Archive for Kinda Healthy

Brownie Pudding

Brownie Pudding

This is what it looks like if you spoon the brownie pudding into a goblet, drizzle a bit of cream over it and sprinkle it with brownie crumbs. Eating straight out of the mixing bowl with a large spoon is also a valid serving option.

 I know stale brownies aren’t a common problem, but it’s a thing that happens at my house. Normally I can make an 8×8 pan of brownies, we’ll each have a brownie in the evening as a dessert/snack, and probably once I’ll eat a brownie during the day as a snack. Within a few days the pan of brownies is gone, and it’s time for something different.

 However, if I make a large pan of brownies for an event and only a few get eaten, or if we go to a birthday party (which involves its own sugary snacks) in the middle of our normal pan of brownies routine, or if my husband forgets that we have brownies in the house, we’re probably going to end up with a few stale brownies at the end.

 I came up with this recipe as a way to use up some stale brownies, as well as some organic whipping cream that wasn’t going to last much longer in my fridge. (Yeah, that happens to me too, and I can’t even explain that one, except to say that the cartons of organic whipping cream at Costco are huge.) I wasn’t sure what to expect. I figured it would be pretty good, but I wasn’t expecting it to be one of the best desserts I’ve ever eaten in my life.

 One of the beauties of this recipe is that the ingredients for the ‘pudding’ part are simple, straightforward and healthy, so the whole thing is customizable based on the brownies you use. I’ll be posting my favorite brownie recipe soon, but in the meantime you can use a boxed brownie mix if you’re looking for quick and simple, or a healthy brownie recipe if you’re looking for a healthier dessert. (This recipe disguises texture issues well, so it would probably even work with gluten free brownies or whole wheat brownies or any brownies that are healthy but weird.)

 I used heavy cream that I whipped in this recipe. You’ll probably need to start with about 1 or 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream to produce 2 or 3 cups of whipped cream.

 If you want a dense chocolate pudding consistency, use more whipped cream. For a consistency that’s even thicker and almost a cheesecake consistency, use the lesser amount of whipped cream.

Healthiness Rating: Kinda Healthy

 As I said, the healthiness depends a lot on the ingredients in your brownies. I’m tempted to give this a straight up ‘healthy’ rating as you could make this dessert with only healthy ingredients, but even I have to admit that there isn’t much in the way of vital nutrients you would get out of this dessert. It does get a kinda healthy rating, because there’s also nothing (necessarily) in the ingredients that’s bad for you (in reasonable doses, of course).

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

 If you don’t like rich, creamy and chocolatey desserts, this brownie pudding is not for you. Personally, I think it might just be my favorite dessert of all time.

Brownie Pudding

2-3 cups of whipped cream

1/4 cup turbinado sugar (omit if your whipped cream is already sweetened)

8 oz cream cheese

8×8 pan of brownies (or half a 9×13 pan)

Mix first three ingredients in a mixer on low to medium low. (I recommend the paddle attachment because this will really clog up a whisk by the time you’re done. However, if you really want the cream cheese completely and thoroughly blended it, I would recommend starting with a whisk attachment and switching to the paddle attachment when you add the brownies.)

 Lightly crumble the brownies as you add them to the mixer bowl. Mix on low until the whole mixture looks evenly chocolatey, but some chunks of brownies still remain intact.

 Refrigerate for about two hours before serving.

 If you like, you can save out a dollop of whipped cream and one of the brownies to crumble over the top as a garnish.

Cooking 101: Easy Berry Cobbler

Cooking 101: Easy Berry Cobbler

This cobbler is made with raspberries, while the cobbler in the video is  made with blackberries. Blueberries, strawberries, peaches and other fruits can also be used.

 

My nephew Toby guest starred in the video for this recipe. He’s sixteen years old, and recently learned how to make eggs and toast, so in the very strictest sense he’s not a complete beginner at cooking, but he is very close. (He’s a brilliant absent minded professor type who could solve for x in his sleep, but didn’t learn how to turn on the stove until he was ten. Also, as you will notice when you watch the video, he’s very funny and makes me laugh a lot.)

I’m going to be posting a few recipes that are very simple for new cooks to learn, and I wanted to have a true novice cook use the recipes to make sure that I didn’t skip over anything in the instructions because it seemed ‘obvious’ to me. If I did miss anything, or you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me at gbfoodrocks@gmail.com and I’ll do my best to answer any questions you have. (That goes for any of my recipes, in fact.)

