Roasted Red Pepper Soup

February is a strange month, equally full of obnoxiously pink items and overpriced flowers as it is dreary days and bluebird skiing. Long-time readers will know I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day but as it is my anniversary with M it becomes more special. Each year I bake a cake to celebrate and this year will be no different – check back in two weeks for this year’s (hopefully successful) endeavor. Valentine’s desserts are typically quite indulgent, which makes today’s recipe a great option if you’re planning to eat in this “holiday”.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

As part of last month’s Mindful Eating challenge I was looking for recipes that were delicious and wholesome and things that I felt good about eating, emotionally and physically. This soup definitely fits the bill. It’s fairly light which makes it pair great with bread or even grilled cheese, and requires simple ingredients and relatively chill preparation.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

I used a whole package of the large bell peppers from Costco, but if yours are smaller you may want closer to 8. Once flattened they should completely fill the cookie sheet to make sure you have plenty of red pepper flavor. The addition of crushed red pepper flakes adds a little kick, and a dollop of sour cream is a great garnish. This recipe is easily made vegetarian or vegan by using vegetable broth (and nixing the sour cream), which makes it versatile for a whole slew of different diets.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

I served mine with some quick drop biscuits, but you could invite added flair with some fancy grilled cheese (think sourdough bread and Gruyère, or focaccia and brie) or a whole grain loaf. Add a side salad or some roasted veggies and you have a complete meal – with plenty of room for dessert and leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Adapted from House of Yumm
Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients

6 large red bell peppers

2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup sour cream (optional)

Directions

  1. Heat your broiler to high and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Cut the bell peppers into flat strips, removing seeds and membranes.
  3. Place the peppers skin side up onto the prepared baking sheet, flattening them as much as possible.
  4. Broil until skins are at least half blackened, about 15 minutes. Remove from baking sheet and place immediately into a sealed container to steam.
  5. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and saute until onion is translucent.
  6. Retrieve the bell peppers, peeling off the charred parts of the skin, and add to the pot. Add broth and spices and bring to a simmer.
  7. Remove from heat and use an immersion blender1 to puree the soup completely. Taste and adjust spices as necessary.
  8. Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream (optional) and some extra crushed red pepper flakes or oregano for garnish. Goes great with a hearty bread.

Notes

If you don’t have an immersion blender, use a regular blender to puree the peppers, onion, and garlic before adding the broth and spices (thinning with some of the unheated broth if necessary to get a fine puree), then return to pot and follow directions as normal.

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Bulletproof Coffee (Pods)

One of the biggest struggles of long distance running is nutrition. It’s a constant experiment to see what works best for your body. Running on an empty stomach vs with a light snack; fueling mid-run; post-workout energy boosts; all a matter of preference and can vary by day and type of run.

Running

For me, I can run on an empty stomach (minus coffee…I do love coffee) if it’s a shortish morning run and I don’t have a lot of time to kill between waking up and starting to run. Contrastingly, on half marathon race days I need to eat a pretty full meal to keep me satiated but not overstuffed, and even then I often need 100-200 calories during the race. As I become a stronger and faster runner I find I need less to keep me going, but it’s still something I play with a lot during training runs or the “off”-season.

Once per week I run up a set of hills near the office. The usual route is only 4.3 miles (unless I add onto it to align with a training plan) but if I push myself it’s a pretty challenging 40+ minutes. I’ve discovered I *can* run the course without eating but it’s a better workout if I have a little something. I’ve tried a number of the standard suggestions (a piece of toast; banana and peanut butter; etc) but they all made me feel a bit heavy and I never felt like I found *the* item that works the best for me. Enter: bulletproof coffee.

Bulletproof Coffee {[Baking Bytes}}

Although I don’t subscribe to any specific diet, I often read about them out of curiosity or to see if there are any pieces I want to pull into my own life. Bulletproof coffee comes from the Bulletproof Diet, which is a high-fat and low-carb situation. I was not inclined to take up the diet itself, but after reading about the coffee and people who had tried it, it intrigued me as maybe a good pre-run snack.

Since I always drink coffee before running anyway, this kills two birds with one stone by getting my calories and my coffee all in one. Since it’s liquid, it doesn’t make my stomach feel heavy, and the ~200 calories is a good amount of energy for me. Coffee blended with butter and coconut oil sounds, frankly, pretty terrible, but surprisingly it tastes more like a really creamy and mild latte than actual butter and oil.

