky for me, she recently gifted me two new items:

A jar of her homemade Pear Cardamom Butter and a bag of Muscovado Sugar.

Have you ever used Muscovado Sugar? If not, you should put it on your wish list.

It’s intense. Imagine dark brown sugar times 10. It has a very high molasses content, making it a deep, rich sugar that perfumes your kitchen with warmth as soon as you open the bag.


And while I can’t take credit for this cake recipe, it’s amazing.


Muscovado Sugar Cake

I’m happy this isn’t a layer cake. Layer cakes are not easy for me yet – I still need some practice…and an actual cake stand instead of the upside down bowl and lid I use.


But this spice cake may be my new favorite fall dessert.

It’s spicy and sweet and fun to make. I’ve never seen a cake recipe that calls for you to cut the butter into the flour as if you were making biscuits. And I love the addition of fruit butter. I used pear, but it would be just as delicious with apple or pumpkin.


The cake recipe didn’t call for a frosting, but I didn’t have any heavy cream to whip up so I just mixed up a quick icing with cream cheese, a little bit of butter, milk, powdered sugar, and a pinch of cinnamon.

After trying it with the cream cheese icing, I’d definitely recommend it! I bet it would be good with just a dollop of sweetened whipped cream, but I loved the mix of spicy cake with tangy cream cheese and sweet dulce de leche drizzle.


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A few weeks ago, I got an offer to sample Sokenbicha Tea, Japan’s leading tea brand, before it made its U.S. debut at Whole Foods nationwide this October.

*I received these samples for free, but my opinions are my own.


Sokenbicha’s authentically brewed teas are unsweetened, contain zero calories and are made with tea blends and natural botanicals from around the globe. Sokenbicha is inspired by the teachings of Kampo, a traditional Japanese herbal approach to health and wellness dating back more than 1500 years.

The five varieties of Sokenbicha are:

  • Revive, a crisp oolong tea blend infused with pomegranate and raspberry notes, black tea and rose hips
  • Defend, a mild oolong tea blend with guava leaves and ginseng
  • Purify, an aromatic green tea blend with chamomile and aloe
  • Shape, a bold barley tea blend with peach flower notes, pu’er and green teas
  • Skin, a full-bodied barley tea blend with cinnamon and ginger

They recommend sampling the drinks in the above order, and I definitely agree! Sweet tea lovers will be drawn to Revive, traditional Chinese oolong tea fans will like Defend, green tea drinkers will enjoy Purify and adventure seekers will likely appreciate the bold Japanese-style barley teas Shape and Skin.

Nick and I had fun trying each flavor – they were so different from each other, and I love the variety and different blends.


Green tea is one of my favorites, especially iced, and I have to say that the Purify was my favorite. It was so fruity and sweet, I would have sworn it had added sugar or fruit juice, but it was just the blend of teas. Delicious!

Along with my tea samples, I also received a Sokenbicha reusable bag and journal.


And what makes these teas even better?

The beverages will be introduced in 15.2 fluid ounce bottles made from PlantBottleTM packaging – a PET plastic that features up to 30 percent plant based material. 100 percent recyclable, the bottles are made through a process that turns sugar cane and molasses into PET plastic. Sokenbicha™ has zero grams of sugar and zero calories and includes no added preservatives or artificial flavors. Cool, huh?

Want to win some Sokenbicha of your very own?

Three lucky winners will score their own Sokenbicha Tea samples along with eco-friendly shopping bag! Thumbs up

  • Leave me a comment telling me YOUR favorite type of tea – hot chai, iced black, green tea?

For additional entries:

  • Tweet: @BranAppetit is giving away @SokenbichaTea! and leave another comment letting me know you did
  • Link to this giveaway and leave another comment for me


I’ll be picking a winner Monday at lunch! Good luck Smile


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A few weeks ago, I entered and was chosen to participate in Joanne’s Marx Foods Recipe Impossible Challenge, with the main ingredient being winter squash.


Not one to turn down a food challenge, I was excited to see what showed up on my doorstep a week later.

As part of the challenge, we had three rules:

  • The recipe must use winter squash
  • The recipe must use at least 2 of the secret ingredients
  • The recipe must be posted by October 27th

This recipe challenge was put on by Marx Foods, so each participant was sent a box of “secret ingredients” to use in our final recipes.

The box had such a great mix of ingredients, and (except for the maple sugar), they were all items I had never used before!

  • fennel pollen
  • espresso salt
  • ginger salt
  • maple sugar
  • coconut sugar
  • vanilla beans
  • pasilla negro chiles
  • aji panca chiles

Honestly, this mix of ingredients had me torn.

Do I make a sweet or savory dish? Sweet or savory?

I brainstormed for a few days and decided to just do one of each! I had two great ideas that I really wanted to try with the ingredients I received.

Thankfully, I fought the squash and I won.

Winter Squash Challenge Recipe 1: Savory


My first dish is one you’ve already seen in pictures.


