Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Zen Carrot Cake Muffin Recipe

Zen Bakery replication success again! So last week I was down in San Diego and picked up a box of the actual thing and OK, it's not an exact replica, but as close as I'm going to get. Those mushroom muffin tops have me baffled and I think I've thrown in the towel on trying to achieve them. At any rate, here's a good, solid, healthful way to start your morning:)

olive oil spray
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons walnut oil (or any mild vegetable or nut oil)
2 teaspoons vanilla
8 ounces crushed pineapple (canned or fresh)
1 1/2 cups grated carrots
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/3 cup raisins (plumped by soaking in hot (boiling) water for a few minutes and draining)
Yields 6 muffins, 241 calories/5g fiber each

Preheat oven to 400F and spray 6 muffin cups with olive oil.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour through the ginger.
In a separate large bowl, combine the agave nectar through the vanilla.
In a small bowl, combine the carrots, pineapple, and poppy seeds. Add these to the wet ingredients once evenly combined. Then add the dry ingredients without over mixing. Throw in the raisins last and distribute batter into muffin cups.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Let the tray cool on a wire rack for ten minutes before placing the muffins directly on the rack to cool the rest of the way.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Cookies #4: German Cinnamon Stars (Zimtsterne)

It looks like I was on a bit of a German cookie kick this year because this batch was an additional tribute to the O Tannenbaum spirit. Not only that, but these and the other German cookie I made (Lebkuchen) were the overall favorites of the lot. The Cinnamon Stars are unusual and surprisingly simple - yet very delicate and delicious. A food processor works wonders on this recipe, which was a foodnetwork.com find.

2 1/4 cups organic confectioners' sugar, plus more for rolling
10 ounces raw almonds, with skin
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 large egg whites, room temperature (I let the eggs sit out overnight)
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
sliced almonds or sprinkles for garnish

Sift the confectioners' sugar (I forgot to do this, but somehow they turned out fine).

Put 1/2 cup of the sifted confectioners' sugar, the almonds and all the cinnamon in a food processor. Process until the nuts are finely ground, with just a few larger pieces.

Whip the egg whites in a large, clean bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until they hold soft peaks, about 1 minute. Gradually add the remaining confectioners' sugar while whipping, until the whites are thick, creamy and somewhat stiff, about 2 minutes more. Set aside 2/3 cup of this meringue for topping the cookies. (I misread the instructions and set aside 2/3 of the entire meringue batch for topping, which left me with a whole lot of leftover meringue for the compost. Surprisingly, again, the cookies still turned out fine.)

Fold the ground almond mixture and the lemon zest into the remaining meringue to make a stiff dough.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats or parchment paper.

Lay a sheet of parchment or waxed paper on the work surface and lightly dust with confectioners' sugar. Turn the dough out onto the dusted paper, flatten and dust with more sugar as needed, and then lay another sheet of parchment or waxed paper on top. Roll the dough between the papers until it is about 1/4-inch thick. Flip the dough over and gently peel off a sheet of the paper. For ease when cutting, lay the paper back on the dough, flip again and gently pull off the other side of the paper so that the dough is fully released from it.

Cut cookies with a 3-inch star cutter and place about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. (Excess dough can be rerolled.) Use a small spoon, brush or offset spatula to spread the reserved meringue over the top of each cookie, taking care not to let the meringue drip over the sides. Press or sprinkle sliced almonds or sprinkles in a decorative pattern into the meringue.

Bake cookies until bottoms are light golden brown and meringue is set and crisp, about 30-40 minutes. Turn off the oven and open the oven door to release heat and dry cookies out in the oven for 10 more minutes.

Cookies are about 110 calories each.

Busy baker's tips: The dough can be frozen between the sheets of paper for up to 2 weeks. Store baked cookies in an airtight container for up to 10 days.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Cookies #3: English Toffee

OK, I know English toffee isn't actually a cookie, nor does it involve any baking, but I'm taking the liberty of including it in the Christmas cookie section since I don't plan on making any other types of candy this season. It was my first time making it and surprisingly easy and delicious! The ingredients are pricey, if you're using quality, but it makes for a great gift. I couldn't find our candy thermometer, which would have come in handy. Luckily, it turned out well nonetheless. I go the recipe from a new site that I found by googling "English toffee recipe" and I really liked the format of it and how everything was explained - from an engineering perspective! Who knew...

6 oz. (170 g) 72% organic dark chocolate bar, chopped
1 cup (200 g) evaporated cane sugar
1/3 cup (40 g) almonds, chopped in food processor
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup organic unsalted butter

Select a small saucepan that is large enough to contain about double the volume of the butter and sugar. Melt the butter in the saucepan with the sugar, salt and a about 2 teaspoons water over gentle heat. (Low heat is important to prevent separation later. Just be patient and let it melt together.)

Once melted, increase to medium-high heat, stirring constantly. The butter and sugar will bubble and foam as the water boils off. This can take several minutes because butter contains a decent amount of water. The volume of the mixture will increase dramatically at this point.

Once the water has boiled off, the mixture will collapse and thicken. The temperature will also start to rise again. The goal is to remove the pan from the heat once the mixture passes 300°F (150°C) and before it reaches 320°F (160°C). Use an instant read thermometer or candy thermometer to keep track of the temperature as you heat and stir because the temperature can change pretty rapidly once the water boils off.

When the mixture reaches 300°F (150°C), remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract and 1/3 of the chopped almonds (the biggest chunks). Pour the mixture onto either a silicone baking mat or a large sheet of parchment paper set on top of a sheet pan. Immediately after pouring, use a spatula (again silicone works best for working with toffee) to spread the toffee into a rough rectangular shape.