This particular recipe is pretty adaptable to different types of flours and sugars (though I haven’t tried gluten free flours) so you can make it with healthy ingredients (whole wheat pastry flour aka white wheat flour and turbinado sugar) or ingredients found in typical kitchens (white flour and white sugar). I wouldn’t recommend using a hard red whole wheat flour, as it will have the typical whole wheat flavor and texture drawbacks, but it would probably do in a pinch if that’s all you have.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy to Kinda Healthy

This cobbler could qualify as completely healthy if you choose to use whole wheat flour and turbinado sugar. If you use white flour and white sugar it’s not going to have a whole lot going for it in terms of nutrition.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

It’s a really good basic cobbler. My version is heavy on the cobbler, but if you prefer it heavy on the fruit, just double the amount of fruit used.

Easy Berry Cobbler

based on this recipe

4 TBSP butter

3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (aka whole wheat pastry flour) OR unbleached all purpose flour

3/4 cup turbinado sugar OR white sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup milk

6 oz package berries of choice (or 1 cup of sliced fruit such as peaches)

Fresh or frozen fruit works fine in this recipe. If using fresh fruit, rinse the berries and leave to drain dry, or prepare the fruit (remove seeds or pits, slice, etc).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the butter in a 8×8 square baking dish and put it in oven to melt.

Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. (Note for beginners: This is an important step, so make sure the ingredients are thoroughly combined and you don’t see any patches or lumps of seperate ingredients.)

Add the milk. (Note for beginners: Stir briefly, then scrape along the bottom of the bowl to make sure you don’t have any pockets of flour mixture that haven’t been stirred in. Do NOT overmix. As soon as the batter is smooth and all the flour is incorporated, stop stirring.)

Remove pan with melted butter from the oven. Pour the batter into the pan.

Sprinkle the fruit across the top of the batter. Return the pan the oven and set a timer for 50 minutes.

After 50 minutes, remove the pan from the oven. If a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, the cobbler is done. (Note for beginners: ‘Clean’ in this case means that there’s no gummy or liquidy batter sticking to the toothpick. You may get fruit juices or even a dry crumb or two stuck to the toothpick, but if the toothpick is coated in crumbs or other signs of uncooked batter, the cobbler needs to back in the oven for five or ten more minutes.)

Salted Caramel Mocha Latte

Healthy Salted Caramel Latte

 

Depending on who you ask, coffee is either the elixer of life which contains antioxidants and minerals, prevents diabetes, Alzheimers and cirrhosis of the liver or it’s a horrible, nasty addictive chemical that causes adrenal fatigue, raises blood pressure and blocks mineral absorption.

As usual, in my opinion it’s all a matter of balance. Coffee is a natural substance, which doesn’t mean it’s always safe and good in any quantity, but it is useful for situations when you need an extra boost of energy. If you find that you need that boost of energy every single day that it’s likely that you’re either addicted to it or you’re using it to cover up an underlying health problem, or both.

And, as with most foods, personal metabolism makes a big difference. Some of us are especially sensitive to caffeine and have to be extra careful when and how often we use it, and others can have three cups of coffee a day with no apparent effect.

This particular coffee drink is a favorite of mine. Being one of those people on the ‘sensitive to caffeine’ side of the scale (I’ve had decaf coffee keep me awake for hours) I don’t drink it often, but it’s a very nice alternative to going out for expensive coffee drinks on a Saturday morning when I want to be geared up for a day of fun events, or to add extra oomph to those weekday mornings when I’m about to pull back my hair, crank up my energizing music and attack a extra large pile of dirty dishes or organize all the closets in the house.

I don’t always add the salt, but I do really enjoy the salt+caramel combination, and I do find that having plenty of (healthy, natural) salt in my diet helps keep my metabolism and energy up in general.

You can make this latte with any syrups you like, but I use my homemade chocolate and caramel syrups so I know my fancy coffee drink is made with healthy sweeteners and no chemicals.

Healthiness Rating: Kinda Healthy

Salted Caramel Lattes are not a good food to base your entire healthy diet on, but, made with healthy ingredients, they’re also not going to wreck your healthy real food plan.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

Do you really doubt me on this one?