Chunky Mocha Mole Chili

  • 1 acorn squash, halved and sliced
  • 2 pasilla negro chiles, rehydrated
  • 2 aji panca chiles, rehydrated
  • 1 lb. ground buffalo
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cans kidney beans, drained rinsed
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp espresso salt
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Halve acorn squash and remove seeds. Slice into 1” slices. Lay on baking sheet and roast at 400 for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through until soft and browned.
  3. Cut tops off all chiles and remove seeds.
  4. Place chiles in bowl of warm water and let sit about 5 minutes.
  5. Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat.
  6. Add onion, garlic, and carrot and cook 2-3 minutes until softened.
  7. Stir in black beans, 1 can of kidney beans, and crushed tomatoes.
  8. Once mixture is combined, put mixture in blender/food processor and let sit.
  9. In same pot, add in ground buffalo. Brown meat.
  10. Once meat is cooked, add tomato paste, cocoa powder, espresso salt, and cumin.
  11. Stir and cook 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
  12. Drain chiles and add them to the blender/food processor with the bean mixture. Blend together.
  13. Pour bean and chile mixture into meat.
  14. Add remaining can of beans.
  15. Once squash is roasted, cut peel away and slice into bite size chunks. Stir squash into chili.
  16. Serve in halved acorn squash, if possible, and top with avocado.


Honestly. I’ve always though that I made pretty good chili.


But this recipe was incredible. I don’t think I can make chili without dried chiles now! There was such a deep and rich flavor in this dish – maybe it was the combination of chiles, espresso salt, and cocoa – but whatever it was, I want it in every chili I have from now on.

I was so surprised that this chili had such a great flavor because I didn’t let it cook for hours or simmer in the crockpot all day long. And that makes me happy. Because now I know – with dried chiles, coffee, and cocoa powder, I can make an amazing chili in 30 minutes, if needed.

And while you don’t have to serve this in a squash bowl, it’s a fun way to eat it.

Winter Squash Challenge Recipe 2: Sweet

For my second recipe…I had a very hard time deciding what to make.

I honestly had a list of about five recipes I wanted to try with these ingredients, but I finally put together a recipe I thought would work and that was something I thought Nick and I would both enjoy.

See…I like winter squash more than Nick. So I wanted to make sure I chose recipes that we would both want to eat.

Challenge accepted, challenge completed.


My sweet creation included 4 of the “secret ingredients”.

  • Vanilla bean
  • Ginger salt
  • Maple sugar
  • Coconut sugar


Going sweet in this recipe meant one thing: Butternut.

Bright orange.

Smooth and creamy.

A sign of fall.

Enough sweetness to carry a sweet dish or contrast spicy heat.


Can you believe this was my first time to ever use fresh vanilla?

I’m not sure I can ever go back to vanilla extract.

This stuff is like black gold. My house smelled amazing for hours.



Butternut Streusel Casserole


  • 1 2-2 1/2 lb. butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp agave
  • 2 tsp ginger salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean
  • 2 tsp fresh orange zest
  • 1/4 cup milk


  • 1/2 cup quick oats
  • 1 Tbsp whole wheat flour
  • 2 Tbsp maple sugar
  • 2 Tbsp coconut sugar
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 Tbsp chopped pecans
  • 1 Tbsp coconut
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Steam squash on stovetop or in microwave. Let sit and cool 5 minutes.
  3. Mix all topping ingredients in bowl and set aside.
  4. Once squash has cooled 5 minutes, mash with potato masher or forks until smooth.
  5. Beat in eggs, agave, ginger salt, vanilla, orange zest, and milk.
  6. Pour squash mixture into 4 6 oz. ramekins or 1 8×8 or oval baking dish.
  7. Top with streusel mixture.
  8. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes or until topping is golden and squash filling is set.
  9. Let cool 5 minutes and serve.


Fresh vanilla is the key in this! Although, the maple + coconut sugars made an amazing crust…you just can’t ignore the beautiful little black specks in the butternut base.


We had this with our dinner last night.

Sort of side dish, but sort of dessert. It was the perfect item to have along with our Hearst Ranch flank steak and salad.


Thanks to Joanne for offering this winter squash challenge and to Marx Foods for hosting it and sending the secret ingredients.

I felt like I was on Iron Chef opening up the box of samples, wondering what I had to work with.

I had a great time working with all the ingredients and learned so much about new flavors and textures.

And now that this one is over…I’m ready for a new challenge Smile


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My New Favorite Bowl

I’ve got a new favorite dish in the house!


Roasted acorn squash is the perfect vessel for chili.


Which, thanks to a recipe challenge I’m participating in, is my best chili to date.

The recipe will be posted this week, so keep an eye out for it. I’ll never go back to my old recipes – seriously delicious.


And even more so served in a squash bowl and topped with some avocado.


Back to work + cooking! I’ve got a wheatberry salad in the works, a butternut recipe just out of the oven, and a plan for cookies that I hope will work out if I have the time.


Do you ever use edible bowls? What are your favorite combinations?


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The Darkness

I love fall, but I am not excited about the dark mornings again.

I didn’t see daylight until almost 8 am today! It didn’t help that it’s also cloudy, but still – I miss the early light already.


My orange breakfast made up for it – tons of fall flavors!


Oatmeal pancake:

  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup egg whites
  • pinch salt
  • cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

Topped with some pumpkin yogurt: greek yogurt mixed with pumpkin puree, cinnamon, and a spoonful of pear butter I got from a friend. It was the perfect topping! Sweet, tart, and spicy.


Nick and I split an orange on the side, and there’s definitely some coffee in my morning plans Winking smile


A great way to start a very busy Monday. I’ve got a long to-do list, but it’s all self-inflicted and mostly fun items. Better get to it!


What did you do this weekend?


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