While the toffee is still hot, sprinkle the surface with the chocolate. Use your spatula to spread the chocolate once melted. Sprinkle the chocolate surface with chopped almonds.

Let the toffee cool to room temperature before refrigerating the pan. Once completely cooled and hardened, remove and break into pieces.

Christmas Cookies #2: Chcolate-Cherry Biscotti

My general attitude toward Christmas baking is that all "light" recipes are out - it's full fat, full taste all the way (because if you can't do it at Christmas, when can you?)! These chocolate-cherry biscotti were the one exception this year because I don't think you really miss out on anything due to the nature of biscotti. I don't like them buttery or overly sweet, so a lightened version is fine with me (and might even be closer to an authentic biscotti anyway). I used a Cooking Light recipe for this one and so far they've been an all around crowd pleaser! They taste best a few days after baking.

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole-wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup evaporated cane sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons walnut oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoons almond extract (the recipe calls for 1 1/2 but that's all I had left)
2/3 cup dried tart cherries
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I used Guittard)
Olive oil spray

Preheat oven to 350°.

Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flours and salt in a bowl; stir well with a whisk.

Beat sugar and eggs with a mixer at high speed until thick and pale (about 4 minutes). Add oil and extracts, beating until well-blended. Add flour mixture, beating at low speed just until blended. Stir in cherries and chocolate chips.

Divide dough in half; turn out onto a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Shape each portion into a 10-inch-long roll, and flatten to 1-inch thickness. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove rolls from the baking sheet; cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 325°.

Cut each roll diagonally into 20 (1/2-inch) slices. Place slices, cut sides down, on baking sheet. Bake at 325° for 10 minutes. Turn cookies over, and bake an additional 10 minutes (cookies will be slightly soft in center but will harden as they cool). Remove from baking sheet; cool completely on wire rack

Yields 40 biscotti at 80 calories per.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Cookies #1: German Soft Gingerbread (Lebkuchen)

'Tis the season for prolific baking! I've been printing out Christmas cookie recipes off the internet for the past three months now, so I was so excited when I could officially start baking them the day after Thanksgiving. The first I went for was a German soft gingerbread like one I tried from Trader Joe's. Now, I'm not ordinarily a fan of gingerbread - but these looked yummy and calorie friendly (120 for a generous sized cookie) at the store, and after one bite I was a convert! Here's a recipe I adapted from http://www.browneyedbaker.com/2009/11/12/lebkuchen-german-christmas-cookies/
with the addition of a chocolate dip. You can never go wrong by adding chocolate...

For the Cookies:
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
1¼ teaspoons ground nutmeg
1¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground allspice
1 egg
½ cup light brown sugar
½ cup honey
½ cup molasses

1 3.5 oz bar 70% organic dark chocolate bar

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray two baking sheets with olive oil spray.

2. Sift together the flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Set aside.

3. Beat the egg and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl.

4. Beat in the honey and molasses until thoroughly combined.

5. On low speed, stir in the flour mixture until just combined.

6. Turn the dough out from the bowl onto a well-floured surface. Knead the dough, adding more flour as kneaded, until a stiff dough is formed.

7. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.

8. On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough into a 9×12-inch rectangle. Cut the dough into rectangles or use a cookie cutter. I did the latter, but the re-kneaded dough made up from the scraps of the first batch baked into a really tough, super hard, tooth breaking cookie.

9. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and let cool.

10. Heat the chocolate bar over low heat (or a double boiler) until fully melted. Dip the completely cooled cookies on one side and rest the cookies on a sheet of wax or parchment paper, chocolate side up, until the chocolate hardens.

My batch yielded 44 cookies at around 100 calories per cookie.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Zen Apple Bran Muffin Recipe Success!

Those of you who have been following my blog since day 1 know that I have been on a mission to replicate the Zen Bakery bran muffin recipe since they are a) muy expensive to buy and b) not available in all varieties here in San Francisco. Their apple bran muffin is one of my favorites and also not available here in SF (though I've searched high and low). After several test runs I've come up with the following recipe that matches the calorie count and is only shy of the whopping 10g fiber per muffin by 3g. I still can't achieve Zen's monstrous tops, but taste-wise, these are pretty close. Here's one key I've discovered with baking with whole wheat: they taste much better the next day. I think it has something to do with letting the wheat settle and absorb the flavors.

Apple Bran Muffin Recipe
2 cups boiling water
1 cup wheat bran
1/4 cup (30g) white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (60g) medium whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder (aluminum free)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon fine ground sea salt
2 tablespoons agave nectar (honey would probably work fine)
2 tablespoons walnut oil (canola would be a cheaper alternative)
1 large or 2 small granny smith apple(s)
1/3 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 400F and spray 5 large muffin cups with olive oil.
In a medium bowl, pour 2/3 cup boiling water over the wheat bran, stir, and let sit to absorb.
Pour the remaining boiled water over the raisins, separately, and also allow to sit.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, powder, soda, cinnamon, and salt. Stir until mixed.
Grate the apple(s) with the skins on, saving the juice.
Add the oil, and agave to the wheat bran and stir until well mixed.
Add the wheat bran mixture to the dry mix and stir only until combined.
Strain the raisins well and add them, the apple and its juice to the mix, stirring minimally until combined.
Fill the muffin tin and bake for 30 minutes. Let cool for ten minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy THE NEXT DAY. Trust me, they'll taste much better then!
217 calories and 7g of fiber per muffin

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tofu Bulgur Autumn Special

Now that I've discovered such an easy way to make pomegranate seeds ready to eat, I love the flavor combination of them with walnuts in pretty much any dish. They're in season now (so reasonably priced!) and packed with antioxidants and Vitamin C to fight off those loathsome winter bugs. Just slice into quarters and submerge in a bowl full of water to peel. The seeds sink to the bottom while the thin skins float to the top. Easy, no mess pomegranate seeds. I used to avoid buying them just because they were such a messy hassle - and now they're a winter fruit bin staple. I usually peel 3 at a time and store the seeds in an empty glass jar so they're ready to eat for the rest of the week. A 1oz serving is 25 widdle calories.