Salted Caramel Mocha Latte

1/2 cup cold brew espresso or strong coffee

2 TBSP caramel syrup (or more to taste)

2 TBSP chocolate syrup (or more to taste)

1/8-1/4 tsp sea salt

1 1/4 cups raw milk

Mix all ingredients in a 16 oz glass. Add ice if desired. (If you have it, you can also top this with whipped cream, extra syrup and an extra pinch of salt and perhaps turbinado sugar, but I almost never have whipped cream around, so I don’t bother.)

Caramel Syrup

Quick and Easy Mostly Healthy Caramel Syrup

Didn’t you know that ice cream always tastes better when it’s slightly blurry? Also when it’s doused in caramel syrup… Yum…

Caramel syrup is possibly the most addictive food I have ever made. Licking out the pot after making it is a must. There’s something about the balance of sweetness and creaminess and gooeyness that can only be improved on by turning it into salted caramel.

Now, I’m not going to try to claim that caramel syrup is a super food or anything like that. BUT if you like caramel, this homemade caramel syrup is the way to eat it. No chemicals, and some nutrients left in the unrefined sugar make this a ‘not bad’ splurge choice.

I like to keep it on hand for the occasional (usually decaf) salted caramel mocha, but it’s also good drizzled over vanilla ice cream or added to a mug of hot cocoa. I’m sure there are plenty of other uses, so if you have a favorite use for caramel syrup, comment below and let me know what it is.

Healthiness Rating: Kinda Healthy

I wouldn’t make this a cornerstone food in your diet or anything, but as sweet treats go, it’s a reasonable choice.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

Pretty much through the roof on this one. This stuff is amazing.

Caramel Syrup

1/2 cup butter

1 cup turbinado sugar

1/2 cup milk

optional: pinch of sea salt, dash of vanilla

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over a medium heat.

Add sugar and let cook, whisking occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and mixture is thick and bubbly. (Because the turbinado sugar doesn’t dissolve well the mixture may stay a little bit grainy until you put the milk in. Don’t worry if you can’t get it to dissolve completely, just give it a good two or three minutes to dissolve as much as it’s going to.)

Add milk. Whisk until thickened and completely smooth. (All the sugar needs to be dissolved at this point, or your syrup will be grainy.)

Use immediately, or refrigerate for a thicker caramel sauce. Store in the refrigerator.

Note: If you happen to be storing this in a plastic container, make the sure the syrup has completely cooled before  you pour into the container. The syrup retains heat well and might make your plastic container crumple into odd shapes if it hasn’t completely cooled. Don’t ask me now I know this…
The syrup thickens up so much, you’re probably better off storing it in a glass pint jar and spooning it out than trying to keep it in a squeeze bottle anyway.

French Dressing

This is one of those recipes that ‘true’ health food eaters may turn up their nose at. So, yes, I’m going to tell you up front that this recipe is high in sugar. I generally use turbinado sugar, so the sweetness is still packaged with most of the nutrients it was meant to come with, but it’s still a lot of sugar. If you are accustomed to eating lots of unsweetened whole foods already you may want to cut back on the amount of sugar in this recipe, or skip it altogether.

Or, if you’d like, you could probably even substitute 2/3 cup of honey for the sugar in this recipe.

However, if you’re still trying to transition from processed foods, or need lots of variety to be able to enjoy greens on a regular basis, this salad dressing is for you. It’s sweet and tangy, but based on real foods instead of having msg or corn syrup or other weird chemicals.

I use my homemade fermented ketchup as the base for this recipe, and generally use fermented garlic cloves, so it has a dose of probiotics, too. And the flavor is strong enough to cover up the flavor of olive oil, which makes it a good way to get that particular healthy oil into my diet.

Healthiness rating: Kinda Healthy to Healthy

On it’s own this recipe could range from ‘mostly not bad for you’ to ‘actually good for you’ depending on what sweetener you choose and the quality of your ingredients, and of course its real strength is in nudging you toward eating more salads.

Yumminess rating: Yummy

It tastes like bottled French dressing, but without any weird chemical aftertaste.