Bulletproof Coffee {[Baking Bytes}}

Using a blender is key here, whisking or stirring by hand won’t work to properly blend everything together. I like to use slightly stronger coffee than normal, and add a dash (heap) of cinnamon because I love cinnamon. It also fits nicely into my Mindful Eating challenge, as it’s something that not only I enjoy drinking, but it makes me feel solid for running.

For me this would never be a regular breakfast substitute, and I eat another smallish breakfast after I run (toast or oatmeal with peanut butter and banana, usually), but it works great for an early morning pre-workout energy boost. I found I preferred slightly less than a 1:1 ratio of oil to butter, so definitely play with the ratios a little. Feel free to make your pods smaller if you typically drink less coffee in the morning, or just don’t need quite that many calories to fuel your early morning activities.

Bulletproof Coffee {[Baking Bytes}}

If you’re an AM exerciser looking for a lighter way to rev up your cardio sessions, and you like coffee, I highly recommend you give bulletproof coffee a try. I like to make the pods ahead of time so there’s no measuring required the morning of running, but until you figure out your perfect ratio you can always make them individually – just make sure your coconut oil and butter are chilled and solid before blending.

Bulletproof Coffee Pods
Makes 8 pods

Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter
7-8 Tbsp coconut oil

Directions

  1. Melt butter and coconut oil in a microwave safe container and stir to combine.
  2. Divide between 8 wells of a silicon tray or ice-cube tray.
  3. Freeze until firm (or overnight), then remove pods from tray. Store in the freezer until ready to use (or in the fridge if you’ll use them fairly quickly.)

Notes

I preferred it with 7 Tbsp of coconut oil for a slightly richer taste, so feel free to play with the ratios a little.

Bulletproof Coffee 
Makes 1 serving

Ingredients

10-12 oz hot coffee
1 bulletproof pod (above)

dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, etc (optional)

Directions

  1. Optionally, add a dash of spice to a mug.
  2. Add coffee and bulletproof pod to a blender, and blend until extra frothy (about 15 seconds).
  3. Pour blended coffee carefully into mug to stir in the cinnamon, then enjoy immediately.

Banana Cacao Nib Scones

Hello my lovely readers, I hope the beginning of the new year is going smoothly for everyone. (If you want to get straight to the recipe, feel free to skip to the non-italicized text.) With regards to resolutions, this year I’ve decided to do something a little different. Alongside my usual set of running/baking/professional goals, I’ve decided to set a theme: mindfulness. Each month I am going to focus on being more mindful about something in my life. After reading the cookbook Run Fast, Eat Slow I have been inspired to make January’s theme into Mindful Eating.

This doesn’t mean counting calories or following a list of restricted items, but it’s more about improving my relationship with food. It’s easy to feel guilty about eating (or not eating) certain things, to rush through meals in order to move onto something else, to just make things because they’re easy and fast and not because I’m particularly excited to eat them. This month I’m going to focus on food in a way that makes me happy, both mentally and physically: taking the time to make things from scratch as well as actually slowing down and enjoying what I’m eating; having fewer meals in front of a screen; enjoying decadent items as treats not cheats; focusing on what makes me feel happy and energetic and ready for the days to come. 

This is intended to be a long-term change in the way I really think about food. Although I’m not one to be exacting about my diet, I do often feel restricted by what society is touting as healthy these days. Healthy doesn’t necessarily mean low-fat or low-calorie, carbs are not the devil and sugar isn’t the end of the world. Certainly I am going to be mindful of eating unnecessary added sugar, but I already know a low-carb diet doesn’t work that great for me, fats are important for flavor and staying power, and I want every calorie I eat to come from something I enjoy. I will no longer be describing anything as “guilt-free” because food should not be inherently shameful. I would love to hear your thoughts on this endeavor, should you be willing to share them. (Also I highly recommend the book, and you can expect to see some of those recipes on here in the coming months.)

In light of that, today we have another recipe that I made mostly out of curiosity. Consistent readers (and anyone that knows me in real life) will know that I don’t bake anything dairy-free, gluten-free, flourless, or vegan with any amount of regularity because these are not food traits I personally find important. I am, however, often intrigued by such recipes and will make them on occasion just for funsies.

Banana Cacao Nib Scones {{Baking Bytes}}

The original recipe called for things I don’t buy, like self-raising flour, coconut sugar, and almond meal, but I followed her modification suggestions and made a few of my own to tailor the recipe for myself. I replaced some of the flour with ground oatmeal for a heartier flavor, nixed the almond meal in favor of chia seeds, and used regular ole’ brown sugar instead of coconut sugar. I cut the sugar way back since I was figuring the banana adds a fair amount of sweetness (and because I already have my favorite sweeter scones) and added some whole oatmeal for texture.