Here is a recipe I adapted from Heidi Swanson's (http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/bulgur-celery-and-pomegranate-salad-recipe.html), substituting Swiss chard for celery and adding tofu.

2/3 cup (100g) bulgur
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced (or pressed)
3/4 of a standard sized carton firm tofu, cut into bite-sized cubes
1 bunch Swiss chard, chopped
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/3 cup (50g) chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon fresh mint, finely chopped
Italian parsley (to garnish)

Pour 1 1/3 cup boiling water over the bulgur and let it soak until all the water is absorbed (about 30 minutes), stirring occasionally. Drain and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the Swiss chard and cook until wilted (about 3 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for an additional two minutes. Add the tofu and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir and cook an additional 3 minutes or until the tofu is heated through.

Top the bulgur with the tofu mixture and sprinkle the remaining ingredients on top.
4 servings at 326 calories and 7.9g of fiber each.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Easy Pumpkin Soup

I LOVE pumpkins! They're the calorie-conscious gal's answer to the sweet potato, among many other glorious things. I picked up a couple different pumpkins from Berkeley Bowl and the white skinned, orange-yellow fleshed guy was a big let down. Hardly any taste. So what to do? Make a soup! No point risking a baked good disaster.

For this soup I employed an easy technique I picked up from a Belgian friend, which uses a handheld blender. If you don't have one (get one, they're cheap and fantastic) you can just use a regular blender or food processor. It tastes especially great on a cold night with some fresh, crusty bread and sweet butter.

Pumpkin soup:
1 small-medium pumpkin (butternut or acorn squash should sub nicely)
1.5 large veggie bouillon cubes, or 3 small
about 4 cups of water
3 garlic cloves
1 medium onion
1/2 apple (I used pink lady, but any sweet-tart variety will do)
1/2 T turmeric
1/2 T cumin
1 t cinnamon
1/2 cup plain yogurt
salt and pepper to taste

goat cheese
raw pumpkin seeds
fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 375F, pierce the pumpkin four times near the stem and bake for 45-60 minutes until tender. Once it has cooled enough to handle, remove the skin and chop. Place in a big pot with the next ingredients through the apple. Fill with enough water to cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a mild boil until all of the ingredients are tender enough for a wooden spoon to break apart, about 20-30 minutes. Add the spices and stir for about a minute. Turn off the flame, add the yogurt, and blend. If you have a hand blender, you can put that directly into the pot. Otherwise, just dump into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth and thick. If you prefer a thinner soup, add more water or stock. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish and get warm!
4 servings at about 100 calories

Leftover Glory: Mixed Grains with Pumpkin and Brussels Sprouts

After being introduced to such a vast world of whole grains, there are some nights that I am spoiled for choice. A great solution is to whip up a big pot of mixed grains. Inspired by 101cookbooks.com, I cooked one up on Sunday night and stored the rest in the fridge for a versatile, ready to go staple. It's a great idea because grains can take a long time to cook from scratch if you're putting them on at the end of the day - and this way, there's no need to decide what kind you want!

Now, let me profess my undying love for brussels sprouts! I am not crazy about fall or winter fruit (I'm a summer fruit gal) but I do love winter veggies. I can't get enough of brussels sprouts and have recently discovered a delicious, fast and easy way to cook them as an alternative to my usual roasting. This week I cooked them with some capers, chopped anchovies, crushed red pepper, and fresh lemon for a tasty (salty) twist. I made up a whole pan, and again, stored 'em in the fridge for a quick go-to veg. These I mixed with some roasted kabocha pumpkin, my favorite of the pumpkin/squash varietals.

Combined, these make a filling, toothy, fresh and healthy meal that you can heat up in under five minutes and enjoy throughout the week. For some protein, you could throw in tofu, beans, meat, or a handful of mixed nuts/seeds like I did today.

Mixed grains:
1/2 cup wheat berries
1/2 cup millet
1/2 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup whole oat groats
1/4 cup wild rice
1 t sea salt

1 small kabocha pumpkin
1 pound brussels sprouts, stems trimmed and halved (or quartered if extra large)
1/3 cup water
3 large garlic cloves, minced
3 T capers
5 anchovies in oil, drained
1 wedge fresh lemon
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
olive oil spray (or fresh olive oil)
sea salt and fresh ground pepper

Add'l toppings in photo (1 serving):
1 wedge avocado (about 1/8 of a small fruit)
1T (8g) walnuts, chopped
1/2T (8g) raw pumpkin seeds
1T fresh parsley, chopped*

Mixed grains:
Rinse and place in a large pot (I used a dutch oven) with about 5.5 cups of water (better too much than too little since you can always drain any excess water at the end). Add salt and bring to a boil before reducing to a simmer, uncovered, for about 35 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Pierce the pumpkin 4 times and cook for 45-60 minutes, depending on the size. When tender, but firm (easily pierced by a sharp knife), remove and let cool.

Place the brussels sprouts in a large pan with 1/3 cup water and cook covered on a medium high flame for 3 minutes or until tender. Remove the lid and allow to continue cooking so the water evaporates. Once the water is gone, spray generously with olive oil and toss to coat with the garlic and pepper flakes. Continue to toss constantly to avoid burning and ensure an even browning. Add the capers and anchovies once the garlic and sprouts start to get a nice brown, about 3 minutes. Toss for 1-2 more minutes and add a squeeze of lemon evenly over the mix. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Chop up the cooled pumpkin in to bite size pieces. I love the skin so I leave it on, but feel free to remove if that's a little too much roughage. Half a small pumpkin will mix nicely with the sprouts and the rest you can keep on hand for other uses. Just wrap and store in fridge.