French Dressing

(based on this recipe)

2/3 cup ketchup (preferably homemade)

1 cup turbinado sugar

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 cup olive oil (or oil of choice)

1 tsp pink himalyan salt

2 cloves garlic (fermented, if desired) OR 1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/3 cup chopped onion OR 1 tsp onion powder

optional: 1 tsp paprika

Put all ingredients in blender. (If using powdered onion and garlic a mixer may work just as well.) Blend on high for about two minutes, or until garlic and onion are thoroughly blended and oil is fully emulsified.

Besides being served on salad, this dressing can be used as a dipping sauce for onion rings, or mixed with equal parts mayonnaise and dash of hot sauce for a sandwich sauce.

Fried Dandelions (Dandelion Fritters)

 

 

 

Fried Dandelions (Dandelion Fritters)

Dandelions taste wild–a little bit flowery and a little bit green and bitter, but mostly like nothing else you’ve ever tasted.

These pretty little yellow flowers (yes, they are pretty, and I can’t for the life of my understand why people hate them and try so hard to get rid of them) are high in antioxidants and lecithin and a smattering of vitamins and minerals. And not only are they quite nutritious, but most of us have them available for free and very little work involved in getting them to grow.

A couple of cautions before you start eating dandelions though:

First, make sure the dandelions you gather have not been sprayed with pesticides, weed killer, or any other chemicals. If they’re in your lawn this may be as simple as refraining from spraying any chemicals (as long as your neighbors aren’t spraying anything that’s drifting over to  your yard), but I would be reticent to use dandelions growing in any public places, unless I could confirm a lack of chemicals.

Second, if you’re allergic to ragweed or daisies you may also be allergic to dandelions. Be very cautious in starting your dandelion consumption if you have allergies these or similar flowers.

Fried Dandelions can be eaten plain as a simple side dish, with savory sauces such as ketchup or ranch dressing (think anything you might dip onion rings in), or with sweet toppings such as powdered sugar, honey or maple syrup.

I recommend making this recipe with a whole wheat flour made from soft white wheat, but the recipe can quickly be adapted to use white flour or hard red wheat by adjusting the amount of liquid used. The basic ratio is 1 cup of milk to 1 cup of white flour. Use less milk for soft white whole wheat flour and extra milk for hard red whole wheat flour.

You can fry your dandelions in any oil you normally use for frying. Coconut oil makes a nice healthy (and fairly neutral flavored if you use expeller pressed coconut oil) light oil, while lard would have a heavier flavor which might be better suited to a plain or savory side. Vegetable oils would be completely neutral flavored. You might even be able to fry these in plain butter, but you’d want to keep the butter at a lower temperature, and fry the dandelions more slowly so as not to burn the butter.

In the video I demonstrated making individual fried dandelions, but for a faster process, you can also just mix all your dandelion flowers into the batter and form the batter into small pancakes.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy to Kinda Healthy

While dandelion blossoms are definitely healthy, your choice of topping or sauce might downgrade this kinda healthy. (Though if you make your own powdered sugar from turbinado sugar, you’re moving back toward healthy territory again.)

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

As I said, it’s an odd, wild flavor, but very yummy. These are very much husband approved, and as far as I can tell, my version even measured up his very fond childhood memories of fried dandelions.

While fried dandelions are definitely addictive, there are plenty of other uses for dandelions which I’m looking forward to trying this summer. If you’re also intrigued by using up your dandelions, dandelion flowers can be added to green salads, or used in any of these recipes:

Dandelion Jelly

Dandelion Soda (fermented)

Dandelion Lotion Bars

Dandelion Muffins

Fried Dandelions (Dandelion Fritters)

based on this recipe

3/4 cup milk (or more depending on flour used)

1 egg

1 cup soft white whole wheat flour (or flour of choice)

about 80 dandelion blossoms (a little less than two cups)

water and salt for soaking flowers

 

Remove the entire stem and as much of the green part as desired from each flower. (The green part is somewhat bitter, but if you remove all of it your flowers will tend to fall apart. I find it simplest to just remove the stem.) Soak flowers in salt water for five to ten minutes to remove any bugs that might be hiding in them.

Heat coconut oil or oil of choice over a medium (or slightly lower than medium) heat in a skillet.

Beat egg into milk, then add to flour. Mix just until combined. Mixture should be about the consistency of a thick pancake batter–add more milk or flour if needed to get the right consistency.