Banana Cacao Nib Scones {{Baking Bytes}}

A few weeks ago I found some cacao nibs on massive clearance, and bought two of the bags. They were a great addition to these scones, no extra sugar but a little bit of chocolate flavor to enhance the banana. However they are definitely not cheap so feel free to leave them out or use mini chocolate chips as a more decadent replacement.

These scones are fairly dense but soft and moist and delicious. They are also pretty healthy, with low amounts of added sugar and a little bit of protein and good carbs from the oatmeal. Probably you shouldn’t eat three of them, but one is a perfect light-ish breakfast, especially when paired with a cup of coffee.

Banana Cacao Nib Scones {{Baking Bytes}}

I made these a few times and below is my favorite of those iterations. It can be baked into regular size or mini scones, depending on your preferences and whether you plan to serve them solo or as part of a fuller breakfast. They’re also easily portable and a great brunch option, although I think they’re best slightly warmed.

The banana and oatmeal combination is delicious by itself or topped with any number of toppings. Jam or butter and cinnamon sugar were my favorites, but mostly I ate them plain. I especially like the less sweet version if it’s going to be spread with a sweet topping anyway, but you can definitely increase the sugar here if you prefer.

Banana Cacao Nib Scones {{Baking Bytes}}

Give these a try and let me know what you think, and if any of your friends could guess they were vegan.

PS – These can be made gluten-free by using gluten-free flour and uncontaminated oats, and they are vegan/dairy-free unless you use normal chocolate chips, although I’m sure there are vegan/dairy-free versions of those out there you could substitute with.

Banana Scones

Adapted from OmNomAlly
Makes 12-16 mini or 6-8 large scones

Ingredients

2 overripe bananas
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 – 1/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar1
2 Tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp vanilla

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (use almond flour for gluten-free options)
1 1/2 cups oatmeal, finely ground2
1/2 cup oatmeal, whole
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup cacao nibs, optional3

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with a silicon mat or parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, mash banana completely. Add coconut oil (microwave briefly if it’s not already mostly liquid), brown sugar, chia, and vanilla. Whisk until well combined, then let rest at least 3 minutes, or until chia seeds have softened.
  3. Add flour, both ground and whole oatmeal, baking powder, salt, and cacao nibs (or chocolate chips), and stir until completely combined. Mixture will be a little loose and quite sticky, but should be solid enough to hold its shape.
  4. Pour onto prepared baking sheet and shape into rounds about 1″ tall. Use two rounds for mini scones, or one for large scones. Use a pizza cutter or a sharp knife to cut rounds into 6 or 8 wedges.
  5. Bake until golden on top and slightly browned on the bottom, about 20 minutes. Be careful not to over bake; they are better slightly too moist than slightly too dry.
  6. Serve warm. Great plain, with butter and cinnamon sugar, or your favorite jam. Store leftovers in an airtight container on the counter up to 3 days, but they are best on day one.

Notes

For sweeter scones, especially if you’re going to enjoy them plain, use the larger amount, or up to 1/2 cup. For less sweet scones, especially if you’re going to doctor them with jam, use the smaller amount. I personally like 1/4 cup best even plain, but the masses may prefer a sweeter option.

Use a blender to grind 1 1/2 cups of the oatmeal into a powder. Leave 1/2 cup as normal for texture. =)

Cacao nibs are a great way to add a little chocolate flavor without the sugar and calories of chocolate chips. They are quite mild but delicious in baked goods. However for a more decadent treat, or if you don’t have cacao nibs on hand, you can substitute mini chocolate chips for delicious results, or leave them out entirely.

Broccoli Cheese Soup

Happy almost New Year and hope everyone had a merry winter holiday, for those of you that celebrate it. I spent Christmas with M’s family in Oregon, which was a little weird given the lack of snow, but nice to spend the time with his family. We did not celebrate with the cinnamon rolls I posted two weeks ago, but I did make pie for Christmas Eve dinner with the grandparents. Maybe I’ll get the blueberry recipe up sometime next year.

Broccoli Cheese Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

This week I’m posting a nice cozy soup, great for the week between Christmas and New Year’s where all you want to do is hang out inside and relish those last few days off work or school. This is a simple recipe, and pretty quick to make, but it’s hearty and creamy and with all that broccoli in there it masquerades as vaguely healthy.