A serving of mixed grains is 120g and 150 calories (and buckets of fiber!). Top this with 1/4-1/3 of the veggie mix and the additional toppings. All together, this bowl of greatness will run you 400 calories and give you that really satisfied, wholesome feeling of fullness. The kind I love best.

*I always keep fresh parsley (aka nature's multivitamin) on hand to toss on pretty much everything I eat (similar to my sprouted seeds and pesto). What I've found is that it keeps best, and is most likely to get eaten, if I wash and chop it as soon as I buy it. Then I dry and wrap in a paper towel and store in a ziplock bag in the fridge. It will keep for 1-2 weeks like this.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Kefir: A New Love

Most days of the week (well at least half), I recently started a new breakfast routine with kefir at its base. Kefir is a fermented milk drink similar to buttermilk (sounds irresistible already, I know! But seriously, please keep reading because it does get better, I promise) and is a natural source of probiotics with antioxidant properties. It's also a great dairy option for those of us who don't tolerate the lactose in milk so well. Trader Joe's carries both the plain and a strawberry flavored version (which I haven't tried) for around $2.50/quart and Whole Foods has a range available, including organic and goat's milk varieties at, of course, higher prices (around $5). But if I could afford it, I would definitely opt for the organic since it is a dairy product (cows, antibiotics, growth hormones, etc.). One cup has 120 calories, 3g of fiber, and 14g of protein.
Here's my recipe for kefir success (single serving):
1/4 cup (20g) uncooked multi-grain cereal (including oats, rye, barley, wheat) 65 cal
2 T (20g) raw oat groats, pre-soaked* 75 cal
1/2 cup kefir 60 cal
8g raw walnuts, chopped 52 cal
14g dried cherries 50 cal
1 t ground flaxseed 10 cal
a drizzle of (organic) agave nectar** 15 cal
Total calories/serving: 327;
Total fiber: 7g
The night before your anticipation-packed breakfast, soak the cereal, pre-soaked oat groats, and walnuts in the kefir and store in the fridge. Make sure you stir them to mix or the kefir will just sit on the top.
In the morning, the oats will have absorbed the kefir. Add the remaining ingredients, with cinnamon to taste (sometimes I'll throw in some nutmeg or ground ginger if I'm feeling spicy. Stir everything up and enjoy! The combination of these flavors and textures will leave you craving more;)
*Raw oat groats are what rolled-oats are before they're steamed and rolled flat; or steel cut, before cut. Raw, they look like pearl barley, and are available in the bulk section of health food stores or online (http://store.bluemountainorganics.com/). Soak them in water overnight, strain, and store in an air-tight container in the fridge.
**Agave nectar is a liquid sweetener made from the agave plant (like tequila). It has the same number of calories as honey (60/1T) but is sweeter and less thick. It's also really low in the glycemic index compared with other natural sweeteners and is great for baking or sweetening sauces.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Making Pesto

Lately I've taken to making pesto to keep on hand for various uses. It's a great way to include raw foods conveniently and keeps well refrigerated in an air-tight container. I use it mostly to spread on sandwiches, but it's also great in tuna salad and on pizza. I do variations on this every time I make it, but here's the basic recipe:
1 bunch fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/4 bunch parsley (curly), chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 oz. fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
2 T walnuts (optional)
1 T extra virgin olive oil
To make: alternate basil and garlic in a food processor (or blender) and pulse as you go. Throw in the parsley last and once everything is blended to satisfaction (you can choose a level of coarseness to taste), add Parmesan, lemon juice, and walnuts if using. Salt and pepper to taste and throw in the olive oil last, once all is well combined.
Serving size: 1 tablespoon; Calories: 15/serving (without walnuts)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Something Every American Should Read

"America's Food Crisis and How to Fix It."

0 calories per serving!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Roasted Fall Veggies

In trying to eat with the seasons, and now being in the full swing of fall, I looked up which veggies qualify (http://www.foodfit.com/healthy/healthyFallFoods.asp) and went crazy at the produce market this week. Also, with midterms and a busy week ahead of me, I threw them all into the oven on Monday to roast so I would have them ready and waiting through the rest of the week. Here's what I bought:
2 small heads broccoli and spears
1 large head cauliflower
1 large turnip
1 small sweet potato
1 small yam
1/2 pound crimini mushrooms
1/2 head garlic
3 large beets (I bought the ones with greens attached and saved them to saute with garlic and olive oil for another night)

I chopped every thing up at once (and peeled the beets with a veggie peeler), threw it all in 2 roasting pans, tossed with spray olive oil, sea salt, and fresh ground black pepper, then into the oven at 400F for an hour. It's Saturday and I'm still eating them!

Last of Summer: Stone Fruit Crisp

School is back on and alas - my blog has been neglected as a direct result. I'm taking advantage of some post-midterm down time to play catch up since some worthwhile nomnoms have been a cookin'..
First up is a stone fruit cobbler I threw together to salvage the last of our summer fruit. We had some stone fruit on hand that was too mushy to eat by itself, but I couldn't let them go to waste. So I went for one of Heidi Swanson's recipes, and was able to use up all 2 peaches, nectarine, and 2 plums ! Icing on the cake (or crumble on the crisp) is it took like no time to make. Ideal weeknight dessert.
The original recipe is: http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/plum-and-peach-crisp-recipe.html, with the proportions I used below.

ripe peaches (1 large, 1 medium), ripe plums (2), nectarine (1), 1 squeeze of fresh lemon

1/4 cup brown
1 teaspoon corn starch

3/4 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
big pinch of salt
5 T butter, melted
1/3 cup yogurt (I used Trader Joe's low-fat organic)

Special equipment: 8x8 square baking dish or equivalent

Preheat the oven to 400F degrees.

