Apple Yogurt Cake

Butter. There is no word that better encapsulates baking during the holiday season  and I’m sure that I’m not the only one who has contradicting feelings – wanting dessert ever so often, but not wanting to feel so full all the time. This cake does precisely that – captures all the holiday flavors and tastes of apples, cinnamon and nutmeg without the heaviness that comes with a butter-ful sinful dessert. Instead, this cake uses whole-milk yogurt. This gives it both a great texture, plus gets more moist the longer it is stored in the fridge. The only change that I would make is that the recipe called for freshly ground nutmeg and I didn’t have any, so I ended up using ground nutmeg instead. There’s something about freshly ground nutmeg that just can’t be found in its already ground version and I’ve decided that from now on I’m always going to have fresh nutmeg on hand that I can always grate it and use in my baking. Since this recipe is big enough for two 8-inch cakes, I ended up taking one of the cakes to a potluck and the other one for a birthday in our office 🙂

I used Granny Smith apples, since they are one of my favorite apples for baking. In case you’re ever confused about what kind of apples to use for different kinds of baking or cooking projects, check out this helpful chart!

apple yogurt cake_opt

Recipe adapted from Faith Durand’s The Kitchn. Makes enough for a 13 x 9 inch cake pan, or two 8 x 8 inch cakes.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups whole-milk yogurt, well-stirred
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 lemon, juiced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 small tart apples, such as Granny Smith, about 1 1/2 pounds
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan or two 8 x 8 inch pans with baking spray or olive oil.
  2. Whisk together the yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl. Peel and core the apples, and chop into chunks about 1/2-inch across. You should end up with 3 1/2 to 4 cups of apples. Stir the chopped apple into the liquid ingredients.
  3. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon right into the liquids and stir just until no lumps remain. In a small separate bowl, mix the remaining 2 teaspoons cinnamon with the brown sugar and butter.
  4. Pour half of the batter into the cake pan. Sprinkle the batter with half of the cinnamon-brown sugar mixture, dropping it on the batter in small lumps. Spread the rest of the batter over top, and sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon-brown sugar.
  5. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, covering with foil at the end if the top is browning. When a tester comes out clean, transfer the cake to a cooling rack and let it cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature.
  6. This keeps very well for several days in the fridge (I just stored it in the freezer), and it gets even moister as it sits, due to the apples.

What are your favorite light holiday desserts?

Chicken Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce

I’m not really sure why it took my roommate and me two years to make chicken gyros since he’s Greek and makes tzatziki sauce all the time (while zealously holding on to a secret family recipe for it). The tzatziki requires plain yogurt, since fat free versions tend to have more liquid, which doesn’t lead to the right consistency. These gyros are incredibly easy to make – the chicken requires an hour or two to be marinated, but as long as you remember to do that, the rest of the dish should be ready in no time.

Chicken gyro with tzatziki sauce

Chicken gyro with tzatziki sauce

 

Chicken Gyros – recipe adapted from Christina over @ Sweet Pea’s Kitchen;  Tzatziki Sauce recipe adapted from Ella Says Opa, with  inputs from Will Nomikos

INGREDIENTS
Tzatziki Sauce
  •  1 (16 oz.) container of plain yogurt
  • 1/3 -1/2 hothouse cucumber, shredded finely
  • 2-4 cloves garlic–depending how garlicky you like it, crushed
  • 1-1.5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, according to your taste
  • 3-5 tablespoons olive oil
Chicken Gyros
  • 1 1/2- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 heaping tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1 red onion, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 4 pitas

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, oil, yogurt, and oregano. Transfer mixture to a large resealable bag and add the chicken. Refrigerate for about an hour, turning occasionally.
  2. Preheat grill on medium-high heat. Remove chicken from marinade. Grill chicken until just cooked through, about 5 minutes per side, or until meat thermometer inserted into the chicken read 160 degrees F. Allow the chicken to rest for a few minutes before slicing into strips.
  3. Wrap pitas in aluminium foil and place directly on oven rack and heat for 6-8 minutes.
  4. For Tzatziki sauce – Shred or grate the cucumber. Mix together the yogurt, shredded cucumbers, garlic, red wine vinegar and olive oil. Add generous amount of black pepper, and salt, to taste.
  5. Divide chicken strips evenly among pitas; top each gyro with 1/4 cup tzatziki sauce, tomato slices, red onion slices, and 2 tablespoons feta. Wrap aluminium foil around gyro and serve immediately.