I like to use sharp cheddar in soups, but some pepperjack or gouda or any combination that strikes your fancy is sure to be delightful. A creamy base with generous amounts of cheese is intertwined with a hefty amount of broccoli, sure to please your cozy palate without feeling too much guilt about it.

Broccoli Cheese Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

I added a little celery as filler, but it’s just fine without it if you don’t have it on hand. Likewise you could throw a little zucchini in there. Since it’s puréed anyway, it’s a great soup for sneaking a couple extra neutral veggies into a meal.

When I was making it, M frowned at the idea of a meatless soup, so I added some diced turkey at the end to satiate him. It certainly is not necessary and the soup is great in its original vegetarian state, but if, like me, you have some carnivores to appease, some chicken or turkey is a great addition.

Broccoli Cheese Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

It goes great with a side of whole grain bread for either lunch or dinner, and reheats nicely if you have leftovers. If you’re looking for a simple and classic meal that’s maybe a little less extravagant than typical holiday fair, make a batch of this soup.

Broccoli Cheese Soup

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes about 2 quarts (a little more if you add meat)

Ingredients

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely diced
2 small stalks celery, finely diced (optional)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup half-and-half

4 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 tsp garlic powder
freshly ground pepper, to taste

1.5 pounds broccoli, chopped small (about 8 cups)
1 large carrot, grated (about 1 cup)

1-2 cups cooked, diced chicken or turkey breast (optional)
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Directions

  1. In a heavy pot over medium heat, melt the butter.
  2. Add onion and celery and sauté until softened and onions are translucent.
  3. Stir in flour until no lumps remain, then stir in half and half until smooth.
  4. Add broth, garlic powder, and pepper, and bring to a simmer.
  5. Simmer over medium-low about 10 minutes, until mixture thickens slightly.
  6. Add broccoli and carrot, and simmer until softened, about 20 minutes.
  7. Use an immersion blender (or any blender) to puree the soup to your preferred texture. I like it mostly smooth with a few chunks of broccoli, but you can blend as little or as much as you like.
  8. If using poultry, add it now and simmer an additional 5 minutes or until meat is warmed through.
  9. Remove soup from the heat and stir in the cheese until completely incorporated.
  10. Serve hot with an extra pinch of cheese, a sprinkle of freshly ground pepper, and a side of savory bread.

Cinnamon Rolls

Has winter hit your neck of the woods? It definitely hit Montana and it’s snowy and beautiful outside. I don’t know about you, but cold weather always instills a craving for cozy foods like soup and pot roast, hot chocolate and gingersnaps, oatmeal or waffles.

Cinnamon Rolls {{Baking Bytes}

Although working with yeast is rare for me, a few weeks ago I decided to make a batch of cinnamon rolls from scratch. Cinnamon rolls are one of my favorite decadent treats, and it’s a good thing they are such a time-consuming endeavor or I’d probably make them a lot more often. I am very particular about cinnamon rolls, and don’t often even buy them for this reason. They must be soft both inside and out, heavy on the cinnamon and light on the frosting; a thin glaze is even better. I am not one for heavy frosting on much of anything, but I absolutely feel a quality cinnamon roll doesn’t need to hide beneath cream cheese and butter.

Cinnamon Rolls {{Baking Bytes}

A few years ago when my parents came to visit for Thanksgiving, my mom and I made this cinnamon roll recipe. It’s everything a cinnamon roll should be, with the light flavoring of oatmeal which I find to be a wonderful addition. Like most yeast recipes, this one takes a few hours from start to finish, although most of that is waiting around for the dough to rise.

Cinnamon Rolls {{Baking Bytes}

Nonetheless they result in pillowy rolls perfect for a cozy winter morning. Full of cinnamon and drizzled with a light glaze, they feel a little lighter than your average out-of-the-can variety, and the gentle oatmeal flavor is unique but delicious. Served with some savory options like scrambled eggs or sausage, these would be perfect for Christmas breakfast to treat the family this year.

Cinnamon Rolls {{Baking Bytes}

If you’re appalled at the idea of waking up *even earlier* Christmas morning just to make cinnamon rolls, never fear. I am definitely not suggesting you make a hectic morning even more so, but encouraging you to make these ahead for a simple breakfast that can bake while you open presents.

Since it’s rare that I have a need for 12 large cinnamon rolls, I opted instead to cut my batch into 18 slightly smaller ones. I baked one set right away (because, yum) and put the remainder in the freezer. A couple of weeks later, I pulled them out, shoved them into a pan (with some difficulty; more on that later), and after letting them rise overnight, baked them up fresh in the morning with no more work than preheating the oven. All the delight with little of the work.