Cut the peaches and plums into bite-sized, 1-inch pieces. I cut relatively chubby slices and then cut them again in quarters or thirds. Place the chopped fruit in a medium-sized bowl.

In a separate small bowl whisk together the 1/4 cup sugar and the arrowroot. Sprinkle over the fruit, toss gently (but well), add the orange blossom water (optional), toss again, and transfer the fruit to an 8-inch square baking dish (or your favorite equivalent-sized, deep-sided, solid-bottomed tart pan).

To make the topping combine the oats, flour, sugar, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl. Stir in the butter, and then the yogurt and mix until everything comes together in a dough-like texture. Sprinkle the crumble evenly over the plum and peach mixture.

Place the baking dish in the oven, middle rack, and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the topping is golden. Enjoy warm or at room temperature (with whipped cream;).

Yields 9 servings at 205 cals each (and the oats and fruit make it fiber rich semi-healthfood!)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Quinoa With Pesto and Browned Tofu

I've recently discovered and fallen in love with http://www.101cookbooks.com, a food blog based around natural and whole foods. Everyone should have it in their lives. Puts my blog to shame, but what can I say? I'm an amateur! The other night I made her "Heather's Quinoa" (http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/heathers-quinoa-recipe.html), which was one of the most delicious dinners I've cooked in a while. It uses oven-roasted cherry tomatoes (I used grape tomatoes), which I never knew have such a strong, yummy taste when roasted (like sundried)! It's especially a great save for aging tomatoes that may have lost their firmness. It did take a while to prepare and cook (an hour and a half in total) and required quite a bit of multi-tasking (various appliances going at once), but in the end it was definitely worth it.

These are the proportions I used:
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
a pinch of fine grain sea salt
1 shallot, minced (I used a quarter of a yellow onion)
3 cups cooked quinoa
1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
1 1/2 cups kale, finely chopped (I used the red-ribbed kale)
2 cups extra-firm nigari tofu, browned in a skillet a bit (I used an entire 14oz package)
1/3 cup pesto (see below)
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
1/4 cup roasted cherry tomatoes** (or chopped sun-dried tomatoes, but I used grape tomatoes)

In a big skillet or pot heat the olive oil and salt over medium-high heat. Stir in the shallot and cook for a minute or two. Stir in the quinoa and corn and cook until hot and sizzling. Stir in the kale and then the tofu, cooking until tofu is heated through. Remove the skillet from heat and stir in the pesto and pumpkin seeds. Mix well so the pesto is spread throughout. Turn everything out onto a platter and top with the cherry tomatoes.

*Rinse about 2 cups quinoa in a fine-meshed strainer. In a medium saucepan heat the quinoa and 4 cups water until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa fluffs up, about 15 minutes. Quinoa is done when you can see the curlique in each grain, and it is tender with a bit of pop to each bite. Drain any extra water and set aside.

** To roast cherry tomatoes: Heat oven to 350F degrees. Cut each tomato in half and arrange in a large oven-proof baking dish. Mix together a big splash of olive oil, a spoonful of brown sugar, and a few pinches of salt - pour this over the tomatoes. Gently toss them a bit, making sure they all get coated, finishing with each tomato facing cut-side up. Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes or so, until the tomatoes are shrunken and sweet.


1 large bunch of basil, leaves only, washed and dried
3 medium cloves of garlic
1 oz walnuts (but the recipe calls for: one small handful of raw pine nuts)
1 oz Parmesan-Regiano (but the recipe calls for: roughly 3/4 cup Parmesan, loosely packed and FRESHLY GRATED)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (but the recipe calls for a few tablespoons)

The recipe calls for a large mezzaluna for chopping, but I just used a food processor.

Start chopping the garlic along with about 1/3 of the basil leaves. Once this is loosely chopped add more basil, chop some more, add the rest of the basil, chop some more. I scrape and chop, gather and chop. At this point the basil and garlic should be a very fine mince. Add about half the pine nuts, chop. Add the rest of the pine nuts, chop. Add half of the Parmesan, chop. Add the rest of the Parmesan, and chop. In the end you want a chop so fine that you can press all the ingredients into a basil "cake" - see the photo up above. Transfer the pesto "cake" to a small bowl (not much bigger than the cake). Cover with a bit of olive oil, it doesn't take much, just a few tablespoons.

Serves 6

Calories (with my proportions)=365/serving

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Baking with Stevia

I recently started substituting Stevia for sugar in recipes for baked goods and have been surprisingly satisfied. I am not typically a proponent of sugar substitutes, but after reading about its wonders as one of Dr. Gillian McKeith's 12 Super Foods (http://www.steviainfo.com/?page=news_detail&id=1), I decided to give it a go. She claims it's great for regulating blood sugar levels and keeping sugar cravings at bay. Stevia is different from most calorie-free sugar alternatives in that it is an herb and not a chemical. Furthermore, it has been used as a sweetener for hundreds of years, so it's not some kind of new-to-humans trial that people might start dropping dead from tomorrow.
I did some research on it on the Internet and found that while some studies have shown negative effects (birth defects, etc.) on lab rats when administered at high doses, the amount necessary for a batch of baked goods (75g for a batch of 12 muffins) is so negligible in comparison that I'm not worried. Plus, studies have shown that sugar in high doses causes pancreatic cancer so it's by no means a safer alternative (not to mention its many other more obvious effects like type II diabetes, tooth decay, weight gain, etc.).