Dip flowers into batter, using a fork or tongs to make sure each flower is well coated with batter. (Or, mix all your flowers into the batter, and make small pancakes instead of individual fritters.) Drop each flower into the hot oil. (If you’re not sure whether your oil is hot enough, you can drip a small amount of batter into the oil. When the batter floats and begins bubbling briskly, your oil is hot enough.)

Fry for about two minutes on each side, or until each side is golden brown and slightly crispy.

Remove to plate lined with paper towel or a clean rag to absorb the extra grease. Immediately sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

Continue until all dandelion blossoms are fried.

 

Pork Dumplings

Pork Dumplings

Chinese dumpling swimming in a soyless sauce based dipping sauce.

 This is one of those meals that scores you major points as a cook. People are impressed that you can make ‘restaurant food’ and it’s really yummy without requiring any particularly exotic ingredients.

 If you like, you can buy the wonton wrappers in the refrigerated section of most grocery stores, but considering that you can make your own with just flour and boiling water, it’s worth at least trying to make your own and see if you like it. (They’ve worked perfectly every time I ever tried to make them, except for the first time I tried to make them on camera….)

 If you’re considering freaking out about the fact that I don’t use whole wheat flour for these, first, my husband liked them so much when I made them this way the first time that he didn’t want me to change them, so I decided not to start monkeying the the recipe. Second, I’m not sure white flour is quite the evil specter it’s made out to be.

White flour simply provides large amounts of energy (carbs and calories) with no nutrients.

 Some people can actually put large amounts of readily available energy to good use, and only need to be sure that their energy intake is balanced by high nutrient foods such as vegetables. Others may not be able to process such concentrated energy as easily and need to significantly limit their intake of processed foods such as white flour.

 Pay attention to how to feel after eating various foods to determine how your body functions best, but as long as you’re eating a variety of different kinds of foods prepared in a variety of ways (cooked, raw and fermented), don’t kill yourself stressing about having a perfect diet. (That would kind of defeat the purpose of having a healthy diet anyway…)

 These dumplings are completely scrumptious when made with pork, but they’re also good with ground turkey (which is much cheaper, and a bit more readily accessible), especially if you increase the seasonings a bit to compensate for a blander meat. I’m listing a range of amounts for the seasonings in the recipe below. Simply use the least amount recommended if you have real ground pork, and the largest amount if using ground turkey.

Healthiness Rating: Kinda Healthy 

Yeah, after my whole explanation of how white flour isn’t awful, I’m still only rating this kinda healthy. It’s not unhealthy, because you manage to avoid all the chemicals and additives you’d get buying ready made pork dumplings, but white flour is still a zero nutrient food. It could be part of the healthy meal, but in itself, it’s not a particularly healthy food.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

One of my husband’s favorites, and definitely a fun dish to have in your cooking repertoire.

Pork Dumplings

Dough:

2 cups white flour

1 cup boiling water

Filling:

1 lb ground pork or ground turkey

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1 egg

2 TBSP fresh parsley, minced

AND/OR

2 TBSP chives or green onion, finely sliced

2-4 TBSP soy sauce or soy sauce substitute

1 1/2-3 TBSP sesame oil, peanut oil or other oil

1 TBSP fresh ginger, finely grated OR 1 tsp ground ginger

Dipping Sauce:

1/2 cup soy sauce or soy sauce substitute

1 TBSP rice vinegar (try lemon juice if you don’t have rice vinegar)

1 TBSP sesame oil, peanut oil or other oil

Mix together all filling ingredients and set aside. (You may refrigerate for as long as overnight if you want to make the filling ahead of time.)

If you have a food processor, use the blade attachment, put the flour in, and turn it on. Slowly pour a stream of the boiling water into the flour, and continue mixing until the dough forms a ball. Dough should have a ‘squeezy’ elastic consistency.

If you’re not using a food processor, just put your flour and water in a bowl, mix, and then knead until the dough comes together into a ball with an elastic consistency. (Be careful not to burn yourself on the boiling water!)

Roll out the dough (half the dough at a time) to 1/16 inch or thinner, until translucent. If it sticks to the counter use a little corn starch, potato starch or flour as you roll it out.

Cut into three or four inch squares. Put about a tsp of meat filling in the center of each square. If needed, spread a little cold water around the edge of the square to help it stick together. (Sometimes mine stick better with water, and sometimes without.)