Cinnamon Rolls {{Baking Bytes}

You could make these up anytime between now and Christmas and pop them in the freezer until you’re ready for them, which is great for anyone that feels the holidays get even more hectic as the actual day draws near. If you go the freezer route, I highly recommend using disposable pans and freezing the rolls in the pan. Although it’ll take a little bit more space in your freezer, it means less work once you’re ready to bake them. In their frozen state I had quite the time getting them squeezed into a pan, and this effort can be easily avoided by just freezing them that way. If, like me, you try to avoid using disposable things when possible, or just always forget to buy them, you can line the pan you’d normally use with plastic wrap, place your rolls inside, and freeze the whole thing till the rolls are hard. Then you can remove them from the pan, wrap tightly in the plastic and put in a Ziploc, and still have your dish available for using.

Cinnamon Rolls {{Baking Bytes}

Splitting the batch into two pans of nine not only gives you a freezer batch ready for another day, but also results in slightly smaller rolls that are great for portion control or to be served alongside heartier additions. The next time you’re feeling up to a little kitchen challenge, make these rolls. I’m sure you and your family will love them. If you have leftovers, store them covered on the counter. The rolls are great reheated in the microwave for about 20 seconds, just enough to warm them up.

Oatmeal Cinnamon Roll

Adapted from SparkRecipes
Makes 12 or 18 rolls

Ingredients

Dough
1 packet yeast
1 cup warm water, 105 – 115 degrees

1 cup milk, warmed
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, room temperature
3/4 tsp salt

3-4 cups white bread flour
1 cup whole wheat bread flour (or wheat all-purpose)
1 cup old-fashioned oats, ground fine in a blender

Filling
3 Tbsp butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon

Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp milk

Directions

  1. Run the bowl of your stand mixer under hot water for one minute, or until the bowl feels warm.
  2. Add yeast to the bowl then gently pour in the warm water to dissolve. Let rest 10 minutes, or until foamed.
  3. Stir in milk, butter, sugar, egg, and salt (I do this by hand).
  4. Add wheat flour, oatmeal flour, and 3 cups of bread flour to the bowl. Using the dough hook, mix until well incorporated.
  5. If necessary, add more flour 1/4 cup at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. It will still be sticky. (I used a total of 3.75 cups of bread flour.)
  6. Cover bowl and let rise for one hour, or until doubled in size.1 
  7. Mix together brown sugar and cinnamon, and set aside.
  8. Butter or spray one 9×13″ pan (for 12 large rolls) or two 8×8″ pans (for 18 medium rolls). Set aside.
  9. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  10. On a floured surface, roll the dough into an 18×15″ rectangle. (I sometimes make mine slightly wider than 18″ so I can cut off the ends for more even rolls, but it’s not necessary.)
  11. Brush dough with melted butter, leaving one inch of a long edge clear.
  12. Spread sugar mixture evenly over the butter.
  13. As tightly as you can, roll up the long side so you end up with an 18″ cylinder.
  14. Reshape if necessary, then use unflavored dental floss or a very sharp knife to cut into 12 or 18 slices, then place in your pans. (Freezer option: see notes2)
  15. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and the center is 190 degrees Fahrenheit. (I highly recommend using an instant read thermometer for this!) If necessary, cover outer rolls with foil for the last 5 minutes, or until center rolls are done, to prevent excessive browning.
  16. Whisk together sugar, vanilla, and milk until smooth, then drizzle over hot rolls. Serve warm!

Notes

My favorite method for getting dough to rise consistently: Microwave a mug of water for 2.5 minutes. Move the mug to the corner of the microwave, add your bowl or pan of dough, shut the door, and let rise as usual. This keeps the dough warm and humid even if the rest of your house is cold or drafty. If you do this for both stages of rising, use new water each time to avoid super-heating it and having it explode.

Freezer option: Cut log into 18 slices. Either place 9 each into greased 8×8″ disposable pans (recommended) or set them onto a cookie sheet. Freeze until solid, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place into a Ziploc bag.
To bake: Remove rolls from freezer and unwrap completely. Place into a greased pan if they aren’t already, then cover with a thin dish towel and let rise overnight (at least 8 hours). Bake until center reaches 190 degrees Fahrenheit, about 30 minutes. You may need to cover the rolls for the last 10 minutes to prevent over-browning while the center cooks through.