So why not? At $10 for a 1oz. bottle at Trader Joe's, it's not cheap, but a little goes a long way.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tahini-free Hummus with Sundried Tomatoes, Kalamata Olives, and Rosemary

This is one of the recipes my friend Val pulled together on limited resources while we were backpacking through New Zealand. Store bought hummus was one of our staples (as was canned beans and sundried tomatoes) because we'd sometimes go hours without refrigeration. Fresh rosemary was often found wild in abundance, so we incorporated that into a lot of our cooking as well. Val threw this hummus together one Sunday afternoon with what we had on hand in one of those bullet blenders and it was so far superior to the store bought stuff that we gobbled it down straight away. We didn't have tahini so we had to do without, but I honestly didn't miss it at all.
Today I made it for the family with these ingredients:
2 cups garbanzo beans (I cooked my own from dehydrated, but canned works just as well)
1T sundried tomatoes in oil
1tsp. sundried tomato oil
1/2 lemon (juice from)
2 garlic cloves
1T fresh rosemary (It grows wild in abundance. I found some in front of a neighbor's house.)
15 kalamata olives and juice
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1/2tsp red chili flakes

I threw it in the food processor instead of the blender because I like it chunky - but either works just fine.
Calories: 50/oz.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Experimenting with Sprouts: Cold Sprouted Adzuki Salad

In my first attempt to throw a dish together around my freshly sprouted adzuki beans, I went for a cold side-salad to go with dinner. The sprouts have a jicama-like taste (and look like sperm), which I'm not crazy about but don't mind at the same time. This salad has a crisp, refreshing taste. Here's what's in it:
2 cups sprouted adzuki beans
1/2 an English cucumber
2 tomatoes
juice of 1 lime
fresh parsley, chopped
fresh green onions, chopped
1 T white wine vinegar
1/2 T olive oil
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

Friday, August 21, 2009

Sprouting Adzukis

After reading about all the wonders of living food enzymes in Dr Gillian McKeith's Living Food for Health, I couldn't wait to get some sprouting going myself. I started with dried adzuki beans (from the fruit & veg stand), which I rinsed and covered with a few centimeters of water in a glass, then covered the glass with a piece of cheesecloth and let it sit in the (turned off) oven (any dark, warm place is fine) overnight.
Before going to bed, I checked on them and saw that they had already absorbed all the water, so I spread them out over three glasses instead of the one. By the morning they were plump and all the water had been absorbed.
Next I transferred them to a colander and rinsed them twice a day before returning them to the (turned off) oven. I did this for 5 days. On the 5th morning, I let them sit out on a window sill for a few hours' blast of sunlight (no sun in San
Francisco that day, so filtered sunlight through the overcast sky had to do). I then put them in an airtight container to store in the fridge. They'll keep for 3-4 days. So far, I've made a salad and have been otherwise sprinkling them on most things I eat anyway (sandwiches, millet stew, etc.). They taste a bit like jicama (very crunchy), which I'm not crazy for, but the taste is not very strong so usually whatever you put them in overpowers it. Next I'll try lentils since those I know I like.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Slow Cooked "Millet non Pollo"

I'm taking our new love of millet and running with it! Another vegetarian cookbook I recently borrowed from the library is Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker. Since school's back in session now, the slow cooker is going to be my saving grace. Surprisingly, I've managed to eliminate nearly all processed foods from my daily diet, without much upset. We'll see how that holds up now that I'll be considerably more busy...

For this recipe, I took "Arros non Pollo" and substituted millet for rice. This made the cooking time longer by nearly an hour, so next time I'll add in the millet in two hours before the end of cooking time and keep an eye on it. Here's the recipe (which I doubled):

1T olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 small carrot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp saffron threads
14.5oz can diced tomato, w/ juices
3 cups veg stock
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
8oz green beans, ends trimmed and cut into 1in lengths
15.5oz chickpeas, drained and rinsed
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup millet
3/4 cup your favorite salsa
1/2 cup frozen peas (I used petite peas)
1/3 cup sliced pimiento-stuffed green olives, drained

Heat the oil in a lg skillet over medium heat.
Add the onion, carrot, cook until softened, about 5 min.
Stir in the garlic, oregano, cumin, saffron, cook 2 min. longer.
Transfer the veg mix to a lightly oiled (I used spray olive oil) 4-6qt. slow cooker.
Add the tomatoes, stock, bell pepper, green beans, chickpeas, salt and pepper.
Cover, cook on low for 6-8 hours. *Do not remove the lid during cooking! This adds about 20
min. of cooking time with each peek.
About 2 hours before the end of cooking time, stir in the millet.
About 10 min. before serving, stir in the salsa, peas, olives, and cover.

Makes 4 servings at about 335cals each.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cooking in Tahoe

I just got back from a mother-daughter weekend in Lake Tahoe with one of my college roommates and our mamas. It was great fun - all the more so because they have a time share where we stayed in central South Tahoe, complete with its own full kitchen! I find cooking and eating together generally more enjoyable than eating out (especially in chain-restaurant/casino buffet land, where the eating out is not such a treat), especially since my friend and I are both really in to experimenting with different flavors and foods while keeping it all healthily delicious.

Our best meal was pesto chicken made with homemade pesto (fresh basil, almonds, sunflower seeds, olive oil, spices), accompanied by steamed green beans, grilled eggplant (sprayed with olive oil and s&p and thrown under the broiler for 10 min.), and yam fries (chopped into "fries" and baked until desired softness with s&p to taste). Eating away from home is easiest to do healthy (and still tasty!) when you can make it yourself (and have fun collaborating with fellow food lovers:).