Pumpkin Frozen Yogurt

While I’m in love with my new ice-cream maker, I also realize that it’s dangerous thing, given how easy it is to make any kind of ice cream. The salted caramel ice-cream disappeared at an alarmingly high rate from my freezer and I knew that I couldn’t keep making ice creams that were full of heavy cream and sugar, which made them so delicious and decadent in the first place. So I thought – why not try making a frozen yogurt? I decided to try this pumpkin frozen yogurt. It’s great, relatively low fat since the small amount of brown sugar is the only fat in this recipe. However, the downside to making a low-fat ice cream is that it freezes so hard and turns into stone if you leave it in the freezer for more than a few hours. My suggestion would be to serve it as soon as it comes out from the ice-cream maker, or to thaw it for a few hours if it has been in the freezer for a few days.

The recipe itself takes only 5 minutes to prep, and requires 20-25 minutes of churning in the ice-cream maker, so you can have a quick dessert on your hands, especially if you’re throwing a dinner party and are looking for a light dessert!

Ingredients (makes 4-6 servings)

  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 and 3/4 cups Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions

  1. Place all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and stir until combined. Taste the mixture and add more sugar if you so desire. I was going for an end product which would not be too sweet.
  2. Place mixture in an ice cream maker and let churn for 20 minutes, or until cold and creamy. Serve immediately or place in the freezer for another hour if a firmer texture is desired. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can place in the freezer for 2 to 3 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs on top while serving, if desired!
Pumpkin Frozen Yogurt

Pumpkin Frozen Yogurt

 

Avocado Cilantro Dip and Baked Pita Chips

Guacamole is one of my favorite dips and I was beginning to have it in dangerous amounts, from putting it in my grilled cheese to having some with pita chips while watching my favorite sitcoms. So I decided to look for a healthier alternative for munchies and I came across this great avocado dip made with Greek yogurt. It uses lesser avocado than guacamole (and you can lessen it even further than what is given in the recipe below), and it takes a lot less mashing, and can be just made in one bowl (though feel free to use a blender as you would get a dip with better consistency). I really like the freshness of the avocado, yogurt and lime juice, when combined with the sharp taste of cumin and cayenne pepper. I did not use any jalapenos, but I would do so the next time, just because I like that extra kick. To make things healthier, make your own pita chips at home and enjoy a guilt-free snack while watching your next movie!

avocadodip_opt

 

Recipe adapted from Two Peas and their Pod

INGREDIENTS

Avocado Cilantro Dip

  • 1 and 1/4 cups plain fat-free Greek yogurt (I used Chobani)
  • 3 ripe avocados, peeled and seeded
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped seeded jalapeño pepper (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Pita Chips

  • 6 pita bread pockets
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Salt, to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place the yogurt, avocados, garlic, cilantro, jalapeño, lime juice, and cumin in a blender or food processor. Mix until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  2. For the pita chips, reheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  3. Cut each pita bread into 8 triangles. Place triangles on lined cookie sheet.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the oil, pepper, salt, basil, pepper and oregano. Brush each triangle with oil mixture.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for about 7 minutes, or until lightly browned and crispy. Watch carefully, as they tend to burn easily! Take out and place on a wire rack until they cool down and are nice and crispy. If you like softer pita chips, put in the oven for a lesser time and no need to cool on the wire rack.

Pita chips baking in the oven

So what are you (relatively healthy) favorite snacks? And may I have the recipe? 🙂

 

 

Apple Cider Muffins

What does the smell of apple and cinnamon baking say? Fall is here! Given that I had a bunch of Jonagold Apples still left (excellent for baking, just like Golden Delicious), as well as some apple cider, I decided to combine the two to make some great fall muffins. Within 2 minutes of putting these in the heaven, the house smelled liked heaven. Plus, they don’t use a lot of sugar, so they’re not that sweet, making them great morning muffins. The only thing I regret is not putting some streusel topping, but let’s face it – these muffins are small explosion of flavors even without it!

Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour’s Apple Muffins. Gives 18 muffins.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup  unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup yogurt (I used vanilla)
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup apple cider
  • 2 large apples, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped (to fill 1.5-2 cups). I used Jonagold apples, which are a cross between Jonathan and Golden Delicious – the latter is particularly great for baking.

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease and flour 18 muffin cups or line with paper cups and set aside.
  • Mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, and set aside.
  • In a separate bowl, cream the butter and add the granulated sugar and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar. Beat until fluffy. Add the egg and mix well. Mix in the yogurt, milk and apple cider.
  • Stir in the dry ingredients and fold in the apple chunks

  • Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, sprinkling the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar on top. Bake for around 15-20 minutes,  or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool the muffins for 5 minutes in the tin, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Healthy Summer Smoothies

Given that I spent a chunk of my summer in India and was too busy eating just mangoes (let alone transforming them), being back in the States has at least shifted my attention to other fruits. Even though summer is officially gone, the last of the summer produce is still around (especially for those who had the sense to preserve their berries!). These two are super-healthy smoothies and are perfect for a nutritious breakfast that can successfully tide me over until lunch

Strawberry Basil Smoothie – Serves 1

  • 1 cup fresh strawberries, frozen and sliced
  • 4-5 basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, plain or strawberry flavored (I used Chobani Strawberry Flavored Greek Yogurt)
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • Pinch of ground black pepper (optional)

Mix all the ingredients in a blender. Add some honey or sugar if you like your smoothie to be sweet. I personally enjoy the lack of sugar and I like the tart kick that the basil provides. For those who are looking for more of a kick, try adding some black pepper! I know it sounds weird, but it turns out great, especially if you’re not looking for something particularly sweet.

Strawberry Basil Smoothie

Pineapple Banana Smoothie – Serves 2

  • 1 1/4 cup pineapple, cored and sliced
  • 1 1/2 bananas, chopped
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • ice cubes
  • 5-6 almonds

Mix all the ingredients in a blender. I used the almonds because they have a lot of nutritional value, but I imagine oats would also work great in a smoothie like this.

So what kind of smoothies do you like?

Lemon-Blueberry Bread with a Lemon Glaze

And my love affair with lemon continues! Having made cookies and bars, my next stop was some kind of a bread. I wanted to mix things up a little bit though, and given that I just bought a bunch of frozen berries that were on sale, I settled on a lemon-blueberry bread. Though I ended up drizzling a lemon glaze on top of it at the end, it would be perfect even without the glaze (especially if you want a breakfast bread).

Recipe adapted from Sweet Pea’s Kitchen

For the Loaf:

  • 1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (approximately 1 large or 2 small lemons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries, frozen, thawed and rinsed (presumably it turns out even better with fresh blueberries)

For the Lemon Glaze:

  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottom and sides of one 9 x 5-inch loaf pans; dust with flour, tapping out excess.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugar, eggs, lemon zest, vanilla and oil. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.

    Getting the ingredients together

  4. In a separate bowl, mix the blueberries with the remaining tablespoon of flour.

    Remember to coat the blueberries in flour so that they don’t sink to the bottom while baking

  5. Take 2/3 of the blueberries and gently fold them into the flour. Pour 2/3 of the batter into the bread pan. Then add the remaining 1/3 of the blueberries and sprinkle them on top of the batter in the bread pan. Top up with the remaining 1/3 of the batter. (This step ensures that all the blueberries do not sink to the bottom).
  6.  Bake 50 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing loaf to a wire rack on top of a baking sheet.

    The bread straight out of the oven! Let it stay in the pan for 10 minutes before taking it out and placing it on a wire rack to cool off

  7. To make the lemon glaze, in a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice. The mixture should be thick but pourable. Add up to another tablespoon of lemon juice if the mixture is too stiff. Pour the lemon glaze over the top of each loaf and let it drip down the sides. Let the lemon glaze harden, about 15 minutes, before serving.