Fold the square of dough from corner to corner, into a triangle shape, and press down firmly on the edges to seal them. Take the two corners of the triangle and fold them up, squeezing them together over the center of the dumpling. Repeat for each dumpling.

Boil about a quart of water in a medium saucepan. Put about six dumplings in the boiling water and let cook for five minutes or so. You’ll see the dough become more translucent, and if you like, you can cut open the first couple to make sure the meat is cooked properly.

Cooking Pork Dumplings

The pork dumpling on the left is cooked. The one on the right is still raw.

Fish out the dumplings with a slotted spoon or other implement of choice and repeat cooking directions with another batch of dumplings.

If  you need to keep them warm as you’re cooking more, you can put them in a warm oven in a small casserole dish with a couple tablespoons of water in the bottom to keep them from drying out.

Mix together dipping sauce ingredients.

Serve dumplings warm with dipping sauce.

Boxty: Irish Potato Pancakes

Boxty: Irish Potato Pancakes

 

While I have a fair amount of Scottish blood in me, and my husband is part Irish, we share an interest in good foods, celtic music and traditions, and church history. As you might guess, we celebrate St Patrick’s Day every year, and with lots of Irish food. Our standard Irish dinner is corned beef with cabbage and potato, a sweeter version of Irish soda bread, and whatever other irish or green (or orange if I’m feeling especially like a cranky protestant Scottish girl…) food happens to hit the table.

I discovered boxty when looking for ways to extend our Irish food exploration beyond just dinner on St Patricks Day–why not have Irish food for breakfast too?

Boxty is like a cross between hashbrowns, biscuits and pancakes, and can be eating like any of those: with lots of butter, with butter and honey or syrup, with meat and gravy, or with ketchup. It can also be eaten as a breakfast food, or as a side at lunch or dinner. (Or as a snack for that matter. They’re even fairly portable, though better when they’re still warm.)

Healthiness rating: Healthy to Kinda Healthy

While I have no problem with including this in a meal and then classifying the meal as healthy, I am, for some reason hesitant to  put forward this recipe as having a lot of redeeming health food features. Depending on your definition of healthy food, and what kind of flour you decide to use, this could range from healthy to kinda healthy food.

Yumminess rating: Yummy

This one is less complicated: yummy and husband approved. (But then, he’s Irish, and eats cold baked potatoes straight out of the fridge, so in this case it might actually be more helpful to point out that I also like this recipe.)

Boxty

Large batch:

10 cups of mashed potatoes

10 cups of grated potatoes

8 cups of flour (white or whole wheat)

5 cups of milk or whey

1 cup melted butter

2 TBSP salt

Small batch:

2 cups of mashed potatoes

2 cups of grated potatoes

1 1/2 cups of flour

1 cup milk or whey

3 TBSP melted butter

1 tsp salt

butter or oil for frying

Put the grated potatoes in a clean cotton dishcloth. Squeeze out the excess moisture.  Mix grated potatoes with other ingredients (other than butter or oil for frying, obviously).

Heat butter over medium heat in skillet. Using about 1/4 cup or 1/3 cup batter per pancake, depending on size desired, fry two minutes on each side, until outside is crispy and inside is set to a firm but crispy consistency.

Christmas Pudding

Christmas Pudding

This is my third year making Christmas pudding. The first year I followed the traditional instructions to make it a month ahead so it can age for proper flavor. It went moldy.

The next year I decided to make it only a week or two ahead of time, and as an extra precaution, poured rum over it as a mold preventative. I served it with a simple brandy sauce (recipe below) and it was amazing.

Christmas pudding is very dense, like a hearty bread pudding. Lightly sweet, with dried fruit and spices, it has a good medley of rich flavors, but none of them overwhelming.

I used a white flour in this years pudding, but it’s one I got through Azure Standard with the wheat germ left in and only the bran removed. With the bran removed you have no pesky phytates to worry about, and a lot of the nutrition is still intact because of the wheat germ.

I used homemade bread crumbs this year. I save bread heels and overdone (but still not burnt) toast and other such odd bits of bread in a bag in the freezer, and just throw them in the food processor when I need bread crumbs. This means my bread crumbs were in about the same ratio of wheat to white as the bread we eat–mostly whole wheat, but with a bit of white thrown in here and there. In previous years I’ve used store bought panko bread crumbs.