Friday, August 14, 2009

Move Over Cous Cous, Make Way for Millet!

I'm now reading Dr. Gillian McKeith's Living Food for Health: 12 Natural Superfoods to Transform Your Health, and am trying to incorporate these "superfoods" into my diet. Millet, a grain similar to quinoa, is one of the twelve and I decided to incorporate it into tonight's dinner. I didn't have a recipe to go by so I just improvised, incorporating two additional "superfoods": fresh parsley and sunflower seeds. And millet has won us over! Mom and I are now millet converts. I may never cook cous cous again.

Here's what I used:
1 1/2 cups millet
3 cups veg broth
1 T olive oil
1 red onion
1 T chopped fresh ginger
4 yellow squash, chopped
10 kalamata olives
1 T sundried tomatoes in oil
1 chive, chopped
fresh chopped parsley
2 roma tomatoes
1/4 cup + 2 T sunflower seeds
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
Bring the millet and veg broth to boil and reduce to simmer, covered, until all liquid is absorbed.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet.
Add onions and ginger and sautee, about 3 minutes.
Add squash, pepper flakes, salt&pepper and sautee until fully cooked (about 5 minutes).
In a large bowl, combine the millet and squash mixture, once both are fully cooked. Add remaining ingredients and toss. Enjoy!
Yields 5 servings at 330cals each.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tasty Meat-free Pasta

I have been experimenting more with meatless dinners to kill 3 birds with one stone: the budget bird, the busy schedule bird, and the questionable history of farm animals bird (without killing any birds at all since vegetarian - oh the irony). Going meatless saves a lot of money and since a lot of the alternatives (canned beans, dehydrated lentils, beans, and grains, etc.) can keep much longer than meat, you can buy in bulk (saving even more money) and keep them conveniently on hand to save trips to the store.
So the other night I made a pasta dish by combining two different recipes from Quick-fix Vegetarian, and am happy to report it was an overall crowd pleaser. It also happened to work out that we already had all of the ingredients in the pantry.
Here's the recipe:
1 bunch baby spinach
1 T olive oil
5 garlic cloves
1 24oz can diced tomatoes
1 oz sun dried tomatoes (the dehydrated kind, not in oil)
1 15 oz can chickpeas
15 pitted kalamata olives, cut into halves lengthwise
1 T capers, drained
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and fresh ground pepper
fresh parsley, chopped
12 oz penne pasta (I mixed whole wheat and regular b/c that's what we had but any tube
pasta will work fine)

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat.
Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds before adding spinach until wilted.
Then add both tomatoes, chickpeas, and spices. Simmer for 5-7 minutes.
Add olives, capers, and parsley.
Toss with the cooked pasta.
Garnish with additional parsley if desired and voila! Dinner is served.
Yields 6 servings at 335 cals each.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Whole Wheat Chocolate Cherry Scones

Scones are my favorite! I love scones of all flavors, shapes, sizes, color, and creed. Today I made my first attempt at my own and actually followed a recipe to the letter (no substitutions *gasp*). I got it from the King Arthur Whole Grain Baking cookbook and since this was a special weekend breakfast treat, I decided not to tamper with the recipe and risk a scone disaster. Despite my best efforts, however, when it came time to knead out the dough, it was way too wet and sticky, making a total mess. I thought maybe this was because I let the butter get too soft, after refrigerating the dough overnight without any better results, I think I must have mis-measured the flour (which would be totally typical). So this morning when I attempted to roll out the dough again, I sprinkled about half a cup of whole wheat pastry flour over it, which seemed to do the trick. They baked for about 15 minutes and were DELISH (and more filling for fewer cals than the last batch of muffins, which are supposed to be a healthy, non-treat breakfast)! Definitely better warm though, because I tried a bite of a cooled one earlier this evening when I was putting them away to freeze (hopefully they freeze well..) and it was nothing like the fresh out of the oven taste. So if you make these and don't eat them all at once, pop 'em in the toaster oven for a few minutes before serving.
Here's the recipe:
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup unbleached, all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter, sliced
3/4 cup dried cherries
3/4 cup chocolate chips or chunks (ok, I might have used a little less)
1 lg egg
1 cup buttermilk (I used 1 cup skim milk and 1T vinegar)
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375F. Spray baking sheets with canola oil.

Whisk flours through salt together in a large bowl. Use a pastry blender to cut the butter pieces into the dry mix until resembles bread crumbs (*butter must be v. cold!). Add the cherries and chocolate and mix with a fork.

Whisk remaining wet ingredients in a small bowl and add all at once to the dry mix. Stir with a fork until mixed. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead 3-4 times. I separated the dough in two and cut one half into 6 large scones, and the other into 8 medium sized scones. The recipe says to brush the tops with milk and/or coarse sugar, but I did neither. Bake for 15-22 minutes until golden brown. They rise a lot, so don't despair if they look very small going in!

Recipe yields 16 scones at 220 calories, 3g fiber each.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Vegan Sunflower Raisin Muffins

I am on the quest for a healthy, satisfying, low cal breakfast muffin recipe to replace the Zen Bakery bran muffins I am addicted to. Mostly, I've been playing with various recipes and replacing some of the higher cal ingredients with lower cal substitutes. This morning I took a recipe from my favorite restaurant in New York, Angelica Kitchen, and cut down the amount of currants (and used raisins instead), sunflower seeds, replaced half the oil with unsweetened apple sauce, and half the maple syrup with apple juice concentrate. I also used regular whole wheat flour instead of whole wheat pastry flour, which is finer, and therefore packs more per cup and therefore more calories.