The last two years I haven’t been able to find suet in our local grocery store and had to fall back on grated frozen butter. This year I wasn’t even going to try to look, but as I was poking through the meat on manager’s special I found beef suet  just sitting there for seventy-five cents. So I finally get to compare and see if it turns out better with suet! I have to say though, I didn’t notice any problems with using the butter instead.

To puree the orange, cut it in quarters, with the peel still on, and put the whole thing in the blender or food processor. Blend until smooth, with no large pieces of peel. Last year I used a whole lemon instead of a whole orange, but I didn’t happen to have lemons on hand this year.

Healthiness Rating: Kinda Healthy

I rate this as kinda healthy, because you can really make it as healthy as you want to depending the ingredients you choose (there’s very little innately unhealthy about the ingredients: dried fruit, spices, breadcrumbs that can be whole wheat, etc). But then, this is a Christmas pudding recipe. Healthy isn’t really the point.

Yumminess rating: Yummy

The brandy sauce tastes especially amazing, but the pudding is very good too. Let me put it this way: How good do you think it would have to be for me to decide it’s worth it to go through the bother of making and steaming a Christmas pudding every year?

Yep, it’s pretty good.

Christmas Pudding

1 1/2 cups flour

3/4 tsp sea salt

2 1/4 tsp baking powder

2 cups bread crumbs

6 oz suet or 1 1/2 sticks frozen butter, grated

3/4 cup turbinado sugar

1 cup raisins

1 cup craisins

½ tbsp molasses

½ apple, peeled and grated

½ carrot, finely grated

1 orange, pureed

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp of ginger

1 egg

Method

Mix all ingredients together.

Run hot water over a thin cotton dish towel (not terry cloth!). Wring out as much as possible. Sprinkle flour on cloth.

Dump mixture on to the flour in the middle of the cloth. Smooth mixture into as tight a ball as possible, then tie opposing corners of the cloth over the christmas pudding ball. Make it as snug as you can (you’ll probably have small divot in the bottom of your Christmas pudding from the knot), then tie the two remaining corners snugly.

The next step is to steam the pudding. I don’t have any fancy steaming equipment, so I’ve used a few different strategies over the years.

I’ve tied the longer ‘tails’ of the corners of the towel to my stockpot handles, suspending the pudding in the middle of the pot above the boiling water.

I’ve skipped the dishcloth altogether, packed the pudding mixture in the bottom of a 2 qt stainless steel bowl and boiled the whole thing, keeping the water level low enough that the water never got in the bowl. (This option  is nice for aging and reheating as it can just stay in the same bowl for that entire process.)

This year I set my mesh strainer in the top of my stock pot and put the pudding-tied-inside-a-towel  inside the mesh strainer, keeping the pudding out of the boiling water but still in the steam.

Whatever method you use, the pudding with need to cook for about 2 1/2 hours. When it’s done it should be one cohesive pudding and no longer crumbly.

When it’s cooled enough to handle, remove the pudding from the towel, poke a few holes in it with a skewer, and pour over it 2 TBSP of rum, slowly to give it time to soak in.

Put the pudding somewhere cool and dry to age for a week or two (or four if you’re a traditionalist).

To reheat the pudding, use any of the methods listed above for steaming the pudding, but only steam it for about an hour.

Pour brandy over the pudding and light it just before serving. Serve with brandy sauce.

If you want to serve it for Christmas breakfast (which is not as scandalous as it sounds, because the alcohol is cooked off the pudding, even if you serve it flaming, and you can easily cook the alcohol off the brandy sauce as well, if desired) you may want to put it in a small bowl inside your slow cooker, put a couple inches of water in the bottom of the slow cooker crock, and steam it overnight so it’s ready in the morning with no fuss.

Brandy Sauce

3 TBSP butter

3 TBSP flour

1 1/2 – 2 cups milk

3 TPSP sugar

1/4 cup brandy

(All these measurements are approximate, as I really just eyeballed measurements for a white sauce, then added sugar and brandy to taste)

Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Whisk in flour. Slowly whisk in milk. Add sugar and wait for it to thicken. Remove from heat and add brandy. (If you prefer, add the brandy and cook for another minute or two to cook off the alcohol.)

[youtube=http://youtu.be/x08gmAGUmXw]