The result: a nice tasting muffin that's less sweet and slightly more dense than the original. But, at 265cals per muffin, they're much lower cal than the original, but one is not satisfying enough for breakfast. Even with a side of fruit, I need at least one and a half to feel full, which is way more in calories than the Zen Bakery muffins. What is their trick?? The quest continues. In the meantime, here is the recipe I used:
4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup rolled oats
4tsp. baking powder
4tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
1tsp. seasalt
2 cups unsweetened apple juice
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup apple juice concentrate
1/3 cup canola oil (the original recipe calls for olive but the last time I used the one we have it
was too overpowering)
1/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce

Whisk dry ingredients in one bowl, wet ingredients in separate bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry bowl once mixed, and don't over stir. Bake at 350F for about 35 minutes. Yields 14 muffins at 265 calories each.

Added bonus - sunflower seeds are a super health food!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Slow Cooker Success

I recently checked out a book called Quick-fix Vegetarian from the library and decided to make one of its slow cooker (crockpot) recipes for dinner tonight. The slow cooker is one of my kitchen fav's., especially during busy times. It's great for throwing together a meal that's ready for you at the end of the day (and usually greets you at the door with pleasing aromas) and often times you can make enough to keep for the rest of the week (especially with stews, chilies, etc.). Tonight's meal was sweet and sour stuffed bell peppers, which was a crowd pleaser among my family. I was on the fence, myself. Sometimes I find I can't really taste my own food - does that happen to other people or is it just me?

The prep. work was surprisingly fast and easy. First cook a cup of couscous (I used whole wheat) in broth or water with one 15oz can of garbonzo beans and 3 chopped scallions. Then in a medium bowl, mix a 24oz can of chopped tomatoes with 2T brown sugar (the recipe called for 3), 1T apple cider vinegar (recipe called for 2), 1/4tsp cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper to taste. I also added chopped fresh mushrooms because we have some that need to be used. Then take 5 bell peppers (the recipe was for 4 but we had a potential guest and there was plenty of the couscous mix left over), cut off the tops, hollow the membranes and seeds, stuff with the cous cous, replace the tops, and place upright in the cooker. Then just drizzle the tomato mixture over and around the peppers and leave on low for 4-5 hours.

Total calories per pepper (with tomato-mushroom sauce) around 300calories. Not bad at all (and quite filling)!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Baby Carrots (Be Warned)

Has everyone seen this already?
I think I'll switch to the full-sized ones, thanks very much.

A Cauliflower Quick Trick

In general, I am not a huge fan of cauliflower. I do not like it raw nor steamed, how it most frequently crosses my path. There is a lovely cauliflower gratin in white cream sauce (with fresh chestnuts)recipe my aunt makes, but I think at that point you can't really count it toward your daily veg intake. A quick trick to making cauliflower sweet and tasty, which completely changes its texture (if you're one of those "texture" people) is to chop a head into bite sized florets, spray with olive oil, salt and fresh ground pepper, then pop it in the oven at 400F for an hour. The end result is an exceedingly high fiber, low cal snack or side dish with minimal effort. If your oven has one of those handy cooking time settings where it automatically shuts off after the time you indicate, you can even leave it and walk the dog without a worry. An hour to cauliflower perfection - no more, no less. Well...unless you live at a different altitude I guess. In which case - adjust accordingly, please!
A medium head of cauliflower (shown) at about 1lb.5oz., is 150 calories and 15 whopping grams of fiber!!!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Dose of Dosa

I had dinner out with a friend tonight, which is a real treat for me since the costs of eating out in San Francisco are exorbitant and out of bounds for an unemployed student type like myself. We went to a trendy South Indian restaurant on the Fillmore, called Dosa, which during happy hour, is surprisingly affordable (all happy hour menu items, including appetizers shown here are $5 each). The choices are surprisingly healthful too! In the first photo is a mungsprout salad (freshly sprouted lentils, tomatoes, cucumbers, ginger, coconut, chiles, flavored oil of mustard seeds), which was lovely and reminded me of how I wanted to explore the world of sprouted, raw foods. Lentils are super easy (and inexpensive) to sprout (see my sprouting posting) and add a nice crunch to a variety of different foods since they do not have a strong flavor themselves.
In the second photo are sardines (omega 3s!)in the front and spicy (organic) chicken with (organic) yogurt sauce in back. Both very tasty and spicy, if a little on the salty side. The portions are generous (3 appetizers were more than enough to satisfy two hungry girls) and everyone else's dishes (off the "regular" menu) looked equally delicious. I would definitely recommend Dosa and might even have to give the mungsprout salad a go in my own kitchen.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Pizza Night

Inspired by a couple fresh tomatoes and some wilted basil that needed attention in our fridge, I thought homemade pizzas would be a nice alternative to the obvious pasta option. I was even inspired enough to make my own pizza dough...until a closer read of the recipe revealed it would take hours (between all the mixing, rising, kneading, repeating, etc.) so opted for the next best thing: Trader Joe's whole wheat pizza dough. I was too lazy to bother hunting out the rolling pin, so I just stretched it out with my hands (it's not obvious though, is it?) after dividing the dough in two.
Pizza #1 has spinach, garlic, and a shallot sauteed in olive oil and, mushrooms, more of the unmeltable low-fat brie, and a sprinkling of sundried tomatoes in oil.
Pizza #2 has the basil, fresh tomatoes, fresh garlic, and fresh mozzarella slices. Muy fresh indeed!
I sprayed the dough with olive oil before adding the toppings and added a generous portion of red chili flakes to my slices after they cooked. Result? A quick, easy dinner option that makes good use of whatever bits you can find in the fridge. I didn't use any sauce, but it really wasn't missed (and I'm usually a sauce fiend). Calorie count? A 4th of either pizza came to around 400cals. I might even attempt my own dough next time...